depression

fireworks for good.

Grief and sadness is a terrible thing in and of itself.

It’s hard to know where and when to stop being happy because other people are so sad, sometimes other people close to you are sad which means you should probably adjust the amount of happiness you’re capable of to better match the sadness of others. Or at least that’s what it feels like sometimes. The sun is shining, my family is marvelous and I have a very good life. I am well, I am healthy and I am quite happy.

But not too happy. The sun may be shining but people are dying. I have a very good life while others are struggling to hang on.

I have been on the other side of sadness. When I was released from the hospital Cody took me to a video store. I stared at all the people in the store laughing and carrying on without a care in the world. Didn’t they know I had just been locked up and unable to feel the sunshine on my face? Didn’t they know there were people still locked up who may never make it to a video store again? On the very long flight back from a child’s funeral it was hard not to look at frustrated parents and think “At least your child is still here. Children die and yours could too.”

It’s a terrible way to think but it’s also a very human way to think.

With what’s going on with my friend Dawn, it’s hard to fully immerse myself in all the good things surrounding me. Her family is losing her. She is not going to get better (But the eternally optimistic part of me hopes she will. I hope that part of me never shuts down.) Rather than dwell on impending sadness and doom I am focusing all my efforts for good, it’s what Dawn would do. It’s what she would want all of us to do. Take better care of each other. Complain less. Compliment more.

When I think back to the times I was sad and broken, it was your eternal optimism that convinced me I would some day get better. Had you all become sad and dreary to match my mood no one would have gotten better. I didn’t want anyone to enjoy their life any less simply because I couldn’t find any joy in mine.

There is so much sadness out in the world right now. Normally I’m in the thick of it, but for the first time I’m watching it envelop so many and I am desperate to do something about it.

Have you ever taken the time to look away from the sky during a fireworks show and look back on the crowd? That moment when the fireworks explode and everyone’s face lights up with colored light and awe?

Symphony on the Prairie-Glorious Fourth
Sadness is a single light shooting out into the great dark unknown, and when the time is right the optimism of those surrounding it should cause it to explode into a thousand tiny flashes of good deeds and kindness, lighting up the faces of those who witness it.

I am heartbroken at all the sadness we must feel in this life, but I also know from personal experience how much stronger it makes us after we survive it. I choose to complain less, laugh more and when I am able, turn the sadness around me into a thousand tiny lights to help others find their way.

********

While donations to The Melanoma Research Foundation in Dawn’s name will always be appreciated, donations are being gathered to help Mike and his sons directly with warm food, services and comforts that no one should have to worry about while losing a loved one.

UPDATE: 2pm EST. Dawn is gone. Please pray/sing/send juju, whatever it is you may do to her husband Michael and their two boys.

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an unfamiliar stumble.

So this one’s new.

My entire body is completely and utterly depressed while my brain stays afloat in a little pharmaceutical lifeboat tossed around on a sea of misery.

Think Life of Pi minus the tiger. (Sub in a one eyed cat with thumbs if you must.)

I still have my wits about me, but attempting to convince my body to come along and catch up already is near impossible. My very wise friend Ami said I’m in mid stumble, you know that panic when you’re not sure if you’re going to land on your feet or completely wipe out? I feel fairly confident I’ll land on my feet, but the underlying terror of face planting hasn’t been this close in a long time. Rather than being completely anesthetized from depression I merely have a local that seems to be keeping my brain function at 50% capacity.

I cry a lot.

All I want to do is hide and sleep.

Eating? Pfft. What’s that?

Showering? Totally overrated.

Changing out of my pajamas? Nope.

Leave the house? Yeah, right.

The biggest difference this time is that my brain is capable of seeing a light at the end of the terribly dark and dreary tunnel. It’s also able to scold the rest of me for being such a useless lump of human. There is a disconnect, my body knows exactly what is going on while my brain is all “SUCK IT UP SOLDIER! WE HAVE THINGS TO DO.” In an attempt to apologize for its bossiness it bought my tired body flowers¬† yesterday.

my brain bought my body flowers
Things are running a little slower around here. They’re still functioning, but they’re slow.

If I feel this terrible while receiving the help I know I need, I can only imagine how many of you are suffering. Spring is almost here, we’ve almost made it out of another miserable winter alive. Let us all be extra gracious to each other and ourselves over the next few weeks, the sun is out there somewhere. (And clearly Annie never lived in Indiana because according to the weather the sun will not be coming out tomorrow. Or this week. At all.)

