Saturday, 22 March 2014

A Struggle With Depression

I've decided to start a separate blog for my journey through healing rather than to lump it in with the little adventures of our family. These first few posts have just been taken straight from the other blog as well as taken down from there.

This struggle is personal. And usually has a stigma attached to it. People who haven't gone through it themselves don't understand (and I'd venture to say that a large percent of people who have gone through it still don't entirely understand all of it). Not to mention most people have no idea what to say, and if they do it doesn't come out very intelligently. Talking about it can also bring about unsolicited advice that most of the time isn't very helpful; people seem to not understand that most of us aren't looking for anyone to "fix" us, rather, we are looking to just express. Therefore, it can make it harder to actually mention anything when one becomes ready to. It's a disease that reaches far beyond the surface, affects more people than we know, and is, while in many ways similar, is just as much different for all who go through it. This is a little bit of my struggle & journey.

Not that long ago, it came to my attention that this struggle has been nearly life long, and it has only really worsened in the last 2-3 years. There have been moments that I recall during my life that have been worse than others, and while some of those moments were truly awful, I feel that things are different now because there is more than just myself that is involved. This struggle has haunted me for as long as I can remember, but have never really been able to pinpoint what is was or how badly it was affecting my life. Maybe you can relate? You know that something just isn't quite right and yet you don't even know where to begin in order to figure what IT is that you're feeling is wrong. You have no ideas; no tools; you're unable to articulate what it is you're feeling and yet, you still know that something just isn't right. And so, if you're anything like me, you think that this is just the way that life is. This is just the way things have always been, and therefore will always be. You've been like this for so long now anyway that it is hard to imagine living any other way.

Well, if you're lucky, like I was, you'd have someone in your life brave enough to finally say something about it. My brave friend is my husband. What was meant as a rough joke turned out to be the worst-best thing for us. While his off-handed comments were difficult to swallow at the time, I know that they were coming from a pure heart; a concerned heart; a hurting heart; a heart that desired to see his friend better.

So, I'm now writing about my journey, not to tell you all of my problems, but rather, part of my healing comes through writing, and maybe, hopefully, I can provide some help and encouragement to someone who may need it. You may be secretly struggling with this also and don't know what to do. Or you may have a loved one who you think needs some help, but are unsure of what to tell them. Well, this is how I've dealt with it; my ideas and thoughts; my struggles and triumphs. It's my story.

This struggle is a struggle with depression. And more recently postpartum depression. Not to mention anxiety and avoidance. It's a battle for the mind. It's a battle for your thoughts. It's also a battle for your emotions and will. And when its left too long then it becomes much harder to fix. It's not impossible to fix, just harder.

I want to start out by saying that, while yes, I agree that depression is a disease, I don't believe it starts out that way. I believe it becomes a disease when left unnoticed and too long. And I know that  while people say, "it runs in the family," I firmly believe it doesn't have to. Yes my mother was depressed; yes her mom was; and possibly her mom as well. But in those types of circumstances I believe that it is initially taught (not intentionally, but rather because she doesn't know any better) and then turns into the chemical imbalance that it is. I also firmly believe that depression rarely comes from just one single source, but rather a variety of circumstances, situations, events. And there are things that make depression worse, tolerable, better, and heal forever. I want to make a little disclaimer here: I'm not a guru in the area of depression. While yes, I have/am going through my own battle and yes have done my own research as well as learnt from counselors and psychologists, the area of depression is very vast. There is not only a variety of depression-types, but the severities vary as well as the reasons. I'm going to share my story about what is working, has worked, and hasn't worked for me.

Like most things in life, I've decided that I am going to beat this struggle naturally. While I am not entirely against meds, (I do have some friends that have needed them and they worked for them, and I am thrilled for them that they worked), I just feel that they are not for me at this point in time and that I would rather do everything else possible first before taking them. This isn't necessarily always easy, but it's a choice that I've made.

For me, I've had many ups and downs in my life. I haven't ever really been a "half glass full" type of girl; I've generally been a pessimist; the world is a dark and crappy place. I haven't really been lucky; I've been mediocre and second best. I've been told that I'm not good enough; my personality isn't right; I need to adapt and change to make things easier for others. I've never felt as though I fit in much of anywhere; not really in school, in youth group, in church, or even my own family. I have always felt very misunderstood. Yes I've had moments of feeling good, and worth it, and like I've got friends, but unfortunately my bad days out number the good. And I wasn't really taught that it was OK to have feelings or how to deal with my emotions, so there were many times when my bad days were really bad. To add to my circumstances I hadn't ever really felt physically well and struggled with hormonal balance longer than I actually realized.

