Finally, Without Fear

I am scared.
I am nervous.
I am hopeful.

And, I am depressed.

I have been depressed since July. Many people have asked me why I stopped writing so much, why I became some quiet on Facebook, why I didn’t reply to emails. Am I pregnant? Nope, but yes, I am dealing with my first bout of depression ever. I have casually written that I will tell everyone what is going on soon, when the time is right. And then whenever I thought that the time was right to share this deep, uncomfortable truth, I became really nervous. Nervous that sharing about my personal life was perhaps too much, too much for you all to know, too much for me to bare sharing.

And then, if I actually overcame the nerves and focused on the fact that I am desperate to write about my struggle, I became scared. Scared that people will judge me, scared that people will judge my family; scared that people will treat me and look at me differently; scared that people will think less of me, that I am weak and should “just get happy,” and scared that people will think I am too much of a downer and therefore not worth hanging around because I am uninspiring and a real party pooper.

And then on a good day, like today, for a brief moment I stop feeling nervous or scared and I just feel like the “me” that isn’t struggling with depression. I feel passionate about sharing my story and my struggles because I want other people who feel like I do, to not feel so alone. I want to share my story so that the stigma around depression can lessen and people like myself don’t feel scared or nervous to talk about his/her struggles, but instead feel welcomed and encouraged so they can get the help they need, or just feel loved and not so scared and alone.

And then, like today, I become hopeful. Hopeful that maybe, just maybe, that sharing my story will help just one person get help. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know this, writing thus far has already helped me. I feel lighter and a little happier. I have kept this struggle secret since July and it has been eating me up because I feel like I am keeping a really, awful deep dark secret from people I care about and I can’t stand it. Yes, I feel like The Orange Rhino Community is my extended family, seriously. And not telling you about my struggle daily feels like I am not being fully honest and I don’t like that. So here is my story (the short version.)

This has been one of the hardest years of my life, there is no doubt. I have experienced struggles like I couldn’t imagine. From numerous trips to the Emergency Room for one son’s seizures with concerns that he might have epilepsy to my marriage boulder to my foot injury that just won’t go away, and to everything in between (there is a lot in between!), it has been a long, long trying year and the hits just keep on coming, and coming, and coming. Some of the factors grew this July and my stress hit a whole new level. I felt sadness and pain like I have never felt before.

I didn’t want to get out of bed and I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night and yet, as soon as the kids were asleep I just sat on the couch cuddled up flipping through the same websites for hours because I couldn’t find the motivation to actually go to bed. I didn’t want to do things I love like playing with my kids, blogging, participating in The Orange Rhino Community, getting ice cream or sitting outside to enjoy a beer in the summer night. If I ever had a quiet moment alone during the day and a slow song came on I cried my eyes out. I ate everything in sight just to feel better (it didn’t work). I started drinking every night to feel better (that didn’t work either.)

Nothing really worked to make me feel better. Nothing has really worked to make me feel better. Right now I still feel the same sadness and pain, although perhaps deeper. In fact, it was deep enough and worrisome enough to me, because it has lasted so long and is growing, that I decided it was time to do something I have thought about, but vehemently fought since July. It was time to let go of my fear of being judged and do what my family needed me to do.

It was time to get help.
It was time to go to a therapist.
It was time to go on anti-depressants.

This was an incredibly hard decision to make. I wanted to believe I was strong enough to get through this tough patch on my own. I mean, I have hit tough patches before in my life, whoa nelly have I ever! I have felt sad from some of my traumas, but never so badly that just getting out of bed felt like an unbearable chore. I have never been so unmotivated in my life and not cared about not achieving anything as I do now. I have never wanted to run away as much as I do now. I have never felt truly depressed. Until now.

Six weeks ago someone asked me if I was depressed and I said, “no, of course not. Things are just tough.” And then my stomach curled and my feet twitched because I knew I was lying. I knew I was depressed; it was obvious to me because the intensity of my emotions was on a whole new level, but I was scared to admit it. I was scared to share just how bad I felt because I didn’t want to believe the depth of my pain; I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I didn’t want to be taken away from my kids.

But now, now I can say without fear, that I am depressed. And I don’t just feel this new sense of not being scared to share this hard truth that will undoubtedly bring judgment just because the anti-depressants are helping, but rather I feel the need to share it after several emails I have received. Turns out, I am not the only one in pain. Numerous people have emailed me lately and shared that they are struggling and think they might be depressed and might need an anti-depressant but that they don’t want to go that route because they fear what people will say and … because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Oh, oh do I get this. From the onset of my struggles, I haven’t wanted to go on anti-depressants because I feared it meant that I was weak for not being able to mange on my own. I feared it meant that I was screwed up and a bad role model for my kids. I feared it meant that I was different than everyone else. I feared that it meant I had just given up and stopped trying and sought the easy way out.

