Archive for the ‘depression’ Category

Usually, I make a revelation and something happens. This time was no different; it was a classic sucker punch that left me feeling unsafe and on edge. While reading at Mockingbird about David Foster Wallace’s short story of The Very Bad Thing which was, in fact, depression of the clinical variety, I realized that when I outed myself, I really outed this other Foreign thing that is both me and not me. As much as I fight IT, IT will fight me back.

I last wrote about Henry & Theo’s bravery pact crumbling in the dark. Some forms of comfort are more likely to work than others. I’m blessed to be on the receiving end of a whole lot more than someone shouting down into the hell hole that Jesus is in my heart. Like my three year old, my answer to that would be “No, I all alone,” you idiots, get down here and help me!”

Usually the thing that happens is a nice solid sucker punch, and I forget to mention it all again for 6 or 7 months. There is the rest of a long cold winter to get through, a business to get off the ground, more than a handful of changes on the home front with jobs, schools and schedules, there is a summer to plan, things still yet to be hoped for and all times the possibility of hopes dashed. This frightens me. I need some sort of bravery pact.


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Remember the part where I was doing the “not talking”to Matt and the girlfriends? Well, that turned out to be less true yesterday than on other days. I did do some talking with Matt, with the girlfriends, with some people from my new church, which is a lot for one day and one blog post.

By the way, hi people from my new church! For lighter content, I recommend you visit the post in which Henry paints with diaper cream or this post which lists two years worth of needs new batteries type antics with the kids (be careful, you if you follow enough links you will see a baby eating Bill Maher that my husband made for me as a gift. He loves me.) By the way, if you don’t visit those, laugh and then tell me how hilarious I am, I will be very worried about you too.

I have never given away any type of anything on this blog, but the award for most insightful comment has to go to Kimberly who wrote:

Self-destructive behavior comes in so many forms. Some are immediately life-threatening, some are just delayed. If I survive my days of massive sleep-deprivation by shoving chocolate chip cookies into my mouth, that isn’t any less destructive than cutting, it is just less immediate.

That acknowledgment crystallized for me the reason that I don’t actually talk that much about fighting the urge to cut. It’s not as funny or acceptable as talking about snacking on chocolate, caffeine or having an extra glass of wine. It’s not even as acceptable as yelling at one’s kids & parking them in front of the television. I have done – and still do – all those things from time to time. As mothers, we laugh about these things. We cry a little too. We know they aren’t ideal things, but they are ways of coping. Talking about them is like speaking in mom code. “I’m tired. The kids are making me crazy. I’m having a croissant. or maybe two.” We all know what that means. You tell me, and I don’t squirm.

A friend wrote me a note. She both wanted to talking about cutting and also to acknowledge that is can be unfair to zero in on that one word. Her compassion astounded me. It’s true, it’s hard to talk about it, nearly impossible. Apparently it is much less hard to write about, because here I am on day 2 and nothing has gone up in flames yet -just smoke. I’m not cutting – and I don’t. Ever. That is an absolute for me.

I do think it about it when things boil up and over, when I am scared and can’t figure out the the next step. The image comes to my mind. I feel less, see less and am afraid that the bottom will drop out.

But it doesn’t. I am, in fact, not a bottomless pit. I can be filled. I can be comforted. The simple of act of discipline to breath, to laugh, to cry or scream or write can change everything. It can be magical. It is mysteriously connected to brain chemistry, so exercise can help. It is really a shame I don’t exercise regularly. I should speak to myself about that. Chocolate is also mood altering. That is a hint.

Theo and Henry wake in the early dark hours of the morning. Today was nearly 7. I lay in bed listening to their conversation. They were making a bravery pact to leave their room, creep down the stairs to the still dark living room and find the Knex wheel that was necessary for their play. They whispered at the top of the stairs.

“I think there’s creatures, down there, Henry.”
“No,no creatures.That is mommy’s air cleaner. It makes a pip, pip,pip.”

