Emerging from a Summer of Silence

Depression. A word I don’t even like saying, for fear it will hear me and decide it needs to kick at me harder. It’s also a word we’re hearing more and more of. Because we’re talking about it more? Because there’s more of it in our world than before? I don’t know. I don’t care about the statistics really. I’d just prefer I wasn’t one of them. I have had it upon my heart lately that I need to share this, though it’s difficult. Quite honestly, I’ve been avoiding it a bit. Finally, I am feeling like I am coming through the other side. I want to share that journey with you; perhaps it will give you some hope and inspiration. If it does, it will be well worth the difficulty of sharing my story.

Excuse me while I play a round of Pac Man to further procrastinate on this….

We’ll start simply. With some history. In my second year of college I cried enough tears to fill up a lake. There was nothing I could pinpoint as a specific cause for the tears, but I couldn’t stop crying either. And sleep. Constant exhaustion. Skipping classes cuz I couldn’t get going. This was back in 1998/1999 and depression and it’s symptoms weren’t something that was really well known. I finally went to the doctor and was prescribed some anti-depressants. It took time, but finally, finally, I was functioning again. I stayed on the medication for about a year, then took myself off them. I had moved, was surrounded by family again and happiness wasn’t something I had to fight for anymore. I carried on doing all the things a young 20 year old would do. Finished up college, did some odd and end jobs before getting a job working with people with disabilities, with a company I would work with for 5 years. I had been an atheist, but after several discussions with a friend was born again and started attending a church. This particular church had a great young adults group and I formed some amazing friendships and my spiritual and social needs cup was brimming over. But like most young 20 somethings I was broke. Despite a promotion I was not happy with how my long term finances were progressing. An opportunity came up where I could become a Proprietor. Basically, this was similar to foster care, but for an adult with disabilities. With this particular gentleman his needs were such that I would be able to continue working at my full time job in a group home, as a Team Leader. Previously, I had been living an hour away from where I worked, but living in the same community as my family, church and friends. Taking on this proprietorship meant I’d have to move to the community where I worked and where this gentleman was living. So off I moved. With this particular gentleman he could be out in the community on his own, but had to be checked on at least every three hours as he was known to have occasional behavior/anger problems. I was entitled to respite weekends, every second weekend, where he stayed at someone else’s home for 48 hours. Thankfully, he was willing to attend church and on the weekends he’d be with me we’d continue to attend my church. The weekends I had respite available I spent the majority of it away from my home, staying with friends and family. As you can see, due to his needs, my social freedom changed quite a bit. I couldn’t just drive to church in the middle of the week to attend something, as there was two hours of driving to accommodate for. Additionally, not all my friends and family were 100% comfortable around this gentleman. For his part, he was a huge fan of the local hockey team and preferred to spent the majority of his free time at the local arena. It wasn’t a situation where I could just bring him along with all my previous social engagements. I had some amazing friends in the new community I was living in, so my social cup didn’t run dry, but it wasn’t overflowing either. I couldn’t do things with my family as often and I was limited in what I could do with the young adults group. My spiritual cup started going down as well. Before, church hadn’t just been Sundays for me. My weeks had been full of church events and social events with church friends. It had been a big part of my everyday life and now no longer was. I once again began to struggle and once again went back on anti-depressants. I also began to really assess my life. The gentleman had respite in the home of another gentleman. The two of them were forming a great bond. The respite provider owned a gas station with a car wash, where the gentleman was able to help out, which he loved. They enjoyed riding their bikes together, whereas he viewed me more as “staff” and preferred not to be seen in public with me in his community. The gentleman moved in full time with the respite provider, I quit my full time job and moved in with my parents as a temporary step, to give myself a little bit of time to figure out where I was going with life. It was your typical “burn out” scenario. I switched churches and began to attend a church in the area where I had grown up and that was attended by people I had grown up with. My desire was to eventually live in that area again. This time I stayed on the anti-depressants for a little over a year before once again stopping them. For some reason, I really didn’t want to have to simply take them for the rest of my life.

