90 Degrees

The other day, a friend asked me what they could do to help whenever I am depressed. And it’s a funny question because, WHEN I am actually depressed, I don’t think I am worthy of helping. It’s also a timely question because I’m nose diving into a low after weeks of blissful stability.

My lows are not only sleeping for days, though that is definitely involved. They mostly consist of such a dearth of love for myself that if I saw it in my own family I would be terrified. The things I say to myself go behind playground bullying and hinge more on horror movie. They paralyze me.

So, to answer the question, when I am depressed, when I am in a low; I need to know that I am loved. I need to know that I am worth fighting for. I desperately need to know that people care about me. I also admit that this is a tall order and not for everyone. But if you’re able, even if I push you away while I’m down here, reach down to me until I start to reach up.

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Gyroscope

Recently, someone close to me revealed that in the recent weeks, they had briefly considered ending their life. I don’t mean they had stared down the barrel of a gun, or even stopped momentarily in the painkiller aisle at the grocery store and considered, “Which one would help me go fastest?” It was a fleeting, preliminary thought, but enough to make this person actually ask the Internet how to end their life in a quiet, pain-free way.

Do you know what Google says when you ask it this question?

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This was enough to give them pause.

This message, posted at eye-level. Above the pro-suicide blogs, the nonsense articles about the “best” ways to remove yourself from life. This.

Hearing this story makes me feel like I’ve lost balance. It’s completely thrown me off because everything I thought I knew about the last month or so of my life is wrong. Every conversation I have had with my buddy has been veiled in a pain that I understand so well that it wrenches my heart out of my chest to know they kept it from me. And even worse, that I didn’t see it.

But what good does it do to throw myself into that black soul-sucking pit as well? Bad back or not, the only thing I can do it throw down a rope and slowly try to pull my friend up and out. Hopefully, along the way, I will gather friends, family and counselors behind me to help.

I just want you to know, that the hole in my heart would never heal if you were gone.

Best Tag Ever

This morning was crazy color day at school. Soph asked me to make her some hair bows to go with the insane outfit she was wearing so last night I whipped up rainbow hair clips to go in her pigtails. When she saw them she said, “It looks like you didn’t even make these.” I was confused, so I asked her what she meant and she elaborated, “It looks like you bought it at Target.”

It was just enough motivation to get me to not get back into bed. Instead, I took a shower, SHAVED MY LEGS, (don’t you judge me, that’s huge) got dressed in real clothes and here I am. It’s eleven in the morning and I am not asleep. If you are able to do this on a regular basis then I am genuinely, really excited for you. I am not being an ass, and I am not being condescending. I am truly in awe of people who are able to get up every day and take care of themselves without the self-doubt and fear that comes with mental illness. And right now, it’s difficult to distinguish whether I am truly in a low or I am merely healing from this surgery and just blue from being home and forced to be limited in my activities.

It’s amazing though, how uplifting a kind word can be. A sweet and unexpected compliment from a 7 year old was enough to propel me through a brick wall that I had been unwilling to even walk around, let alone crash through. I know she will likely forget what she said this morning, likely before she even has lunch, but I will hold it in my heart for a long time.

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Restless Rest

I want to write about how I’m healing because I’m resting. But really, I’ve come to associate laying down, sleeping and taking it easy with the vise of  depression. Even though my body craves rest, my mind rebels and pushes me to activity. It tells me to move and exceed my limitations because if I spend too much time in bed, I will be swallowed whole again by it. I will once again go under and sink to the bottom and stay there. I’m terrified that my convalescence will turn into a major low that I won’t be able to escape from. Yes, I am supposed to be up and moving, but I am not supposed to be 100% Amanda as I am trying to be. I think I can do more than I can, and then I suffer the consequences. And they are serious. I don’t need scolding, and know what I’m doing wrong. I just need understanding that I’m not doing this because out of spite or ignorance. I’m doing it out of sheer panic that my mind will be broken one my body is fixed.

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Rods and Screws

I know it’s been forever, and I’m not even going to attempt to give any explanation other than: Life.

In an attempt to get myself out of my house and into the world, I accepted a job at a florist. I was only supposed to be a driver, but the boss almost immediately promoted me to… I don’t know… florist office do-everything person. I’ll admit she can be a difficult person to work with, but I love her and I love my job. It’s been a little over three months and I’m incredibly happy there. However! There has been a bump in the road because I had to have unexpected back surgery. Anyone who knows me knows I have back issues. Pain, arthritis, sciatica, blah blah blah, whatever. It’s not abnormal to see me walking around with a limp and a grimace. I finally went and received an MRI and saw my exceedingly attractive neurosurgeon. As soon as he walked in the room, I knew. He wanted me to have surgery immediately, but I needed time to prepare and I was able to convince him to give me three weeks. So, here I am now, strapped into a plastic breast plate, unable to move most of upper body, with four screws and two rods in my back. It’s been three weeks since the surgery, which consisted of a one-level spinal fusion, which is when the surgeon fuses two vertebrae together. Fun!

I’m trying to stay positive, but it’s difficult because I feel as though I had made so much progress. Staying at home all day is definitely counter productive to my mental state. It’s not that I’m bored exactly, (I am, don’t get me wrong) or even lonely, (I am that too), but I feel the old urge to sleep. That quiet call from my bed and my brain to return to sleep so I don’t have to think about the pain I’m in or what I might be missing. The days pass by faster in a haze of waking and returning to bed, with a couple of hours in between to groggily watch Doctor Who on Netflix. The brace I’m wearing is, quite literally a prison. There is so little I can do to help my family, I feel so much like a waste of space to them. I know it’s only temporary, but when you have a mental illness and you’re suddenly paired with a physical problem; everything feels inescapable. Normally, the depression and fear that I live with is a horrible swamp that I am under. I can see a light above me, and all I have to do is fight the current and the detritus until I break the surface. But now, I have a stone tied to my ankle. It’s not so heavy that I can’t get my head above the water, but it’s exhausting. I’ll make it, it’s just taking time.

