Monday, October 27, 2014

Depression: Where my heart is at

The last few weeks have been very hard. This struggle with depression and anxiety feels like more than I can handle most days. I have a lot of help during the day with the kids when Steve is at work but I still feel unable to manage. I have a tenseness in my chest constantly. I have no energy, no appetite, I am barely sleeping. I feel like I am in a fog. I can't keep things straight. Steve keeps having to remind me who is coming over to help me each day. I usually have a good memory but right now I need everything to be written down. This just doesn't feel like me.

I can fake happiness. I have done it too much lately. I feel like hey, I am feeling like me , FINALLY only to realize that no, I am just not being real. I don't know what to say to most people when they ask how I am. I don't want to turn into a blubbering mess but I also want to be real with people. I can't seem to figure out when to do and say what.

My thought life is bad. I think SO often (especially in the night when I can't sleep) that my kids don't need me. That I am ruining them. That what I am going through will affect them long term and I want to protect them from me. I have gone into Jacob's room in the middle of the night and just laid in his bed with him holding him while he slept thinking that that would be the last time I would do that. I wanted to run away. I don't want to kill myself but I want my kids' lives to be better than they are right now. I then remember that the trauma of losing their mom would be worse than having a mom who is sick right now. I have to keep reminding myself how much worse it would be for them if I just up and left. I have a friend whose husband took his own life a year and a half ago. I have seen how it has destroyed her and how it has affected her young children. I can't do that to my kids or to Steve. I think about my friend SO often because I need to remind myself to stick it out. To keep being patient with myself while I get better.

Some days I feel like if I was just REALLY injured then it would be easier to accept help with my kids. Because no one can see my sickness it feels so weird to have help. Especially when I act fake and act like everything is ok when I am dying on the inside and crash when Steve gets home. It's SO hard right now to get myself out of bed each day. On Saturday I didn't leave my bed until noon and I only got up because I had a counselling session to go to. I was promptly back in my bed when I got home.

I am having awful tension headaches which make me want to stay in bed even more. I feel so alone but I am not really reaching out to anyone. When I do go out it's to escape. I go for dinner, or go shopping with a friend and try not to think too much about it or say that I am ok because I don't want to break down in public, or be a burden to anyone to make anyone uncomfortable. I don't know what anyone can do for me right now so I feel silly even talking about it because no one can actually help me. I just need time. I wish I knew how much time. I wish I knew if I will ever get through a day without being overwhelmed. Without thinking "I can't do this." Will I feel joy? I am not sure I have felt real lasting joy in years. There are moments of joy, like when Livia learned to sit up last week. But it's so short lived. Will I feel joyful for an hour, half a day....dare I even suggest a whole day? I feel like there isn't a light at the end of the tunnel. I feel like I have been depressed for years and just tried to cope but felt pretty awful and empty the whole time. I am in this pit right now and I am not sure I will get out of it. It's pretty dark and lonely down here.

I have to take it day by day right now. Tomorrow is the beginning of a new week in our home (Steve has Sunday and Monday off so Tuesday is the beginning on his work week). I am feeling pretty stressed about tomorrow. I have a great babysitter who will be here with me for the morning and then Jacob will be in preschool in the afternoon and then if I need to I can go to a friend's place after I pick up Jacob until Steve gets home. I want to start trying to do some small sections of time alone with my kids and see how I handle it. So there is a plan in place and that helps but it's not as ideal as having Steve here. He knows everything to do with the kids so I don't even need to think. But of course he needs to work. Life can't stop because I am in a crisis. I am having to rely on SO many people right now and I HATE it!

I am reading a book right now called The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and these two sentences have been running through my head a lot lately:
"Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help."

I love to help people. Always have, always will. But receiving is hard for me. It's time that I change how I feel about it. I need to just accept that this is where I am at right now and I need to let people help me.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mental Illness: My own stigma

"Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all."
-Bill Clinton

Anxiety and depression. Something so may people don't understand. I am someone who suffers from chronic anxiety and that anxiety unfortunately claws at me until I am depressed. I don't really understand what I am going through or how to get out of it. It feels like trial and error. Last time I was deeply depressed I hid away in my bed for months after admitting myself to the psych ward. I was too anxious to actually stay in the psych ward for help because it was new to me and I don't do new well. This time I am trying to go about my day to day life while I cry, crumble and panic. Some days I feel like I can get through and other days I don't know how to even get the strength to get myself out of my bed. It's more than exhaustion. It's a lack of happiness. I feel horrible even saying that because I have 2 beautiful and amazing children and a wonderfully loving and supportive husband and yet I am not happy. Nothing makes me happy. Everything is clouded by this overwhelming sense of hate for myself and feeling like an utter failure. 

