Hope is the thing with feathers

I swear I just had an epiphany and the only thing that I could do is come write.

For years- all my life really- I have wished I was the “together” one.  The organized one.  The one who had it all figured out.  I have wished that my mind wasn’t cluttered.  That I didn’t always have 47 tabs open.  That I didn’t have to choose between feeling it all or nothing at all.

It’s Suicide Awareness Week.  Of course I couldn’t just let that pass by without reminding you that I am that person who stands toe to toe with that monster.  But I win.  I always win.  My gosh, I don’t want that to sound like there are people who lose.  You don’t know the giant they face.  But I do.

I posted on my IG account this morning and as I was replying to a comment I started to say something about how I wish I was the ‘together’ one but maybe I was meant to be the broken one and that was my lightbulb moment.

I AM meant to be the broken one.  And not because I’m ‘brave’ enough to tell my story- it doesn’t take bravery.  I’m just willing to.  I have a willingness and more than that I have a need, a burning desire, to try to help people find whatever it is that pushes them to see what tomorrow is going to bring because I understand how desperate that need can be.

Not everyone gets it.  But I do.

I’ve been told, “it’s not worth it”, “he’s not worth it”, a million other things designed to make me wonder what I was thinking.  Those people don’t get it and I’m so grateful that they don’t, I truly am.  They have been depressed, sure.  Everyone has experienced depression at one time or another in their lives.  The loss of a loved one, the loss of a job, seasonal depression…  Not everyone has experienced depression so severe that you truly believe your life does. not. matter.  You do not matter.  God does not love you. You are not serving any purpose on this earth.  You are not a benefit to any living being.  Your children would be better off without you.  You are not worthy of their love.

I get it and I’m willing or crazy enough to share my stories so that you know that other people are broken, too.

I may require therapy and medication and sunlight and my faith and my family and friends who are so funny it hurts and my social media friends who lift me with their comments and now jogging at a pace slightly faster than what my 77 year old mother walks, but I AM RESILIENT and I am here.  I am here.  And I never want to leave you.

Right now, I am happier and more content with myself than I have been in years.  I am learning how to live for myself and letting everything else fall into place.  When I am all over social media- you know I am okay.  I know I am an over-sharer 😉  But for real- if I’m ‘chatty’, I’m good.  It’s when I’m quiet that I’m not okay.  Just throwing this out there because it’s not an easy thing to self-regulate and also, if you are a person who is annoyed by the over-sharing, maybe it will help to know that it’s a good thing.

If you are struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, you are not alone and you DO NOT HAVE TO FEEL THIS WAY.  You do not.  You can live a life free of those thoughts.  Maybe not 24/7/365, but life doesn’t have to hurt.  Please reach out.  To a friend, a healthcare provider, a pastor, a teacher, a counselor, a parent, me.  Please don’t be stubborn.  Please don’t be embarrassed.  You are not alone.

If you don’t understand depression but want to help your friends, just pay attention.  Pay attention to changes in behavior.  Your chatty friend is quiet now.  Your friend who loves make-up no longer has any interest in getting ready to go out.  Your artistic friend has stopped painting.  Your friend is giving away beloved possessions.  And know that sometimes people work so hard at hiding from their own pain, that there is no way you could ever see it.  It’s not your fault.

We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.  — Hemingway

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number
  • 1-800-273-8255

 

 

The High, The Hurt, The Shine, The Sting

Depression is like the ocean.  A riptide.  Dangerous currents that want to drag you under even when you can still see the shore.  That shore may be within swimming distance but it might as well be in another world.  That’s what depression is.

A couple weeks ago, we saw suicide hit the news again and I thought about blogging then.  It’s a subject that’s always close to me.  It’s my lifelong companion.  My truest friend.  I used to blog about funny things, though.  I used to be funny.  I didn’t want to blog sadness anymore.  I wanted to make you laugh.  So I didn’t blog.

