Category Archives: Mental Health

My Mind Is My Battlefield

This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live. ~ Omar N. Bradley

Depression is an issue that has been getting a great deal of press lately, particularly in the parenting community. The Parenting Magazine article Xanax Makes Me A Better Mom shows just how pervasive and controversial this issue is: according to the article, parents are more than twice as likely as non-parents to experience depression, and the comments section illustrates just exactly how harsh and judgmental people can be about it — whether you’re taking pills or not, whether you’re in therapy or not, as soon as you use the word ‘depression’ someone stands ready to condemn you for something.

I’ve been depressed for my entire life. When I was 24, I first heard the word dysthymia: chronic, mild depression that lasts for years. It was a diagnosis which has made me view my entire dry, pessimistic personality as suspect. I’ve suffered repeated bouts of double depression as well — dysthymia paired with an episode of major depression. It makes for a thick psychiatric folder and a lifelong struggle to feel even the most basic joys.

Photo courtesy of sxc.hu

Photo courtesy of sxc.hu

I took medications (many, many medications) for five years. I’ve been in therapy with psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, and counselors for eleven. I’ve used all the conventional methods to treat depression, from SSRIs to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I know what works for me and what doesn’t.

Last summer, I went once more into a deep depression. Years of therapy had given me tools that helped me to deal with my dysthymia, and I had been functioning quite well without drugs for years. The scary thing about this depression, beyond the fact that my own mind was once more threatening my life and happiness, is that this time I’m a mom.

I have a son. I have to raise this child. I have to get up early every morning, put his needs before my own, and provide him with a safe, healthy environment. More than that, I have to teach him how to live in the world. How can I do that, if I’m mired in pain? How can I teach him to love life if I’m thinking of taking my own?

Baby face_edited-1

My son, just by existing, has raised the stakes on my healing process. I MUST GET BETTER. For his sake, for my sake, for the sakes of all the people with whom I come into contact. I cannot refuse to do the things that I have to do to get better, not out of fear or shame or any other emotion that may weigh me down.

A recent article by The Bearded Iris was titled “We Are Only As Sick As Our Secrets”. It’s a saying which is common theme in therapy. Being open about our pain, about the reasons behind our pain, alleviates that pain. It allows us to live more fully in our skins and to have more honest relationships with people. Though it may be hard and frightening, talking about our inner fears, hurts, and suppressed angers is a necessary part of healing.

Though it’s hard, I’ve been working to come to grips with my past — to expose my pain to fresh air and sunlight. Therapy has taught me a great deal about myself, about the things that made me the way I am, and about what I need to do to become the kind of person that I want to be.

When it becomes too hard, when it hurts too much and I face too much judgment and condemnation from my loved ones (who would be very happy to see me medicate the pain away, in spite of the fact that I know that drugs are only a superficial panacea for me), I think of my little son.

I think of him at seventy, or eighty, or ninety. I think of him telling his grandchildren about his life, and that of his parents. I think of him telling them about me.

If I give up, if I choose not to do the hard work of grappling with my pain, his story will be one of his own pain. It will be a story of feeling disconnected from his mother, of watching her shrivel into herself until she was completely unable to function. It may be a story of losing her altogether, and the terrible toll that had on the rest of his young life. I can’t bear to think of that.

If I don’t give up, if I do what needs to be done to face my demons and stand up for my own mental health, I can hope that his story will be one of pride and admiration. It will be a story of a strong, courageous woman who did not let life, stigma, condemnation, or her own mind keep her down. A woman who fought for what she loved and who raised him with the courage to do the same.

That’s the story I want to leave my son with. That’s the woman, the mother, that I want to be.

So the fight continues.

Battle_of_barnet

If you find yourself relating to me a little too closely, or you know someone who would, there’s lots of help available. Please don’t suffer in silence. Seek help. A basic Google search for “depression help” turns up an unbelievable 240,000,000 results. You owe it to yourself, and even more importantly to your children, to get treatment.

Let’s make sure that all our children have truly inspiring stories to tell of us.

The Return Of The Blogger

Art saved me; it got me through my depression and self-loathing, back to a place of innocence. ~ Jeanette Winterson

I haven’t written in a long time, have I? It feels like an eternity.

