Friday, April 4, 2014

I'm moving!

I've decided to move my blog over to Wordpress.  Please follow me there!

One Depressed Mama

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The things I want

Today was another rough day.  That feeling like I wanted to throw a tantrum?  Apparently I decided not to fight that instinct today.  I felt tired - no, not tired - I felt WEARY.  With every bone in my body, I felt weary of my depression and my ruminations and thoughts and feelings.

In the spirit of venting my tantrum here so I can get it out and not have it happen again (she says hopefully), here are some of the things I want and don't want, in no particular order...

I don't want to have to fight my depression for the rest of my life.
I don't want to worry about meds.
I want to laugh and feel light and free.
I don't want to have to think about how my depression affects my kids.
I want to find friends who are healthy and reasonable and with whom I can share my depression.
I don't want to wake up every day wondering if it's going to be a good day or a bad day.
I want to have parents who love me unconditionally.
I want to get to a point in therapy where I've uncovered the roots of all of my issues and there's nothing more to discuss (ha!!).
I don't want to have to ask my husband for help with things that I should be perfectly capable of handling on my own.
I want to write a blog that people read because of my sense of humor, and not because of my depression.
I don't want to feel anxious with the other moms hanging around the playground.
I want to accept who I am, flaws and all.

I want to feel peace.

What do you want?

Sunday, March 30, 2014

It's a new week

Last week was a busy week for me, with lots to do and lots to be anxious about.  I had some successes, and some failures.  I also reached another level of understanding of my depression.  It's amazing to me how many levels there are - each time I think I have a pretty good picture of my illness, and what my life will look like with it, I realize there is still more for me to understand.  And more for me to accept.

I think the reality is that I will be actively managing my mental health for the rest of my life.  Day in and day out, week in and week out - I'll be thinking about my illness and how to mitigate its effects on my life.  At some point I thought that meds would help me to put the illness away and not have to think about it...but I understand now that that vision isn't at all accurate. 

So I've increased my for the harder step of acceptance.  There's a part of me that wants to throw a tantrum - scream and rage that it isn't fair, and I don't want to be accepting, and my kids shouldn't have to be penalized for having a mom who battles depression.  And on and on.  But I know that won't do much to help me.  Yes, there would be some immediate satisfaction but eventually I need to accept that this is my reality. 

This week is a quiet one, with not much scheduled and no real pressing issues.  I'm going to take this week to regroup and work on acceptance.

I'd love to hear how you cope with your depression, anxiety, or whatever it is that you're struggling with.  Sometimes it helps just to know that you're not alone.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The pause button

I was feeling pretty damn good after my success earlier this week in managing my symptoms and focusing on doing the things that I know are good for me.

Fast forward a few days, and that success seems like ages ago.


Tonight was pretty shitty and I felt out of control with my family - my kids in particular.  I sometimes feel like my current life is exactly what you would not recommend for someone battling my mental health struggles.  Don't get me wrong - I'm blessed with a wonderful, supportive husband, and three very good kids.  Honestly, truly, great kids.  But...they're kids.  And they peck at me. And peck, and peck, and peck. 

This afternoon I was feeling anxious - lots to do including preparations for my daughter's 7th birthday party on Saturday.  (Birthday parties for the kids are a big trigger for me with my childhood emotional Stuff, but that's for another post.)  So I'm busy, and feeling distracted, and suddenly there are three kids who all need me at the same time.  I need to have a conversation with my older daughter about her apparent lack of focus at school lately.  Her sister needs me to give her a practice spelling test, and oh by the way, she can't find the paper she needs for that.  And then there's the youngest, a 4 year old boy, who wants me to read a book and see his army men and geez we really need to work on getting him to stop sucking his thumb.

In the middle of all of this, I start to feel suffocated.  And really kind of panicky, like I'm no longer fully in control of my reactions to them.  My one attempt to reel myself in was to sit on the bathroom floor and try one of my new whizbang meditation apps.  Okay, I'm feeling better, maybe a smidge more grounded...but then I head out into the tornado of life again and my little meditative reset button doesn't stand a chance.

Eventually it got to the point where I knew I was completely overreacting to the kids but I didn't know how to stop it.  And I just wanted them to go away - in part to reduce the overall mayhem in my head, but even more so that they would be protected from me and my unreasonable reactions to their normal kid stuff.

