Reading and Reflecting

image

I finally started reading the book I mentioned in my last post. I’m 20 pages in, and it feels really heavy because it rings so true. She really gets what it’s like to live for a really extended period of life thinking about your own death. It’s awful and comforting at the same time. It’s excruciating but terribly persuasive. It’s really hard to describe, but if you’ve lived it you probably get it. And this author gets it–even more than me. She’s struggled through the darkness and continues to survive.

I once met a man who was chronically depressed with suicidal ideation. He was asking about a certain treatment I had tried. He discreetly asked me, “Does it make the thoughts go away?” and I knew exactly what he meant–suicidal thoughts. I could see how they weighed on him. I could see myself in him, and I understood where he was. I told him what I could about the treatment, but I felt sad for his burden–one I knew myself.

I think it is important that we somehow share our mental health stories so that we can find each other and come together to reinforce that we are not alone. We are suffering from a common illness that can be survived with help. This book I’m reading–Just Because You’re Suicidal Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy! by Randi J. Jensen–as heavy as it is, empowers me to fight. Seeing another fighter–a champion–share her darkest moments with such honesty is encouraging. I, too, can face this. I can live through this.

I’m starting to make my plan, with my husband, for saying goodbye to suicidal ideation in my own life. This book is definitely helping. I’m trying to save a little money to make it special, so that will take some time, but I’m trying not to put it off too long. It will be significant, and I can’t wait to tell you how it goes. I’ll also keep you posted on my progress with the book; I can already tell it’s a good one.

Advertisements

As the Fog Lifts

image

Although I have been riding a high from having some of my major health problems cared for, I still feel like I’m in a bit of a fog. I feel so distant from the woman who was writing just a few weeks ago. Even though it’s only been a short time, I feel like I have to relearn some of the lessons I have learned before. Just a short time walking those well-trod paths of depressive thinking has made it more difficult for me to resist those paths. The medication will help tremendously, but I also have to put my skills back in practice, and relearn how to incorporate my responsibilities into my daily routine. In order to survive as painlessly as possible, I basically shut down for 2 weeks–primarily resting. This was fine for that amount of time as a stop-gap until I could see a doctor, but I am left with 2 weeks of catch-up work.

Something I’ve learned over the last 2 weeks is that I do need medication to survive. No matter the difficulty or cost, I have to have it at this point in my life. This isn’t a new lesson really, but one that I keep forcing myself to relearn. My depression lies to me about medication. At first it tells me I don’t need it anymore–I am well without it–then it tells me that my medication is only masking my true self. Finally, my depression tells me that it won’t help anyway; my demise is inevitable. My depressed brain will tell me anything to keep me from taking my medication, but I have to take it anyway. It is strangely difficult and a battle each day, but I’m committed to seeing it through.

Something else I’ve recognized is how many people have been praying for me and sending good thoughts from all over the country. My family and their friends in Texas, my friends in various states, and my friends and family in Washington have all been supporting me with kind words and encouraging messages. My church group prayed with me earlier this month, and I was really touched by their love and concern even though I am relatively new to their group. A sweet friend brought me coffee and a scone a week ago to bring me a little sunshine on a cloudy day. My husband didn’t complain about the messy house; he didn’t complain about my napping. He ran errands and cooked. He made phone calls and took me to my doctor’s appointment. It all made a difference; every comment or prayer made an impact. I was scheduled as soon as possible with a nurse practitioner who usually doesn’t take new patients. She spent 45 minutes with me talking and committing to working with me continually to maintain my health. She got me a referral to a psychiatric nurse practitioner who can work with me on a more specialized level. I was hoping to begin feeling better at the end of the month, but I am already feeling better by the middle of the month. Given how quickly I was sliding down, 2 more weeks could have done much more damage.

As the fog lifts, I’m sure I will return to my positive, loving self, but for now I feel more like a student. I have my books and counseling appointments, so now I just need to get back to living a life that fights depression rather than just hanging on. And I feel confident that I can make fast progress. Thank you to all of you who have been sending prayers and good thoughts. I plan to keep writing, so I hope you’ll keep reading.

The Return of Hope

image

Three doses in. And either my medication is already working or I’m still riding a high from all the good news I’ve received lately. Last Friday night my counselor called me with the news that she had gotten me in with a nurse practitioner who agreed to see me and refill my prescriptions. I called on Monday and made an appointment for next week. Then they called me back Tuesday. The nurse practitioner wanted to see me as soon as possible, so they moved my appointment up to this past Wednesday. We also found out that the prohibitively expensive medication I take went generic in April of this year. The name brand medication was not and still is not covered by my insurance, but the generic is! It retails at several hundred dollars, but I pay a very reasonable amount. So as of Wednesday afternoon, I am medicated and not broke.

