Monday, March 16, 2015

The D Word



So here’s the deal. I’ve battled depression for the last 15 years. It is something I’ve wondered if I would address on here since it is one of those shameful, taboo subjects. But it’s a part of who I am and something that I know a lot of the population deals with. So I’m sharing with courage, because I think it’s an extremely common condition that many shamefully suffer through silently. I personally know a lot of people who suffer from depression – some of them are probably unaware that they do, but I see all the signs. 

Depression has probably been a part of my life since 1986 after my mom died, but back then I didn’t even know what it was so it’s hard for me to say for sure if I was clinically depressed. I do know with complete certainty that I officially began battling depression in 2000 after the loss of my unborn baby, Gabriel. The grief and despair I felt after losing him was so life-shattering, that I spiraled down, down, down to the lowest of lows and I couldn’t climb back up out of the dark hole I was in, without the help of medication and therapy. 

I have always been a deep thinker and a deep “feeler”. I never learned the skill of numbing out my emotions. I never ran away from them. I still don’t. When something happens that hurts or upsets me, I allow my emotions to run their course. I never understood how there are people who can turn off their feelings about something. My friend Maya used to tell me that she could switch her thoughts like she changes the radio station. If something happened that she didn’t want to think about, she was able to just not think about it and think of something else instead. What?! That is such a foreign concept to me! I don’t know how to do that but there have been so many times I wish I could. Instead, when something happens or when I have a revelation about something, it consumes me. I face my emotions head-on and allow myself to feel it all – grief, sorrow, frustration, anger, etc. Hence, the depression that creeps in. 

What I have learned in the last 15 years, is that depression has many faces. I used to think depression meant being sad all the time, crying non-stop while curled up in the fetal position. After I lost Gabriel, my depression looked like what I just described. But as infertility and other drama and injustices unfolded in my life, depression took on a new look. I learned that my anger, irritability, lack of energy, withdrawal from my friends and family, desire to escape by sleeping a lot, and the loss of interest in doing things I enjoyed were all symptoms of depression too.

In my opinion, depression is similar to addiction in the sense that I don’t think you are ever cured of it. You can be in recovery from it, but it’s always there, waiting to sprout again when it is triggered. Or at least that has been my experience. (I am not nor do I pretend to be a professional so please don’t quote me on these things. I’m only sharing my personal experiences and opinions.) For example, I’ve had a nice long run of being depression-free, but two weeks ago, I started feeling the symptoms coming on. The blessing is that I’m aware now, so when it starts up, I have a whole toolbox of ways to manage it. I did a lot of art journaling. I made photo quotes almost daily (that you can view on my Facebook page). I read inspirational articles and quotes and shared them on my page too. (On FB I appeared to be Susie Sunshine.) I wrote in my journal. And I talked about my feelings with a few people. Basically, I immersed myself in positivity and soulful healing. Oh, and there are meds, thank the Holy Lord, there are meds.

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September 18, 1992

After I hung up the phone at work , I began to weep. I couldn’t believe what my sister, Serena, had just told me. My boss let me go early so I could be with her. I raced to her house and we hugged and cried at the door. My brother-in-law, Rob was bicycling on a two-lane highway in Eastern Canada when a wide-load truck struck him from behind. The actual load the truck was carrying is what hit him. The town where he was injured was small and the ambulance had to transport him to a larger hospital in Moncton, two hours away. He underwent 5 ½ hours of brain surgery for a fractured skull as the surgeons attempted to remove bone fragments from the brain, to stop it from bleeding. 

I was with Serena when the hospital called to say that Rob had made it through surgery and now it was just a matter of waiting to find out how he responded. After the surgery, Serena and a friend immediately left for Moncton to be with Rob. I stayed behind at her house to dog-sit.

After approximately 10 hours in flight, Serena reached Rob’s bedside on September 19. He never regained consciousness after surgery. Serena was with him though, talking to him, stroking his hair, kissing him, loving him, and letting him know that she was there. The doctors gave Rob close to zero hope for recovery. They told Serena that if he survived, he would live in a vegetative state, brain-dead. He was on life-support and it was up to her to make the decision to discontinue it. But Rob saved her of having to make the decision because he let go on his own.

Six years prior, on September 7, my sister and I experienced the greatest loss of our lives when our mother died. On September 19, my sister experienced the greatest loss of her life for the second time. Her grief became my grief and things I thought I had healed and moved on from, resurfaced. Going to my brother-in-law’s funeral and burial was excruciating for me. Seeing my sister fall apart triggered memories of my mom’s services in Argentina. I remember standing at the cemetery during Rob’s burial, just one plot over from my mom’s grave, and my knees began to knock uncontrollably. (They shook so hard that it caused one to swell and that knee has never been the same since.) Serena was inconsolable and I felt absolutely helpless. I wanted to ease her suffering but there was nothing anyone could do. This was her own journey of grief. All I could do was try to support her and offer her my love.

