depression

things become less scary when we talk about them.

If you suspect someone may be hurting themselves, or considering hurting themselves — either through self-harm or suicide there’s an (I can’t believe I’m about to use the word easy) easy way to approach the conversation.

“Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve been down lately. Is self-harm or suicide something that has crossed your mind? I don’t want you to have to deal with thoughts like that alone.”

You don’t have to fix anything (in fact, don’t even try.)

You’re not going to drive them over the edge by asking.

You just have to give them a chance to talk. Allow them to put into words the thoughts that may be going through their head.

Things become less scary when we talk about them.

So let’s talk.

Indiana State Fair

I don’t want to be the girl who talks about sad stuff all the time, but I’ve read some pretty good stuff today and if you’re here looking for stuff like that I’d like to share:

  • This one from Kat Kinsman about going public with depression. “…I’ve lost too much time and too many people to feel any shame about the way my psyche is built. How from time to time, for no good reason, it drops a thick, dark jar over me to block out air and love and light, and keeps me at arm’s length from the people I love most.
  • This one from a Pastor (not that it really matters, but he has two degrees from Harvard and one from Yale in religious studies) is also a spectacular response to the above mentioned fellow who has rubbed so many people the wrong way. (I won’t link him or mention his name because I don’t want him to get the clicks but he’s easy to find.) “The thing is, saying ‘’no’’ to suicide is evidence that I am healthy enough to say no. But, if I should ever commit suicide, it will not be because ‘’I’’ made the choice, but because my depression would have.”

 

 

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the importance of being able to speak our crazy out loud

The other morning a friend messaged me worried she was going crazy, she and her family had just moved across the country for her husband to begin his residency which left her home alone with multiple kids, one of them a small baby.

“I keep thinking maybe he’s cheating on me. I’m paranoid. I want to go through his phone and his email and I’m just sure something is wrong and it makes me cry and act completely irrational.”

“Yep. That was law school for me.”

“Wait, so this is…normal?”

“For me it was.”

Poor girl was convinced she was the only one who had ever thought her husband was doing something besides what he said he was doing (a fairly common occurrence, especially during graduate school or medical residencies.)

The good news is most graduate students and medical residents really are so insanely busy they barely even have time to sleep, let alone have an affair.

Here’s what I realized at the end of our conversation: everyone needs to be able to voice their crazy without judgement, or it will in fact drive them crazy.

For a long time I never told Cody the truth about the things that were going through my brain, whether it about him having an affair during law school, the dark thoughts during pregnancy and postpartum, or visualizations of self harm during an especially rough patch of depression. Without being able to voice the thoughts in my brain, they slowly ate away at my sanity until I felt as though I truly was going crazy.

Writing things out has helped me the most, no matter what I’m going through, I know I’m not the only one feeling a particular way — and the comfort that can be found in “Yeah? Me too.” is better than any amount of therapy or medication.

Here’s the tricky part, finding people who will listen to your crazy without judging.

being roommates brought us closer.

We’ve probably all lost a friend or two after telling them some deep, intimate truth about ourselves.

It hurts to tell someone you think you can trust something personal and have them react in a judgmental or condescending way. What’s worse is when they take your insecurity and use it against you, or spread it around as gossip.

It’s happened to all of us, and it sucks.

While there are people out there who lay all their crazy out on the table for attention and self-satisfaction, most people just need to put their thoughts into words and have their words be heard by someone else. They’re not expecting you to fix it, they just want you to listen.

Cody and I are to a point where I can tell him anything that goes through my brain and he just listens, no matter how crazy. He doesn’t try to fix it, he doesn’t try to commit me to a hospital and he doesn’t think any less of me. He understands that part of recovery for me is talking about all the terrible things my brain tells me.

The other night I ran my finger along a vein and told him, “This is the one I’ve thought about cutting the most.” It doesn’t mean I was going to do it, or that I’m doomed to become a cutter — it was just a thought that had been disturbing me and by speaking it out loud it lost its power.

My brain is full of words, full of thoughts, and overflowing with ideas — as long as I can keep them streaming out steadily, either through writing or speaking, things stay pretty steady up there. It’s when things get clogged that problems begin. So many words and thoughts build up that they begin to choke out my ability to handle day-to-day tasks.

Had I not told Cody about that vein it would have clouded and blocked the other thoughts lingering behind it — and it would have magnified until I shut down.