Fast forward 8 years. I was now married and living back in the area where I had grown up, on a farm, which had always been a desire of mine. We were no longer attending church (a separate, long story, though I’d like to note it wasn’t because of any relational issue I had with God. I still believed in Him fully!). I had a great job that was close to home, provided an income that met my family’s needs and stimulated me mentally. But, there was something going on with my body. I was in a lot of pain. I was feeling a lot of stress and I was no fun to be around. Once again, tears became much more common than laughter, I was always exhausted. I had no motivation. I was angry and snippy. From the outside it’s easy to see the spiral. Spiritually empty, cuz when you’re not a part of a church, even if you continue to believe it God, you just don’t stay as close to Him. Physically in pain, with no answers in sight and the only “remedy” was to get physically healthier and be on pain management medication for the rest of my life. Stressed from not feeling able to meet work demands due to the pain and not being able to meet home demands if I’m not working. Once again, I went back on anti-depressants. I took a leave from work. Eventually, I resigned from my job. After meetings with specialists, surgery and figuring out the best medication regiment I was starting to feel a little more stable, but was concerned that returning to work would tip the teeter-totter I felt like my life was perched upon. For awhile, I felt like there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but it didn’t stay stable. That teeter-totter I was living on seemed to constantly be in motion. Good days. Bad days. Good weeks. Bad weeks. Let’s not forget all the emotions that come with this scenario. Guilt. So much guilt. Guilt about work. Guilt about not feeling like I’m fulfilling my role in the home. Anger, as a poor mechanism to ease my own feelings of guilt. Despair, wanting to be better, to be who I used to be but somehow never feeling like I was getting there. Occasional bursts of greatness, followed by feelings of failure as I’d once again drop the ball in some way. Fear; I’d never struggled for this long before. By this point I’d been on medication for 2 years. Was this going to be the rest of my life? I wasn’t sure I could handle that. I certainly didn’t think it was fair for Neil to have to handle it. I considered increasing my dose of anti-depressants, but it was something, personally, I really didn’t want to do. But now, finally, in the past month and a half, I’m feeling like I not only see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that I’m actually moving forward into that freedom.

This part of my journey gets really personal. I want you to bear with me and know that my journey may not be your journey. You cannot borrow my book, follow the same exact steps and time-lines and find yourself better. You can, however, borrow chunks and pieces of it and apply it into your life and make it personal to you and your journey. I definitely encourage that. But you need to make it personal and appropriate to your journey, your medical needs and safety, your knowledge of yourself and your foundation. You may be asking yourself, if I’ve only been feeling “better” if you will for the last month and a half, how can I feel so confident that I’m not just on the “good” portion of the teeter-totter life I’d been living? Part of that answer is the guilt and anger. It’s mostly gone. My ability to cope with life’s frustrations and being overwhelmed is more in line with my true self than my self that’s battling depression.

So, how did I get better? Part of it comes from my foundation. Remember, I am a Christian and part of that was never doubting my worth. I never once stopped believing I was worth fighting for. Another part of it was hope. I went to bed each night with a plan and a hope that tomorrow would be better. And that hope was more than a mere wish. It was more like a sincere belief that I could and would get better and that getting better would start the next day. That foundation was what allowed me to have some of those good days. It was also part of the reason I’d feel fear and that huge sense of failure. On the bad days all sorts of doubts, guilt, insecurities and fears will come swooping down upon you. I’ve noticed a trend with my depression. Sometimes no amount of external anything; medication, counselling, friendships, etc. can help on a bad day. Sometimes the only option is to choose to succeed with one thing. On those really bad days, where you almost don’t have it in you to choose anything, still go to bed with hope that it will get better. If you can do nothing else, do that. If the dishes aren’t done, the laundry isn’t done, you’ve fought with your spouse, you haven’t showered, you can’t sleep, you’re sleeping too much, no matter what your day has looked like, keep the hope. I can hear some of you saying to me, well Gail, I don’t have that same foundation you do. I have no self-worth and I don’t believe in God. I’ve been depressed my whole life and have no hope. I’m gonna be straight up with you here. Not because I want to be mean, but because it is SO important! There is nothing that you will do in life that doesn’t involve you. You’ve got to be involved and have a role. You may be loved by millions, but nobody is as interested in your success as much as God and you. I get it, I’ve been there. Depression is debilitating. As in removing ability. I truly get it, but you’re fighting for your life! People have lifted vehicles off themselves when they’re fighting for their lives. They have crawled out of bushes, bruised, broken and bleeding. You might be fighting on that same level, but fight you must. You win that days fight if you go to bed and repeat something to yourself that speaks of hope. I do not care if you believe it. I do not care if you feel it. Just say it, think it, let it cross your mind!