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When you re-visit old memories it can re-open old wounds. Sometimes grief shows up again to say “Hello! Remember me?” That is what happened to me that day at my brother-in-law’s funeral. It is understandable that a death will trigger memories of previous losses. But grief (and depression) happen at unexpected, unpredictable times too. That is what happened to me after writing my previous post

After I wrote and I re-lived those memories of my dad taking over my apartment and expecting me to pay half of the rent, I found myself feeling very down and sad. The pain of the past came back and hit me upside the head as if to say “That was a really hard, ugly, painful time in your life and you’re not done processing it. You need to grieve a little more.” Over those first few days after publishing my last post, I began to look at what I went through with my dad with a new perspective – the one of a mother. Anger, disgust, and pain came over me as I imagined doing and saying to my children the things my dad said and did to me all those years ago. I was outraged all over again at his behavior during that time in my life and how he mistreated me. 

The grief and depression I experienced were also for remembering that things weren’t always as rosy as they are now. I’ve said it before on this blog and I’ll probably continue to say it…I can’t believe he and I are the same two people we once were. I found myself wondering if things are truly in fact as good as I think they are now or am I living in a fantasy-la-la-wonderland? How can this be the same man and the same father I had during those tumultuous years? I wondered what happened to him back then. How did he turn on me and place me so low on his priority list? And what made him turn back around? How did we stray so far off course and how did we get to where we are now? Is our current relationship even genuine and real? Is this here to stay? A lot of deep-thinking, a lot of analyzing and a lot of reflection went on in this little head of mine.

It took me about a week to shake the feelings of grief and depression; talking to Maggie, Sandy, and Serena about the revelations I had about my dad helped me get through the rough patch along with some of my other tools I’ve learned to use like writing, art journaling, and making up inspiring quotes for my photography; and I also began to say mantras, repeating to myself daily things like…
“The past is over. Let it go. This doesn’t serve you.”

“Give these feelings away to God. Let Him help you. Let Him love you.”

“Live in the now. Enjoy the present. You are a different person now. He is a different person now.”

And that’s the thing to remember always…it’s important to not stay stuck in the past; to know that even if you experience pain, that you don’t have to suffer forever. We each have a choice in how to live life. We can choose to remain stuck in our past and hold on to our wounds or we can release them; make peace with our misfortunes;  accept that what was isn’t what always has to be; and move forward with determination to live a gratitude-filled, joyful life. For everything we have survived has brought us something we needed to learn in order to grow and become who we are today.


 
One of my photo quotes.
Balloon release in Orange, CA
 

At my sister's house, with my first pug-love, Miko Tai.
Wearing my super-cool-awesome
Pippi Longstocking costume.

DJ was supposed to be "Tommy", Pippi's friend,
but about an hour later we converted him into a bum
with a wig, hat, beer belly, and a raggedy coat, because no one could figure out what the hell
he was supposed to be.

I hated this woman almost as much as I hated Felicia.

I had to roll down the window of my car
to drive to work so my braid could stick out.
Otherwise, I would have had to drive with my head
tilted sideways.

Pippi was STRONG!

6 comments:

  1. I, too, live a life with depression. I'm so glad you've been able to use the tools you have to help you work through it. I think it is so important to live it - not battle against it - and get through to the other side. Continue to take care of yourself. <<<>>>

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    1. Hi Candace, I'm sorry to hear you're familiar with depression. Love your words: "Live it, not battle against it." So true. I'm happy to hear from you. XO

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  2. Thank you for this, sweetie:

    "it’s important...to know that even if you experience pain...you don’t have to suffer forever."

    Blessings to you in this and everything,
    Dani

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    Replies
    1. Hello my sweet friend, thank you for your unending kindness. Blessings to you as well. Big hugs!!!

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  3. Oh so much loss! My heart just breaks reading this!! And so many emotions for you to carry and process and live through... your writing is so authentic and your strength is amazing. I am just so sorry you have had to endure such painful turns in your life!! Thank you for sharing about depression, as so so so many people suffer from it!! I have surely had my bouts too.

    And yes- thank the Holy Lord for drugs!! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Chris - for your validation and compassion especially. You words are such a gift. I'm sorry to hear you're familiar with depression but YAY for meds! ;)

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