There is such a stereotype around self-harm. That those who do it, or even talk about it, are emo loners dressed in black, desperate for attention — which is probably why a lot of people simply don’t talk about it. But therein lies the problem, let’s say from the outside you’re a 30-year-old stay-at-home mom with two little kids and a fondness for Diet Coke. You go to playgroups, you do service work, you like watching reality TV. But you also have un-managed or undiagnosed depression, either because you don’t believe depression is a real disease or you have been shamed into believing depression is not real. One terrible night you think about harming yourself. Maybe you think about driving into oncoming traffic or taking every pill in the medicine cabinet and chasing it with a bottle of whiskey.  Let’s say you don’t do it for whatever reason, the thought is there and it will continue to tap at you, eat at you, and bother you until you say something (or do something) about it.

You finally decide to talk to your husband about it and he loses his mind, convinced you are an unfit mother and he verbally berates you for even thinking about being so selfish. You cry and cry wondering what is wrong with you as you sink into a deeper depression.

You talk to a trusted friend about it, she says you must be crazy. She has no idea how to handle you, you’re clearly too messed up to be friends anymore and she stops calling. Later you find out she’s told everyone at church about how insane you are.

Now let’s say you divulge the same thoughts to your husband, but this time he is understanding. He takes you in his arms and says “I had no idea you were feeling this way, that must be terrifying. What can I do to help?”

You talk to another trusted friend, she says “Oh, honey, if you only knew the amount of times I’ve thought about driving into the cement divider on the freeway. But I haven’t yet, and neither have you — so that’s something. Let me take your kids for the rest of the day so you can take a nap, you must be exhausted.”

I have experienced both, and I can tell you I much prefer the second reactions.

I’ve never expected anyone to fix my depression, but I do expect compassion — even if someone doesn’t understand exactly what I’m going through.

I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, have cancer or be homeless — but I do know not to be an insensitive butthole when someone voices their own struggles, especially when it is clear they only want to be heard. (Now, to be fair, we all know those people who turn every moment into ‘WOE IS ME’ and it is tiring. I move right past those people, I just don’t have the energy. I’m not talking about those people. I’m talking about the generally pleasant and optimistic people who are sometimes struck with pretty terrible situations and just need to be heard, even if it’s just in a Facebook update.)

Hopefully this helps someone, I felt like it needed to be written — either for someone struggling to understand the importance of being heard or someone who has a hard time just listening and is always trying to fix things.

I hope you have someone who listens to all your crazy thoughts and ideas. Being human is so much easier when you have one or two of those people around.

@lesbiandad

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one step forward, two steps back.

The other night I got down on the floor and played with Vivi. She laughed, no one cried and I actually enjoyed myself.

Yesterday I went to the gym and did my first full circuit since the sads really knocked me down. Up until yesterday the most I could convince myself to do was walk on the treadmill, but walking on a treadmill is supposedly better than lying in bed.

I’ve started cooking a bit more, I’m still nowhere close to where I used to be — but again — it’s a start.

I’ve been taking my big camera out with me, using it, and enjoying it. Vivi is at the prime age of “NO YOU MAY NOT TAKE MY PICTURE HERE IS THE BACK OF MY HEAD” while Addie looks too grown up. Her back to school shoes are as big as my feet.

I’ve made a new friend, which is huge considering the overhanging cloud of depression and the awful reality that your best friend is now six hours ahead of you in a foreign country and you won’t be seeing her for a very long time.

Another big huge thing is that I didn’t take a nap this week. I don’t necessarily nap because I’m tired, I nap because sometimes my reality just hurts too much and sleeping doesn’t hurt. Things haven’t hurt quite as bad this week so I’ve stayed awake. (I am still having to take a sleeping pill each night, I’ve weaned down to a quarter pill and hope sleep related things will be back to normal by the end of August, that’s the goal anyway.)

If I may compare what I’m going through to a broken leg, I am still in a cast. But I’m not taking pain pills anymore, the cast comes off next week and long term therapy begins.

There will still be days when it hurts, days when I do too much and wear myself out.

The worst part of this is that I’m back listening for the other shoe.

It seems the medication I was on for so long simply stopped working. After doing a bit of research, it is fairly common problem and I’m lucky I got as much time out of mine as I did. Now I’m on to a new one, with a very real fear that I will go through this again in 5 years time (assuming this new one can successfully hold me up through the coming months.)

