Homesick

I’m homesick today, and I don’t even know for which home. I’m grieving double.

We lived in FL for 14 months, so I was just finally getting settled in. I knew my way around town, had a church to call home, the start of some very nice friendships, a routine that I enjoyed most days. Liked Bible Study, loved my Moms In Prayer friends, had great neighbors. Loved my house.

Now I’m starting all over and I’m lonely. I’m grieving the loss of friends. Ok, they’re not lost, they’re just not here. And in many ways, I’m grieving the move to FL again, as I grieve this move to VA. That caught me by surprise this morning. Grief can bring back old grief.

I find myself thinking of my older home, my WI home, the place I moved from when we went to FL. I’m missing my old streets and house and friends and neighbors and co-workers and church. It’s as if I just moved from there, as I’m homesick for them all over again. Even though I went through grief when we moved to FL, it’s as fresh today as it was the first time.

Granted, I’ve only been in VA for fifty-one days. Hardly enough time to settle into a routine, let alone have any friends. But I find myself asking God, “Didn’t I just do this?” I am reminding myself that I told God I’d go where He wanted me to go. I have to remind myself, or I’ll get lost in the pity-party. I think He wanted us to come here, for my husband’s job opportunity and for new adventures together as a couple. I know we prayed about it and sensed God’s leading.

But I’m so lonely. God truly is all I have all day long. I’m trying to practice that, live in that, be content in that. God is all I have.

He is supposed to be all I need. We sing those words. We read those words. Do I mean those words? Do I live them? Is He really enough, or do I only mean it when everything else is in order, in my order?

I know that time will help. I will begin to learn my way around this new place in VA, and I pray that it will start to feel comfortable soon. It will be at least a year before I can call it home – I know from all my earlier moves that’s how long it takes. But it’s really hard in the meantime. And the days are quiet and very long.

So I’m learning, at a deeper level, to listen to God in the stillness. To hear Him assure me that He is enough. He is all I need. He will supply all my needs. He understands my tears. He will draw near when I feel broken-hearted. He is the lover of my soul. I will tell myself these truth-promises until my eyes dry and I can rest quietly in His arms.

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A relapse, not just a bad day :(

So perhaps I was wrong. I had been hoping it wasn’t relapse.

But it’s been longer than a week, and I can’t shake the blah mood. My head hurts, my jaw aches from clenching my teeth. If I think about it at all, which I’ve avoided, I feel my breath get shallow and speed up. Last night and again today, I was overwhelmed with feelings of deep sadness; it took incredible effort not to cry.

I’m trying to figure this out.  How does the definition of depression change for a person who has had it before? Are the symptoms still the same?  What about for the 10th episode? Or the 12th? Or the 30th?

Does the ability to smile or laugh mean I’m not depressed?

If I want to stay in bed and sleep all day but I get up anyway, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If hopelessness is a symptom but as a Christ follower I have hope because Christ is with me, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I’m not hungry at all but I eat because I’m supposed to, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I want to be alone, just me and the TV, but I enjoy a little social time with friends, does that mean I’m not depressed?

If I can’t see “the light at the end of the tunnel” but experience has taught me that these blah feelings will go away, does that mean I’m not depressed?

No, it doesn’t mean that. It probably is depression, just not as dark and deep as I’ve had before. But depression again – and still real, still hard.

I’ll have to fight back; it won’t just work itself out. It won’t last forever, either, though I might think that at times. I might lose sight of hope, might doubt myself. I’ll probably talk to myself harshly and try to isolate more than is good for me. I won’t want to increase my exercise. I don’t want to take new medicine. I don’t want to do anything, except to curl up in a ball until depression disappears. Someone make it go way. Jesus, please?

In response, He reminds me that I’m not alone. I never have been, and He won’t leave me this time, either. He may heal me now, or not until I reach heaven. He promises either way that He will not waste my pain, but will use it somehow to help others. He loves me in the midst of my misery. And these things don’t change, with or without depression. Thank you, Lord.

Remembering Sadness: A Christmas Party

I was telling my therapist yesterday that I want to go back and read my old journals, written over the past 9 years, covering the times where I’ve been in and out of depression. But after I blogged about my stay in the hospital psych ward, I read about a work Christmas party that happened shortly after my release, and found myself crying. Sometimes, the stories are sad.