And then I start to fall apart, and they sense it, and they wonder what's wrong with Mommy.  They ask me what's wrong with Mommy and I don't know what to tell them.  That I'm overwhelmed?  That I have a lot on my mind?  That I'm having a hard time dealing with all of the demands for my attention?  None of these answers seems even remotely adequate.

I wish that I could be better for them.  I wish that I could take the lessons I learned earlier this week and apply them to the tornado that happened to me today.  I wish that I could have stopped it before it got out of control.  I knew that I needed a break, and in an ideal world, I would have pressed the pause button on Life so that I could exercise, or meditate again, or do something else magical that would push away the anxiety.  But how can I do those things when there are kids to be taken care of, and dinner to be made, and the regular duties of Life to be handled?

In these moments of reflection it seems as if my anxiety and my depression could only truly be managed in a bubble.  Maybe it's just that I'm such a newbie at developing the tools I need, that I can't find them and operate them and have them work in the middle of a tornado.  I hope that I can become more skilled at using those tools...because there is no pause button for Life, and I don't want to keep having nights like tonight.  My family deserves so much more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Managing my symptoms

I've been feeling kind of crappy lately.  It's crushing since I thought (naively?) that I was on an extended upswing.  I can't tell if I'm really, truly on the slippery slope, or if this is just a brief spell...but in a way it doesn't matter.  This week I have a lot to do, and I'm very anxious about all that's going on.

Yesterday morning I made a decision.  I took my cue from DysthymiaBree, who has talked about how she managed a recent crisis - by simply (simply!!) making more good choices than bad ones.  She was in the mode of managing her symptoms to the best of her ability.  So I decided yesterday, as I laid in bed and felt the cloak of depression and anxiety, that I would try to go through my week with that strategy - focus on managing my symptoms, doing things that I know can help, and most importantly, putting on hold all of my thoughts and worries about my depression returning in full force.

It forced me to really think about the things that help me.  What are they?  In no particular order...

  • Exercise.  Exercise.  Exercise.  There's really something to be said for those damn endorphins!
  • Get plenty of sleep.  I need at least 8 hours.  It sounds pathetic but it makes a difference for me.
  • Practice deep breathing. I'm new at this, but I'm certain it will help me once I commit more time to developing the skills.
  •  Ask for help.  This is a tough one - isolation is my default and my comfort.

I took the first step tentatively - getting out of bed.  So far, so good.  Then I got the kids off to school and took some quiet time to just sit and breathe.  Then I exercised.  And as I went about my day, I tried to push away all thoughts of the slippery slope and how afraid I am.  It took a considerable amount of willpower but I kept telling myself that today was not about analyzing my feelings, contemplating my meds, and getting to the psychological roots of things.  There is a time and place for that, and it is not now.

The day was all about managing my symptoms.  And you know what?  As the day went on, it gradually required less and less effort to keep the monsters at bay.

Success?  Perhaps.  Certainly enough of a success that I'll do the same today.  And tomorrow, and the next day...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mommy, do you get depressed?

I had a long, relaxed, very connected conversation with my daughter at bedtime tonight.  This is a good thing, since I often beat myself up for not feeling connected enough to my kids, for not taking enough time with them, for not enjoying them enough, for not doing the things that a "good mom" does.

It was a great conversation until I suddenly found myself in the middle of a conversation about mental illness.  After a rough therapy session today, I wasn't in the right frame of mind to tackle this one with any objectivity.     

And then there was the question that stopped me dead in my tracks. 

"Mommy, do you get depressed?"


Yep, that's a punch in the gut.

I've thought a lot about the fact that someday, I would probably have to talk to all of my kids about my depression and the genetic components that might put them at risk.  But I didn't think it would come up quite yet - after all, my oldest is only 10.  And I certainly didn't expect it to come up tonight.

So I'll be honest - I wasn't at all prepared.  I told her that yes, sometimes Mommy gets depressed.  But that I'm working on it.  For being only 10, she has always been very perceptive in picking up things that I think should fly below her radar.  So the series of emotions that crossed my face throughout this conversation?  Trust me, they didn't go unnoticed.  I have often joked that parenting her is like parenting a little psychologist.  In this case I felt like I was trying to explain depression in very vague terms to...a psychologist.  But how much can she really understand?  I shudder to think of how much she picks up on...what she has already sensed.  We talked about how Mommy gets "agitated" a lot.  I know full well that my agitation is linked to my depression - it's one of the things about depression that I find so maddening.  It would be one thing if I were just sad and mopey.  But to be pissed off all the time, at those I love?  Let's just pile on to my already monstrous sense of guilt over how I'm letting my family down.  So to have my daughter tell me that she wished I didn't get agitated so much?  And that sometimes she gets scared because if I'm agitated, then the whole family feels agitated?