I know I’m not out of the woods. I still have the occasional dark and terrible thought—but that there are glimpses of what life can be like without depression and after being mired down for so long they give me hope.

To anyone who is new to this fight, I’ve never fought this hard before. After years and years of dealing with this I have learned what I need, I have Cody who knows exactly what to do and what to say even when I don’t want to hear it. The fact that I was angry this time helped — I don’t want to suffer. I don’t want to be the victim. But being angry and fighting back doesn’t mean I can skip the next few weeks and months of healing. It just means I won’t let myself spend as much time checked out from life.

I know when to say no.

I know when to say help.

I know I can’t do this alone.

Charleston - Kiawah, South Carolina

I also know I need to make it back to the ocean really soon.

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frogging and the fight.

Cody attempted to distract me several weeks ago with a camping trip.

Camping with Frogs

A few things we had going for us:

cody and me

2006. Aww.

- We were both raised on camping, nothing about it intimidates us and it’s one of the things we miss most about living in Utah.

- We own all appropriate camping gear because we were raised in Utah and camping gear is just something you own when you’re from Utah.

- The weather around here as been simply lovely. Polar vortex in Winter = Want to Die. Polar Vortex in Summer = Hey! My skin isn’t melting off!

However, we had a few things working against us as well:

- Vivi is still working on perfecting potty training.

- Indiana, while pleasant this summer, isn’t exactly where we’re used to camping. Where are all the mountains? Nowhere? Oh.

- Vivi is also terrified of bugs and camping = bugs.

So we decided to do a trial run at camping, meaning we rented a little (LITTLE) cabin in Brown County where we were close to flushing potties, had bunk beds and (sorry) air-conditioning. It took a few hours for the girls to realize all they had to play with was nature (city kids) but once they figured out nature doesn’t (normally) bite, things went quite well. There was firefly catching, s’mores and lots of frogs. We rented a boat the next day, Addie hated it, Vivi joined team boat and never looked back.

Camping with Frogs

First time on a boat. Big fan.

We all became very stinky very fast and by the time we packed up to leave Vivi just looked smelly (not that she cared.)

Our trial run went well, and we’ll be going “real” camping several more times this year before the world ends winter comes.

Before we left Cody was stung by a wasp, then chased by the wasp, then held prisoner by the wasp.

The three of them stood outside our cabin as the wasp waited for Cody to come back so it could finish its job. Cody hollered at me when the wasp was still and I popped out with my flip flop and destroyed the nasty creature. As terrible as the wasp sting was for him, the visual of him trotting away, screaming and swinging a towel around his head as a wasp divebombed his face is one I won’t soon forget.

I guess that’s one of the hardest things about depression, you don’t enjoy anything — so you don’t really make any memories worth keeping. If you were to ask me about the last couple of weeks I could tell you about how Addie has simply stopped asking me to play with her because all I seem to do anymore is cry and yell. I know it has been sunny, and each day I follow the sun throughout my house as I wait for night to come so I can just sit and not have to say anything or have small hands touching me, screaming at me or demanding things from me. I’m making a conscious effort to enjoy my life, enjoy the little things, but right now it’s really hard work. The switch to my new medication has been successful so far — in regards to withdrawals from my previous medication and side-effects of the new one. Now it’s just wait-and-see.

I’ve always hated wait-and-see with new medications. I think most people do.

One thing Utah camping never had was frog catching. Addie and I spent a lot of time doing it, and I hope she always remembers the few days we spent catching tiny little frogs, and that memories like these overshadow the ones of me depressed.

Camping with Frogs
Camping with Frogs

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update, vices and diseases.

Everyone has a vice for dealing with feelings.

Booze, shopping, eating, drugs, sex, sleeping — or more beneficial ones like gardening, reading or working out.

Mine has been sleeping for a long time — that is until last week when I began the switch to a new medication and sleep has become almost impossible.

I’ve never wanted to be one of those people who takes a handful of pills each day. I want to take the absolute minimum and go on with my life.

Lately it’s been half of my old medication plus half of my new medication plus birth control (because if my birth weren’t controlled right now I would become a derailed train headed straight into the depths of a rocky canyon from which there is no recovery) plus a sleeping pill chaser, because if I don’t I lie awake all night thinking about how much I hate myself. It’s really not the best way to spend the night. Sunday I was convinced that what I was experiencing is what the beginning stages of death must feel like. I hated every moment of Sunday.

