Another Depression Story













I've also written about a bout of depression from my early twenties. You can find that here:

My Depression Story


And here are what I consider to be some incredibly helpful resources on understanding depression:


Mental Health on LDS.org {please especially see Common Questions section}

Preventing Suicide on LDS.org

Depression by Rebecca J. Clayson, Ensign article, understanding depression's effect on the spirit

Dealing with Depression on youth.LDS.org

Understanding Suicide on youth.LDS.org

Choosing to Live: Overcoming Suicidal Thoughts, Ensign article





Hope




I rubbed his back as my two-year-old emptied his stomach into the bucket, trying to figure out what might have prompted this 2 am interaction between us. In my foggy middle of the night brain, I tried to sift through which meals we ate together, what he might have eaten that none of us did, or if it could be a stomach bug.

Sweet kid.

With every heave, every retch, I encouraged him.

“It’s going to be okay! I’m right here! Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry you feel so yucky. It’s going to be okay.”

Enough time and regurgitated food had passed that I was feeling quite alert. And with the awareness, came the sense of doom, the despair. Well, I told myself. While you’re sitting here, you might as well figure out what you’re going to do tomorrow to make this go away. This hopelessness is suffocating you. How long are you going to allow it to do this to you? How long is this going to have to affect your marriage? Your children? Tomorrow you have to beat it.

I know, I know, I agreed with myself. I cringed at the thought of a new day with the possibility of more suicidal thoughts. They made it so much harder to cope, to not melt down, to be rational. To feel safe by myself.

I’m an expert at grasping at shards of light, finding reasons to hope. During the past several months, I'd found them in scripture, listening in church, conversations with people I loved, even in movies and songs on the radio. Most of the time they sustained me for an hour, a few days at the very most before I would sink into despair again. But there was one about to be delivered that would cause a dramatic shift in the way I had been doing things for a very long time.

Look at yourself. Right now. Sitting here with your son. He's sick. Throwing up. He needs you. What would you expect a reasonable person to do in this situation?

Sit up with him.

What are you doing right now?

Sitting up with him.

That’s right. There is nothing wrong with you. There is nothing you are not doing well enough or hard enough. You are living with untreated depression. THAT is why you feel so awful and life has been so excruciatingly difficult. Get to the doctor.

*****
Usually after the initial mess is cleaned up, I spend most nights like this pleading that there will be no more throw up sessions, that my sick child and I will be able to rest uninterrupted the rest of the night. 

This night was different however.

I laid there in the dark, smiling. I hoped my two year old would be able to sleep now, for his sake, but if I didn't sleep the rest of the night, I wouldn't mind.

I had used a handy ap to send a 3 am message to my doctor that I knew she would be reading in a few hours. While I had only been under her care a short time, the conversations we'd had during our two visits led me to believe I could trust her to provide the care I needed to finally treat this depression I had "managed" for so long. 

The natural spread of a smile across my face was something that had not happened in a long time.

Help and hope were on the way.

I think it's going to be okay.


Next Chapter: Treatment  



Summer Prayer



It was the last Sunday night of the summer. We had two cars parked at my parents' house for Sunday dinner because Danilo had gotten called in to the hospital during church and met us there later. Little girl rode home with her dad and little boy rode home with me. I was glad I had little boy, because he would pay less attention to me on the way home than his sister would, and I could do what my heart was longing to do.

Pray.

Heavenly Father, as summer comes to a close, I thank You for a beautiful summer.

I thank You for family and holidays and barbecues, for dinners on the back deck.

I thank You for sprinklers and water balloons and popsicles and not worrying so much about bedtime.

I thank You for little girl learning how to ride a bike and jump in the deep end.

Thank You for Bible Camp and friends of other faiths, thank You for Tennessee and the friends who live there and for country music.

I thank You for gardening and for flowers that bloom and for girls camp and campfires and camp songs and for meaningful relationships at church.