Something I learned when I was trying to figure out the cause of my physical pain and what I could do to rid my body of it was that nothing can play a more important role in our overall wellness than treating our body with respect. A healthy physical body will result in a healthier mind and there’s a lot of evidence of it helping with depression. Now I’m not saying I’m winning the health guru game here. I’ve got a LONG way to go. And let’s be real honest here, depression is a double whammy, because just as a healthier physical body results in a healthier mind, it takes a healthy mind to win at the healthy body game. In the depths of depression you may know that a walk will make you feel better, but you don’t have it in you to actually go for that walk. You may know that a healthy meal will make you feel better, but you don’t have the energy to make that meal, even if you somehow found the energy to get the ingredients to make that meal. There’s a lot of things that we can do to help our physical wellness. For me, I found several products with Young Living that really helped and so I made a commitment to myself to use a minimum of them. On good days I’ve done a lot of research into the products and there’s so many that can be used to assist us to achieve physical and emotional wellness. Buuut, we all know, when we’re depressed our brains can be fried. Your memory is poop. Your intentions don’t line up with your actions. Your knowledge doesn’t line up with your actions. It’s really such a fight. But, as I mentioned, I made a minimal commitment. If I had a good day, and as things improved, I increased what I was doing. My minimum commitment was a shot of Ningxia Red each day and to use my diffuser in my bedroom at night. I never gave myself a specific time to drink the Ningxia Red. Didn’t promise myself I’d take it first thing in the morning, nothing like that (cuz I’d tend to let myself down when I made that “big” of a promise to myself). I simply set a box of the 2oz packets in a place where I walked by it several times a day and ensured I grabbed and drank one packet a day. Once I’d been consistent with that for a couple weeks I find I was just happier overall and had more putter to my day. If we ate supper early enough in the evening I’d sometimes even get dishes done after. Boom! Win in my world! In my diffuser I’d just pick whichever oils I wanted. So many of them support rest, relaxation, ease stress and promote feelings of well-being. So I’d mix it up, but a favorite is 2 drops of Cedarwood, 2 drops of Frankincense and 2 drops of Northern Lights Black Spruce. I’d have an amazing sleep, great dreams and I’d wake up feeling really refreshed. For me, if I woke up feeling happy and refreshed I’d be more likely to start doing something with my day. And the sooner I started doing something, the more I got done and the better I’d feel by the end of the day. These weren’t overnight fixes. Quite honestly, during a crappy week, I might forget to do these things, but these were the two minimums I kept coming back and recommitting to. Now that I’m doing better and remembering things better I have also added in our Omegagize (it has Vitamin D in it) and our Super B supplement, which has all the important B vitamins. These have helped a lot in the energy department. Obviously, because I’ve had success with these products it’s the first place I’d recommend getting started, but really, go do what’s in you to do. Whether that’s a walk, eating healthy, joining a sports group once a week, I don’t care. Do something for your physical health and then start doing more as you’re able.

