Missing my kids…

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My 20-something kids left this morning after two weeks of vacation. Our daughter arrived a week earlier, our son on his 21st birthday a few days before Christmas, and we’ve enjoyed a wonderful long visit. We shopped, read books, watched movies and Netflix (have you seen The Crown?!), took a two-day history tour that included Harper’s Ferry, Gettysburg, George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum.  We played with the cat, shared opening presents and making meals, and really enjoyed each other’s company.

And now the house is very quiet.

When we lived in WI, we could get up to visit them at school pretty easily. We didn’t hover, but could pop up for an event (concert, shopping). And being closer, even though we didn’t see them except every few months, somehow made it easier to be absent from them.

When we lived in Florida, I knew they would come for the beach and sun and escape from the winter cold of the upper Midwest.

Now, they just feel so far away and time stretches so long between visits.

And this is the way of things. We raised our kids to know Jesus, to be strong and independent, to be able to tackle problems with heads on straight. To grow to need us less. So we did it right. And it’s hard, because they’re great people and I really like spending time with them.

So I’ll choose to focus on the fun we had together and I’ll plan for our next visit northward. Who knows when, but we’ll be visiting great people!

 

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.

Where Does It Hurt?

I can feel my emotions in my body. This is true most of the time now, but especially if I’m in a depressive episode.

My shoulders are pulled up toward my ears, as if to hide my neck. I feel pressure and tension in my lower head, on the sides around my ears. So I push my shoulders down and back, and there’s a crunching sound, like my muscles are rolling logs down my bones, and they pop loudly. I turn my head to the side, feel another “pop” and the muscles in my neck stretch down down down along my spine, almost all the way to my waist. I slowly turn my head in the other direction and feel the stretch. There’s brief relief as I try to relax my shoulders, but putting them into a resting position brings them back up and forward.

My jaws ache. My teeth feel loose, and my bottom lip is tight. I’m frowning. I’m not gripping with the back teeth; instead my lower jaw is pulling forward until my bottom teeth hit the inside of my upper teeth, and they stay that way – straining up and tight. I feel them suddenly – I didn’t know I was clenching, and I relax my bite. I open my mouth as if to yawn, trying to relieve the pressure in my ears that has built up from gritting my teeth for who knows how long.  That hurts, too.

There’s pressure. Something is sitting on top of my stomach. Yet it’s inside, too, and my stomach churns and rolls over and feels like it’s being chewed on. And there’s fire burning in the pit of my stomach, with the flames licking upward into my rib cage and making it hard to breathe. I say, “My stomach hurts.” I feel like I want to retch. The back of my mouth tastes terrible, like I’m going to be sick. That steely taste that tells me my insides are coming up to my throat. Yet there’s nothing there. And I clench my jaw to hold nothing in.

My chest hurts. It’s like there’s a hole in the center of my body where I think my heart should be. Which is strange, since if my heart is missing, then how can I feel this pain? And at the same time that there’s a hole, there’s also this incredible pressure, like a boulder resting on my chest. It’s so hard to take a deep breath, and it hurts when I try. I can’t get air all the way in. The insides around the center of my chest are jiggling like Jello; they won’t stay still. The fluttering moves down toward my lungs – my ribs are full of this writhing.

At a massage a few weeks ago, the therapist pushed on my calf muscle and my thoughts were flooded with anger and sadness and grief. Caught me completely by surprise. The therapist felt it, too. “Did something just change? Was that you or me?” I told her about my emotional response to her touch, and she told me that many people carry emotion in their legs. It just had never happened to me before.

These are ways that my body holds emotions. Anger. Anxiety. Fear. Grief. Sadness. It hurts! I can feel it, not just in my head, or in my thoughts, but in my body itself. Depression has often been very physical.

On all these occasions, where I can actually physically feel my emotions, the best approach for me has been to breathe. I tell myself:

Focus on taking a breath. Just stop thinking about anything for a second. Put my thoughts on breathing in. Feel the air come in through my nose. See my chest and stomach and shoulders and arms move, feel my head tilt slightly. Don’t think, just watch my body. Hold my breath, just for a few seconds, then loudly exhale. Make all the air leave my lungs. Do it again. Deep breath – feel it, watch it. Hold it – count to four. Don’t think. Just count to four. Now as I breathe out, with my lips making the shape of an “O” and loudly through my mouth, count to six. Make all the air come out. Push it with my diaphragm, with my stomach muscles. Do it again. Breathe in for four – count to four as I take a deep breath through my nose. Hold it – count to four. Breathe out, counting to six. Listen to the sound of the air leaving my lungs, coming out of my mouth.

Breathe in through my nose for a count of four. Hold my breath for four. Making an “O” shape with my mouth, breathe out loudly for a count of six. Repeat as needed until calm enough to think.

There. Better.

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