I thank You for summer morning walks and for high fitness.

I thank You for my marriage, for a loving husband, for precious children, for the love of parents, sisters, grandparents, in-laws, to be an aunt.

I thank You for the feeling of feeling alive again.

I thank You for your Son and for His life and gospel. I'm thankful to know You love me and You know me.

I'm grateful to be crying happy tears. I am grateful for all the sad tears I have cried because of who I am because of them.

I am grateful to know You have been there for it all.   



I Am a Sign



The treatment process is so delicate and everyone is different.

It requires patience that you may not feel you possess.

I know.

The first medication you're prescribed may not be the one you stick with.

Some people come back from therapy with really negative experiences. I have been in a therapist's office and I could sense her disdain for my faith and my background. That was when I was 20, and my parents and I kept shopping.

My therapist and I found out after the first 25 minutes that we share the same faith. We have an agreement that we can discuss things under the context of God and religion and misconceptions depression has caused me to have about them, and also how I find strength to press forward in the challenging face of mental illness through my faith. And it's nice to be able to talk openly in that way.

The neat thing about therapy is that it is one one one. I could tell you all the things I learned while talking to my therapist, but it would not be the same as discussing them in the context of your own fears and problems and experiences.

******

A little over two years ago, I published my blog, Much More Precious than Gold. It was such a satisfying experience in so many ways. I shared my experience when at 20 years old, I had stood on the edge and looked into the expanse of death and wanted it more than life, and then I had come back and lived a genuinely joyful life. The hardest thing that had ever happened to me could now be turned around to help people. I knew life beyond suicidal thoughts and feelings was possible and it was a message I wanted to share with the world.

I love writing, and I love speaking to audiences, and the kind reception so many people gave my blog gave me opportunities to do both.

I used to hope that I could one day craft the perfect blog post, or put together the perfect presentation that would gently lead people out of that dark place. My therapist was very frank with me one afternoon when she told me that I am not qualified to pull people out of depression. To charge myself with the responsibility of leading anyone but myself out would be unwise for many reasons.

I have been not so gently reminded through my difficulties in the past year that depression is far more complicated than that. And that maybe we are not meant to be pulled out, but to adjust the lens through which we see our battle with mental illness.

Together, my therapist and I scaled my job description waaaaaay down. I can offer my experience, lace it with words of hope, and like a sign, encourage people on the path to treatment. Then maybe someone who is suffering from depression will see a little bit of themselves in my story and find the courage and strength to get help.


Next Chapter: Summer Prayer



Jesus' Feet


The despair that comes from sin and the despair that comes from depression are two different things.

Coming to that understanding, combined with treatment (in my case, medication and therapy) have made it possible for me to finally feel like I am not being crushed under the weight of depression.

Without my medicine, at least at this stage, my thoughts become irrationally negative and my emotions overwhelm me. Without therapy, simple errors in my thinking land me again and again in places of despair in my mind. Those thoughts and emotions don't occur because of something I did or didn't do, they are symptoms of mental illness. For me to take personal responsibility for them, to berate myself for having them, compounds the situation.

For me to sit in my closet and beg Him to take the madness away is like me sitting there with a broken leg thinking that if I pray hard enough, He would heal it. Could He? Of course. He can do all things. But life has taught me He probably intends to guide me through it a different and more meaningful way. While it's nearly impossible for me to accept in those moments, it is a way that is better for me than releasing me from the mental anguish. 


******

"YOU."
"HAVE."
"AN ILLNESS."
"Why would you expect that with enough faith, you could make it go away? If my husband reads his scriptures enough, prays hard enough to show how much faith he has, is his diabetes going to disappear? NO."

A peace washed over me that I think I had waited 25 years or more to know. After a childhood peppered with anxiety, and having dealt with periods of mental anguish and difficult to process emotions since I was a teenager. After spending a couple of decades secretly wondering what was wrong with me. It finally clicked. It finally made sense, here in my therapist's office.

