Mental Illness Steals My Weekend


As I browse through the streams of Twitter, my feed on Facebook and posts on Instagram, I see the ever present enthusiasm for the weekend every single Friday. Quotes like “TGIF” and “It’s Friyay!” are prolific. But instead of joining in the joy, something in my soul sinks as the weekend approaches each and every week.

I used to join the masses in the anticipation of a weekend where the family gathers and activities we are unable to do during the week become possibilities. Movie nights, quality time with the kids and my husband, church…all used to be a part of the little joys I used to look forward to. But something has changed and I don’t like it. In fact, I very very much don’t like it.

Depression and anxiety can be very selfish. They have taken things from me. They have taken my sense of peace, confidence and ability to enjoy my family.

When the weekend comes I am filled with anxiety over what is expected of me, albeit these are normal things, they invoke a new kind of stress. I feel mixed emotions at the thought of watching a movie with the family as a racing heart and chest pain has become customary during this time. I fret and worry about attending church as I am required to be present and seen by people that know me…people who can see all the weight I’ve gained in recent months and people who care for me, yet because of the fact that they have eyes and know me, they feel foreign and intimidating. I panic at the thought of the possibility of needing to care for my children on my own for any extended period of time if my husband has to work or coach a basketball game.

During the week, when the kids are off to school, I can make a trip to Target or Hobby Lobby without the dread of being seen. For some reason I get the feeling I’m just one of the masses and can blend in, almost invisible and shielded from the scrutiny I imagine in my head. But during the weekend, with kids in tow, I am visible and open for judgment, in my mind’s eye.

It’s a horrible feeling, dreading my weekends. There’s guilt and shame attached to it all, too. Thoughts like “Who in the heck doesn’t like the weekend? What kind of mother wouldn’t want more quality time with her kids? What kind of Christian dreads going to church?” plague me.

I look forward to the day, that must be coming, that I once again enjoy the weekend. It will be a good day, indeed.

*I’m entering this post in the #Iwouldlikeyouto linky hosted by And 1 More Makes 3. Muddle over and check it out!*

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When He Feels So Far Away

This depression thing has hung on to me like a plague. It started seeping in last Summer and grabbed on to every cell of my body and mind by the Fall. In the midst of my darkest times I have felt so utterly alone – in a dark cavern in the deep pits of the earth below it’s surface – kind of alone.

A friend from church embraced me one Sunday (when I actually made myself go, only because my husband was teaching) and said, “I don’t know why God feels so far away during times like these, when we need Him most, but I know it feels that way.” And it was such an amazing relief to hear a fellow sister in Christ acknowledging that He does, truly, feel so infinitely far away, even removed, in times of severe depression. It’s mind boggling really.

One of the tricks to feeling connected to God is to spend time with Him – to dive into His word, to pray, to meditate on His teachings and His love. But when you’re depressed, you simply can’t do these things. It feels like lifting a 2 ton truck to open your Bible. Some may argue that you can actually do these things, but I would argue that it sure feels like you can’t and that it may truly be a fact of the condition. If you are able to muster up the strength and lift that truck, the words may seem foreign or completely without meaning. Our brains simply can’t comprehend the writing on the page.

With a God as loving as ours, why then does He seem so distant in our darkest hour? I believe it’s the illness, not our God. I believe its the disease and not His actual absence. I believe that God isn’t pulling away from us, but our minds are running the other direction. I believe that He is ever present, but our cord of connection is cut by the illness. He is not to blame. We are not to blame. The illness can take all of it. The sickness of depression is strong and can carry that burden without any buckling of the knees. It’s okay, pile it on. It’s depression’s fault, entirely.

God knows we will be afraid and completely discouraged at times, so He tells us in His word that He is always with us, He will hold us and strengthen us. It doesn’t say that we can actually feel it, but that He is doing it, whether we feel it or not.

Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Do Not Fear

He also knows that our own thinking can’t be trusted. That’s especially true for those of us battling mental health issues, but it’s true for everyone. That’s why he reminds us of this in the Bible. Our understanding and comprehension of all matters, including mental illness, is flawed. So we must trust in Him.

