Just so you know

All right. I have ideas. I think about stuff. So here is the spot for stuff I'm thinking about and want to be able to share more broadly and possibly promote. Like I have time for this.

Everything is provisional at this point and subject to change in the future - as far as the blog is concerned. In real life some things will remain unchanged.

Also, our children are not really named Lenny and Linus. We are not that cool.

Feel free to share, rant, disagree, but please remember that I'm an actual person who tries to be respectful. I'd love it if you are and do to.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Happy Mental Health Awareness Month - or Something

photo credit: Lucia Whittaker via photopin cc

May is "Mental Health Awareness Month" which is handy, because I am depressed.  Ha ha.  It's a depressed person's joke.  Get it?  Well, OK, maybe not really a joke, just a sort of dark irony.  It is never handy to be depressed.  I know.  I've been doing it most of my life.

Really.  The first time anyone (with applicable professional training) told me I was depressed I was sixteen years old.  They decided not to start me on medication at that time because they noticed that I had made what seemed like a significant (and fairly sudden) improvement.  Who knows.  This was in the pre-Prozac days and teenage depression is notoriously hard to treat even with modern meds, so maybe it was the best choice.  I'm not sure.  By the time I was twenty Prozac had been developed and I was taking it.  The longest time I've gone without has been surrounding the conception, birth and breastfeeding of Linus - almost two years now.  With Lenny I stopped a few weeks after I found I was pregnant and started a few months after he was born.  I kept breastfeeding.

Also sometimes I've had fairly significant anxiety and taken medication for that.  Sometimes I've taken lots of medication - with somewhat questionable results.  One of the most dramatic improvements I've seen is when I started doing vitamin B12 shots.  That may have actually "healed" something up in my brain because even after I stopped doing them I have seen differences.

Oh, meds have usually made a difference, but most of my most profound depressions have been while I was taking meds.  Time for a new one, the medical wisdom goes.  That is its own nightmare and is probably responsible for the only hospitalization for depression I've had... to date.

So what am I trying to say here?  Depression has been called the "common cold" of mental health disorders.  I'm not sure if that's because it's so common or because treating it only gets at the symptoms, not the cause.  Counseling combined with meds, research says, is more effective than meds alone.  So I've done that for years too.  Most of the time I am really a model patient.  I am, in fact, a very cooperative individual.

So that's sort of a whirlwind history.  This current depression feels a little different.  After a winter filled with flues and colds and terrible bitter cold and a baby who refuses to sleep for more than two hours at a time I am exhausted.  Now we have had a little time of better health and better weather, but still the baby rarely sleeps better.  So it's hard to say how much of this might resolve itself if I could just get some better quality sleep.

So in case you're wondering, here's how the sleeping thing goes.  Linus sleeps next to me.  There's a crib with one side missing right next to the bed.  Occasionally he sleeps there, but mostly on the bed beside me.  Either way when he starts to fuss I wake up and before he's completely awake I shift him slightly, rearrange my clothes and he "latches on" and starts to nurse.  Usually in ten or fifteen minutes he's back asleep and I rearrange slightly and fall asleep too.  Truly, if he does this in two hour shifts all night long I actually feel like I have almost gotten actual sleep.  Sometimes though he has a sore tummy or something and wakes up more often.  Sometimes every hour.  Then I tend to feel like I'm being tortured.

(In case you're wondering, I am aware of the various methods of "sleep training" proposed by various baby "experts" and we have, so far, chosen not to use them.)

So none of that really explains how this depression feels different except to say that it definitely didn't drop out of the clear blue sky.  Most of the winter I was in a pretty miserable mood, but when I'm physically ill sometimes it creates a kind of fuzzy peace that softens the mood.  Also, I just have to focus on doing the next thing and don't have energy for the deeper darker thoughts and emotions. 

But now that spring is here and we've had a little time without viruses I have a little energy to focus on the stuff I've been putting on the back burner.  The thing about being a mom is that you learn to do impossible things.  The thing about being a mom who's depressed is that everything feels impossible.  And you keep doing it anyway.  Most of it anyway.  And this time, for some reason, I felt so powerful and invincible and depressed and hopeless that I've been trying to solve all of life's faith dilemmas while getting no more than two hours of sleep at a time.  It's not going too badly, actually.  Or maybe it's going terribly.  I'm not sure.