There was a reason behind the insanity. The insanity was the mental illness.   

As I continued to process this therapy session in the days that followed, the mental and emotional struggles of my whole life started coming into vivid focus. Oh how I had wondered why I failed so at the Savior's invitation to "fear not." I did my best everyday to press forward, but I was tormented by constant anxiety, fear that something really bad was about to happen at all times.

In my head I knew He had overcome the world, just as He promised. I knew at times I had known His peace to be a real thing. So why was I so racked with feelings of hopelessness and despair no matter how diligently I tried to follow Him?

"Because," I repeated to myself, as relief washed over me again. "This is an illness. You did not create this. It is not a flaw in your character. It is not that you have not tried hard enough. You have marveled at how others you have read about or even known personally have handled tremendously difficult challenges in their lives. This is yours. This is your really hard thing. You've navigated much of this life with fractured thinking and skewed processing of your emotions. And you have done very well on your journey." Somewhere as I reprocessed what I had learned in therapy that week, I do think the Holy Ghost had taken over and conveyed what my Heavenly Father wanted me to know. 

I had an understanding that Jesus had overcome all things. I had been filled with confidence after scripture study or particularly inspiring sermons at church that all darkness, all despair could be overcome through Him. I dared believe that included the dark corners of my mind, and the sense of hopelessness that often came to stay for long periods of time. I cannot tell you how many times I prayed in my closet, please, can you take this away now? And it would still be there the next morning.

It wasn't that He was cruel or was not listening. This was not a defect in my character that I needed to find and fix before He would help me. You wouldn't lay a migraine down at Jesus' feet. You wouldn't say, "Father, I am so sorry for the flaws in my character that caused me to develop a migraine. Please take it away." Because it's a migraine.

You know what you could do? Ask Him to guide you in your efforts to treat it and to help you bear it well.


Next Chapter: I Am a Sign



Rigid



5:40. Alarm goes off.

I slip out of bed and onto my knees for a morning prayer.

I exercise for 45 minutes.

I come back.

I help my husband get ready and off to work.

I help my daughter get ready for school.

I am so tempted to find out if that email I was expecting showed up during the night. But I don't check yet.

My daughter is out the door. I sit down with a bowl of cereal and my scriptures and I read. I hope the golden nugget of hope I'm looking for will be here today. I find a few passages that could be it. I hope they will stick and carry me through what has been a stormy battle with mental anguish lately.

Ten minutes later, I close my scriptures. Now email is allowed. And a quick stop at Facebook to see if I have any notifications. 

And I am satisfied. Everything was done in order this morning. Exercise. Check. Scripture study before social media. Check. Discipline in all things was what was going to save me. And even though I didn't feel better yet, I would keep searching for those areas in which I was not quite disciplined enough. And when I found it, the heavy emotions would depart. The mental anguish would ease. It had to.

I just needed to try harder.


******

In my closet at the end of the day. Because the closet was my best shot at uninterrupted prayer. My prayers could be longer, that I knew. And more meaningful. And so I would sit here and improve them each night. 

Because I knew praying the right prayer could fix this, could pull me out. 

Heavenly Father was waiting to give me what I needed most if I could just figure out what that was and pray for it. 

What is it that I most need help with?

Help me, when I'm overwhelmed with emotion, to still be able to function. 

Sometimes I feel so unstable. Just protect me please.

Bless my loved ones. Help my husband and children right now as I am not being who they need me to be.

I have so many painful emotions inside of me. I want to give them to Jesus and have Him take them away please. 

And help me to be faithful and true. 

With the closing of my prayer, I was satisfied that I had checked all the boxes that day. 

******

Depression takes you to a place where you are robbed of finding satisfaction in anything.

Determined not to let it win, I have pushed forward with my daily tasks, like a robot.

In many ways, this is a good thing. I am still a participant in life even while depression threatens to take that away.