My depression is lifting. Little by little, ever so slowly. I’m doing much better.

And I want to write again. I think writing will help speed the process of healing — and if it doesn’t, well, it certainly won’t hurt.

I don’t want this to turn into a mental health blog. I want it to stay funny. But I can’t always find the funny right now, so sometimes you might have some more somber musings here. I hope you’ll all bear with me.

There’s been a lot going on here, with Loving Husband and Sausage and me. We bought a house, and moved into it. I was in a play. I won a gloriously strange mug. Sausage has learned new words, and how to manipulate me into giving him M&M’s. Loving Husband has gone back into the Navy for the next year. Lots of living has happened, with all sorts of things to write about. I’ll try to get to it all.

Thank you so much to those of you who sent me words of encouragement and love, through comments and through email. You have no idea how very much that all meant to me. You know who you are.

This is the blogging horse. I'm going to try to get back up on it, large, terrifying beastie that it is. (Photo courtesy of Stock Exchange)

This is the blogging horse. I’m going to try to get back up on it — large, terrifying beastie that it is. (Photo courtesy of Stock Exchange)

There’s The Door

That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key. ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel

Dear Depression,
So, you’re back, you old bastard. My lifelong bullying, abusive companion; I had thought that I had successfully put you at arm’s length, put you where I could keep an eye on you without letting you get to me too much. But now here you are, back in my head again, twisting around my thoughts, undermining my relationships, eroding my self-worth. Don’t be surprised when I fail to break out the ‘Welcome Home’ champagne.

All my life, for as long as I can remember, you’ve haunted me. You saw the door created by genetic predisposition, opened by circumstance, and you came in and made yourself at home. I WAS A CHILD. No child deserves to feel that way, not ever. You took away the happy childhood that I should have had, and replaced so much of it with anger and hurt and fear. I will never forgive you for that.

You cast a dark pall over my youth, and made my young adulthood a terrifying struggle to become healthy. There are entire years of my life that I don’t remember, thanks to you. My time as a young bride, living in an exciting new city, should have been spent going out with my handsome husband, having adventures, traveling. Instead, I spent that time going to doctors, adjusting medication, and sobbing brokenly on my Loving Husband’s shoulder, too anxious and raw to leave the apartment. And I’ll never forgive you for that, either.

But then I beat you. I kicked you out. I shut the door. I knew that you were waiting on the door mat, I heard you knocking and calling to me. But for years — YEARS — I managed without you. I lived my life, I had adventures, I made wonderful friends; all things that you had denied me for so long.

And now, somehow, you’ve found a way back inside. How? I don’t know yet. I heard you knocking after my baby was born, but still the locks on that door held fast. Did I leave a window cracked? Maybe the locks finally gave way? I don’t know. But here you are, stealing my life again.

It’s different this time, though. Because now I have my son. I may lack the will to fight you for my own sake, but for his? I WILL NOT LET YOU TAKE THIS CHILD’S MOTHER FROM HIM. I will not let him grow up with a mother who is distant, unloving, so wrapped up in her own pain that she can’t care for him properly. I will fight you with every scrap of strength that I possess, with every tool and resource at my disposal, for his sake.

And if you think to completely defeat me, to kill me, as you came so close to doing all those years ago? Well. You couldn’t kill me then, and you certainly won’t kill me now that I’ve got something so very important to live for.

My son will have his mother. And you’ll be out on the street again. You’ll find that I’m much stronger now than I was when I was three, and thirteen, and twenty-one. You might just want to leave now, before the butt-kicking begins.

You know where the door is.

Kathy

(To my beloved readers: I’m going through some tough times at the moment. In an effort to keep this blog active, I’m going to have to cut down significantly on reading other blogs. I’m just finding it too overwhelming to try reading all the wonderful content that you put out there every day, and comment on it, and also create my own content. Therefore, to ease the pressure, I’m going to focus on my own writing and on my Facebook page. I’ll try to drop in from time to time, to remind you of how very much I love you, but it will be much less frequent than it had been. Thanks for sticking by me. You guys are the very best. ~ Kathy xoxo)

All photos courtesy of stock.xchng at www.sxc.hu