And, I feared it meant that I was pathetic…because that is what I have heard people say about those who go on anti-depressants; that those who need anti-depressants and can’t get just “get-happy” and “choose to be happy” are pathetic. I feared it meant that I was choosing to be depressed…because that is what I have heard people say about people on anti-depressants. Let me tell you, I am most certainly trying my hardest to not be depressed; it is just really, really hard under my current circumstances. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where I think, “UGH. Come on. I just want to feel better now and forget the pain! Please, help me to feel better!”

So, I write this post now to stand up for all of us who are struggling with depression, whether it be chronically or situational.

I write this post now to say you are NOT alone. We are not alone.

I write this post now to say you, me, we are not weak, pathetic, or screwed up because we need and seek help and choose anti-depressants. No, you, me, we are none of those things.

We might be scared, sad, embarrassed, confused and hurting, but we are also more. We are courageous to admit we need help. We are strong to actually get it.

I write this now with fire in my heart and with conviction to end all convictions, and I hope that I remember this in five minutes when I press “post” and in five hours when I take my new little pill and inevitably think, “shit, I needed a pill because I am in so much pain, why couldn’t I just do it on my own.” And I hope that I remember my conviction that I am courageous and strong when I feel overwhelmed by pain and sadness because I don’t want to go any deeper into this hole.

And, I hope above all else that I keep on fighting to get past this period of depression in my life. I hope that despite what people say about taking an anti-depressant and despite what I feel about taking one, that I do keep on taking my new little pill because the truth is, I need it right now. Right now I need a little extra help. And that is okay. There is no shame in needing help. None. Especially if the little help makes me a little happier which means my kids are a little happier too, for at the end of the day, this is why I am doing all this hard work, so that I can be the best person for me and my family.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. I intended to share this post then but got scared. Please share this post so that others out there like me can start to live without fear and can get the support they need. 

Parenting on “Fuller”

If you have not read, “Parenting on Empty” it is the post that drove the post below. Click here: Parenting on Empty

A month ago, on a whim, I packed up the mini-van with my boys and headed to the New Hampshire Mountains and the Massachusetts coast. I had been parenting, well living really, on empty for weeks and I knew I just needed to go to my two sanctuaries to fill up. I so very much hoped that the fresh mountain air would fill me with a fresh perspective; that the quietness of the lake would quiet my mind and fill me with peace and that the lack of Internet connection would fill me with greater connections with my kids. And I so very much hoped that the calming breeze off the ocean would fill me with a sense of inner calm; that the soothing sound of the crashing waves would soothe my anxiety; that the time spent at my favorite childhood spots with my boys would fill me up with so many new favorite memories with my kids that I couldn’t help but to overflow with joy and personal fulfillment.

And it did. Oh did it.

After two great days in my childhood hometown building Legos together and eating at all of mommy’s favorite spots, we packed into the mini-van again and headed towards the New Hampshire lake where I basically spent all my childhood. As we pulled into the state park and I rolled the window down, I couldn’t help but to stop and breathe in the fresh pine tree air. It smelled exactly how it did over twenty-five years ago; I felt as I did twenty-five years ago. I felt invigorated, carefree and relaxed. Just one breath of fresh air and I already felt a wee bit more full.

We pulled into the parking lot and I just stared at the lake, a smile creeping onto my face. My mind flooded with memories of swimming until sunset, finding the perfect stick for roasting marshmallows, and eating ice cream as fast as possible so it didn’t melt down my bathing suit and into the pine needles. I couldn’t wait to get out and do the same exact things with my boys! Oh did they ever have an absolute blast splashing in the lake and building in the sand just as my brother and I had done years before. The only difference in our day was that the lake now had boats to rent, so rent we did! We went canoeing, kayaking and paddle boating, a first for all my boys. At one moment I stopped in the middle of the lake just to take in the peace and to gaze at my four beautiful sons. My boys urged me to keep paddling. I urged them to enjoy the silence and the beauty. I felt even more full.