But when it's still there day after day, it wears on you. Depression turns any kind of work ethic into a double-edged sword. If I am accomplishing things, I am of value. What about the days the mental and emotional air is knocked out of me? At the deepest point of despair I have ever known, I couldn't get out of bed for a day, which spread into a series of days.

While the darkness of mental and emotional anguish is a hard place to go, it has taught me the sweetest kind of lesson. He has proved to me that my worth is not in what I do. I am finally coming to understand, and even harder, accept, that even in my lowest point, when I am feeling most worthless, I am of value to Him.

******


Reading the scriptures, an ingrained ritual in my day, became a detrimental task. Because in my fractured thinking, I connect despair with wickedness and reconcile that's why I am feeling the way I am. I did not yet understand that the despair that comes from sin and the despair that comes from depression are two different things. So I put my scriptures away for a week. Which turned into a month. And then six. The 15-year-old me who vowed to read her scriptures every day for the rest of all time would be horrified. But He is not. He still loves me. I found solace instead in music that testified of God being a loving Father.

As my thinking, through treatment, became more and more rational, I felt more drawn to open my scriptures again. My perspective on these things has shifted in a beautiful way. Prayer and scripture study are gradually turning into a quest to come to know my loving Father better instead of exercises to win His approval.


Next Chapter: Jesus' Feet



Chronic


When she said it, I wanted to pretend she hadn't. I wanted to take that word chronic and stuff it in the cushion of the couch I was sitting on and hope from there it would sink down through the floor, through the foundation of the building we were in and disappear somewhere between there and the earth's core.

Or hope in this case she was wrong about me.

But as I left my therapist's office, that word came with me. And I tossed it around in my head for a few days.

I had been intent for at least the last year, and during every episode of depression before that that I was going to beat this. I was going to dismiss depression from my life, let it know that I would not tolerate its presence, and every time it tried to sneak back in, it would cower, anticipating the force of the door I would slam in its face.

Chronic, though. That changed everything. She told me in most cases, and likely in mine, where it continued popping up through the years, depression was a chronic condition. Like diabetes, I would learn how to properly manage it with treatment and changes in lifestyle, and a happy life would still be available to me.

******

During some downtime at camp, my friend Julie and I were the only ones in our tent and had a conversation that I think was supposed to be had. 

Julie had MS. "You know, it was hard to receive that diagnosis. It essentially was a life sentence. But I've learned a lot over time, you know. I've learned I can still enjoy life if I am consistent with my treatment and I'm smart about the things I learn. I know the sun can drain my energy really quickly, so that's why you most often find me in the shade here at camp. There are good days and there are bad days. I just have learned it's really, really important to take care of myself."

I couldn't believe she was here at camp. I could draw connections between her situation and mine and sensed I had just learned something very important. 

******

It was amazing how in tossing that word around in my head long enough, I had totally flipped it inside out. Initially it had sounded like a life sentence, but the truth was, it was a release from the choke hold depression had on me. 

Because there were weeks and months after an episode with depression that I believed I truly had it beat. I had fought depression and I had won, and if it ever came back I would send it packing with all I had learned about what it is and what it isn't. 

And every time it came back, that meant that I had been wrong about something. There was a chink in my armor, and I was going to have to figure out what that was so that this time when I dismissed it, it would be gone permanently. 

And so when I would feel depression eke back in with its insidious thoughts and heavy feelings, a sense of failure would creep in with it. 

It's back. 

What did I do wrong?

And the one that drains the most life out of me:
I didn't try hard enough.

Chronic, though, chronic gave me permission to have a bad day or a bad week and to know that things could get better. Chronic depression meant that a negative slew of unsettling thoughts or a heavy feeling of sadness that I just couldn't shake was not a sign that I had slipped or was lazy or was not on my guard. It was just a reminder that this was my hard thing, and a lot of my energy this week was going to go towards practicing the tools I had learned in therapy, making sure to take my medicine, and that I needed to be kind to myself. 