What should I possibly say to that???

I can't process any more of this tonight.  It's simply too hard.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


It's finally starting to register with me how much self-doubt goes on in my head on a regular basis.  More importantly, it's starting to register with me exactly how crippling that is for me.

This morning I was a bit out of my element - I interacted with a few people, none of it at all significant, but afterwards I was wracked with doubt over how I had handled myself.  And the criticisms - wow!  I would never speak that way to anyone else.  Never.  But to myself?  No problem.

I need to work on identifying when the self-doubt is happening.  And then I need to figure out how to stop it from spiraling out of to set the doubts aside and just accept life as it comes, trusting that my reactions are not out of the ordinary.

I often wonder how much of this kind of thing is my depression, and how much of it is just me.  I know there's no easy answer, and the truth is probably a combination of depression and me.  I keep doing the hard work in therapy, and managing my depression the best I can, and I suppose that's all I can do.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Buddha and the Borg

The universe has been very clear lately in letting me know that I need to work on this whole mindfulness thing.  This morning I was listening to a podcast that talked about loss and pain, as viewed through the lens of the Noble Truths of Buddhism.  Then I checked on DysthymiaBree to find that she was mulling over the same exact things.  And then there was SuzJones and her post about taking a break from pushing so much, and letting life guide her instead.

Ok, Universe, I hear you.  It would have been fabulous if you had put all these pieces together in a cohesive whole for me to process and apply to my life...but apparently it's up to me to do that.  First let me preface by saying that I'm in no way an expert in Buddhism - frankly, there are only a few tidbits I've gathered here and there.  So if I butcher some fundamental beliefs, please forgive me!  Here goes...

I think the idea of mindfulness and awareness is to accept all of the experiences and feelings that we have in life.  To let them flow through us, to acknowledge them and then let them go.  This is particularly challenging when it comes to difficult experiences and feelings - things that cause us pain.  We are sort of hard-wired to resist pain and fear, and we develop all sorts of strategies of resistance.  Some of these might be addictions, for example.  We fight the pain with all our might, and in so doing, we cause our own suffering.  As I heard on my podcast today, "Pain in life is inevitable, but suffering is optional."


All of us will experience pain in our lives.  There is absolutely nothing we can do to change that.  But, we suffer when we resist that pain, when we don't let it move through us.  As DysthymiaBree says, "Suffering is when we 'dwell in the pain'."  When we're unable to accept the pain, when we're unable to let go of the injuries of the past, when we can't control our anxieties about the future.  We push against the pain with every ounce of strength we have.  I think that's part of what SuzJones was getting at - that sometimes we just need to let go and let life flow through us.

I can't help but be reminded of the Borg from Star Trek:

Strength is irrelevant.  Resistance is futile.
They were SO right.  Damn Borg.

So then what?  This could be just an academic exercise - a brief foray into the principles of Buddhism.  I've done my fair share of term papers, and knocked out a dissertation back in the day, so I kind of like academic exercises.  But really, what the hell does all of this mean for me, struggling with depression, trying to find some approaches that will make my life more bearable - and perhaps even happier (perish the thought)?

Like DysthymiaBree, I think I need to truly accept that my mental illness will be with me for the rest of my life.

(Ugh.  Suddenly I just want to curl up and press the delete button.  It's so hard to say those words out loud.  Kind of knocks the wind out of me, frankly.  Deep breath...)

My mental illness will be with me for the rest of my life.  That is - and will always be - a regular pain for me.  I need to experience that pain and acknowledge it.  I need to acknowledge all parts of it - my 7 tons of bricks, my Grey Ghost, all of it.  I need to stop fighting it - to stop expending so much energy on rehashing things I wish were different in my past - things that would have been different if I weren't so depressed.  I need to stop wasting energy on my fears for the future - that I'm on the slippery slope again, that my kids will spend decades uncovering their own depression, that I will never be truly happy.

Strength is irrelevant.  Resistance is futile.