I guess one thing that my children may never know is the hardest thing I have ever done is stay alive for them.  They have seen me work, sometimes more than one job at a time.  They have seen me prepare meals, wash their clothes, run around trying to find what they’ve lost.  They’ve seen me mourn, they’ve seen me struggle, they’ve seen me tired.

They’ve never seen me stare at a bottle of pills.  They’ve never seen me daydream about turning the wheel when I’m driving alone and the perfect drop off appears.  They don’t know that in my mind there is such a thing as the perfect drop off.

I don’t want to be this person.

I want to be happy.

I want to be carefree.

My happiest moments are with my babies.   But they are growing up.

My mom can no longer carry on a conversation with me.  My dad is dying.

I’m just so tired.

Depression is a black cloud.  It’s a swarm of bees.  It’s loud.  It gets in your ear and it just. won’t. stop.  It tells you that this is it.  This is all it will ever be.  You, always chasing things that fly away.   You, getting the courage to leave and those little mosquitos coming back for another round of blood.  You being everything.  The ripest peach that they can’t stop taking bites of and the bruised one that is no longer appealing.

Depression tells you that it’s okay if you finally just go to sleep.

What I really wanted to blog when suicide hit the news was different then.  I kept reading comments about how suicide is selfish.  I kept thinking that survivors were reading that and they were reading painful lies.

I’ll say again what I said before.  My children will never know that the hardest thing I have ever done for them is stay alive.

If someone you love lost their battle, that decision was gut wrenching and agonizing and not fully thought out.  That decision was coated in a dust of grief and pain and disillusion.  That decision would not have stood up in a court of law.  That decision was breathless.  That decision might have been a weakness but I can promise you that it was one out of a million moments of inhuman strength.

I added a new medication to my regimen in hopes of getting my fibromyalgia under control.  In doing so, I have noticed the suicidal thoughts creeping back in after months of sitting in the light.  I will be diligent in having my meds adjusted again until I’m back in my sweet spot.  I will do it for my kids.  I only wish that I was doing it for me.

“Depression is living in a body that fights to survive with a mind that tries to die.”  — unknown

Depression is your friendly, funny, 40 something soccer mom who loves Pinterest and Krogering.

Depression is someone just like me.

hide your crazy and act like a lady

So when we last spoke, I talked about how important it is to address mental healthcare in this country.  Now I want to talk about what an uphill battle that really is.

The earliest that I can remember and can identify as having been “depressed” is when I was twelve years old.  What I remember is not actually wanting to die, but wanting to get someone’s attention.  Wanting someone to see how very sad I was and wanting them to help me.  I made half hearted attempts to commit suicide for the next seven years.

When I was around seventeen, I went to the doctor for another issue.  Migraines, I believe.   The doctor must have seen something in my face.  Pain.  Sadness.  Total despair.  He asked my parents if he could speak to me alone.  They left the room and I just remember crying.  The doctor brought my parents back in and told them that I was depressed and he was writing me a prescription for an antidepressant.  I felt saved.  I felt like my struggle to want to live was FINALLY recognized.  Finally.  Thank God.  I saw a quote once that said something like, depression is a body that wants to live with a brain that wants to die.  For me, that’s exactly what it is and has been off and on for the last thirty years.  I felt so relieved.

My parents wouldn’t fill the prescription.  They meant well.  My mom didn’t want her teenaged daughter on psych meds and many parents still feel that way today.  They can’t have known how unbearable my life was.  They felt like many others, we can’t just throw pills at problems.  Yes, that’s sometimes true.  I have a chemical imbalance in my brain though.  If I had diabetes they wouldn’t have denied me insulin.  We didn’t have insurance.  We were a single income family.  There just wasn’t money for behavioral health.  There probably wasn’t really money for monthly psych meds.  Thirty years later these are still obstacles that families are facing.  Not enough money.  Not enough education.