With sleep gone and no other vices to fall back on I have drifted back into thoughts of self-harm. (But Casey! Just fall back on working out! NATURAL ENDORPHINS! To which I say I can barely get out of bed and you want me to go to the gym? You’re adorable. Believe me, I’m working towards that goal, but I’m not there yet. One day at a time and many of my most recent days have hurt.)

I can’t even describe to you how depression hurts, you either know the pain or you don’t. It’s like being choked and sat on by an elephant while a finger incessantly pokes at the tired and sore parts of your brain. This is why self-harm enters the mind of so many that suffer with depression, you just want to FEEL something that isn’t depression. I once used sandpaper on my wrist joint until I saw bone . I’ve never done much more than that, it’s not really my thing (I certainly don’t condone it either, I’m just saying I understand it.)

Both of my tattoos come from particularly rough patches in life, it’s such a unique physical pain that dulls out and symbolizes the emotional pain. On my back are lotus flowers, which grow from the muck and mud at the bottom of a pond to bloom unblemished on the surface. I’ve been thinking a lot about another tattoo, especially right now. It’s one of the few distractions I have right now that I enjoy.

If this is your first time here, or perhaps you haven’t been around all that much — this is not me. I mean, the honesty part is me, but the sad wallowing is not me.

I can’t just go outside, do yoga at sunrise and feel better.

There’s no quick fix and if I don’t fix it right this time I’ll be even worse off down the road.

Depression is a disease, and there’s no other disease that is fixed overnight and forever with something as simple as a good night’s sleep and lots of prayer — so why should depression be any different?

So. There’s an update.

I’m trying. I’m fighting, but damn if I’m not real tired.

My best leaves the best ****ing cards.

Thank you for sticking with me through all of this.

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i am depressed, and pissed.

Let’s just get this out of the way.

Yesterday I was lying in bed as I thought how much easier it would be if I just took all the pills in my medicine cabinet and ceased to exist.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had those thoughts.

So long in fact I thought it was a joke. Surely I can’t be back here? I’ve been good for over five years. Sure, I had a slip up here and there, but I’m good! See! Functioning! SO GOOD.

Cody sat by my last week and said “You haven’t been well since November.”

When I asked those closest to me what they thought, they agreed. And not just one person, but many.

This caused me to give up me resolve to keep faking it.

I fell apart yesterday.

Big heaving ugly cries into the bedspread and an emergency trip to my doctor.

Today I have an emotional hangover and one of the worst cry headaches I’ve had in over three years.

Once I stopped listening for the other shoe to drop I began to believe there wasn’t another shoe, that I would be okay as long as I kept taking my little white pill every night before bed.

While there are a lot of people who continue to advocate and talk about depression and mental health even when they are well, I was so tired of suffering and fearing the betrayal my brain was capable of I fell into denial. “Depression? Sure, it’s something I’ve dealt with but I’m not dealing with it now! Let’s talk about cake and shoes!” I desperately wanted to believe I had found a cure. A fix. The end. Let’s talk about happy stuff, okay?

Here’s the truth I posted on Instagram this morning when I couldn’t sleep because depression is a bitch that wakes you up at 3 am and says “Sleep? Pfft. You should think about how worthless you are instead.”

I find myself wishing I had some sort of disease or disorder that would show up on an x-ray or in a blood test. Something that could be casted, cauterized or cut out of me. Some outward sign that although I look whole, I’m dying inside. My depression is the worst it’s been in years and it has been a slow and painful build to this moment where everything hurts and nothing is making it better.

Here’s the thing.

I’m ticked.

I hate that this is my trial. I hate that I’m dealing with it again despite doing everything I’m supposed to be doing. I hate that there is still a stigma around depression that it isn’t real. I hate that my brain betrayed me and tried to convince me I’d be better off dead. I hate that I listened to it. I’m pissed off.

Unlike my battles with depression  before, I refuse to let it win this time. I honestly don’t remember what happy feels like at this moment, but I know it’s out there, I know it’s worth pursuing. Maybe my anger will make it worse this time, or maybe my refusal to give in will work in my favor. “Oh, you think you want to kill yourself? LET ME SHOW YOU HOW IT’S DONE, SON.”