Quite often I read people describing depression as involving a sense of numbness.  But for me, this time anyway, some experiences seem to be intensified.  I can feel the amazing softness of the baby's skin or the gentle warmth of the finally shining sun.  I appreciate the humor of Lenny sharing with the group at library story time that his mom is sarcastic (this was the Facebook status update:  Yesterday at library story time they read the Mo Willems book about naked mole rats. Which says they can be very sarcastic. The librarian said, "like teenagers" and Lenny added "or my mom." Busted.)  I treasure the tender moments between my boys and their dad.  I am ridiculously happy about the fact that my boys now have matching summer shoes.  I take the boys to band concerts and the park.  I decorate cookies and we take some to our favorite neighborhood grandpa guy.

But under it all there is an aching.  Actual physical pain some of the time that often spills over into tears.  Almost every day I think "I can't do this."  I want to sleep more than anything but beyond that I'd actually like to feel numb.  I want to watch crime shows on Netflix and do crochet or make paper beads.  I want to play computer games that are stupid and mindless and find them absorbing and fascinating.  I want to cry without feeling like I'm cheating the people in my life by using time and energy that I could be using to connect with them to instead wallow in a pain that I desperately do not want to let spill over into their lives.

It's hard to concentrate.  Just moving from one task to another takes a palpable effort and sometimes Lenny sees me pause and reminds me, "We're supposed to be in a hurry Mommy.  I need my lunch.  We want to have time to play soccer before school."  And I sigh and tell him that I'm doing my best and he says "I know your tired."  And I remind myself that I will never be a perfect parent and that there's a chance that his awareness of my struggles will make him a stronger and better person instead of scarring him for life.

I am already in the habit of letting lots of "little" things go.  I take Lenny and his friend to the park even though the dishes are stacked on the kitchen counters and the hallway is a sea of unwashed laundry.  I sit in the late afternoon sun and hope that it won't damage the baby's skin since I've forgotten a hat or sunscreen for him.  I watch Lenny play and marvel at the ease with which he sweeps from one game to another with his friends.  I brace myself for the letdown he'll experience after we drop his friend off and get home.  I go inside and need to empty the dishwasher so I can make room on the table for supper but I just cannot do one more impossible thing so I sit down in front of the computer instead.  I know that my sweet husband will come home soon and I'll borrow some momentum from him to get back into the swing of doing all the stuff.

So that's my mental health story for the moment.  I'm still pondering whether I should call my psychiatrist and tell her that I think that starting up counseling again is not going to be the solution we hoped for and maybe I should also start taking meds again.  I'm pretty sure I'll put it off at least until after I talk to my therapist on Wednesday. Mental Health Matters


  1. Is this the only month we are allowed to be depressed :) then we go back to being just part of the woodwork?

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    1. It's not really something anyone wants to be aware of all the time! :-/ Thanks for reading.

  2. Oh my goodness I can relate to so much of what you are saying. My daughter dream fed for months and months, and I was a mess. I still am, to tell you the truth. We're going through ANOTHER sleep disturbance and I am past the end of my tether. I felt so isolated, so bereft, and so past the point of humanity and then I found your post (via Honest Mom). I can't tell you how cathartic it has been to read your words. I'm sorry that you're struggling, but I want you to know how appreciative I am that you are sharing your struggle. It means so much.

    1. Honest Mom is an inspiration for me! It's so important that we know that we are not alone. I'm really glad that reading my words is helpful to you. I've been through the sleep thing once, so I keep telling myself that it's just for a relatively short time, but we do have to survive until then. Hope you get a break soon!

  3. I relate entirely. Depression is rough, and teenage depression is awful, and I know exactly what you mean about the intensity of emotion- for me it's a back and forth until one of them wins- overwhelming emotion or none at all. by all means, keep talking to your therapist. <3

    1. Thanks! I'm really glad I had a good therapist from "way back" because finding one now would be a huge challenge.