They are creeping down. It does not occur to them to turn on a light. Theo runs back up.
“No Theo, be brave! Be brave!”
Theo tumbles back down & the next one to be spooked his Henry. Theo shouts up
“No, I all alone here, now,” hoping his brother will come down to him in the cold dark living room with all the Knex waiting to be collected.

“Come back. I all alone! I no like it.” The bravery pact is crumbling.
Henry shouts back, “No, You are Not, Jesus is in you heart! He is in your heart!”

Theo, confused and actually all alone shouts, “I all alone.”
“He’s in your heart! He’s in your heart!” Henry screams are more intense.

He has accidentally started a sibling fight of the is not/is too variety. It gets loud. I should get up, but I am laughing. I am curious. The shouting stops. Henry has gone down the stairs to help Theo beat a fast retreat from the pip, pip, pipping air purifier and creatures in the dark. They half tumble into their brother Isaac who has begun turning on lights and suddenly they are asking him for Os and juice and toast. They are little community, loudly shouting encouragements into the dark, holding hands, emptying the cupboards and making pacts.

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I soak in the happy news of the day, both big and small, joys mine & just nearby to me. The boys can take the bus home from school this winter. Theo and I do not have to brave the cold, the busy parking lot, the ice, the tears. We stay home and bake things, waiting for the older two to tumble off the bus. This is very cheering. I relish happy news from friends and family, hope on the horizon. I fix my mind on them, these things for which I am grateful to God.

I practice looking at life’s every day concerns with just a little distance: bills to pay, appointments to make, my father growing older, starting up a business here in a new place, Matt’s long commute. I make no move with them. I just look at them and practice not unraveling. It feels like enough of an accomplishment for today.

I do they every day stuff. I cook, I read to the kids. I stay up with the news, I wrestle the laundry into submission. I recycle and compost things. It feels good. I knit, un-knit and re-knit.

I stick in a box the expensive and unfortunate car drama of the week. The mess is mostly tidied up now. It stings though. I laugh with girlfriends about it. I laugh with Matt about it. We shake our heads and sigh. I take a breath. I laugh. I do not talking about cutting. I do not talk about it with Matt, with the girlfriends, with anyone. I think about talking about it here. I write a post. I save it to drafts. I re-write it, delete it, start again.

I work the self-control to the limit, but like a too stretched rubber band. If I can talk about it, then it will be outside my body. It works for me, but not for anyone else. It works because I have let something out & it is hard for anyone to just be with that, without feeling that they are being asked to do something, to fix something. It angers them. It sounds like a threat and I am helpless as I explain that I just want it out of my body – to let it go up like smoke into the atmosphere. I can do it alone. I do. It feels less safe, but there is God, who, in a moment such as this, feels like a dream, a whisper of someone who may walk into the room or out of it, but doesn’t. Yes, there is God who will let it burn up and rise like smoke into the atmosphere, who can accept as worship this discipline not to harm myself.

I sigh. It stings. I laugh with the kids and bake something. I write this post and publish it this time. It may have to come down, but in the mean time I am sending it up like smoke.

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Merry Christmas, All.

I do love Christmas. I love Christmas lights and music. I love Advent, the somber yet joyful waiting for a savior, a baby, a miracle. My birthday is upcoming. It adds to our family festivities. Only a handful of times in my life have I felt the “December birthday gyp” that many Christmas babies complain about – and that during the middle awkward years during which birthdays were quite likely to hold a fair share of misery. My parents had three Christmastide babies – all girls – and the Christmas tree did not enter our home until after my birthday and was all packed up before my sisters’ birthdays, staggered back to back on the 7th and 8th of January.

Matt and I love to have our Christmas tree up in time for my birthday. I need the shiny objects to break through the seasonal depression. A lit Christmas tree is what I always want the most on my birthday & for Matt to take the boys out to get some little things they know their mama likes – “a new knit” as Henry would call yarn, or local honey & tea. I need the little gifts ahead of Christmas, to break up these last days of long darkness and not enough light. The solstice approaches – the darkest night, the longest night and then the relief of knowing that more light is on its way. My birthday will be moon-less this year, as the full moon will be on New Year’s Eve.