Next Chapter: Rigid



Treatment



I'd had a lot of respect for my doctor since our very first visit. I was grateful to be sitting here with someone I felt I could trust.

"From your mental health assessment, I've determined you are moderately to severely depressed," she explained.

Just sitting in that chair in the waiting room and taking that mental health evaluation had brought tremendous comfort.

Are you finding little or no interest in activities you once enjoyed?

Has your sleep been affected?

Are you down, depressed, or hopeless?

Do you feel like a failure?

Do you feel you have let those important to you down?

Do you have thoughts that you would be better off dead?

Have these thoughts and feelings impaired your social relationships?

Have these thoughts and feelings made it difficult to function and complete your responsibilities? To what degree?

I wondered if anyone else in that waiting room had watched the smile spread across my face as I got deeper and deeper into the packet full of questions. It struck me as funny, this should be a sobering experience, it should all be sinking in just how depressed I really am. Actually, it made me feel like I was closer to an answer than I had been in a very long time.

It was such a relief to know THIS IS A THING! It is so easy to become overwhelmed by guilt for having feelings like the ones described in that packet, a process with which I was so terribly familiar.  Just to have my thoughts and emotions described on paper by someone who wasn't me was so comforting. I knew I was doing the right thing by coming in for help.

My doctor handed me 3-4 pamphlets and as I brushed over them, more relief came rushing in. Words like crippling effects, hopelessness, loss of interest, numbness ironically brought me joy. And the most powerful one of all: TREATABLE.

She handed me a number of tissues as she told me she'd seen dozens of women with struggles similar to my own, that I was not dealing with something unheard of, and that she would work with me to find the best course of medical interaction.

I was so grateful for that night sitting by my little boy's side when it had been made clear to me that this was bigger than what I could manage on my own. I had done a tremendous job being brave. But just as those waiting with someone injured would make way for paramedics once the ambulance arrived, it was time to step aside and allow the medical professionals to help.

******

Before he left for work and before I left for the doctor that morning, my husband had given me a priesthood blessing.

He blessed my doctor. He prayed that the discussions we had together would bring about options that would be helpful. He prayed that she might be inspired in the solutions she offered, and if that included medication, to please guide me to an effective one at the proper dosage. 

It was comforting to hear him uttering those words, because I'd prayed very similar ones in the last six days since I had called and gotten an appointment. I'd come to the stunning realization that maybe depression wasn't meant to be dismissed from my life. I had tried to pray depression away hundreds of times. Prayer had felt like a stuck engine in my life for many, many months now as the relief I sought would only come to stay briefly.

One thing was clear. I needed help from medical professionals. And I could pray for them.

******

Sitting in my car in front of that building, I felt that wonderful kind of anxiety where you're scared to venture into the unknown but know it's going to change everything for the better.  

Did the receptionist see me as a frail, broken spirit as I sat in the waiting room? If she did, that was okay. I was so thankful to be here. Selecting a therapist had always seemed like a daunting task, but once my doctor made the firm recommendation that I begin seeing one, I felt hopeful. Knowing again that I couldn't use my prayers to dismiss depression, I instead used them in asking for help in finding  a therapist that could genuinely help me, with whom I could share the inner workings of my mind, even the darkest corners, and not be embarrassed. 

My doctor suggested that every time I meet with my therapist, I bring a list of things I'd like to talk about, the issues that were causing me to struggle the most. The really interesting thing was, my first appointment with my therapist was made about three weeks out, and in the meantime, I began taking the medication. I began making the list of issues to discuss with the therapist just a few days after meeting with my doctor. The list had about 1,000 bullet points. Difficulties were crushing me in multiple facets of my life.

Sitting here, three weeks later, the medication had had its chance to start working its wonders, and the list of things that discouraged me was down to about five or six problems that seemed insurmountable. 

