It's been over a year since I've written anything here. 2018 was a brutal year and I've spent the better part of this year recovering from it. It's a work in progress.
Depression is difficult. It's tiring, all consuming, physically draining, painful, guilt inducing, and unique to each person but shared by many.
We all go through down days. We all know what that feels like. But there's a difference between feeling down once in a while and sitting in a chair in your bedroom, staring at your bed and thinking... "I'm ok with not waking up tomorrow". I never made a plan or thought of ways to end me but just having the thought of not wanting to wake up in the morning was enough to scare the hell out of me. The next morning, when I did wake up, I called a therapist and made an appointment.
Why am I writing about this. Is it to gain sympathy? No. Why do I even have to explain why? It's because too many people want to say that anyone who talks about painful things is just playing the victim. What people don't realize is, depression already causes us to feel guilty about being depressed. The phrase "first world problems" comes to mind. Who are we to feel down when there's so much suffering in the world! Guilt jumps in when you feel like you're not upbeat enough and think you're lousy company. Guilt jumps in when you just can't face going out and being with people. So why am I talking about it? Because I can and because I think more people need to talk about it. Maybe someone else will recognize themselves here and know that they're not alone.
There was a long list of things that happened last year that took me to such a dark place. It began with my father's death. I don't need to go into the rest of the list because, well, it's long and there's no need to at this point. Just know it was a crap year and when you're in the thick of a deep depression you can't see past the veil that hides all the good in your life. It's like someone is holding a black cloth in front of your face. You can kinda make out some bits of light here and there but mostly what's in front of you is shrouded in darkness. No matter how hard you squint you can't make out what's going on behind the veil.
What doesn't help are the well meaning comments you see from others.
"don't be so negative"
"just pull yourself up"
"think happy thoughts"
"get out of the house more"
Yes, these things make sense when you're just having a down day. I use them on myself when I need to. Gratitude works wonders! We DO have many many things to be grateful for and reminding ourselves to be grateful can completely change our mindset and mood. But, the kind of depression I'm talking about is a different kind of animal and that animal doesn't respond to cliche sayings. That animal is not just being moody and can't be talked out of it with one afternoon of sunshiney talk.
It takes time. It takes talking to a professional counselor. It takes effort when you feel like just getting up out of the chair is a monumental task. It's hard but it's doable. And sometimes, if necessary, medication can help get you through the worst of it so you can start by getting up. Then you can do other things to help yourself.
Many years ago I believed the saying that suicide was selfish. I know now that's not true. I think it takes going through a severe depression to really understand why someone would contemplate taking their own life. I didn't think about the act of doing it but I did think how nice it would be to not wake up. What that tells me is that it's not a selfish thought. It's about wanting to end pain. It's about feeling like you just can't take any more of it.
So those 11 reasons I'm here are...
3 children I love and adore with all my heart.
7 grandchildren I love and adore with all my heart.
1 online community of first mothers and adoptees who understand
The little bits of light that I could see through that black veil were the faces of my children and grandbabies. I couldn't stand the thought of not seeing them go through life while I have the chance. I want to be here to see my grandchildren grow up and become whoever they're meant to be. They all need a healthy mother and grandmother and the thought of those little lights waiting for me got me up out of that chair.
My online adoption community has been a lifesaver in so many ways. The first time I realized I wasn't alone with adoption trauma was when I read The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. Since then, having a group of mothers and adoptees who understand me and what I've been through has helped me cope just by being there. I know I can jump into a number of forums and groups, be real, spill my guts, and they're there for me. We're all there for each other. And if you have a "real life" person who is your nearest and dearest friend that you can confide in, you can help each other through a lot.
Just as important as having people in your corner, is knowing who is not in your corner. I finally figured out that I can say no. I don't have to spend time with people who trigger upset. I can decide for myself who I want in my life and who to avoid. It's called self-preservation and there's nothing wrong with that.
What else helps? Doing something creative. For me it's painting. For you it could be singing, crocheting, dancing, baking, photography, scrapbooking, woodworking, journaling, anything that takes your mind to another place. You know that feeling when you look up at the clock and suddenly see that hours have gone by and you didn't realize it? That's being in the zone. Do something that takes you there.
Real self care is not selfish. I have my kids, my friends and my art. Art is my work but it's also my salvation and therapy. I even have what I call my therapy canvas. It's a 4 ft square that I throw paint at when I feel the need. Along with my canvas, real therapy does wonders. When you learn about CPTSD and what it does, suddenly, some things about life make sense. When you have a better understanding of why your brain does what it does, you can find ways of dealing with it. You can survive depression. You can make the veil go away.
When you learn what it takes to keep yourself mentally healthy, do those things.