How are you doing?

 

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weak, strong, three to two.

I was supposed to be on a direct flight from Indianapolis to Salt Lake City Friday morning with Addie and Vivi for a wedding on Saturday, Addie was going to fly home alone on Monday and I was going to stay behind with Vivi until Saturday.

Because of weather the flight was cancelled Thursday evening and Addie and I were re-booked on separate flights.

By the time I managed to get all of us on the same flight we were rerouted through Atlanta turning what would have been a three hour flight into an all day seven-hours-on-a-plane ordeal.

Fight or flight kicked in and flight won. If you remember my last solo flight with Vivi, it didn’t go so well.

I sobbed to Cody, feeling terribly ashamed that there are times when I cannot conquer what my brain does to me and he is left dealing with the aftermath. Plans changed quickly and rather than flying out with both girls and staying until Saturday as planned, I flew out with just Addie and will be returning with her Monday night.

My fears seemed a little less silly as we sat on our first plane for nearly two hours before it pulled away from the gate. When we got to Atlanta we didn’t have two hours between flights, we had 15 minutes.

I can do stressful parenting situations, give me poop, give me vomit, give me just about anything but being alone on a plane with a toddler. I did my time, I’ve taken well over 50 flights with Addie and just shy of a dozen with Vivi. I was okay with a direct flight, less variables, less opportunity to get stuck. Get on, get off, be done. Add in connections, weather, strange cities in the opposite direction of where I’m headed, coupled with two long flights and the possibility of worse weather? Nope.

There was a toddler on our second flight, probably the exact same age as Vivi. She was a dream. Barely a peep. The mom had all of her wits about her, she talked in third person for both her and her daughter, she used phrases like “Good teamwork! Lilly needs to use her indoor voice on the plane! What a fine choice Lilly made to respect mommy’s personal space with her banana! Say hello to all of our special plane friends Lilly!” At one point the mom offered her shirt as a tissue for the toddler “That’s why mommy wears ratty clothes on a plane Lilly!”

I am not that mom. I admire that kind of mom, but I am not that mom.

I spent four hours telling myself it’s okay that I am not that mom, Vivi is not that toddler and would have been shrieking like a banshee from Georgia to Utah leaving me a crumpled heap of my former self by the time we made it to Salt Lake.

I know there are a handful of things I do not and can not handle well, lately toddlers on planes is one of them.

When the article ‘Xanax ‘helps me be a better mom” began making the rounds I thought “Well, duh.” I read the article waiting for some huge breakthrough or confession, thinking maybe I was reading a follow up article to another salacious confession of a parent who sometimes needs to put their own oxygen mask on before helping someone else.

Nope.

There was a time I could spend four weeks at a time away from Cody. I would go days without talking to him. People thought it was so strange that we could spend so much time apart and not talk. I was convinced it was because we were so confident in our relationship that we didn’t have to rely on each other. We may have been married but we were still totally independent people. GO US.

Yeah, that way of thinking is what nearly led to our downfall.

Now the thought of being without Cody for longer than a day or two makes me weepy. I want to be with him more now than I did 12 years ago when we were two little kids wildly infatuated with one another. As I sat through speeches dedicated to the couple getting married I wanted to grab the couple by their arms and say “YOU GUYS MARRIAGE IS SO AMAZING AND WORTH IT BUT YOU ARE GOING TO HATE EACH OTHER SO MUCH SOMETIMES YOU ARE GOING TO WANT TO THROAT PUNCH EACH OTHER.”

One guy said the best marriage advice he ever got was if you ever start fighting just start stripping your clothes off.

I couldn’t do the flight with Vivi. Where I am weak Cody is strong. He stepped in and picked up the pieces I was too fragile to manage on my own. I’m not sure how my mental instabilities will play out over Addie and Vivi’s lifetime, but I’d like to think that with Cody around they’ll never be so big we can’t manage them. He’s a good guy. We have some pretty swell kids. We’re managing just fine.

*photo by Justin Hackworth.

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garlic and sewer anxiety.

My anxiety is not well managed AT ALL. Which leads to all sorts of fun things and by fun things I mean fear of doing anything.

When I think about how long it took to get my depression under control (11 years of constant effort, thank you) the thought of finding a way to control my anxiety leaves me kind of pissed off and grumpy. Thankfully my anxiety isn’t as debilitating as my depression, it’s just kind of obnoxious and annoying and ZOMG WHY CAN’T I JUST ENJOY STUFF ANYMORE? I used to love New York, how busy and loud it is. I loved walking through the streets hearing all the different sounds, smelling garlic one minute and sewer the next. I still love New York, but I kind of have to love her from afar. No Times Square, no Subways, no crowded streets…it’s all a little too much for me now.