You may recall I’d mentioned earlier that I’d considered increasing my anti-depressant. Now, this is really important, I’m not recommending you do what I’m gonna tell you I did, it could be super dangerous, depending where you’re at. Instead of increasing my anti-depressant I actually quit my medications. All of them. I quit my anti-depressant and I quit my pain management meds. First of all, I found I was forgetting them a lot. I had been really consistent, and they had certainly helped, but for some reason I started forgetting them. I’d forget them for a week at a time, then go back to taking them. Eventually I asked myself, ya know, things aren’t necessarily better when you’re not taking them, but they’re not worse either, so why are you continuing with them? I will still use some of the pain meds if I need them, but I find if I’m having a good mental health day then I cope with the daily pain a lot better. I’ve also learned how to live within my physical abilities based on the cause of my pain. Personally, I’m not fond of the idea of taking a medication that is treating symptoms and not causes for the rest of my life (that’s an important distinction there!!). I also want to clarify and remind you that when I made this decision I was not in what I’d call the depths of depression. I still had symptoms but I’d also added in wellness and I would have good days or weeks. If I needed to go back on them I was absolutely open to that. I wanted to focus more on my foundation of wellness. Increasing the things in my life that bring balance and create wellness when they’re balanced. If you haven’t read “Oola: Find Balance in an Unbalanced World” co-written by Dave Braun and Troy Amdahl I’d highly recommend you do. In the book they talk about 7 areas of life that, when in balance, create wellness. They are Faith, Family, Friends, Field, Finance, Fun and Fitness. For me, one area of my life that was clearly out of balance was Faith. Now Faith doesn’t have to represent a Christian God for you, but for me it does and in a huge way. I realized God had been whispering in my ear for a long time. I’m sure not everybody in Young Living is a Christian, but it seems the learning podcasts and business videos I was most drawn to were being done by people with a strong belief in God and where He was just as much a part of their wellness and their business as the products themselves were. Then Adolf moved in. As we were getting to know each other I’d ask what he’d like to watch on TV and quite often he’d answer, “Joel Osteen.” So there I’d be working at my desk or doing whatever with some Joel Osteen in the background. I realized how much I missed a regular sermon. I began purposefully praying again and it eventually led me back to that same church I’d stopped going to many years ago. I was finally bringing my “Faith spoke” in my wellness wheel back into balance. Now some of you might not be Christians and I ain’t judging you. Some of you might be a firm atheists and I ain’t judging you either. For those of you that don’t have anything that would represent Faith in your 7 areas of life I’d like to just take this moment and share some key points of my belief with you. First, God loves you and has a plan and a purpose for your life.  You are important! Second, if you’ve been hurt or traumatized in some area of your life I just want you to know it wasn’t God that did it. So many people spout things such as, “Well, your mama died when you were just a baby cuz He needed her more” or “God’s letting you be sick because he’s trying to teach you something.” NO NO NO NO NO! Sometimes people say those things to us because they’re trying to comfort us, but I tell you what, not only did I not find comfort in those wrong beliefs but I didn’t want any part of a God that would do those sorts of things like take mamas from their children. I thank God I had a friend who was able to show me that God is in the life giving business, not the killing business. God is in the health business and He wants you fully and completely well and healthy, not sick and tied up on your couch fighting for your life. That’s all I’m gonna say about that, but it summarizes real well. Ensure there is balance in your life in those 7 key areas. If there’s an area that is out of balance and out of your control based on where you’re at, put more into a different area that you can control. Put enough into enough of those areas where you do have control and eventually you’ll have the ability to work on the rest.

Remember, even a drop of water will erode the mountain eventually and if all you can work up is one drop of water a day to throw at your mountain of depression, it will eventually start to erode it.

Thanks for joining me ya’ll and I just really wanted to share this to let you all know where I’ve been, why you haven’t heard from me and, where appropriate, to hopefully hand out some hope to a somebody here or there. I may not know your name, I might not recognize your face, we may never meet, but I truly believe that each and every person is so absolutely precious and valuable and important in life. You! I love you!

 

 

 

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