I have an urge to sit back and let this month’s festivities unfold and flow over me, but I am the mother now. The holiday season we have will, to a very large extent be the one I make. I find it to be a high wire act of wanting to celebrate and hibernate. Push. I feel the push to create more memories, to celebrate more, to participate more, to go more places and be more “christmassy,” knowing that all this will pass, it will be January, still pretty dark and cold and not as many pretty lights and greetings shouted on the street. And yet, there is a push away from everything and everyone, a resistance to trying so hard to be happy that I make myself stressed, ill, exhausted. Events approach – parties, outings, opportunities – and as they get closer the pull inwards grows stronger. Push. Sometimes I push myself towards the outside world & am richly rewarded with joy, friendships, music, lights and candy; other times I pull up the blankets and nurture my soul with tea, knitting and Aimee Mann’s Christmas album – merry, dark, bright and bitter as only she can do it. These are not problems – the problem is deciding what to do – when to push, when to pull. The problem is when I push & it turns out to be a big mistake – the kids resist, or Matt, or everyone, even me & I am pulling the family uphill in a sled to have Christmas- wintery –baby Jesus fun before it is too, too late!!!! I try hard not to have that problem. If I lean, it towards pulling inward too often & then weeping with regret that I didn’t make it out there, to where the party is – the fun, fun baby Jesus, Festival of Lights, Latkes, Bonfire, Christmas Pageant, Christmas Eve, Wise Men and Shepherds and all that Rush.

I’d prefer if we waited more slowly, more patiently. If the Christmas specials of my childhood were not on TV Thanksgiving weekend. If all the Christmas carol sing-a-longs were not over at the 2nd weekend of Christmas. It would be better if I could get a grip and not spend this whole month fearful of missing something, of not having been holy enough or merry enough to satisfy my longings for a meaningful and joyful holiday season – Hanukkah, Birthdays and New Years’ included. It would be better for me, by far, to acknowledge that this fear is the form my depression takes in this joyous season – to mourn lightly the small misses, to mourn more deeply & openly the dear losses which the season brings up -after all, we put up the lights to stamp out the dark.

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It has been nearly 7 months since this episode of depression has started. I am feeling, generally, better. I am not cured. I have an enormous amount of spiritual and emotional work to do. I am not free from the ghosts that haunt me, yet.

Yet. That yet is my clue, that I am, in fact, better. Even on days when I don’t feel better, that yet sits somewhere within me, acknowledging the future. Even when I fight the process – and, do I ever – that yet is the closest thing I have to hope when depressed.

My mother was with me, at my sister’s wedding, a week or 2 after we noticed the depression. She diagnosed me on the spot. Grief. You are grieving, she said. I’ve been around this before. I’m telling you. This is grief. It had perhaps been coming on for a while – the full systemic meltdown of Karen holding it together. The laundry list of things only half grieved for had been left hanging on the line in all weather as I raise my kids and got through each day.
There were potential moments for unraveling, which I held at bay. I will always make that attempt. It is in my nature. I do not know how to be another way. If I did, I would rip of the bandaid and get it all done in one day (ha!). I flirted a few night ago with stopping my meds, because then perhaps, I could have full systemic meltdown and be down with this. Will depression leave me alone forever, if I let it have me now.

Oh, wait, that sounds a lot like bargaining doesn’t it? Oops. My mother was right. It appears I have been grieving and doing all the steps at the same time, or dancing around them in some unrecognizable pattern, but then finally, here I am actually bargaining with depression. However, I am dancing on the edge of something here…could it be acceptance.

There was a rather drastic onset to this episode. However this may sound (and to me it sounds extremely pathetic), I crashed more fully than I ever have upon learning that my best friend was moving to Italy for her husband’s work and not to Northampton to come a-church-planting & staying in birthy business with little old me.