When I think about telling people that I am struggling right now with anxiety and depression I worry about the stigma around it in their mind. But even more than that I get caught up with the stigma in my own mind. 

My doctor has told me over and over again that I need to stop thinking about this as something that will just go away or something that is just a case of mind-over-matter. I am sick. Taking medication for mental illness is no different than someone taking medication for diabetes. And yet it feels like it is different. With diabetes you can have a blood test done that shows if your numbers are not within the range of "normal' and therefore justify medication. You can't take a blood test for depression or anxiety. I feel like everything is based on what I tell my doctor I am feeling and thinking. So what if I don't give an accurate description of how things really are? What if I am given a prescription for meds because I have a bad day and just happen to have an appointment that day? Well I will tell you what happens. 

About 3 weeks ago I took my daughter in her for 6 month check up and made an appointment for myself for something completely unrelated (or so I thought) to anxiety and depression. Well my sweet, calm baby girl screamed for the entire 20 min appointment. My 3 year old son laid on the ground holding my leg begging to leave because there was a poster of a skeleton on the wall and he was scared of it. I stood there doing whatever I could to hold it together. Trying to talk to the doctor about my symptoms, console and distract my son (I was trying to give him snacks and the iPad with ZERO luck) and rock my baby. I made her a bottle and tried to feed her. I put her clothes back on (she was undressed to be weighed) in case she was just cold, I gave her her soother, I gave her toys, I rocked her, I bounced her and she continued to scream. I did what I do in these moments. I started crying. I said "I can't do this. I don't know what to do." I then continued with "I hate my life. I don't want to be a mom anymore." I cried and I cried and I cried. The doctor typed as I spoke. He left the room and came back with prescriptions for the same meds I was on for anxiety and depression almost 2 years ago and told me to come back in a week. I packed up my kids and left. I cried the whole way home and continued to cry for a long time at home. The next day I decided that he just caught me at a bad time and I didn't need the meds. I went to my appointment the following week and told him that I hadn't started the medication. I was quick to cry when he asked me questions about my anxiety and overall happiness. He told me that I need to get rid of the stigma that I have about mental illness and it's treatment. I had never thought that I had a stigma about it but clearly I do because I wasn't willing to take medication because I felt like I should just be able to feel better and be happier on my own. 

I started the medication. It takes about 6 weeks before knowing how the meds will work for me. I have been on these pills before but hormone levels change over time so getting the right dose and medication is still a process that needs to be monitored by my doctor. I haven't spoken to many people about what I have been going through for months now (dare I say even years....?) because frankly, I am embarrassed. I feel like I shouldn't be this way. I compare my life to other people's lives and think that I have no excuse to be falling apart. Other people have more kids. Other people don't have such supportive husbands. Other people have less money. Other people are single parents. Other people have children who are handicapped. Other people have real visible illness themselves. So if they can do this parenting thing, if they can handle life then why can't I? 

I don't know. I just know I can't. I just know that regardless of their realities, this is mine. This is where I am at. I am struggling. I get very overwhelmed by my kids. I get very lonely and feel isolated. I am starting to have social anxiety (which is really lame when you are an extrovert and need to be around people). I don't really want to leave my house and yet I hate being here all the time. I feel exhausted all the time. I have low energy. Nothing really excites all. I have no hobbies or interests. I feel overwhelmed by my thought life because it is constantly in overdrive and yet my body is in slow motion. I never feel like I am doing anything well enough when it comes to being a wife, mom or friend. 

I have such high expectations of myself. Expectations of perfection. I can't quantify what is "enough" so I overachieve and always fall short. How do I know that I spend enough one-on-one time with each of my kids? Do I show them enough love and affection? Do I balance praise and discipline well? Is the home environment I am creating one that will help my children to grow and feel happy, loved and safe? Am I spending enough time engaging Jacob's mind? Does Livia have enough floor time? Is she on the floor too much? Should I be working more on her sleep? Should I be working out or spending my evenings resting and with my husband? Should I be working or continue to stay at home? Do I spend enough time praying an reading my Bible? never ends. I never have answers to these questions and always worry that I am not doing a good job. 

Will pills fix all of this? Heck no! But they should level out my anxiety a bit and take the edge off the sadness so I am not in a state of tears at any given moment. I am in counselling and I have a lot of work to do to get to a place where I can just be at peace with me. I want to be real. Be honest and vulnerable. I don't want to be ashamed. So here I am. 

When my heart is overwhelmed lead me to The Rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:2