About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

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Monday
Sep172012

"My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone"

"The most powerful sermon in the world is two words: me too."

-Anne Lamott

I want to preface this post by mentioning I really do think I am struggling with depression.  

And I really do think I will try meds sometime soon.

However, we have been in an interim insurance period since the move, and I have not had the ability to get medication; which means that in a sense, I've been conducting an experiment on myself: I recognize the things I am going through are not the normal ups and downs of life; I recognize extenuating circumstances are all piling up to contribute to my emotional lows; I don't recognize any negativity towards going on meds aka: "I should be able to tough this out on my own," or "Going on meds is giving up," or some other thought pattern that adds a quality of shame to the choice to try medication; I truly have not been able to get meds, so instead, I've been trying to practice self-care, and in this odd meantime, to chronicle what it feels like to be inside my head.

It's scary for me to put all of this down on a blog because it's not pretty stuff, but I want to write it down because maybe someone else is experiencing this, and maybe (even though it's difficult to be articulate about depression) I can help find the words that help someone else say, "me too," and when we can say "me too," we're already experiencing grace.

 

Anne Lamott says, "My mind is a neighborhood I try not to go into alone," and that might be the best way I can describe depression.

 

We bike ride downtown as a family, and as we approach the train tracks, the engine whistle blazes.

Michael, first in our pack, beckons us to keep biking, cross the tracks, hurry, we can make it.

I yell back, staring at the oncoming train, staring at my 6 year old son next to me on his own little bright orange bicycle- NO. Stop.

But Michael keeps biking. And I don't want to separate our family. So we ride on.

The engine blows louder, four long blasts. I urge my son- come on, ride fast. We're on the tracks and over, plenty of time to spare.

But I am terrified. Abject terror. Certain that somehow, like in the opening scene of Fried Green Tomatoes, that me, or my son, most likely my son, will fall off his bike on the tracks, and then, as he tries to get up, his shoe will get stuck. And because I have my 9 month old sitting in a seat on the back of my bike, I cannot throw my bike down to rescue my oldest son, and he will get run over by the train.

The image is more real than the reality of all of us safely crossing the tracks.

 

I wake, bolt straight, out of bed the next morning with the same scenario playing in my head.  My heart sinks, and I know if my heart sinks at the start of the day, the rest of the day will be spent just trying to keep it from drowning.

And then another scenario sears my imagination- my two sons standing on a rock in the middle of the Poudre River, and jokingly, one pushes the other, and he falls- doesn't matter which- into the rapids. And again, I have the baby on my back and I cannot unlatch his carrier in time to jump into the water. My husband has our little girl on his back, and he can't jump in either. And we watch our son get carried down the river.

 

Over and over, these are the thoughts that plague me. I attach the bike trailer and the tagalong bike to my bike, and pull all three kids to school with Malachi riding beside me, but instead of enjoying the ride, I see every car as a threat. Every parked vehicle is one about to back out blindly and run into my family.  

We go to City Park for a fireworks display, and instead of settling in to enjoy the evening, I have to make conscious, energy-draining choices not to freak out about losing my kids in the darkness.

 

Michael asks me to make sure the boys brush their teeth morning and night, and I hear that I've failed as a mom.

A friend tells me she can't talk right now, and I'm certain I've committed some awful offense, and lost her friendship forever.

I can't find my sunglasses, and I'm cussing and running through the house, going ballistic over how I can't ever find anything when I need to.

 

Like a tapped out adrenal gland, my elasticity to what life throws at me has lost its purchase. Any little thing knocks me to the ground.

My reactions are extreme, my emotions are over the top, and yet I don't feel present in my own life. I am unengaged, without the willpower to get engaged even though I know rationally the solutions to help me heal.  I cannot will myself to make the steps.

When I'm not freaking out about something, my baseline emotion is something like tolerance. I am reserved, and discontent- not because I am unsatisfied, but because something deep within me stays unresolved- sort of like a constant state of tolerable agitation.

And this is what scares me the most- the fear that I am never going to wake up joyful again, that my baseline emotion will never be contentment or happiness, or a lightness of heart again. That I will spend my children's growing up years just going through the motions- even this conclusion is an extreme version of reality...I go straight to worst-case scenario with an extra dose of fear and guilt on the side.

Experientially, Fort Collins is an incredible place to live, but my emotions have not caught up. We go to Rocky Mountain National Park, and I don't want to get out of the car because I feel safer sitting and looking at the mountains than getting out and hiking. We come home, and I tell Michael that I'm just not ready yet for the hiking, or for adventure. I am just trying to find safety in the tiny routines of life. I am still in a wait in the car and observe from afar phase. Except I feel like I am observing everything behind glass these days.

And yet...the anxieties, the fears, the paranoia that danger is just around the corner, these things keep me company behind the glass.

They carry me away in their own violent waters before I can catch a breath and rise up out of it.