Sometimes it's easier to identify the things you shouldn't do, rather than the things you should.  So at this point I get a little tied up trying to make sense of what I should do instead of fighting all of this.  In theory I'll have freed up a whole lot of time if I'm no longer resisting - but what to do instead?  What does that look like?  I don't know yet but I hope I can figure it out.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tired of the worrying

I've been "off" for a day or two.  You know what I mean, I'm sure.  Not really, really off...just a bit off.  Enough that I notice a little more self-criticism, a little more self-doubt, a little more of the symptoms I have with my depression.  Again, nothing life shattering, but enough to trigger the thought of "Am I at the top of the slippery slope again?"

I'm scared.  Scared that my depression might be starting to creep in again.  Scared that I might lose the momentum of the past couple of weeks when I've felt better than I have in a very long time.

I'm trying to think of this as just a blip - and blips are temporary.  But I still worry somewhere...and that worry can be so tiring.  I want to stop worrying and paying so much attention to what's going on in my head! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Squirrels and mindfulness

Consider this:

Squirrels do not walk mindfully on this earth.

Shall I pause and let you reflect?

If you're Tara Brach, who has been teaching Buddhist meditation for 35 years, this statement is just a tiny part of a discussion on mindfulness and spiritual awakening. 

If you're me, and you're attempting to listen to a podcast while stretching out at the gym, the thing about the squirrels is all you can remember.

We used to live in a neighborhood that had literally millions of squirrels.  They were everywhere, in constant, frenetic motion.  Occasionally you might see one sitting still for more than a second or two, but it was rare.  Sitting still for longer than that usually suggested mortal injury.  So I get why squirrels and mindfulness are a laughable combination. 

I've read a good bit about mindfulness, but haven't been terribly successful in implementing it.  It struck me today that the image of squirrels' frenetic activity is a perfect example for me of anti-mindfulness, whatever that might be called. 

I want to quiet the squirrels that are so often running around in my brain. My new goal is to be an Anti-Squirrel.  I don't know quite how I'm going to get there, but I like that I have a visual reminder.  As I watch the squirrels in the backyard, hopefully I will remember to slow down and quiet my mind.  And maybe that's really what Tara Brach was trying to achieve?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

What is "normal" anyway?

I'm fascinated by the process of understanding more about the dynamics in your family of origin - and using that to help you understand more about your approach to the world and your relationships.  I've covered an awful lot of ground in the past week or so, and it has left my head swirling.

The initial seed was the suggestion from my therapist that my mom and my sister both display some borderline personality tendencies.  Not that they have the disorder, or anything close to that, but they may have tendencies.  That led me to the book Stop Walking on Eggshells, by Mason and Kreger.  I wasn't reading from the perspective of someone who has identified a borderline in their lives - but more from the perspective of someone who wants to learn more about borderline traits.  In skimming through that book, it occurred to me that I might have another possible borderline in my life - a friend who recently disappeared from my life completely after we had been lifelines for each other for years.  Looking back, the friendship was quite dysfunctional, and not at all healthy for me, and her possible borderline traits definitely played a role in that.

The Eggshells book made a reference to Childhood Emotional Neglect.  That was Stop #2 on my tour of psychological phenomena:  Running on Empty, by Webb.  I won't attempt to summarize the book here, but it discusses how kids who do not have their emotional needs met by their parents, grow up to be adults who have a great deal of difficulty in managing their emotional lives and their relationships.  This isn't profound but it was the first time I had read something that sort of pulled it all together.  And I was amazed by the similarities between the examples in the book and my own childhood experiences.  Of particular note was the description of the narcissistic parents, who see their children as extensions of themselves, and judge them very critically as a result.

So...that led me to Stop #3:  Daughters of narcissistic mothers, described in Will I Ever Be Good Enough?, by McBride. 

At this point, I succumbed to psychological overload and collapsed in a heap, my head a swirling mess...none of which is conducive to my growing emotional health.  But I know it's a process.  Try to understand a component, process it, figure out how it applies to my life, then work on making changes.  Do that for a while until I uncover something else to research, process, apply, etc.  I'm diligent about this work, and I'm good at some parts of it, but it makes me wonder... Does everyone have this level of Stuff in their lives, and in their family histories? Is my family really this screwed up, while most other families are "normal"?

Borderlines?  Check.
Childhood Emotional Neglect?  Check.
Narcissistic parent?  Check.

And who knows what this week will uncover!

Friday, March 7, 2014

My Grey Ghost of depression

Today is a Grey Ghost kind of day.  40 degrees and raining - the kind of rain that you know will last all day long, unrelenting.  On days like these, I'm drawn to my Grey Ghost "uniform" - sweatpants, sweatshirt, even slippers, and all heather grey, of course.