One of the most meaningful things my therapist said to me in our first interaction, and this came after I spilled my whole life story on her lap, was, "You are not crazy. You are dealing with an illness and you're here to get some tools that will help you deal with it more effectively."

Oh that everyone could feel the joy of a therapist, a professional, telling them that they are not crazy, after spending several months being fairly certain you are. 

The other thing I can tell you was that I walked out that day and the many other weeks that followed feeling like I had just been to the gym. I always appreciated the endorphins physical exercise sent through my body, and noticed they made me think and feel a little better. But this was different. I felt like I had taken deliberate steps to strengthen my mental and emotional health by coming here. The contrast to the previous year was beautiful.

******

In the many weeks that followed, I would continue to marvel how intricately medication and therapy worked hand in hand. 

Without the medication, the discussions in my therapists office would not be able to sink in because of my depressed state of mind. The medication caused the dark heavy clouds to not seem so dark and heavy and made me more receptive to help. 

Without the therapy, I would feel okay thanks to the medication, but not make the progress that problem solving in my therapist's office allowed me to make. 

Whoever first suggested using medication and therapy as treatment for depression was a genius. Did everyone know about this? Maybe I should call the news.


Next Chapter: Chronic



Graves


 Going to visit my father-in-law's grave is a special thing we do. My husband's mother and sisters meet us at our house and it's nearly an hour's drive from there. We get better and better at finding his gravestone every time. We've learned to recognize that it's about two rows up and to the left of that gnarled tree. My kids love to run free and have learned not to step on the gravestones. The rest of us sit by his grave and talk about all the things we love about this kind, gentle, quiet, playful man who slipped out of our lives after a decade long battle with Parkinson's disease.

While my husband and his sisters wandered off to join the kids this particular afternoon, my mother-in-law and I worked with a flat-edged tool to remove any dirt from the letters of his name. When our task was finished, we started making our way over to the rest of the family. The name on one of the gravestones stopped me in my tracks, however. It was a good friend of mine from growing up. I had heard he had died and had never been able to gather enough information to know what had happened. My memories of him were pleasant, happy, fun. He told me once in high school that you could avoid brain freeze by grabbing your neck with both of your hands after you drank something cold.

So here he was, my old friend, just a dozen yards from my father-in-law, in his final resting place. It was so strange and unnerving to know he was gone from life at just 30. But I wasn't sure which of us was better off. Death seemed to promise a release from the mental anguish, the heavy emotions that I spent my days fighting off only for them to return a few days, a couple weeks later. I spent nearly every moment of every day fighting to be the kind of wife, the kind of mom, the kind of friend and individual that it was so important to me to be. And every day, despite my most determined efforts, she was slipping farther and farther away. I was so tired. I craved rest.

I had probably indulged these thoughts for less than a minute when I realized they would be classified as suicidal. Wow, I thought, taking a mental step back. I never thought I'd be here again. Life and I had done so many wonderful things together since I had battled thoughts of suicide at 20. I was a little less alarmed than the first time I was exposed to them, because I could classify them, see them for what they were. But, wow. Wow. So it's gotten that bad now, has it?

Thinking back a few weeks, though, I remembered saying something really alarming to Danilo. I started calling what happens to me when I am overwhelmed by mental anguish "a storm in my brain." One afternoon, we were driving and I was trying to explain what it felt like to him. "Even though I know better, I feel like no one cares about me. Like I matter to no one. You could line a whole room of people up that told me otherwise, but I wouldn't be able to process it. This is why people kill themselves!"

I determined that yes, these experiences were enough to say that suicidal thoughts was a symptom I was currently dealing with. I'd done it before. I hoped I would make it out on the other side this time. Even though I thought all my strength was gone, I was going to have to dig down deep and find some more. 


Next Chapter: Hope
    



Emotional Midget



My mom has this cousin named Dan. Before we go any further, I need you to know that I belong to the type of family where you know your mom's cousins quite well. They are like bonus aunts and uncles and their kids are bonus cousins. And when you're little, they teach you important things at family picnics, like how to mislead people into thinking they have a stain on their shirt and then to knick them in the nose when they look down to check.

