I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous post and wanted to write a follow-up, but just couldn’t get my thoughts organized–until this morning.
Yesterday I woke up very melancholy for no particular reason. Not “sad” per se, but a deep sense of dread that made me want to hide under the covers and cry all day. I’m sure you have experienced the same thing from time to time when life gets hectic or overwhelming. As a woman with depression, I have to be careful not to minimize those feelings because they can quickly snowball out of control. I have to respond as if I am under attack and am fighting for my life. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but that is how I’ve learned to manage my depression. Medication is a helper, it is not a cure. I have to CHOOSE to not let guilt and self-loathing take root for even a moment.
My first line of defense is my husband, Herbert. We have been married for 13 1/2 years and I wasn’t diagnosed with MRDD (Major Recurring Depressive Disorder) until about 15 months ago. He has slogged through my emotional muck–not understanding, just being there. It hasn’t been pretty and I am so grateful to God that Herb didn’t give up on me. My feet hadn’t even touched the floor yet and I tearfully tell him that I’m having a rough morning. “Do you want me to hold you for a while?” he asks. Yeah, I do. I curl myself up into his strong arms. I resist the voice in my head that tells me that if I don’t get up that second, my day will train-wreck beyond all repair. For 10 glorious minutes there is just silence. No judgement. I can breathe again and I can start my day. The point of sharing this personal moment with you is that I tell him what’s going on. I don’t assume that he will figure it out or “should know me by now”. I am also consistent about taking my medication. It is really easy to think, “Wow! I’m doing great! I don’t need that today.” Well a day can turn into a week or even a month and before I know it I am in the bottom of a deep, dark pit trying to figure out how I got there. It is not a sudden fall, but a gradual slide that is almost imperceptible until it’s too late. Depression is sneaky that way. After we moved from Arizona to Tennessee this year I fooled myself into thinking that I didn’t need my medication because it is so beautiful here (weird, I know, but that’s how my brain works–looking at living green things makes me happy). I was wrong. It wasn’t until I was on the phone with my sister lamenting about some issue that she said, “You don’t sound like yourself. Are you ok?” It wasn’t that I was venting, it was the hopelessness she heard in my voice. I am so grateful that she pointed out what I couldn’t see. I got my prescription refilled and within a couple of weeks I felt like I was on an even keel again. I practice “self-care”. Let me tell you how much I distain this concept. I wanted to smack my therapist every time she asked me what I have been doing to take care of myself. Bubble bath? Pedicure? Skipping through a field of wildflowers at sunset singing Kum-bay-ya? (ok, I just made that one up). I wanted to scream, “ARE YOU INSANE?! I have three kids with special needs and a husband who works hard to support all 5 of us so I can stay home. I don’t have time to spend on such frivolousness!” You see, I thought that “self-care” meant being selfish and depriving my family of the dedication and caregiving they deserved. I also (mistakenly) believed that I had to do something that most women would consider pampering. Well, I’m just not that kind of woman. I like to be feminine, but I don’t wear make-up and wear my hair long and straight. I don’t get manicures because I will wreck them while out chopping wood or clearing brush from the yard–so why spend the money?. And I hate shopping. I had to find something that lifted my spirits and also benefits my family. Well we definitely moved to the right state, because I love yardwork. Give me a leaf blower, lawn mower, chainsaw, etc. and a good podcast and I’m one happy girl. I love the feeling of grit on my face and a sweaty brow as I look at the results of my hard work. My second outlet is writing. I love it and I find it very therapeutic to get my feelings on paper. Unfortunately I thought spending a couple hours clicking away on the laptop was not a productive use of my time, a selfish privilege. I had to be ok with taking this “me time”. When I write, whether by journaling or this blog, I feel refreshed and accomplished. I also had to face reality. Our pastor in Tucson (quick shout-out to Josh Reich at Revolution Church–woot, woot!), said that when you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something else. For example, saying “yes” to working overtime could mean saying “no” to having dinner with your family. Or saying “no” to taking on one more commitment means saying “yes” to less stress. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that working hard to provide for your family is wrong, just that there will always be something you have to give up to do it. For me, I had to say “no” to being Super-Mom–or at least the unattainable expectations I had for myself. In my mind I could (and should) be able to do all the things “good” stay-at-home moms did: Homeschool my children, home-make everything, volunteer, keep a perfectly tidy and spotless house, etc. Add to that being a foster-parent (which I don’t regret for one second) and life became more and more overwhelming. When I couldn’t keep up, I knew it was because…well…I suck. I learned (and am still learning) it is ok to say “no” because the “yes” is worth it. –Saying “no” to homeschooling meant saying “yes” to adoption. –Saying “no” to foster-parenting meant saying “yes” to being able to give more attention to my children’s needs. Giving up these things was not easy for me. They had become my identity and I felt lost and like a failure. I had to grieve the loss of two things I am most passionate about. I started thinking about going back to work but the more Herb and I prayed about it, God kept showing us that I was to be home, to be available. Not to add more obligations to my schedule. So now I spend my days attending to the mundane tasks of being a homemaker. Not perfectly or obsessively (I am currently ignoring the pile of laundry that is giving me the stink-eye). I am also conducting an experiment to see if the earth will spin off it’s axis if I don’t fold my kitchen towels–so far the data seems to indicate no impending Extinction-Level-Event. I also give myself permission to write. Looking back now, I can clearly see that I have limits and I need to show myself the same grace and compassion I try to show others. Depression is not going to rob me of the life to which God has called me. I am a fighter.