Several years ago, I spent weeks (okay, months) in Grey Ghost mode.  Day after day after day.  At the time, I was working from home, and had no kids, so there was no pressure to get dressed in anything respectable.  I also happened to be in the throes of my depression, although I didn't realize it at the time.  It's kind of hard to believe, actually - how could I not see that as depression?  Wearing the same, dull, grey clothes for days on end, rarely leaving the house, rarely putting in the effort to get truly dressed.  Needless to say, there was very little self-care happening in those days.  I figured that was just how I was.  After a while I upgraded to a fancier Grey Ghost with some "lounge pants" from the Gap.  Lounge pants, as we all know, are still just sweatpants, only without the telltale elastic at the bottom.  That was my style makeover???

The thing is that there was such comfort in the Grey Ghost.  It called to me every morning and I slipped it on like a second skin.  I embraced it.  And it held a certain kind of power over me.

I realize now that I was putting on a cloak of depression. Every. Single. Day. For months. Maybe even years.

The Grey Ghost still has some power.  It still calls to me, and on days like these, there's a part of me that still longs to put on that cloak.  To slip on the Grey Ghost and crawl back into bed.  But I know better now.  I recognize it for what it is.  I know that I need to fight it, even if it requires more energy than I think I have.

So today I acknowledge the Grey Ghost, and I acknowledge how comforting it is, and I acknowledge how much I want to embrace it.  And then I get in the shower.  And really get dressed.  And maybe put on some makeup.  And keep on fighting. 

Friday, February 28, 2014

Here comes the sun...maybe?

I've been feeling better lately.  More consistently, more fully...Better.

I'm hesitant to say it out loud for fear that I'll burst this little balloon of potential happiness and health.  But I think, maybe, possibly, things are getting better.


Of course the million dollar question I ask myself is, "What have I been doing differently?"  Unfortunately I can't point to any one thing - but more a combination of things.  I've been trying to take a more holistic approach to my mental health, trying to work on things that might be contributing to my depression.  Yes, my biochemistry will still drive depression in my brain.  I firmly believe that, and I will likely be on meds for a very long time.  I don't think I can change my fundamental biochemistry.  But even with meds for the past three years, I have yet to experience a full 3 month stretch when I felt okay.  Not on top of the world, not great...just okay.  Even that has been out of my reach.

That's why I'm so hesitant to say that maybe I'm feeling better...that feeling of "better" is so very fragile. 

So what have I been doing?  In a nutshell, I've been taking much better care of myself.  I've been watching my eating - we generally eat pretty well, but I've been much more aware of my blood sugar and trying to do things to reduce some of the high/low cycles.  I've pretty much stopped drinking wine (sigh - more on that another time).  I've been exercising more consistently.  I've been continuing the hard work in therapy.  I've been sleeping better (exercise plus no wine = surprisingly solid sleep.  Who knew?) 

For the first time in years, I can actually envision what it might be like not to carry around the weight of depression, and the weight of that struggle, every single day.  I feel lighter.  It's as if there's this tiny happy, healthy me and I'm holding her, and nurturing her, and trying to give her a chance to grow and bloom.  I'm feeling very protective of her at the moment.  So don't mess with me.  :)

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dirt between our toes

My preschool son (hereafter referred to as "Smalls") is typical of preschool boys - running a million miles an hour, always getting into something, talking a blue streak.  It's simultaneously hilarious and utterly exhausting.  Smalls operates at warp speed pretty much all of his waking hours, except...

when he cleans out the dirt between his toes each night.

It's not a long process - maybe 20 or 30 seconds at most - but it's a ritual for him, and one he takes the time to do slowly, carefully, with real presence.

I envy him those 20 or 30 seconds.

I wish that I could be fully present.  I wish that I could silence the ten thousand conversations bouncing around in my head.  I know that I'm getting better at silencing the chatter, especially the negative chatter, but I have serious doubts that I'll ever get rid of it entirely.  But I'd like to try.

I think one place to start is to think of things that seem to fill me up when I do them.  I really struggle to think of these things - how do I possibly have time to note things that fill me up, when I'm busy just trying to stay one step ahead of my depression?  How do I have time to even do things that fill me up, when I'm working through my issues in therapy, or assessing my mental health on a thrice-daily basis to figure out whether I'm finally on the right track? Oh, yeah, and parenting three kids, and working on a healthy marriage, and trying to develop emotionally healthy habits for the first time in my life?  