Dan married the truly lovely Shauna early enough in my childhood that I don't ever remember her not being there. Their growing family began with twin boys and all the fun and rough-housing you imagine that would entail. They were blessed in the years that followed with Jessica, Jaide, and Jaicee.

Visiting through the years, the boy influence prevailed. I remember one summer one of the twins running in the house stunned, noticeably shaken as he confessed to his dad that he'd been going fast enough on the 4-wheeler to overturn it. His dad sternly emphasized how lucky he was to be alive.

We were visiting a few years ago after the twins had grown and were out of the house. Feigning his disgust in a classically hysterical Dan manner, he talked about what living in a house full of women had done to him now that he was surrounded by only daughters.

"There's barely any of me left," he said. "They have reduced me to an emotional midget." He winked as he pulled one of his daughters close and kissed her on the cheek.  

  ******
 
One day she finally grasped that
unexpected things were always
going to happen in life.
And with that she realized
the only control she had was
how she chose to handle them.
So she made the decision to
survive using courage, humor and
grace. She was the queen of her
own life and the choice was
hers.
-Lupytha Hermin

I remember the day I discovered this quote. My friend Amber had posted it on her Facebook wall. It was a breath of invigorating air. I had never read something that rang so true to who I wanted to be. I remembered seeing a print option on my smart phone whenever a picture was displayed, and so I used it this time. I was pleasantly amused to find the quote lying there waiting for me when I got to the printer. I knew where I wanted it to go. 

Unloading the dishwasher was something I could expect to do at least every other day if not every single day. And this quote would hang on the inside of the cabinet door where the plates were stored, so that every time I was loading plates back into the cupboard I could remember and hopefully become that kind of woman.

I loved that quote.

******
  
I wrote to a friend, "I can be fine one day and in utter complete despair the next. It's nice in that I do come up for air, but I feel like I have been programmed, as optimistic as I try to be, to know I won't be able to maintain it, to know it will only be a matter of time til I end up in that pit again. So I try to prepare, and write myself nice letters to strengthen my faith and cheer me up when I go down there. But without fail, it is hell down there. I lose my confidence. I lose everything that holds me together, no nice song or picture or quote or even scripture has ever worked to encourage me when I am down there. When I am down there, it doesn't matter how many times I have come back up, I am certain that I will never come back up again."

These words swirled through my mind at the end of another day I had survived by trudging along.  My energies were focused on my next goal, an emptied dishwasher. I opened the cupboard door, ready to shovel clean plates in, and knew what was hanging on the other side. 

I hated that quote. 

It was everything I wanted to be. Everything I tried to be every moment of every day. But I did not handle the difficulties of life with courage, humor, and grace. Minor inconveniences crushed me. It hung there on the cabinet door, mocking me.

I was an emotional midget.


Next Chapter: Graves



Kitchen



It had something to do with dinner the next day.

A minor argument concerning something like what time the family was coming over to eat. The type of discussion couples should be able to toss back and forth with ease.

Ease was not a concept I comprehended these days. Everything was so hard.

"Forget about feeding people tomorrow. You may have to institutionalize me tonight," I screamed into his shoulder, punching it over and over. Not in anger, but in desperation. I noticed my little girl standing in the hallway watching.

I wasn't ashamed, I wasn't embarrassed, I was in the fight of my life and I was giving it all I had. If I never came out of the deep, let her know at least that much. That I gave it the fight of my life.

Pausing outside her room a few minutes later, I heard my husband talking to my little girl. "Mommy's feeling overwhelmed right now. Do you know what that means? A lot of things have upset her lately and she's trying to figure it all out. Not you, you didn't do anything wrong. But that's why she was so upset. That's why she was talking that way. But we're going to help her and love her and she's going to be okay."