In the past three years my life has taken a 180 from where I was heading, to where I am now. I was on the single path, desiring a career, to live out of the country, with no craving for a husband or family. I actually wanted nothing really to do with that. There were so many failed marriages around me, both Christian and non, and I was under the false reality that I was unable to actually have children, and therefore I built up this life for myself that had nothing to do with either one.

And then it happened. An old friend came back into the picture. He prayed and he pursued. And he eventually won. After hanging out for about a year or so, we started dating. Three months later we were engaged. Four stressful, anxiety-ridden months later we were married. Two semi-blissful, kinda crazy months later I was pregnant. Say what now?! My life just went from A to Z. The opposite end of the spectrum. Those seven months were the beginnings of another emotional roller coaster. It was a lot for me to handle; and while I'd like to think I did fairly well at "dealing" with my change, really, all I did was shove my feelings and emotions down, while hiding most of how I felt from everyone I knew and trusted. When I became pregnant with my first child, I realized how much of an introverted home-body I really was, and now am realizing that it really is just anxiety and avoidance, and so this did not make it any easier to get out or to share what I was going through.

To add to our change, we then moved north, away from family and friends, to begin to build a better life for a our little family. While this move has been great in many ways for us, it has also been quite difficult. New living arrangements, new job hours, new town, no friends or family. In a way, I use to thrive when I was faced with this predicament, but now, it was beyond daunting.

I stayed inside with my little baby most of the time, and really just spent so much time with her. There were times that I went out, and I even attempted to make friends at the local Parent Link center, but I always felt awkward and out of place. It still baffles me as why other moms only ask the name of your child and not you. Our living situation wasn't the greatest either. The first couple below us had a lot of their own challenges, and the second couple was even worse. Not to mention our landlord was really a slum-lord...and well...I've got nothing good to say about that guy, so let's leave it at that. We had also "church-shopped" for several months, and left many Sunday mornings feeling unnoticed and cold. When we finally did find a church that we decided to attend, it took almost a year to feel somewhat connected, and even now I still feel largely disconnected and that it's easy to go unnoticed.

After being up here for a year, we had struggled through Ben finishing school; adding to our debt; not making any really good connections; still trying to figure out married life together, as well as parenting, and we decided to add a second child into the mix. There were many points where I felt as though we just couldn't get a break. And unfortunately, the second year wasn't any better. Yes, we've had many great, fun moments, but again, our hard times have out weighed our good. And it sucks. And we hate it.

This past year, has been even harder than the first. We had our second child and for me, it was so much harder than I imagined it would be. While we felt that it was time to add to our family, it was so incredibly stressful and it really hit me that this life is not what I had originally planned. Because I had not ever really grieved my situation the first time, it was even more painful the second time. I pushed away friends and family; I made some bad financial decisions; I secluded myself; I just began the spiral of a deepening depression.

And then we decided to sell and give away all of our belongings and move into a trailer (which you can read about on my other blog), and I went home for what was suppose to be a refreshing holiday, that turned into a taxing, chaotic trip. Coming home was a bag of mixed emotions in which we were not only dealing with old, continuing issues, but new ones that had arisen.

And then, that's when the joke came out. I had gotten so bad that my husband had joked about finding me an "upper." And I was shocked at how bad he thought that I was. This is how I had been nearly all of my life. This was normal to me. Life sucked. And it was normal. Really though, how crappy is that, to think that a sucky life is normal.

His comments have opened up new doors for us though. It's so easy to hide, and to fake how much you love life. You only post your best pictures. You only blog about your fun moments. But in my reality, I've been struggling with living life and this battle in my mind. And now, my husband and children were suffering because of it. And it was beginning to show.

For me, depression has been a way of life. I tend to live in a constant overwhelmed state, comparing myself to others, thinking that I can and should be doing better and being better. I have a mind that doesn't ever stop going. I cannot ever live up to the expectations that I have put onto myself. And it is hard to live in a state of trying to be perfect and knowing that I am far from it.

But thankfully, because my husband was bold enough to finally point something out, we are taking proactive steps to once and for all beat what has now become a mental disease for me.

In my next post I will be sharing about how I and my husband are actually doing this; what is working and what isn't. I hope you'll come join us again in the next post to see how our adventure is continuing on.

*This post was originally written early February 2014*

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