I'm beginning to learn about self-care - such a novel concept after 40-some years of slogging through the world!  And self-care is about, well, taking care of yourself.  Doing things that make you feel good - not the addictive, self-destructive kinds of things, but the things that feed your soul or your inner self or whatever term you like best.  So I'm trying to pay attention.

It turns out that I like cleaning my oversized stainless steel saute pan.  I like running the warm water over the pan and watching the crud float away.  I like taking the stainless cleaning powder and gently rubbing away the more aggressive crud.  I like rinsing the pan and looking at it just so under the light to see if I need to clean it more.  I like to watch how the water sheets off the pan when it's fully clean.  And I like the memories of the meal I cooked and the people for whom I cooked.

I know this hardly seems like the basis for a Zen practice, and I'm not saying that it is...but it's a start.  When I'm cleaning the pan, that's really the only thing I want to be doing in that instant.  Does it seem trivial?  Yeah, without a doubt.  But I feel content when I'm doing it.  Technically, it probably doesn't count as self-care, but it does count as me really being in tune with something.

And that's what I see in Smalls when he cleans between his toes each night.

I'm still convinced that Smalls achieves more Zen with his ten little toes than I ever will.  But I'm learning to find my own things that help me to slow down, calm some of the inner chaos, and really BE. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Moms and labels

Yesterday I sent 2 out of 3 of my kids off to school crying.  That's nearly 67% for you mathematical types - hardly great odds if you're my kid.  They weren't sobbing, per se, but definitely upset and still trying to recover from earlier tears.  There weren't any real dramatic events that led to the tears - just run of the mill kid stuff combined with reactions of mine that were probably less than ideal.  When my 10 year old is already upset about something as we scurry up to the bus stop, do I really need to quibble with her over whether she brushed her hair?  Probably not.

I know - rationally - that I'm not the only mom yesterday who said goodbye to upset kids.  But psychologically, after dropping off the second upset kid of the day, in my mind I became The Kind of Mom Whose Kids Are Upset When They Leave in the Morning.  And there is rarely any good that comes out of "I'm the Kind of Mom Who..."

As I continued with the rest of my day, I became The Kind of Mom Who Tries to Explain Too Much to the Teacher.  And The Kind of Mom Who Takes Too Long at the Gas Station Because She Can't Find Her Credit Card.  And The Kind of Mom Who Forgot to Reply About That Lunch Invite. 

You get the idea.

It's no wonder that by the time I finished up my morning trip to Costco, I was literally in tears.  All of this negative chatter in my head, and I was labeling myself in all of these horrible ways.  I'm also The Kind of Mom Who Makes Banana Bread with Her Son.  And The Kind of Mom Who Talks to Her Daughter about Body Image.  And The Kind of Mom Who Says Something Kind to a Stranger.  But those things don't get recorded; they simply don't register.

Later when things calmed down in my head, I started to think about labels and how damaging they have been for me.  On some level, I've always labeled moms in my head as a way of trying to figure out where I fit in.  There is an abundance of different mom types - I'll list just a few...

The Pinterest Mom
The PTA Mom
The Super Healthy Eater Mom
The Skinny Mom
The Marathoner Mom
The Zen Mom
The Volunteer at School Mom
The Professional Working Mom
The Hippie Cloth Diaper Mom
The Happy All the Time Mom
The Gazillion Activities Mom

The problem for me is that I don't fit into any of these categories.  But when I see these moms, I compare myself to them (unfavorably, of course).  I feel like I've always been on this search to find someone else in my Mom category - someone else I could look to and say, "Hey, they're being a Mom the same way I am, and they seem healthy and their kids are fine."  But I could never find that person - because those labels don't reflect real, three dimensional people.  So I end up feeling more and more deficient.  And more and more isolated.

The good news is that I'm beginning to be able to recognize these kinds of dynamics in my head - rationally, at least.  That's significant progress, and I realize that awareness is a huge part of the battle.  I'm ready to be done with these labels, for my own sake. And I hope that I'm ready to start being The Me Mom.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Messages to myself

Today I was exchanging facebook messages with a friend who is in a difficult situation and really struggling with her less-than-ideal mom moments.  I found myself telling her to be kind to herself, and be accepting of her best efforts now, and have faith that she will get through it all with grace. 

Kindness, acceptance, faith, grace.