I had to keep on doing what I had been doing since I was fourteen.  Self medicating.  I drank.  A lot.  My parents were the most strict parents in the world.  Let me assure you that teens will find ways to get around those rules.  I self medicated with alcohol and made a million bad decisions.  The next morning, my depression would be a million times worse with nothing but depressants and embarrassing memories of the previous night consuming my brain.  Looking back, I don’t know how I survived.

I was in my twenties before I finally started therapy.  Both behavioral and medicinal.  Honestly, I only did that because I was a parent at this point.  I HAD to live because I had a little boy who would never understand why his mom “chose” to die.  He would never understand that it wasn’t lack of love.  My brain is a saboteur.  I had him to motivate me.  I had a reason to want to live.  Obviously we don’t want teens having babies to give them a reason to pursue behavioral health.  Where is their motivation going to come from?

I was in my thirties before I finally found the right drug combinations to treat both my depression and extreme social anxiety.  Until then, I still used my self medication cocktail of alcohol now coupled with various meds.  That’s something else that people don’t realize.  Without proper supervision, there is no magic “one size fits all” treatment.  It’s trial and error.  It’s adjusting dosages and sometimes having to change medications because your tried and true just stops being effective one day.  If you aren’t fully engaged in keeping your mind healthy, it just isn’t going to work.  I don’t know what the right answer is, but we can’t leave these troubled teens and young adults out there just winging it.

The problem doesn’t end here.  I am very aware and proactive about my mental health.  I’ve had years of therapy.  I have been on the right medication for me for around eight years now.  I quit school a semester away from a psych undergrad degree.  I research. I read.  I am self aware.  Even with all of this, if my medication dosage is too low, (seasonal affective disorder, major life changes, etc.,) when it’s time to have my dosage increased, I can’t always be trusted to recognize that.  My brain is abnormal.  In December, I came closer to losing my battle than I have in sixteen years.  I WANT to live.  I want to live for me.  I want to live for my kids.  My mom was in one hospital.  My dad was being sent to another.  I was driving to meet my dad and the urge to just cut the wheel was almost overwhelming.  I had been suffering for months and still didn’t make the connection that every single Fall I have to increase my dosage because when your brain is sick, it’s sick.   My healthcare provider who is also one of my favorite people in the world, had been messaging me all week and checking on me.  That morning I had told her that I was really struggling and she told me to increase my meds to twice a day.  The only thing that got me to that hospital that night was thinking that I had to give it one more day for my kids.

Don’t read that and think that I want sympathy.  I don’t.  I want understanding.  Within a couple days of doubling my dosage, I still had all the same issues in my life but I could think clearly for the first time in months and that is my point here.  That’s why I’m telling all of you a fact about myself that embarrasses me because even though I’m an outspoken proponent for mental healthcare and removing the stigma associated with it, letting people know that I have had to actively battle suicidal thoughts for the last thirty years is embarrassing to me.  I wish my brain was “normal”.  The point is that mentally ill people don’t always have the capacity to recognize that they are in need.  Depression especially robs you of the will to do anything and I don’t even know that I would have mustered up the energy to address it if my friend and healthcare provider wasn’t messaging me multiple times a day to check on me.  I’m so fortunate to have her.  What happens to all of those people who don’t have someone actively concerned about their wellbeing?

I wish I could sum all of this up with the perfect answer.  If you get anything from this, I hope you get that there really isn’t one.  If you don’t deal with mental illness, I hope this helps you understand how deep the problem is.  I bet so many people who know me will be shocked to find out how much I struggle.  You know that I love my life.  You know that  I love my children.  What you may not know that is that I have to fight my disease to maintain that life.  Truly my biggest fear is that there will be some sort of disaster/terrorist attack/end of the world as we know it event someday and I won’t be able to get access to psych meds.  How sad is that?

Maybe we just need to understand it so we can figure out where to start.  Part of understanding that is understanding that we can’t trust mentally ill people to seek help on their own.  I don’t know how to fix this.