Pillows

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This is a picture of my bed. It’s really not that pretty, but it’s more or less made. I try to make the bed every single day; regardless of time or circumstance. When I am going through a depressive episode all I want to do is crawl back into bed. I get my daughter dressed, fed and out the door, and then I collapse back into my blankets and pillows; thankful that I can block everything out for a few hours until she gets off  the bus. Often, this “second sleep” is dreamless and not refreshing. I wake up even more upset with myself for having wasted a whole day feeling “sorry for myself.” My daughter, who is far more intuitive than I give her credit for, sees my messy hair and that I am still in my pajamas. I tell her I’m just tired and that I’ll feel better tomorrow. She doesn’t believe me, she knows that it will be days or weeks before I am able to be present in her life again.

But I’ve come up with a trick. And that is the made bed. As soon as my feet hit the floor, I stand and shake out the sheets. I place the pillows back where they belong and smooth down the blankets. I leave the room  feeling more or less confident that I won’t get back into bed. When I go back upstairs after the morning chaos, I see my made bed and it reminds me that sleeping is over. It’s time to get dressed, go downstairs and live. My made bed tells me that I can face my life instead of wrapping myself in a cocoon for five hours. It reminds me that I have a life outside of my depression; and that I can fight the havoc in my brain. The siren is covered and my will returns. Most days, my made bed propels me out the door and back into my life; but sometimes the weight in my head is too much, and I slip back in; knowing that I will only be disappointed with myself later. But these instances are becoming less and less frequent, and I know I am getting stronger.

As a side note: cats are jerks.

Gone

Nate and I often make jokes about how easy it was for the two of us to decide to only have one child. We say that we knew that when she got older, all of our lives would be easier, and our one and only daughter would grow up to be mature and at home with all kinds. So not true. Or, at least, it wasn’t true at first. We realize now that we love our one kid lifestyle. I love being able to pick her up from the bus stop and jet off to get fro-yo without having to worry about nap times, diapers and bottles for a younger sibling. Getting a babysitter or letting her go for a night at a grandparent’s house is easy for us. When she has friends over, I usually get to do my own thing for a while. It may seem selfish at first, but I really love those aspects of our life.

However, I don’t love how often she calls the cats her “brothers,” because she doesn’t have any. How she tells me all she wants for Christmas/birthdays/Halloween/President’s Day/whatever is a younger/older sibling; anyone at all who is remotely close to her in age and experience who can stand by her side. Someone to laugh with and blame things on and scream at and build pillow forts with.

When Nate and I first got married, one of the first obstacles we faced was an early miscarriage. Nate, not knowing how I could get so upset about losing something we had always said we didn’t want anyway, did not immediately understand why I was reeling. I didn’t understand it myself, actually. After our daughter was born, I had such a difficult time adjusting to motherhood. Sometimes I would quietly allow myself to envision what my life would be like if she had never been born. In the small, dark closet of my mind, I imagined myself happier, calmer and more at peace without an infant. Of course, following these little fantasy sessions was a rib crushing guilt that I would ever think that way about my own baby. Looking back, I know that I was struggling (and failing to deal with) a mixture of a depressive episode caused by my as then undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and likely some postpartum depression.

When she was a year old, Nate and I decided to try to expand our clan. We couldn’t. We lost three babies over the course of a few months. And each time I reminded myself of what I had thought when our daughter was new. “You brought this on yourself,” was my almost daily battle cry. The most difficult loss was when I was able to at least see the plus sign on the test before the miscarriage started.

Now, when friends announce pregnancies or plans, we laugh and tease. “Gosh, don’t you know what causes babies!!” and try to come off as the smug, smart couple who was genius enough to only have as many kids as they could handle. (ONE) My heart breaks for the babies we could have had and sometimes I think about how old they would have been, and what milestones they would be smashing this year. Would we be throwing a Spiderman birthday party?

We love the life we have, but it’s difficult to not think about, and grieve for the life we could have had.

Annuals

Today marked the one year anniversary of the passing of my friend; the one who’s pain inspired me to start this blog. I know I don’t post much, but, I feel as though it is better to post when my heart is in it, than to post fluff on a daily schedule. Right now, I can feel the pull of the down slope. Every minute tears are right behind my eyes, and my heart aches with the beginnings of a familiar emptiness. The tilt into depression is worsened by the pain of remembering my gorgeous friend. However, I am strengthened by her to not allow myself to succumb to the fog in my brain. I’m not going to pretend I’m “fine,” but I’m also not going to let my depression cover me like it has so many other times. I will remember her face, and plant my feet firmly on the floor in the morning to get out of bed. I will remember her generous spirit and NOT forget to take my medication. Her laugh and love will keep me going through the day; even when I feel like giving up. When my feet are leaden and my heart feels hollow, I will remember Melissa. I will honor her memory by fighting for my life and holding up those who are in the trenches of depression with me. 

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Edges

What’s interesting about the time preceding a depressive state is that I can see it happening, but there isn’t much I can do about it. I can only see and respect the signs; warn those around me; and try to prepare. Almost like you would for a hurricane. 

Right now, I can tell what is coming next. I’m already struggling to wake up in the morning, my temper is flaring and repetitive noises are becoming more invasive and irritating. So far, I can control it. A bad day yesterday was countered with a trip out with a friend; but how long will that remedy last? How long until the blanket of depression falls on me like a lead weight? That might be even more difficult that going through the state itself. 

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