I need someone else to write the same messages to me - if I only felt comfortable enough to share with others the depths of my struggle.  But I suppose I should up the ante a bit - I need to write the same messages to myself.  Not just in theory, but actually do it. Can I imagine how I would feel if I received messages from a friend with those powerful words?  Can I imagine how I would feel if I actually applied those ideas to my everyday life?

And yet, all of those things are within my power to do.  I need to learn to love myself as I am - instead of thinking that I'll love myself when I'm no longer depressed.  I need to learn to love the depression, too, as a part of who I am.  But how can you love something that is so dark, and shadowy, and downright sinister?  I'm not sure - but I'm certain that it involves those four words I shared with my friend.

Kindness, acceptance, faith, grace. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Shout it from the rooftops! #DayOfLight

Recently Honest Mom wrote a powerful post here - one of her main points being that depressed people look "normal" because they're just regular everyday people who happen to struggle with depression.  And yeah, I'd say I look "normal" for the most part.  I manage to get dressed, and take care of my kids, and function out in the world as if I'm totally fine. 

But the thing that strikes me is that sometimes I wish I didn't look so "normal".  I know that sounds like a complete contradiction and I don't fully understand it myself.  The stigma associated with depression is so damning that I generally wouldn't want to bring attention to myself as a depressed person.  But, I've had those moments in the middle of Target, or while managing kids in church, or at preschool dropoff...when I wish I could scream, "I'M DEPRESSED HERE, PEOPLE!!  PLEASE HELP!!"  Times when a kind word or friendly gesture would reach me in a more profound way than the giver could possibly understand.  Depression can be so incredibly isolating that sometimes what is needed most is a simple message from someone - anyone - that they care.

Maybe someday the statement "I have depression" won't automatically trigger judgments of failure, or laziness, or weakness of character...and then we could all get better at asking for the help we need.  Wouldn't that be amazing?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

7 Tons of Bricks

Yesterday was a rough day.  I carried around my 7 tons of bricks - what I imagine to be the weight of my depression on a difficult day.  It weighs on me as heavily as if I were literally holding up all those bricks.  It takes so much effort to do anything, and I want nothing more than for someone to take the weight and carry it for a while.  It wears me down.  It makes me irritated - at everyone and everything.  Especially happy people.  How can they frolic about in their lives while I'm standing here holding these 7 tons of bricks?  Why aren't they offering to hold some of this damn weight?  Sometimes people don't realize that I'm so weighed down.  Sometimes they do realize, but there's not much they can do to alleviate the strain for me.

Some mornings I wake up and can feel the 7 tons upon me already.  They literally press me into the bed so that I can only roll over and pull the covers tighter.  Yesterday wasn't like that; it kind of crept up on me until suddenly I felt that familiar weight.  I wanted to be able to politely decline - "No, thanks, I'd rather not carry that today."  Kind of like how you might turn down an extra shift during a summer job in high school.  "I already have plans for that day, Bob, but keep me in mind next time something opens up."  But my Bob is more like a Hugo, and I can't turn him down.  "Sorry, Hugo, today's not a good day - it's my daughter's birthday."  Or "Please, please, please give me a break today - we have such great plans and I don't want anything to ruin it."  Hugo doesn't give a shit about my plans and just tells me to pick up the damn bricks. 

So I waded through my day, with help from my husband, and held up my weight without having it ruin everyone else's day.  I wish that over time I would build muscles like you do when you work out.  You take the boot camp class and notice after a few weeks that the 30 lb weights don't feel as heavy as they used to feel - you can hold them for longer without having your muscles quiver.  But it doesn't really seem like I'm getting any better at holding my bricks.  I've learned to cope with them better, so that life isn't miserable for those around me.  But does the weight feel any lighter over time?  It doesn't seem to.  Meds have helped, but when those 7 tons still feels like 7 tons.

One of the worst parts of all of this is that I never know when Hugo is going to show up with my weight to carry.  I feel like I'm constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering whether Hugo is lurking there.  I wish that I didn't have to be afraid every day.  I wish, I wish.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Science fair flashbacks

My daughter came home the other day with paperwork for her class science fair.  I had a panic attack.  Not a full-on, Xanax-requiring panic attack, but serious panic nonetheless.  The cause, I realized, was the collision of two worlds, two versions of myself - Kid Me and Parent Me.  I hate it when that happens.  Usually it's a sign of impending growth and self-awareness and all that good stuff, but mostly it's just painful and torturous to wade through all the crap.