I can’t tell you what a relief this is. I felt trapped, and going without medication for a few weeks was tough, but we kept working toward fixing the problem. I only had one day where I could not get out of bed. The rest of the time I at least had the motivation to take my daughter to school and then stay on the couch. My house is a wreck from lack of upkeep, my husband has had to run many of my errands, but rather than waiting months to find help, we took action within weeks. I feel confident that I can fight through this time and avoid a full blown episode.

Something that people keep telling me is that I can possibly be free from depression one day. I have found that hard to believe in the past, but whatever high I’m riding now gives me hope that it could be true. Maybe I have to take medication for my entire life, but with that help I may one day be free from relapses. I keep hearing that there is hope for healing, and I just might be starting to believe it.

Nov 8, 2015

I keep telling myself, “It may be true that nothing can save me from the pain of this moment, but it is only temporary.” I know the pain will subside, even if I am left with nothing but emptiness. At least I can sort of get by when I’m empty, but not when I’m in pain. That’s when everything stops, when I can do nothing but suffer.

The last few days have been empty, which, at this point, counts as good days. When I’m empty I can still go to the store or do dishes. It is difficult, but I can fight through the discomfort and anxiety and accomplish something small. I feel empty because I refuse to let myself feel anything. It’s like all of my feelings–good and bad–are caught in a jar with the lid on. Lots of suicidal ideation, worthlessness, hopelessness, and disgust mixed in with bits of love, acceptance, and happiness. I can’t sort through them though, so trying to feel good means risking feeling bad; instead, I try to feel nothing. I find it unpleasant to be so disconnected, but I believe it is temporary, and an easier way to make it through until I get medicated again.

One of the things I couldn’t do without getting in touch with my feelings was write. I couldn’t think about my situation or how I felt because I needed not to feel. Writing was no longer therapeutic because the positivity was harder and harder to find. But I feel an obligation to continue what I’ve started, so I tried writing today, and all of my distorted feelings came pouring out. I was overwhelmed with hopelessness and worthlessness. I wrote and cried for an hour, and then wept for another hour. I did experience some relief from letting myself experience some of the sorrow I am carrying around, but it was short-lived and replaced with the controlled emptiness.

I feel meaningless, and I feel in too deep, but I’m still going. I know that there is a chance that I can get better, and I know my family needs me to keep fighting. And in this moment, that’s the best I’ve got.

Love and Light

image

It’s November in western Washington, but this morning is crisp and clear. A blue sky this time of year, and for the next few months, is a gift. So I’m taking advantage of it, like a good Northwesterner, sitting on my back stoop before 8:00 am in 38 degree temperatures. I’m bundled up watching my dog and older cat sniff around the yard, writing, and listening to music on my headphones. Soaking up this peaceful moment.

Moments like this have been hard to come by the last few days–gray and rainy outside my home and inside my head. I expect this feeling to last until I get my medication refilled/adjusted, but I do have a doctor’s appointment made, so all I have to do is hang on for a few more weeks.

Something amazing has been happening though. I haven’t been crying too much, just feeling empty and worthless. My daughter knows I’m not feeling well, but she hasn’t seen me terribly distressed in the last few days. However, she has been showering me with love. She told me she loved me probably 30 times yesterday. But she didn’t leave it at that. She told me, “I love you more than the whole world” and ” I love you more than myself.” Then she emphatically told me several times, “I love you for who you ARE.” Wow. How does my 6 year old know this kind of love? How does she know to say these words to me now when I need them so desperately? And she wouldn’t stop. She wasn’t concerned or desperate, just emphatic and determined. My tiny daughter exhibited such strength and clarity as she spoke to me. But I could tell she felt words weren’t quite enough to express the depth of her feeling, so she just kept trying to tell me more. She’s one of the few who can get through to me right now. She gives me hope and a vision for the future. When I want to give up, I think about how deeply she loves me. I have to keep going because, if nothing else, that kind of love is worth fighting for. Worth fighting to preserve.

By all counts, I probably would have never found the right moment–financially and health-wise–to have a child, but I always wanted one. I think of her as an unexpected but perfectly timed gift. I can’t handle the larger family I wanted as a child, but God saw fit to bless me with the most magical child. I don’t know how I could keep going without her. My husband loves me deeply, but I can see the weight of the burdens he carries for me. He and my parents have to constantly rescue me, but my daughter saves me simply by existing. She is patient with my need for rest; she lays in the bed with me quietly playing games on the ipad when I have to lay down. She helps heal me without understanding why I’m suffering.

Despite my struggles, I’m trying to bask in the sunlight around me when I can. Whether it be sitting outside on a beautiful day or just recognizing the light coming from a loved one, there is hope. For me it’s not hard to find, my beautiful daughter can’t help but shine brightly, and I am so blessed to feel her warmth.