Yes, I know, it sounds extreme. But to me, my world crashed down around me. I was looking forward to a new community – that included her – a new phase of my career- that included her – a difficult challenge for my family – that included hers. I saw a new, exciting phase of my life opening up before me. I was scared and amazed all at the same time. It looked like I had a gift in my hand, one I never expected. I held it and thanked God for it for about 10 months. Then, poof.
It hurt. It still does, that potential loss sitting out there waiting for me to experience it in the day to day.

It hurts in itself but also reflects the way miscarriage hurts. I peed on the stick, already knowing the answer. My heart a-flutter for 3 minutes, but staring the whole time, watching the test absorb the pee, watching the lines appear. My brain and heart move fast. I see the ages my kids will be when the baby comes. I see the craziness, the joy, the rearranging of furniture and car seats. I have no hold back in this area. Who I am to check my heart into place, to warn it to be more circumspect?

I stop enjoying alcohol, soft cheeses, ibuprofen, hot tubs and lunch meats. I choke down prenatal horse pills, vomit them up. Prop myself awake to take care of the kids and the house. My stomach turns at the thought of food, but I snack frequently to keep the nausea at bay. I pop B6s to boost my liver and suck on crystallized ginger to keep it all down where it needs to go. My ligaments instantly loose (more so with each pregnancy), my belly poking out (earlier each time, I have herniated my abs…or maybe Isaac did 10 years ago this week). Soon my clothes don’t fit – sooner than you’d think. All my energies pushed into this new creation.

The first spot of blood is like the floor disappearing. All suddenly gone and inexplicably so. Within a day, or maybe two, all is gone but the wondering why, the missing, the longing and birthdays that do not happen. This weekend marks what would have been Jordan’s 8th due date. I won’t say birthday. She was not born. My miscarriage with her was more like a labor than anything else, but it was not a birth.

If my story were a book, there would have been many foreshadowings of this huge loss – many stories that mimic this pattern. There have been echoes of it in the 8 years that follow, including one less traumatic miscarriage of a second girl baby that I carried not as long. But this is not a book and it is too much for one blog post to contain.

My miscarriage was in October; her due date early May – the same stretch of time this depression has crashed in on me. Over these hard winter months, I have been given a gift that did not bloom until spring. My pain over has been working itself out in my body. Since my sister’s tragic loss in February – a much loved baby girl born too soon – I have had a recurrent dream of reaching, reaching for something that is not there. In the morning I wake up with a strange shoulder injury, loose in my shoulder blade, tight in my neck, me elbow aching the way it did when all I did all day was carrying a very small baby in its crook. Twice now, I have woken with a shirt damp from milk – yet, I have not nursed a babe for over 18 months.

Once, exactly, I dreamt of my girls. For the very first time, I had a dream of being with them and not of loosing them. We sat together on a green hill of a farm, where we lived. We were rinsing fresh strawberries in water coming from an underground spring, gurgling through a rock that held the sun’s heat. I awoke sore in my arms and my breasts, but delighted to have tasted some of their sweetness, delighted to have seen their peace and joy. I never expected this passage I have been crawling through give me a gift such as this after so many years.

And speaking of gifts, another sweet one, came my way this week.
Jordan and Lily Rose are the names we gave our girls. A woman name Carly has been given a ministry to help those who grieve. It is a small gift to see their names in the sand at sunset. Yet somehow, it helps. I always struggle, having no where to go, no body to bury, no headstone to rest flowers on, no bed of grass to tend. We shall go today and tend to our magnolia tree and later I will share a picture of that. I am carrying the word yet in my heart and the taste of spring water and strawberries in my mouth.

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Around the dawn of time – when I last posted in November – I was tagged with the familiar 6 Random Things meme, by Veronica. I should have just done it then & there, but the thing about depression is that, it hardly ever turns out that way. I have been 100% in favor of doing the 6 Random Things Meme since I was first tagged. Okay, 98%. The last 2% of me has been overwhelmed by the thought of making all the links work right.

With your permission, I am not linking today. I have decided that if linking is overwhelming, I am obviously not fully recovered. I have also decided that a meme must be the blogging equivalent of getting up to shower and dress when depressed. Everyone checks on that at first – if you wait them out, they will probably forget to check. I offer that as a tidbit, in case you are ever depressed and would like to stay in your bed in your pajamas all day. Do the shower, dressing thing for a week & then forget about it if you want to.