If too many days go by and I still have bills to pay, the panic tightens my chest like a punch to my breast bone, and if I could cry and release the pressure, I would remember the bills aren't overdue, my husband has a job, I've got stamps for when I need to mail the bills, and a bank account to draw from, and checks...but I can't make myself say YES to these truths.

 

I am prompted to call this depression rather than a natural part of the ebb and flow of this life's journey because of two things: the lack of will to fight, and the experience of disconnection.

The season after the house fire was an ebb season, but I still felt present in my life, full of grace, with a clarity about the journey that I currently lack. My predominant state of being was a floating bob in the ocean with a good view of the sky, and an occasional sink down under a wave.

Whereas now, my predominant state is sinking, with a struggle to get my head up and out of the water, focus on the horizon line, and breathe.

 

But I am learning some coping mechanisms, and I am learning about good self-care, and I am learning how to be kind to myself, and how to dissassemble the anxious thoughts and how to talk myself down from escalating extremes of emotion.

And I am getting stronger as I fight.

This morning I woke up at 5 am and went to CorePower Yoga where I dripped sweat like I haven't dripped since living in Virginia humidity. And I feel amazing. And hopeful. And certain that finally getting a consistent work-out in place is going to make a huge difference.

I am on a new part of my journey, my friends. Maybe it's not a pretty part of the path, but I am determined to walk it out, and see what I can learn along the way.

Can anyone else say, "me too?"

 

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Reader Comments (14)

Me too. I went through a period of depression and finally got medication back in 2011. I was determined to see myself through it and managed to stop treatment after six months. It's a challenge that I didn't share with many because as a working professional, there are very few that don't judge. I can say absolutely that I understand the difference in floating and just try to get your head above water. I agree that working out makes a huge difference and allows a means of escape or an outlet for stress, anxiety and frustration. Taking care of you is soooooo important. You are facing the right direction and attempting to take the steps that will lead you where you want to be.
That said, there are side effects that come with medication. When you choose that path and begin treatment, be diligent. Stay on a schedule, don't miss doses and when you are ready to be done with it, ween yourself off slowly with the help and guidance of your practitioner. I experienced some overwhelming side effects from missing doses. Just be careful, take care of yourself and follow your doctors orders. You will be fine and can get through this just like everything else in your life!

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

I have been there. When every moment of life contains a decision - do i get my child the drink he's asking for or lay down on the floor in the fetal position. I did go on medication (an SSRI) and it helped tremendously. It was like all of a sudden (after about 2weeks) I was like, oh yeah I love sunny days - or suddenly enjoying being on the floor playing with the kids instead of just trying to survive. I definitely recommend some sort of counselling as well because the medication helps but it won't solve what got you here in the first place. Good luck to you. Hope you feel better soon.

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrhiannon

Me too Baby...like we talked about yesterday...I've been on both sides (medicated/not, and depressed/not), and there is much to learn from both. The main thing is you are doing something about it and I am thankful that you are trying to work through this in a healthy and mindful way.
I love you and I enjoy our time together, even now, with my depressed wife, life is good, you are good, and God is good. It's good that we always have the ability to laugh, even when we are depressed. Thank God he gave both of us a sense of humor. It smooths out so many rough edges in life.
So, here are some quotes on depression, humor, and psycho-therapy to let you know there's lots of me toos out there.
If the quotes don't cheer you up there should be some liquor in the freezer and certainly some old Advil or Tylenol laying around the house. Call it your anti-depression smoothie. I think you have to drink a couple of those to be officially depressed.

"He who laughs, lasts." - Mary Pettibone Poole
"A good laugh overcomes more difficulties and dissipates more dark clouds than any other one thing." - Laura Ingalls Wilder
"No mind is thoroughly well organized that is deficient in a sense of humor." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
"It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously." - Oscar Wilde
"A person without a sense of humor is like a wagon without springs. It's jolted by every pebble on the road." - Henry Ward Beecher
"Psychiatrists say that one out of four people are mentally ill. Check three friends. If they're OK, you're it."
"Psychiatry enables us to correct our faults by confessing our parents' shortcomings." - Laurence J. Peter, "Peter's Principles"
"Some mornings it just doesn't seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps"
- Emo Phillips

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

baby, what would I do without you. I can't stop laughing at what you just wrote. I think I am cured.

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTrinity

Trinity, Just a thought from a friend who can definately say "me too"; I absolutely am not against meds if you feel so led, but I'd encourage you to keep working on it the way you have been---
honestly facing life and your feelings, exersizing, praying like you've never prayed before, clinging to His word, choosing to Praise Him and oh yes, dancing!.
You have a powerful and loving God, a beautiful amazing family and an incredible husband...all that laughing and loving just might do the trick!