Typically on Holiday Party day,  I would work longer into the afternoon, and we would help Leanne in getting ready for the evening. She would have planned every detail of this party for weeks. She’s incredibly creative and clever, and she chooses the menu and theme and creates the fun game time for the annual event. We’d get tables set up and decorated, gather and set out supplies for coffee (the meal is catered), fluff the Christmas tree and check its lights, set up the sound system, move the piano out, and do whatever else we could to help her with preparations. The party is for Board members present and past, and the staff is invited to attend. I liked going, and my husband and I often served beverages before the meal. I had discovered this as my favorite way to meet and thank Board members without making tons of small talk! I don’t think I fulfilled this service in December 2009, and I’m sure that’s a good thing.

Looking back, I had no business being there that evening, not with my mental health fragility and the physical exhaustion I was experiencing as I was recovering from the serotonin toxicity. I wish someone had told me I couldn’t go. But I’d always attended before, and felt like I needed to this year, too. I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I was back to normal, even though that was far from true. My husband agreed to meet me there when he got off work.

I honestly don’t remember many details, but I do remember catching my reflection on the way to the bathroom. What I saw shocked me.

There was a short round woman, hunched over a little, her body being pushed hard toward the floor by gravity, her feet splayed for balance. Her hair was messy, but not cute-messy, and her face was drawn and tight. Her eyes were flat, and her lips turned downward. She looked horrible. And then I realized it was me.

I don’t think we stayed longer – I wanted to get out of there before anyone else saw me. I cried as we drove home – so sad for the woman I used to be. I didn’t think about how I would be her again someday – standing taller with confidence, attractively dressed, smiling with eyes sparkling. I could only be sad that at that moment she was gone, and in her place was this woman who had been beaten down and showed it.

Healing from the serotonin toxicity took way longer than I expected – months of me not feeling back to myself. My psychiatrist kept urging patience, reminding me that I had been through a major traumatic event. Everyone but me seemed to understand that I wasn’t weak, just healing, and it was going to take lots of time and rest for full recovery.

I cried a little as I retold this story yesterday to my therapist. And I realized that even though I really want to re-read all of my journals, it will not be easy. I am inviting myself back into sadness and sad memories, and I will mostly likely cry. She encouraged me to take my time – I don’t have to hurry – and I can stop at any point. She even offered that I could bring the journals to our appointments, if I feel that I don’t want to handle the emotions by myself.

At least I know what to expect. Some tears, definitely. But I’m also eager to read the evidences of God’s faithfulness, about the tools my previous therapist gave me, of verses of Scripture that sustained me. I will read expectantly, with my heart soft and ready to absorb the written emotions again, yet reading the journals with strength, knowing that I have come through difficult times and am the person I am today because of them. And I will cry.

Calling for Help

TRIGGER WARNING: a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content).

TRIGGER WARNING: suicidal ideation

I was recently having breakfast with a wonderful friend whom I’ve known a long time. She is the supervising manager (or some title like that) for a service offered in my old town. People can call with questions for anything – from needing to know which bus line picks up at the mall in the afternoon to whom to call with questions about public housing to someone to talk to when in a personal crisis – an information and referral hotline. I was telling her about the time in 2009 when I called.

I had just been diagnosed with serotonin toxicity, and my new psych doc had taken me off all of my medications to clear out the brain chemicals. He had prescribed mood stabilizers to help me function and my husband was in charge of distributing them. That had happened on Monday, this was now 12 days later – very blurry days. My doctor had told me that he would be on rotation in the psych ward starting Sunday for the next two weeks, and I shouldn’t hesitate to come to the emergency room if I needed help. He made me promise not to hurt myself. The serotonin toxicity had caused some suicidal ideation (thoughts about death and dying but not acting on them).

I remember lying on our bed, wrapped in my blanket which I was hauling around with me like a child. I dialed Great Rivers 2-1-1 and a lovely voice answered. I remember thinking that my voice sounded shaky.