Frosty

If you were to ask me to describe what anxiety is like for me I would tell you that it’s like sitting in a tiny glass bubble where you can see and hear everything going on but you can’t get away from it. It’s as though someone turned up every noise to the point it encompasses my entire brain, I can’t quiet it, I can’t escape it and I can’t even think because it’s so loud and RIGHT THERE. There’s also a sort of tunnel vision thing, stuff gets very dark and blurry around the edges. Maybe that sounds a little crazy, I can only assume it’s different for everyone, but for me it’s like I’m being surrounded by speakers I cannot control the volume on.

Once I make it out alive (I have every time so far! Go me!) I am drained. Like the kind of drained you would feel when your first boyfriend broke up with you but only after you swam the English Channel fully clothed. Mentally, physically, and emotionally DONE-ZO. Naps are really the only option. Naps and gentle reintroduction back into society.

I’ve been working on a way to control it, a lot of deep breathing and meditation. Thankfully I feel more powerful over anxiety than I do depression, perhaps because it’s such a new thing, or perhaps I’ve fought depression for so long my fighting muscles are really strong. Who knows. Regardless, I’m still annoyed by it but recognize it as a very real part of my existence that won’t go away simply because I want it to.

It’s also the reason I would rather go back to the Ohio countryside than New York City if you gave me the choice. (No offense New York, it’s not you, it’s me. I swear.)

Here we are 2013, you and me. I have to admit, I’ve been slightly pessimistic about you, being superstitious and all. But just maybe you could be even better than 2012 (which I doubt, but then again I said things couldn’t get better after 2010 so maybe I should just quit saying BEST YEAR EVER because things do indeed keep getting better.) Like Amy said, maybe there really is only one shoe.

Oh powder. I miss you.

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the one about thanking the ugly for all of the lovely.

Vivi and I are figuring out a system.

One element of that system is that she now showers with me, strange, but kind of a must given that her favorite thing to do in my room when left unattended is turn the volume dial on the stereo all the way up, then turn the stereo on. Addie did the same thing once at Vivi’s age and literally scared the crap out of herself, Vivi just thinks it’s hysterical.

After breakfast we head upstairs, she runs to the side of the tub tearing at her clothes while simultaneously trying to dive head first into the tub. Once she’s undressed, she sits down and splashes in the water by my feet. Occasionally she’ll take a pouf and scrub my leg and I can always count on getting poked in my bellybutton at least once. Once I’m all clean I rinse out the bubbles, put in the stopper and fill the tub with a few inches of water so I can get ready and she can stay entertained and contained. Oh master bathroom, you’re the best.

Fresh and clean piggies.

We take a little walk everyday after lunch, they’ve become shorter as it has become colder but they maintain the same pattern: wave at the planes, bark at the dogs, poke mom with all the sticks, throw all the rocks, tweet at all the birds and scream “BYE!” to all the cars.

If we were to have kids close in age like my sister and I are I would need to be 6 months pregnant right now.

(Can you hear the hysterical voices laughing in my head?)

We still call Vivi the baby, and far as all of us are concerned? She is a baby. While we’re certainly not throwing our hands up in the air and saying NO MORE BABIES FOR US! but we are in agreement that we’ll let Vivi be our baby for as long as possible, even if that means forever.

After Addie there was so much to worry about when it came to having a second baby beyond the stress of simply getting and staying pregnant. Vomiting through pregnancy, antenatal depression, postpartum depression and all that other stuff that comes with newborns. With Vivi all those problems were there, except for the postpartum depression. Sure, secondary infertility was a fat stupid blowhole, but Vivi came exactly when she was supposed to. I earned a big old gold sticker in patience and trusting in the will of God when it comes to babies with that little six year trial.

Vomiting through pregnancy? Pretty darn horrible. But I had (and continue to have) an amazing support system around me and generic Zofran for $12, amen.

Antenatal depression? Look, if there is any argument or debate I’m willing to go all in on it’s the one about depression medication while pregnant. Something in my brain is wired completely wrong and it will never be fixed with surgery or lots of good, happy thoughts. When the risk to me and my unborn baby outweigh the possible side effects of medication while pregnant? I’ll take the pill and thank modern medicine, thank you very much.

