I think it's pretty obvious what's going on in my life lately. I have been struggling for months, but it all came to a head this week. I had what I guess you could say was a nervous breakdown. (I'm reminded of the movie The Kid: "This is my first nervous breakdown. Never had a nervous breakdown before ... not quite sure how it's supposed to go ...") I'll spare you details, but let's just say I wouldn't recommend it.
Since then, My Man has taken the two oldest kids to a friends' house all day - every day. While it's for the best, you can imagine how that makes me feel. I'm not capable of caring for my kids.
This morning I was kissing Little Prince goodbye and crying (of course - it's amazing I have any tears left), explaining that he was going to a friend's house again because Mommy was sick and sad.
He gave me a big "super-hug" (the best anti-depressant I know), kisses all over my face, and then asked quietly, "You're not sad because of me, are you Mom?"
Well, that REALLY released the waterworks.
Of course I explained to him that no, I wasn't sad because of him - I was just kind of sick and crying a lot. I told him he was the best kid ever and I loved him so fiercely and, if anything, he helped me NOT to be so sad. LP is the definition of happy.
Oh, Lord, don't let this affect my children!
I've been doing a lot of thinking these past few days. In some respects, that's not a good thing - certain thoughts should be avoided. But I've came to a lot of other conclusions.
- Depression is a disease. Like the flu or a cold or cancer, it's a sickness. It can affect anyone and everyone.
- You can get depressed for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is due to a hormanal shift - such as menopause or having a baby. Sometimes it is triggered by an illness or stress-inducors or a hectic lifestyle. Sometimes you get depressed for seemingly no reason at all.
- You don't have to "defend" yourself for being depressed. ("But I'm going through a really hard time right now! I have a million things to do! You wouldn't believe how awful my life is!") Some people have horrible lives and are happy. Some people have wonderful lives and are depressed.
- Depression is not a sign of weakness. Or lack of faith. Or mean you're a bad person. Of course, being depressed does not mean you surrender your agency - depression, in my opinion, does not "cause you" to commit suicide or hurt your loved ones. It is absolutely a determining factor - but cannot FORCE you to do anything.
- You absolutely cannot "snap out of it." Or "change your attitude." And you UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES can get better on your own. Some people need medical intervention - and that's okay. Some people need counseling - and that's okay. Some people need unconditional, unending support from family, friends, and the Lord - and that's okay. Some people need all of the above - and that's okay too.
- In regards to taking medicine - drugs - to battle depression: here are my thoughts. (I can do that. It's my blog, neener neener neeeee-neeeeer.) Going back to the idea that depression is a disease. Would you feel bad taking cold medicine? Do you begrudge an epilectic patient his seizure medication? Or a cancer patient his chemo? Many times, depressed patients have true, chemical imbalances. I believe that who they "really are," is who they are on medication. As black and white as healthy vs. sick.
I am depressed. I have been struggling with depression for probably five months or so. I would talk to My Man about it - talk to my friends about it - talk to my leaders about it. Always the answer was, "Pray more. Serve more. Be more." I would bounce back for a while, put on a happy face and be okay. Then crash again. Eventually, the "happy periods" would get shorter and the "crashes" would get deeper until it all became too much.
I am taking aggressive action. I watch movies when my thoughts become too loud and I can't turn them off - reading doesn't work; I can't concentrate. Mr. Squishy and I have gone for lots of walks. Long ones. I've been praying for strength to remember who I am and not let my "natural man" take over. (Thanks, Kim.) I have unplugged the phone and ignored the house. I have slept a lot. And as horrible as it makes me feel, I have parceled out my kids while I get better.
They are what keeps me hopeful. I love my kids more than any words in English or Portuguese can express. They deserve the best mom I can be. I never want them afraid of me - to see me as anything else but a loving mother trying to exemplify the Savior's love.
This I know: I can do this. I have faith that the Lord will not let us be tested above our strength, and He would never trust me with His precious children if I wasn't capable.
Someday I will proudly declare that I Beat Depression. In remission, you could say. Because depression truly is a cancer for the soul. It is heartbreaking that, as a culture, we do not value "depression survivors." When someone mentions that they had depression - it sounds flippant. Small. Weak.
I call for Depression Awareness Month. We should get ribbons and bracelets and 5k runs as well. From my research, it affects 15-25% of the population. Truly, it affects EVERYONE. Because these 15-25% have children. And parents. And spouses.
I am so grateful for a loving husband who firmly views this depression as a disease and nothing else - and a disease that can be beat. I am grateful for his love - for his strength - for his belief that I am still the most wonderful woman and mother alive.
I am grateful for my Savior - who knows pain-for-pain, tear-for-tear what I'm feeling. That He can and will succor me - that I can be clean and pure and happy again.
And I am so grateful for you. I debated for a while whether or not to display my mental health issues for all of cyberspace to gawk at. Do I want perfect strangers to think I'm a nutcase? But I made a decision. I may feel embarrassed - vulnerable - but I might help someone. I might help someone understand themselves better - or someone they love. And most of all, I might GET helped. I DID get helped. I thank you for your concern - for your love for someone who, in many cases!, you've never met. THAT is the power of the internet, people. The power of women. The power of love.
Now I'm going to go call my mother before she buys a ticket to Brazil. Or maybe not.