I don’t know.

I want to hit things. I want to smash things. I want to punch the people who have hurt me and hug the people who are just starting out on this painful journey.

I am not me right now, but enough of who I really am learned how to fight for herself over the last five years and is doing everything she can to come back.

There are things I hate right now, I don’t hate much — but the hate is actually helping me fight harder. The things I hate won’t win this time.

I’m done pretending. I’m done faking it.

I am wrecked and there’s only one way out of wrecked – up.

Camping with Frogs

Kissing frogs really have nothing to do with any of this, but they’re adorable so they get to bookend this entry.

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on fearing and finding.

It’s a very strange thing to have really big emotions.

When you’re young they’re looked upon as a flaw or weakness, and it continues that way until you’re grown — unless you learn how to use them.

I’m still trying to figure out how to use mine.

Creativity seems to be the best outlet for them, photography — having my camera in my hand is equal to holding onto something steady and solid. It can say things I can’t and see things I can’t describe.

Writing is the same way. Being able to write has saved me countless times.

I’ve been hesitant to talk about the inevitable breakdown I’m facing for a number of different reasons. It’s not due to anything major (at least I don’t think so) but the safety I’ve felt in my medication and treatment for the last several years is beginning to slip. I’m noticing things are getting harder to deal with. Thought patterns are messier. Emotions are getting bigger, harder to handle. I’ve learned from breakdowns in the past that beauty springs up through them eventually, but the pain in the process — as well as the fear of dealing with the pain when it comes — it’s nearly crippling.

Many of you have been checking up on me, thank you.

I don’t know how this part of my story will end, but I’ll keep telling it until I do.

 

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sad, tired, weak and kind of scared.

I’m not feeling very brave lately.

I don’t like myself very much right now, but I don’t admit that out loud partly because saying something out loud makes it more true and also because I’m trying REALLY hard to be a good example to my girls. But to be honest it’s chewing away at me and despite knowing I’m a pretty decent human I still just feel inadequate — physically, mentally, emotionally, culturally, educationally and all they other -lly adjectives I can’t think of right now. I’m really tired.

Being as sick as I was for as long as I was really did a number on me — once I came home I got a formal diagnosis of pneumonia, and that was after a week of antibiotics on the ship.

One more week of antibiotics, coughing so hard I did something drastic to my ribs and an Albuterol inhaler that makes me shake and I’m not so sure how strong I’m capable of being in the face of illness.

I just feel, blech. I haven’t really wanted to say anything about it because it’s getting old, this whole back and forth of “I’m good! Just kidding, no I’m not.”

I do seem to be functioning at a slightly higher level, albeit on autopilot. I’ve already finished all of my Christmas shopping and I’ve planned, ordered and finished everything for an actual birthday party for Addie four weeks before the big day. This kind of planning for me is unprecedented.

When pouring out my woes to a friend via email this came out “I’m okay. I wish I had more friends close by me, but I’m okay. Well, I mean, I feel like I’m a complete and total failure to Addie and that she’s going to have an eating disorder and unhealthy relationship with food, money and materialism for the rest of her life…but thankfully I don’t even know where to even start with that one so I just eat my own feelings on the subject once she’s in bed. (Currently my feelings taste like peppermint ice cream.) Toddlers are nice, you can’t totally screw them up just yet, or at least you can’t tell where you’re screwing them up for a few more years.”

Copyright Cody and Casey Est. 2001

And that pretty much sums up where I’m at. I have no idea what I’m doing so I keep doing the best I can and planning my apologies for all the damage I inevitably do.

My very wise friend wrote this back to me: “I have a hard time believing that you are failing Addie.  She is incredibly polite and she’s really an empathetic girl.  She got that from someone-  these are traits that don’t just spring up on their own.  All I can say is be consistent with her and try not to fear her anger.  She gets mad at you because she knows you’re a safe person to be mad at- you’re going to love her forever, no matter what.  So all the school related girl angst, the stresses of life, and everything else all come to a head when you say no to her and they bubble out.  All over you.  She still loves you under her anger and, if you hold true to what you say to her, she will respect you- begrudgingly and eventually, but she will.”

If you don’t read her blog already, you should. She’s quite possibly the most wise and wonderful woman I have the privilege of knowing.

So that’s where I’m at. A lot of you have been wondering, thanks.

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