Even in my vale of sorrow, I recognized how grateful I was for this moment. That my husband thought to speak to my little girl. Sure it was humbling to hear myself being talked about in this way, but I felt gratitude for his providing stability that I could not in that moment.

*****
This experience has provided me a foundation to talk to my little girl about the presence of depression in my life ever since. 

When she wants to know what a therapist is, why I'm visiting one. What that medicine is that I take every day.

"Well, when most people get sad, they get normal sad. But did you know your mind and your feelings can also get sick? What would make a person feel a little sad sometimes makes Mom feel much bigger than normal sad. Kind of like you saw that night in the kitchen. And the medicine and talking with the therapist is how I take care of myself so I don't get really, really, really sad, or to help me when I do. And everything that we're talking about here? It's called depression."


Next Chapter: Emotional Midget



Church Parking Lot



It was a Wednesday night. It should have been a happy one, too. But I was alone in my car sobbing into the steering wheel.

I had kissed my husband and kids goodbye that night with the hopes of having a truly fun women's night at the church. Oh how I had struggled lately just to meet the tasks of day to day life without unraveling. Sitting around with women I had gone to church with for the last five years sounded like a nice diversion. I loved them and they loved me. Of that I was sure.

Determined to get what I hoped to out of the evening, I sat down at a table with women of varied ages. What I didn't realize was I had lived in the neighborhood far less time than any of them. And the conversation involved stories about neighbors who had since moved away, stories about things that had happened before I lived here. When they would discuss someone I did know, it became obvious that I did not know them enough, because no I did not know that her mother worked at the bakery with so and so's mother back in the 70s and 80s.

I had genuinely tried to interject, ask questions seven or eight times and still felt entirely disconnected from the conversation. My comments on the yummy eclairs or darling cookies went practically unnoticed. For 35 minutes I remained silent and decided the fact that my seat had been at this table this night didn't matter to anybody sitting there. The familiar process of unraveling began again. Without saying goodbye, I quietly pushed in my chair and went out to the dark car.

I cried, and I cried, and I cried.

What in the world is wrong with me? I thought.

I knew I was being overly sensitive. Incredibly childish.

No one was being malicious, they just had a lot to reminisce about. On a normal day, I could have just sat back and listened, picked up a little more knowledge about the history of the area I now called home. Or if I really wanted to be a part of a conversation, I could have gotten up and moved to a new table.

If it had been intentional, and that group of women truly were on a mission to ignore me all night, I thought how I awesome it would have been if my inner response had been, that's okay! Your loss!

But instead, here I was spilling tears all over my lap and interior of my car.

I had a hard time believing I mattered to anyone. What a strange, awful thought.

But it consumed me for the next several days.

I want to provide a disclaimer here because of how much I love the women I go to church with. This story is meant more to illustrate my depressed state of mind.


Next Chapter: Kitchen



Simplicity



My story is literally laid out in front of me, each chapter represented by a sticky note. I move them around and try to decide which order I could place them in that would be the most meaningful.

All of the sudden, I am shy.

This story is fairly quiet. There is no obvious climax. There is no running away. There are no encounters with the police.

And then I realize how beautifully appropriate that is. Sometimes mental illness is loud and terrifying. But in many, many cases, it is quiet and terrifying. The chapters all lined up on my kitchen table represent thousands of moments of intense desperation. A fierce longing for the emotional distress to ease, the mental anguish to let up.

Some might scoff at the simplicity, expecting a more interesting story.

I am also certain that those who have been there that will find pieces of themselves in the chapters. They will know they aren't the only ones who have visited or even found themselves  confined in those dark corners of their minds.

Those who haven't been there but come and read carefully, seeking to better understand a loved one's struggle will find meaning here.

The one thing that inspires my writing even more than the therapeuticness of putting all of this into words is that I feel I have hope to offer. And I hope most will have that to take away.

So I move forward, because all of those scenarios are okay with me.



Next Chapter: Church Parking Lot



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