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding…

It’s easier for me to talk about this today, as the worst part of this depressive episode seems like maybe, just maybe it is behind me. I’m not certain if I had read this post during the darkest times, that I would have been able to apply it or grab onto it. But I know it’s truth, it’s His truth, and I hope and pray that maybe it will get into the hands of someone who is suffering and that maybe it will give hope and light and shed truth on a time in which our head is full of lies.

I believe God truly does hold us when we feel most alone.

I leave you with one of my most favorite pieces of scripture. It truly is the picture of being pulled out of the pit of depression and set again on solid ground. Not only is this His word but it’s His promise. I have seen this promise fulfilled in my own life in the past and I hold onto it today as I put my trust in Him and not in my own understanding.

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.

Anatomy of Suicidal Thinking

You may or may not know that in November I made an attempt to end my life. (It feels rather bold, unusual and uncomfortable to start a post that way.) Since that event, and before, it’s been a long and difficult road to trudge, to say the least.

In October my husband and I became keenly aware that the depression was becoming severe. I was becoming more frequently plagued with thoughts of suicide and self-harm. (Are you thinking self-harm is just for teenagers? Well, you’re wrong.) In an effort to stave off the beast, I was admitted to a partial hospitalization program where I spent the day with other struggling folks and a therapist for group sessions Monday through Friday for three weeks. I learned a lot, felt very safe there and enjoyed the structure, as much as a severely depressed person can enjoy these things. 

I guess I felt like I was supposed to be all better after that, but I wasn’t and that was frustrating. I began my search for a therapist and went on a couple visits but I felt just as bad as I had before I started the treatment. Efforts to diagnose me accurately and to find medication that would be therapeutic were rather conservative. It’s clear now that neither the treatment nor the medication protocol were as aggressive as they could have been or should have been. 

I was diagnosed with bipolar II, a diagnosis I am still a bit unsure of, as I think I might be of the rapid cycling nature, but bipolar none-the-less. All my life I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, along with a few other friends like anxiety and ptsd. 

On November 8 I ended up in the ICU after taking a very large amount of a medication I had on hand to treat anxiety that is also used to treat high blood pressure. I spent a couple days there recovering from the effects of the overdose and then I was transferred to the hospital’s psych unit for a couple more days. Since then I have finally found a therapist I think will really work for me, a good psychiatrist and I’ve been on a long journey of medication trial and error.

All of this to say, that after my experiences and with the knowledge I have obtained before, during and after treatment, I came up with what I believe to be a pretty accurate depiction of the anatomy of suicidal thinking. I’m not a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, therapist or anything close…although I did major in psychology in college, so please treat this info as just what it is, a sick person trying to better understand their illness. 

And so, here it is…

   
 
Like my very professional hand-written document? Me too. 

Some may think that my starting premise of a negative or triggering event is inaccurate, but for me this can include the transition of actually becoming depressed rather than a specific event or trigger, that in itself can be the trigger. But, I think that once one is already actually experiencing depression the negative event or experience can be something that stands alone to set suicidal thinking in motion. Additionally, this can happen multiple times or you can be stuck in one long dreadful period of suicidal thinking.

“Normal” or healthy individuals won’t get stuck in the stages of self-loathing/negative thoughts. They will move back to a normal thought pattern. Those of us struggling with mental health issues can get stuck here or at any one of these stages or move on down the road to suicidal thoughts.

What do you think? How accurate is my depiction to you or for you? If you don’t experience a mental health issue maybe this will help you understand part of the thinking and experience of a loved one who does. 

I look forward to hearing your feedback and thanks for reading! I’ll be here, muddling through the muck of all this messy stuff, waiting! 

Beginning Again with Therapy

Bright mint rubber boots in the garden summer house background

I was discharged from the hospital at the end of the second week of November, 2015. I knew immediately that I had to find a therapist, because that is what you do after you attempt suicide. I’m not a stranger to therapy, but admittedly it had been a while. I began my quest a bit slowly and timidly. It’s not easy to decide to whom you want to bare your soul, now is it?

After a couple of different attempts, I believe I have found someone who I can really work with. And, I kind of can’t believe it. I’ve been seeing her for about a month or so now, once a week, and I have experienced on two separate occasions (after leaving her office) ensuing really good days , which I have found totally perplexing, surprising and ultimately…good.