Science fairs as a kid were a BIG deal.  Like stop-the-world BIG.  My dad was a scientist of sorts so I understand the emphasis on hypotheses and controls.  I plan on teaching my daughter the same things.  But science fairs for the Kid Me were the perfect illustration of my parents' emphasis on others' opinions.  It was a very public display of the excellence of Kid Me, and perhaps even more importantly, the excellence of my parents in helping me with the project.

I should note that my parents weren't the ones to do all the work and submit a project that was clearly an adult's attempt to make their kids look better.  My dad especially emphasized the value in doing your own work.  And yet...he was always there to help, and to help make it better.  Who wants to see a science fair poster with crooked writing?  No one...and mom was an expert in drawing straight lines with a ruler.  Will anyone be able to interpret a kid's drawing of a bird?  Perhaps dad could draw the bird and I could color it in.  Even as I write this, I wonder if their help was really so bad...but then I remember the panic I felt in my kitchen the other day as I thought about doing a project with my daughter.

If my project was anything less than perfect, it was a reflection on me, yes, but more so a reflection on my parents.  And that was something they couldn't bear.  So they helped, and helped, and helped some more until sure, it was my work but it was PERFECT.  Perfect in a way that even spectacular Kid Me couldn't make it - being a kid and all.  One consequence was that I learned no accountability.  If I procrastinated (ok, fine, there's no "if")...  Every time that I procrastinated, mom and dad were there to jump in and save the day.  Whether it was an experiment that should have been started earlier, or the fact that I still needed poster board, mom and dad would rescue the project in order to make sure it was perfect.  They'd be pissed about it, sure, but they didn't make me suffer any natural consequences - because they couldn't bear the reflection on them.

And with all of that in my head, I read about my daughter's science fair and wanted to be swallowed up by a hole in the ground.  Thankfully my husband didn't have this reaction, which is why he could nonchalantly tell me that he will be out of town the weekend before the project is due (!!!!!!).  He has own versions of Kid Him vs. Parent Him, but this was not one of his triggers.  So I'll try to take a different approach with this project.  I'll try to be okay with crooked writing and drawings that look nothing like they should.  I'll try to make this a learning project for my daughter and not a message about how things have to be perfect.  I'll try to teach her about doing her best and not worrying about others' opinions of her.  And I'll try to do it with a smile on my face and love in my heart.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sugar and depression?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about diet and its effect on my depression.  I've been on meds for over three years now but have yet to achieve a stable, maintenance regiment.  Seems impossible, no?  On the one hand, my new psychiatrist tells me that some people are treatment resistant...I'm not there yet, as she has a few remaining tricks up her sleeve, but the mere thought of treatment resistance makes me want to - well, crawl under the covers.  On the other hand, as I do more research, I'm learning a lot about diet, specifically sugar, and its role in mood.  I cook the vast majority of our meals, and we generally eat a very healthy diet.  At meals.  It's the clandestine visits to the pantry that get me in trouble.  A handful of wheat thins?  Sounds perfect.  Perhaps a few chocolate chips?  And then a few more?  Lovely. the end of the day, how are all of these jumps and dips in my blood sugar affecting my depression?  I don't know...but I suspect there's more of a link than I'd care to admit.

A friend recommended the book "Chemistry of Joy".  If the Amazon reviews are to be believed, the author does an excellent job of merging Western and Eastern approaches to the treatment of depression.  Diet is one of the biggest elements.  I was excited to receive the book (ordered it used - maybe it would come with some good chi?).  And yet it has sat next to my bed for a few weeks because it's one of those "meaty" books that I want to read when I can really focus, and maybe even take notes on.  But let's be realistic - who wants to take notes during their leisure reading time?  So the secret to my mental health may be right there under a layer of dust while I wait until I'm 80 and have the time to process it fully. 

And of course I admit there's some resistance to acknowledging the full role that diet may play in my depression.  I already take so much ownership for my lack of mental health, and have such a far-reaching sense of guilt, that do I really want to add the pressure of "Just eat better and you'll feel better"?  Not really.  Plus, even more scary, what if I tried something as ludicrous as a sugar-free diet, and I felt transformed, and...would that really be feasible in my everyday life, with my enjoyment of food, and cooking, and baking?  "Good news, doc - the depression is gone but now in its place I've developed an eating disorder.  Does that count as progress?"  Clearly these are subtleties that would have to be worked out.

Time to finish off that Ghirardelli square and save the sugar analysis for another day.