The Price of Depression

image

Why is it that we tell ourselves we’re happy when my husband is always stressed about having too much work, my daughter doesn’t want to leave me to go to school, and I don’t want to get off the couch? We are always broke with student loan payments creeping up higher and higher. We have health insurance but no money to pay the deductible. I keep trying to find money by working with the numbers, obsessively counting and recounting. I thought about trying to earn some money myself, but both jobs I applied for–and actually thought I was qualified for–never called. One didn’t even require a college degree and still no call back. It’s not like I’m very capable right now anyway. But eventually my basic existence will drive us into deeper debt. I realize money is necessary, but, like many others, it never seems like we have enough. For the first time in our lives, my family has its own house; we rent, but we have no roommates. My daughter is much happier, as are my pets, but I’m afraid it won’t last. Very soon another student loan will come due and I have no idea how to pay it. I don’t want to go back to an apartment, but it might happen.

I imagine it is depressing for all of us who count pennies monthly–the constant anxiety. For me, it puts a price on my life. I think about my own worth in terms of dollars. It could cost a whole month’s food budget just to see a new doctor and pay for a month’s supply of medication. How do I do that now, let alone when the new student loan bill comes due in 2 months. It seems hopeless–too much money to commit to a longterm process that can be cut so much easier than a bill from a giant bank. How can I pay for the help I need when I have no income? How do I justify it? My husband is doing everything he can financially just to keep us afloat. What can I do? I can get a part-time job while my daughter is in school, but that is easier said than done, and, to be honest, my depression makes me an unreliable employee. There are days I can’t even stand to put on my glasses to see clearly–even clear vision is too much stimulation–how am I supposed to commit to a daily job when I can’t even guarantee my husband that I’ll do dishes every day? And I’m so tired of asking family for money. I feel like a loser. I can’t keep up. I face so much internal struggle, that having to face my real-world problems is too much. It’s too overwhelming. I feel like I can’t make it.

But I will. I don’t really feel confident saying that, but I have little choice but to say it anyway. One foot in front of the other, right? Even if I lose my house, my daughter still needs me. Even if I go bankrupt, my family will still love me. But my depression wants to take me down by any means necessary. I’m trying to keep my head up, but this fear of no money is trying to force me under. I take and take with no give. I give time, but that is worth nothing in the economy, so it feels like it means nothing. Money doesn’t provide happiness, but it does offer security, and it’s hard to be happy when you aren’t secure.

I don’t know what to do about this situation. I will still go to the doctor when I find one who will take me and get medication because I’m supposed to, but I feel like a failure. And it may help my illness, but we’ll still have all of these other problems. I will be better able to handle our problems, but I will also have driven us deeper into debt. It feels like I can’t win.

My advice today is don’t be like me. Don’t put a price tag on yourself. Don’t be fooled by the price of healthcare into thinking that you are not worth help. Fuck the bills, fuck the banks! You are priceless. Keep going in a world that systemically doesn’t want to help you. Be a rebel and choose love over money. There is no amount of money that could replace me as a wife, mother, daughter, or sister. I don’t want to admit it, but it is probably true. Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” I must believe that I am more than a dollar amount. I am a unique creation. There is something more for me than the amount of income I can bring in, right? So I’ll trust in the Lord that all my struggles have meaning, and that it will eventually all pass away. No matter the roll of the dice, I have value that cannot be found on my taxes. I just have to believe and accept it.

Trapped in Stone

image

So much emptiness. I’ve been awake for 2 hours and have felt well only momentarily when I greeted my daughter. I feel like I’m trapped in stone and nothing can get through. But inside I’m churning. Uneasiness and discomfort trapped in stone. All I can feel is my own feelings; none of the potential happiness I am feeding myself gets through the exterior to calm my uneasiness.

My first attempts to find a psychiatrist and get better medication were met with rejection–no new patients across the board. As the supply of medication I have quickly dwindles, I know I cannot wait, but the fall seems inevitable. I feel like a lost cause. My depression tells me to just let go. And part of me wants to. To just be rather than always struggle. Am I too young to wither away?

I have this terrible habit of thinking about my own monetary value. How much I cost monthly versus how much my family could save without me. It’s awful. I have trouble trying to justify the high cost of the medications that seem to work for me since I don’t make any money. I know it’s foolish. I know. It’s just another way my depression tries to con me, but I have to admit that it’s pretty efficient.

But I am in here. I am struggling inside this stone tomb. I can hear myself calmly saying amidst all the noise, “Just keep going.” I know it’s a fight of endurance and all I have to do is fight this moment. I won’t decide my fate today, I’ll just keep going through the tears for now. One foot in front of the other.