When you get used to so many days strung together that are bleak at best, it’s rather obvious when a good one comes along. When you can somehow associate that with your therapist and the work you are doing in therapy, I think that’s definitely a positive. Now positives aren’t something I’m used to talking about as of late…but hey…I’m working on it.

I find myself looking forward to the opportunity to share…to share my dark stuff. I want to share my secret feelings and frustrations with someone, someone that won’t be hurt or mad or frightened by them. I want to spill it. I want to spill my feelings all over the place like a can of red paint on bright white carpet. I want to look at it and see it and look at it with someone who won’t be upset with me for tipping over that can. I’m ready to talk.

The first couple of visits with my new therapist have been filled with a lot of history giving, the getting to know you drill and working on coping techniques – so that as we dig deep I have tools to handle the emotions and responses that will likely arise. I like that she is focused on helping me to develop these strategies and to learn to really use them. The trick is I have to remember to practice and to practice and to practice again. I’m not real good at that, historically. But since the paint is gonna spill eventually, it might be time I change my ways.

I went through an outpatient treatment program in October (before the suicide attempt) and came away with a gazillion handouts and info on coping techniques. I even put them in a binder with sheet protectors so that it would be easy to reference. Guess how many times I’ve opened that binder?

Zero. Zero times.

So now, with a new therapist by my side, it’s truly time to get better, make the effort and to practice using the tools she is providing me. If I don’t, I’m just going to end up back where I started…that’s not a place I want to go.

Where It (Sort of) All Started

I’ll start by sharing the moment when I knew I was suffering from severe depression again. Not that I didn’t have symptoms before, but this was a defining moment, one of those I can look back on and say, yes, it was then, it was most definitely and clearly there and very present.

It happened this past Summer, during my favorite time of year. I was otherwise doing okay, I think. It’s a bit blurry, as most things are for me. But I had seen a doctor for a cough. Long story short, they did X-rays and found some kind of anomaly. The doctor actually asked if I had ever been shot, which was funny to me. Apparently the spot on my lung kind of looked like scar tissue from something like that. So, I had to have a CT scan. Following this news I became obsessed with getting the test done and finding out the results. Normal for me, as I kind of fixate on these sort of things. It took time, what felt like a very long time, to get the results. So for days I worried about things like the insurance pre-approval, the scheduling of the test, the CT scan itself and then…the results. This seemed like to me and possibly was, fairly normal behavior for a person who has been told they have a concerning spot on their lung.

My husband picked up the results the day they were ready and called me with them, which he thought was being really helpful, but inside I actually wanted to do it myself and to see the report tangibly, in my own uncertain hands. He called and said something like, “It’s all good. You’re fine, nothing to worry about.” I wanted details and he gave me what he could and then brought the report to me later in the day. But right then, after the phone call, I started to cry. I cried not for relief, but in sadness and grief.

After mulling it over I realized, I wanted to die. I actually wanted this spot to be cancer. I wanted an illness to take me out and for it not to be my fault.

Who thinks that? Who in their right mind wants to have cancer?  Well, it turns out, me, as I was obviously not in my right mind.

*I’m adding this post to the #Iwouldliketo linky on And 1 More Makes 3. Muddle on over and check it out!*

Just a Mommy Muddling

Decide

 

I’m thinking it’s probably about time I get back to something…something that more resembles me, the person I lost a few months ago…again. I’m a mommy muddling my way through life with lots of ups and downs…like the bipolar II kind and the major depression kind and the fibromyalgia kind and the anxiety kind, to name a few. I muddle through things like sickness (my own and others) and taking care of several children that range from small to big (a couple of which are on the autism spectrum and all of which are unique and wonderful in their own difficult and also fabulous ways). I do this with my unbelievably patient and loving husband by my side. Despite that, I often feel alone and my muddling is sometimes struggling instead.

But here I am, ready to do something for me. I need a space to muddle around and say what I really feel, what I really want to say and what I need to say but sometimes can’t. I’m an anonymous mommy right now, because some of the truth and irrational thoughts and real-life stuff I’m gonna say may not be something I want to share or to be shared with my immediate family or friends. I want that freedom right now.

So, it’s time. It’s time I do some things for me so that I can be a better, healthier me and I can eventually be a me that I’ll be proud of again, and maybe others will too.