My labors are easy (thanks wide hips!) my babies come out healthy (thanks God, genetics, modern medicine, and body for working in unison on that one!) and while postpartum depression nearly did me in with Addie, it didn’t even touch me with Vivi, meaning that I have been able to spend the last 18 months fully immersed in my own life and it has been wonderful.

Funny how when something terrible ends on a good note it can shift our whole perception of an event if we let it.

Take Cody and me for example, we had an awful three years that culminated in what I call the horrible ugly. We stuck it out, fought for us and now ours is a true love story better than most anything Hollywood could come up with. If you were to ask me in the thick of the horrible ugly if marriage was worth it? I would have thrown things just to watch them break. But if you ask me now? I will say that marriage, even with all of its crap, growing pains and potential garbage is the very best thing I have done with my life.

Ask me how much I’m looking forward to another baby as I’m barfing in aisle 8 at noon on a Tuesday? I’ll punch you.

Ask me after the last 18 months of magic with this little face?

miss vivi on a wednesday.

I’ll scream “BABIES FOR EVERYONE!”

We can’t lie about the ugly when we tell others about our sweet, that isn’t fair. And when we find ourselves envying the position of others we must take into consideration how much gunk they’ve waded through to get where they are at.

In order to distinguish light, we have to have darkness.

In order to have any frame of reference or gratitude for true happiness? We have to know absolute misery.

I am happier than I have ever been at this point not because I fit in a certain size, have great hair, a great family or a great job.

I am happy because I have gone through so much to get here, I can accept that great won’t last forever, but it will always come back if I’m willing to acknowledge it when it does.

 

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simon says keep fighting

It’s like juggling. (I mean, not really because I can’t juggle.)

Maybe it’s like that Simon game, did you ever play that?

Simon

It had four different colored lights and sounds and it would give you a pattern, you’d have to follow the pattern back and every time you successfully did it would add a new light and sound to the pattern. You’d have it in your head, the little rhythm, the sounds, the lights. Beep beep boop beep bop boom boom beep!

But then something would happen, the phone would ring, someone would knock at the door, or you’d hear a big ‘thud’ from upstairs.

You’d miss the newest light – so you’d guess.

Beep beep boop beep bop boom boom beep – - boop?

You’d get it right! Phew. Game saved.

But then something else would happen, but not only would you miss the next light, you lost the pattern

Beep beep boop beep bop Р- Рboom? Boop?  Beep?

Panic sets in.

Suddenly you don’t even remember how the pattern started, what color comes after green or if boop goes with red or yellow.

…..

Either you get the answer wrong or you take to long to answer and you hear a grating “BRRRRRG” sound.

…..

Game over.

You were so close to finishing, getting your highest score ever, and now you’re back to where you started with nothing to show for it but frazzled nerves and sweaty palms.

Something distracted me. The weather? Too many responsibilities? Looming deadlines? Unreachable goals? Inevitable failure? Chemical imbalance? Intimidation? Self esteem?

I’ve forgotten what comes next.

It’s sitting like a lump in my throat. It’s evident in my sweaty and shaky hands. It’s impossible to ignore my heavy pulse.

I’m not gone yet.

I’m teetering.

I’m employing every emergency tactic I can think of and I’m desperately trying to remember what comes next before it all times out.

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i promise to do good.

I’m attempting to make a photo book beginning with my pregnancy and ending with Vivi’s first birthday. I’ve printed out a few photos here and there and every time I do I’m genuinely shocked that they actually look good printed out and that hey, maybe I am pretty good at this taking pictures thing. I’ve organized them fairly well, I certainly have my favorites, but it seems everyday I add new favorites. They’re nothing spectacular or magical, just our everyday life. Going to the park, doing laundry, grocery shopping…pretty boring stuff if I’m being honest. My guess is that this book will be somewhere around 400 pages and you’ll need a comfy couch, a cup of cocoa and two or three potty breaks to make it cover to cover, maybe even a nap.

There’s just so many stories in all of these photos I take. I want to surround myself with them, wallpaper my walls with them, show them to complete strangers and wear them on t-shirts.

buddies.

A little over a year ago today I could barely get myself out of bed. My brain was swamped with so much muck and depression I couldn’t bring myself to use my camera let alone my words. Now I’m able to use my words and photos to pay my mortgage, pay my tithing, take care of my friends and take my husband on a cruise. (ZOMG WE’RE GOING ON A REAL TRIP FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER IN 11 YEARS WITHOUT LITTLE HUMANS.) It seems so indulgent, the things I’ve been able to do with this accidental talent, just today Cody had to remind me that if anyone deserves time together on a boat with all you can eat buffets and middle aged men with fanny packs, it’s us.