She asked why I had called, and I told her that I wanted to know how to know if I should go to the hospital to admit myself to the psych ward. She asked if I was planning to hurt myself. (TRIGGER WARNING:) I said no, I couldn’t, since my husband had all my medications. I went on to explain that I was under Dr. Larson’s care, and he had said I could come in if I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t have any option but to be safe – my only suicidal thoughts (again, suicidal ideation, not action) were thwarted since my meds were in our safe and the key in Chris’ pocket. But still, I didn’t feel like myself, was very out of sorts. Of course, I was too tired and too weak to hurt myself – that takes energy and planning, and I didn’t have any of those. And like I said, these thoughts were not my own – they were caused by the over-saturation of serotonin on my brain. They sure felt like my thoughts, though – they were in my head.

I cried and told her I was scared, and tired, and didn’t want to fight anymore. She asked where Chris was, and I told her he was working outside in the yard. I recall it was a sunny day, maybe a slight breeze – very nice for late November.

I talked to her for awhile – I don’t remember about what. I probably told her that I had depression and my doctor was doing to be at the hospital on rotation tomorrow, and so maybe I would go in then. She thought that was a good idea. She asked if she could call back in a half hour and talk to my husband, just to tell him that we had talked. I told her, “Sure.” She made me promise to call her back if I needed to, and said she would call in 30 minutes. I hung up and told my husband, so he could wrap up what he was working on (raking leaves?) and come in.

She called back, and talked to him about how to take care of me. Not that he had to sit with me every moment that I was awake. He needed to know what I was doing, but not to hover, and he didn’t have to worry about leaving me unattended. She told him that we had talked, and that if I still wanted to go to the hospital the next day, he should take me in.

I don’t have lots of details of memory from those days – the hours kind of run together – I did a lot of sleeping. And I don’t remember her name. But I remember her kind voice, and her care – enough that she wanted to make sure my hubby was ok, too. I know that when we talked on the phone, I didn’t feel alone. She didn’t sound alarmed at my call, or even worried. She spoke in a soft gentle voice – very calming. I was glad I had called for help. Just hearing the voice of someone who cared got me through the rest of the day. I wish I knew her name so I could thank her.

I went into the hospital the next day.

Anhedonia, among other things

Def:  the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. While earlier definitions of anhedonia emphasized pleasurable experience, more recent models have highlighted the need to consider different aspects of enjoyable behavior, such as motivation or desire to engage in an activity.

YEP.

Everything feels like a chore. Things I should do – why don’t I want to? Why am I wasting all of this time on my iPad, playing spider solitaire or candy crush? Or reading too much Facebook, even if they are interesting articles? I just want to sit here, on my corner of the couch, and, well, sit here. I’ll listen to music, or watch reruns on TV. Not even looking up movies from my Netflix list.

One of the ways I knew depression was coming back was my loss of interest in things like going to church, visiting friends (that’s hard anyway, since I don’t really have any here), drawing, knitting, swimming, beach walking. My out-of-the-house activities are pretty limited – appointments with my therapist or psych doc or chiropractor, sometimes including a massage. Once a month, I get my hair cut. I’ve stopped in several times for a pedicure. I know all of their names, but they’re not friends.

I do most of the grocery shopping. I run any necessary errands. And I do have a husband-wife couple with whom I’m friends, and who I enjoy visiting. But I didn’t have the energy today.

I’ve been out to lunch a couple of times with a couple of different ladies, the closest to “friends” I have. I know I could call them to get together, but see, I don’t really want to.

Not only is it that I don’t want to do things I used to do, I have no motivation or desire to do anything – I’m happiest on this left-side cushion of my couch.

I’m going on a boat tour tomorrow. I so badly want to back out, but a) I was really excited about it when I signed up, and b) I’ve already paid for it. This will be something I push myself to do. Hopefully doing nothing today will give me enough energy for tomorrow. And it’s a push against depression to do something I wanted to do – fake it ’til I make it?

Dear readers, please remember that I am trying to write about depression from the inside. I don’t want to sound like a complainer, yet I fear that’s how these latest posts are read. Instead, I want to give real examples about what it’s like to live with depression.

At the same time, thank you for your encouragement and reminders that I am not alone. Your expressions of support are invaluable! God promises He will never leave me, and I know He is with me this time. And you are too. Thanks.