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlisa sachleben

ME TOO!!! You are describing very real depression and I've been there and it is very scary when you're in it. I want to encourage you that you WILL wake up with joy and gladness in your heart again. This WILL pass and you will have a new ability to empathize and sympathize with others in a way you never have before. I am so incredibly sorry you're going through this excruciating experience. I love you and am praying. <3

September 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Me too. Every year, as summer heads towards fall for over 30 years, since my teens. Ten years ago, I felt so paralyzed that I could no longer hide it from my children. So I stopped believing that voice in my head who told me I should be strong enough to get thru this, should be able to pray my way out of it, should be tough enough to not need help. I started meds and the difference is remarkable. I am on very low doses now - my dr says so low that it shouldn't make a difference, but it does. I still have moments of getting "stuck" in my mind but they are no longer days, weeks or months. Trust yourself as you try to find a way out - you will know if what you are doing now works, if meds that you try work. Will pray

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDonna

Trinity, I have been there. I can tell you it will get better and that medication along with cognitive behavior therapy does help. People cannot will or pray themselves out of diabetes, nor can they will or pray themselves out of legitimate depression. I was trapped in a series of horrific "what if" thoughts that took me away from my family. I was there taking care of my family, but spiritually and emotionally I was the closest to hell I ever want to get. Try to get the help you need before you break, I broke after trying to take care of it on my own for months, not wanting to admit that anything was wrong. There may be services that you can get through your church? Every morning and I would write down ten things I loved in my life. When the horrific thoughts would come I would write them down, somehow writing them down and discussing their legitimacy with my husband gave them less power. A lot of times depression and anxiety come after particularly traumatic events, it is the brains way of telling you to get help. And I did need to take medication. I can look back at this time in my life and see Gods hand now, I couldn't at the time. Joy will come in the morning...I will be praying that the night is not too long.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Trinity, after reading subsequent comments, I hope you didn't think I was saying you should just grit your teeth, pray your way out of it and be strong. Depression is a serious thing and should not be trivialized or stuffed under the rug. And, honestly since I'm kind of an outsider whose opinion has not even been asked for, I feel a little funny entering the conversation but I'm not trying to give advice from a got-it-all-figured-out position but just hoping to offer encouragement from a me-too standpoint. I simply meant that I believe Jesus hears our prayers and wants to heal our souls and set us free; not just put a bandaid on the problem Ps. 124:7 & Ps 34:18. I have struggled with depression for years off and on and have not come to any difinitive conclusions about meds. I know people who felt it was a lifesaver and then others for whom it had a negative effect so you just have to pray and seek God on what's best for you. It always baffled me that the scripture seems not to say much about mental illness, which incidentally runs rampant in my family. Lately though, as I've been seeking God on the issue, I find scriptures everywhere (especially Psalms) that speak to this brokenness of our souls,and His ability to transform us and give us beauty for ashes and.... a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

September 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

I am so humbled and grateful for everyone who has taken the time to comment on this blog post. It gives me courage to know you all are out there. Your "me too" is an inspiration and a relief.

September 19, 2012 | Registered CommenterTrinity Wilbourn

Me too. I certainly went through this season after my divorce...but I didn't really tell anyone that is what I was going through, and I probably didn't even realize it myself until long after. It's so good that you are exposing the fight you are going through so that those around you can LOVE you through it. I just finished reading the Screwtape Letters, and your post kind of reminded me of the section where Screwtape is encouraging his protege to get the man to think the past or the future rather than the right-here-and-now because it is easier to lose touch with reality (and with God) this way. I will have to find that passage and email you the page reference. Love you! God loves you! Lots of other people love you! I will be praying for you to move through this depression QUICKLY.

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBriana

Me too. I certainly went through this season after my divorce...but I didn't really tell anyone that is what I was going through, and I probably didn't even realize it myself until long after. It's so good that you are exposing the fight you are going through so that those around you can LOVE you through it. I just finished reading the Screwtape Letters, and your post kind of reminded me of the section where Screwtape is encouraging his protege to get the man to think the past or the future rather than the right-here-and-now because it is easier to lose touch with reality (and with God) this way. I will have to find that passage and email you the page reference. Love you! God loves you! Lots of other people love you! I will be praying for you to move through this depression QUICKLY.

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBriana

Me too. I've struggled off and on with depression, but it's hit me hard the past few weeks. By the grace of God, I'm working through it. You are an inspiration to me. Thank you for helping me learn to be honest with myself and with those around me, even though I'm a mess.

September 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

As you know, I'm a me too. What a blessing tjat upi can honestly share and dig into what you are experiencing- to really feel the agony and share it with others. Countless women suffer in in silence and shame of depression in our fallen world. And if you're anything like me, you don't care much that your suffering will be a blessing to anyone else!

But when I finally drug myself out ot the sea I was drowning in, depressed Christian women came out of the woodwork to walk along side me and for me to walk along side them. Not fixing, just acknowledging life is hard. And it was good to be able to share my story and celebrate my survival. It'll come for you too. Promise.

I admire Lisa's advice and her caveat- drugs aren't the total answer but they can calm the brain down enough to recieve the couseling, to hear the Word, to allow your mouth to praise, to put truth over the lies. See you soon!

September 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

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