Us.

What a magical little word.

Us was almost they. As in they got divorced. They didn’t last. They broke up.

But we fought for us and we won.

It’s scary putting your whole heart and hope into something you’re not sure will hold you. Every night I take a little white crescent shaped pill and hope that it will carry me through the next day. Carry me above all the ugly I know is lurking down there at the bottom. Three years ago Cody and I traded hearts with tears across the center console of my car not entirely sure if either one of us was capable of such a grand and scary responsibility. He has held my heart with all the care and tenderness in the world and I can only hope he feels the same about me.

Every night I get on my knees and pray to someone I’ve never seen but I know is there. One year ago my prayers were filled with desperate pleadings. Please. Please let me feel better. Please make this hurt less. Please let me do better. Please give me another chance. Please take the sting of tears away from my eyes.

They are still filled with pleadings. But they are pleadings for others. Pleadings for those with sick kids, broken hearts or lonely souls. Pleadings that I will be able to do good while I am here and pleadings that I can stay. That this me, this wonderful self I haven’t ever known before can stick around, one more day, one more week, one more month. I promise to do good. I promise to make Him proud if He’ll just let this me stay.

My prayers are also filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the trials I’ve gone through, gratitude for the platform I’ve been given to share my struggles, to help others and to give words to some of the scariest emotions in existence. Gratitude for these two little healthy girls and this strong man I get to call mine. Gratitude for my house, my shutter finger, the sunshine, my cats, working kidneys and orange juice. Gratitude for new shoes, new babies and hope.

I am drinking in this phase of my life in furious gulps, hoping that by wholly immersing myself in it I’ll be strong enough to weather the storms when they come back, because they always come back. I’ve finally stopped living in fear of this phase ending, rather I have been squeezing every drop of beauty from every day until my hands are numb and weary.

miss vivi

Sometimes I am convinced that you gave birth to sunshine.” -Jessi

Cody is my world, Addie kept the sun from ever setting on it and Vivi brought it back to high noon.

 

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the bearable lightness of happy

I am back.

And not just a “I am back on my own blog after spending five days in Nashville” kind of way.

No, *I* am back. The girl I like taking places and introducing to people. The girl that likes to hang out with her friends, make new ones and dance.

Oh how I love to dance.

I’ve cried no less than three (maybe four?) times because when I look in the mirror ever single part of me is happy. It is burning like an ember from inside my heart and can be felt to the tip of every hair on my head. The voices in my head love me, they tell me I am good enough, I am smart enough and that I do good things in this life. Ahead of me I see dreams that are attainable and possible because I never gave up.

The most horrible photo was taken of me last night. Let’s just say that when taking photos of people dancing, attempt to catch them in the air rather than coming down, gravity is a cruel mistress when a dancing soul arrives to the ground again.

I laughed so hard at it I stopped breathing, I went into that sort of breathless squeal that happens when you’re all out of breath but your body still begs to laugh. I laugh because it was a horrible photo, but also because in my head I looked like a fly girl out there dancing. Despite seeing a dozen photos that proved I am far more dowdy than diva, I don’t care, because last night I danced on a stage with a hundred girls who speak to my heart to a song that is a good memory in and of itself.

Everything inside of me is so happy and healthy that the outside is glowing in an indescribable way. It’s an amazing feeling, to realize you’re living a dream you never even knew you had.

I have more dreams…wild and crazy dreams that began as quiet tappings in my heart and I sit here with the insane knowledge that someday, maybe even someday soon, my dreams are going to become reality. I can see myself in the future connecting back with the feeling I have today of utter contentment and joy…it’s going to be an amazing moment.

I am back. And I’m better than I have ever been.

Unfortunately that means I had to be tossed, thrown, beaten, bruised and stomped on by life to become better…but I made it.

I have dreams to look forward to and for the first time I don’t live in fear of the darkness overtaking me.

Now is the time I turn around and look back at all of you being thrown, tossed and beaten by life.

I will stand here screaming, cheering and yelling at you to keep going.

I will scream until I’m hoarse and cheer for you until I collapse.

Today I picture God in heaven smiling at me – I can hear Him whispering to my heart that this is what He prepared me for.

*This* being a level of happiness, gratitude and contentment that could never be savored by an undamaged soul.

“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.” -Jean Genet

 

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