I knew I should have done it in October – 6, only 6. That’s plenty of random things for you to know about me. Now I have been tagged at least 3 times by that 25 things meme going all around Facebook. It’s too much to ignore. So, I am dressed, showered & now blogging at bare minimum:


1. I tend to over-think things. For example, I’m not sure this fact is random enough for this meme. At least, not for #1 of this meme. Probably belongs in the middle.
2. I have a fear of going upside down. Other than that, I enjoy many things. Theme parks have no appeal.
3. Also, I’m a little claustrophobic, especially in my sleepy lizard brain state…no like share pillow. *crack* skull meets skull, newlyweds Matt and Karen both awoke with headaches.
4. I seem very organized and tidy. I have fooled you all.
5. This year I learned to knit from my best friend. This is the 5th time, I have tried to learn to knit. 5 times = the charm. I don’t think I’ll forget this time. We’ll see.
6. Apparently, I think moving house is some sort of hobby, or perhaps it has become a spiritual discipline of mine. I may become some sort of guru who advices people to move annually so they can purge their worldly goods upon freecyclers everywhere.

Goodnight – can I get some sort of hallpass? I’m finding this alarmingly tiring…

1b. Back to the over-thinking: Was I supposed to do this meme in a Facebook note?
7. Sometimes I am morning person. Other times, no.
I am having font problems that I chose to ignore for the sake of continuing to blog.
9. I like going to births, but don’t like being on call. It gives me butterflies. I get nervous about missing a call, getting their too late.
10. I like chatting on the phone, but I hate “making calls.”
11. I cannot draw. Matt thinks anyone can learn, but I think it is really too late for me.
12. I used to take music lessons & when I am not stuck under kids, I’d like to do that again.
13. I’ve decided to attend births for women in prison. I am chomping at the it to get started.
14. Sometimes, I can’t wait for my kids to get older, so I can do stuff like music lessons & more types of births. Other times, I need them to slow down. Other times, I’m not sure our family is complete yet.

uh-oh, those last three were related to one another; that doesn’t seem random enough. am I doing this wrong? Oy.

15. I lose things. It might be uncontrolled telekinesis. Or maybe I’m just trying to focus your attention away from the fake that I am really not organized & lose sunglasses like they grow on trees. and also gloves.
16. Have you seen my green gloves? Wait, this one won’t count because it’s about you not me. No, wait, it is about me. But it’s not a fact. Um, so, yeah, I was born in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t grow up there.
17. Despite all appearances, I had an excellent education in grammar. I grew up diagramming sentences, which I found fun, and memorizing verbatim the comma rules from style guides.
18. Wait, did you see that? A link. I may be cured.
19. Grammar!! It helps. And, I love this video:

20. I am light sleeper. White noise helps.
21. I have that ringing in my ears sometimes. Do you get it? Sometimes, when I lay down at night, it almost sounds like a radio playing far away.
22. I have extra sensory experiences pretty regularly – colors, energy flying around, heat waves. I have no idea what it means.
23. I really don’t mind labor and birth all that much…and I don’t just mean other people’s. I, apparently, have a fairly high pain threshold, unless you are one of my newborn babies & you bite instead of drink. Then I will cry.
24. I have this whole curly hair regime thing going that seems like an awful lot of work sometimes. But, I like my curls
25. I’ve been planning to redesign my blog for a little while, but can’t decide what I want. Any ideas?

If you made it this far, if you are still hear & don’t hate memes, I tagged all five of you. You’ll have to pick up some slack for me, because I am supposed to tag 25 people. I can’t do that math. Either you need to tag extra people to make up for my bare minimum blog style thing, or you may need to post extra random things, because we all need more of those on the internet.