Swimming at sunset. Beautiful Sunset. Happy Child. Peaceful Mommy. Parenting less and less on empty…

The sun started to set and we headed towards the cabin. I knew that a night of sleep didn’t await any of my boys so I had let them linger at the lake to enjoy some last moments in their inner tubes. This of course meant that they were beyond hyper when we did roll into the cabin. The lake had relaxed me though so I went with the flow and embraced my two year old figuring out how to put underwear on his head and then inspiring his brothers to do the same. I have never seen them all laugh so hard TOGETHER. They ran about with underwear on their heads and joy in their hearts. It was totally awesome. But it was also totally late. I couldn’t calm down the underwear party because the ringleader wouldn’t stop. He just kept putting more and more underwear on his head. So I picked him up, informed my mom that a night time drive was needed, and confidently headed to the door, so proud that I had found a solution to calm the night down.

Who needs party hats when we have underwear? Oh, #4 you totally destroyed bedtime but laughing so hard that I almost needed to change my underwear made it all worth it!

Who needs party hats when we have underwear? Oh, #4 you totally destroyed bedtime but laughing so hard that I almost needed to change my underwear made it all worth it!

 

I of course was so proud, confident and gun-ho with my plan that I forgot to look before I walked out the door. I am not sure what transpired next except that somehow I ended up with my face down in the dirt, #4 cradled safely in my arms, and my two feet still in the cabin. I tried to stand up but couldn’t put any weight on my feet. I thought I had broken both ankles and immediately feared that I had no way to drive 6 hours home. I hobbled into the cabin, #4 saying,“Mommy boo boo” as my dad raced out to get ice. And a beer. I really felt that I needed a beer too at that moment!

The pain subsided and when we woke the next day, I confidently put my sneakers on and walked to breakfast with the boys. There was no way I was missing breakfast at Rosie’s! And then I ignored my mother’s orders (never a good plan) to spend the day resting with my feet up and we took to boys to an amusement park where I had to walk around all day. It seemed fine. The pain literally had subsided, or perhaps all the joy from going on roller coasters and eating fried dough with my boys just masked it.

There was no swelling or bruising the next morning so I again assumed my feet were fine and we piled into the mini-van again, this time headed to Rockport, my favorite Massachusetts coastal town.

My four boys at my favorite place with gorgeous weather and delicious ice cream so completely helped to fill me up!

My four boys at my favorite place with gorgeous weather and delicious ice cream so completely helped to fill me up!

My foot might have hurt but the joy of my boys dressing up as fisherman and sailors and taking the most adorable, perfect picture EVER at the same studio where I took pictures dressed up in fancy dresses as a thirteen year old most certainly continued to mask the pain. So did having a pizza party with my boys on a hotel floor that night and then watching the sunset over the ocean and the moon rise up as my boys snuggled in bed next to me.

Moon

Oh how my tank floweth over!

Yes, injury aside, it was an amazing week with my boys, everything I hoped for and more. Was the week go-go-go, chaotic, and exhausting? Absolutely. Did the boys hardly sleep because we were on vacation? Absolutely. Did their exhaustion lead to some questionable behavior? Absolutely. Would I do it all over again? ABSOLUTELY.

Because as tough as it was at times, it was nothing short of magical to share experiences with my boys that I had as a little girl. Those experiences, those moments where I just really focused on enjoying and connecting with my boys, well they more than helped to re-fill my tank. Combined those with nature, natural beauty like sunrises and sunsets, and fresh air and yes, my tank floweth over by the end of the trip.

Sunrise

This. Beautiful sunrise. Lighthouses in the distance. Waves crashing against the rocks. This made all my stress and exhaustion from a night of “seizure watching” disappear.

You know, I often times forget how getting outside, how getting fresh air really helps me to “fill-up.” Oh, how I am grateful that I re-learned this and hope that I remember this when I sense I am headed towards empty. The good news, it’s easy to get fresh air!

And you know, I often times, far, far too often, forget that playing and enjoying my kids, like REALLY enjoying them, laughing with them and creating memories with them is one of the best remedies for an over-tired, over-cranky, over-whelmed mommy, also known as me! I am so grateful as well to have re-learned this and I really, really hope that I can hold on to this insight and use it keep me from feeling empty. I know this will be harder than just walking outside to get fresh air, but oh, I hope I remember it. The upside to this remedy to parenting on empty? I am fairly certain it fills my kids hearts with such joy that they too feel a little more full! Oh the other upside, the obvious one? I am less likely to want to yell when I am filling up by enjoying my kids. Their hugs, kisses, snuggles, laughter, and smiles of awe and wonder and love not only calm me and fill my heart helping me parent on “fuller,” but they also fill my heart with more determination to keep on not yelling so that I when I want their love and affection, they want to give it to me.