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just a dreamer

So, almost a month has passed since I sank into this depressing, depressive episode. The days are foggy inside & outside of my brain. I walk through, going through the motions, not always sure what day of the week it is when I first open my eyes and remember that I am still depressed. I pull the covers over my head & think how tired I am of moving through the motions & doing all the right things. All the ways I know I need to take care of myself: get enough sleep, water, food, nature, fresh air, time out of the house, time with other people, time in the house, time alone. My psychic intuition is broken so I have no access to my usual way of determining how much of any of these things will feel good. I normally do quite well with quite a good deal of time alone (by which I mean either real, actual alone, or mommy-type alone, which is to say, alone with my kids.) The case has changed significantly & I now suck at being alone or not talking to anyone for more than an hour or so at a time.
Unfortunately & not coincidentally, I now also suck at making advance plans, calling people & am completely unhinged when I am left feeling stranded – which could probably mostly be avoided by reacquiring the former two skills. If you have seen my social skills or my planning skills, please send them my way.
I emphasize, feeling stranded. I am not yet crazy enough to believe that any of people are actually stranding me. While, actually, I am that crazy, but only when I am feeling my most depressed & the very slightest change can shake off the crazy – the phone ringing, a note, an email, but still, it’s not a good feeling to have for even 15 seconds & I can’t seem to shake it off myself. I need someone or something else to shake it for me. This is rather lame, but it seems to be, well, depression. So, while I hate it, I will try not to be mad at myself about it. It’s just my brain not doing what it is supposed to do right now. I never realized how important my brain has been for talking me down & out of trees & such. Now that it is not working so great, well, I miss it.
As blurry as my days & thoughts are, my dream life is remarkably vivid. Overall, I’m not much of a dreamer. My charming husband regularly has epic length dreams that are complex enough for me to forget characters names & get bored or distracted while he is telling me all about it. In his dreams it is usually night time in a semi-alternate universe. Lately, perhaps it is the medication, or the melatonin supplement or just that I am sleeping more fitfully & lightly, I have been remembering my dreams. For the most part, they are extremely boring. Look:

A. I dreamt I went to pay the bills and had no money in the account.
It is really a wonder that my brain even bothered dreaming about something this close to reality. Honestly. Try harder unconscious mind!

B. I dreamt some official personnel (police, social worker) came to my house to tell me that my downstairs neighbor spoke harshly to my son because she objected to my laundry line.
Good job, brain! I have no downstairs neighbor! Your powers of invention are overwhelming! However, two days later this dream was revisited:

C. I dreamt that the same official person came into my kitchen and asked me accusing questions about how I treat my kids.
Okay, yes, slightly disturbing, but not totally out of the realm of predictable. I am afraid that my depression is compromising my motherhood – or I am afraid that other people will think so & try to take my kids away. Funny how feeling as I do, I’d love nothing more for someone to come and take my kids away – but by that I really mean, would my mother please come and take them away for a day while I slept, ate chocolate and watched movies. That’d be worth dreaming about, dear brain of mine. The other kind of “take my kids away” is really just a horrifying nightmare dressed up in policemen’s clothes.

D. I dreamt I was in the mouthwash aisle at Walgreen’s or Walmart trying to find the magic cure for mouth sores. I was there for 18 hours and never found it.
Again, this is startlingly close to reality. I have never actually stayed at a store for 18 hours, but my mouth sores really are a bitch & if I thought staying at Walmart for 18 hours might help me find some magic potion to heal them instantly, I might actually do it.

E. I dreamt that I was trying to buy seed potatoes at a garden store & I couldn’t find it. I was on the phone with someone who was telling me exactly where to go in the store. I could see it from far away and then when I’d get they would fade away. It was a seed potato mirage. I left in disappointment. Later, the person I had been on the phone with called me from the store, seed potatoes in hand.
This is probably the most interesting dream I have had all month. What do you think it means? I have some ideas, but it’d be fun to poll the room first.

F. I dreamt I was eaten by our neighborhood bears.
That is all. It was a very short dream representing my fear and belief that I do not have the energy to fight this depression off. Or possibly the bears could have represented my young children who regularly shout out “share the mommy, don’t eat the mommy!” If only the could practise what they preach.

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