What Will Your Kids Think?

Ever since I started blogging and writing columns for the local newspaper, friends and even strangers have asked me if I’m going to let my kids read my articles when they’re older and what will my kids think about what I’m writing. When first asked, I thought it was strange, but it’s been asked many times. It’s odd to. me because I’m very open in my struggles and don’t mind sharing them. To me, and maybe I’m wrong, there’s the implication that I’m writing something that my kids shouldn’t see, which is bullshit.

In my house, we talk openly of me depression. My kids know I struggle at times and understand to the best of their ability. We don’t talk about my suicidal thoughts, but they realize when I’m not doing well. It’s kind of hard not to notice.

Maybe people don’t mean it that way but aren’t I doing this all for my kids? And their generation? When I first started this blog (spurred by Kate Spade’s suicide), it was to stop hiding, to eradicate the stigma associated with mental illness. I want it to be second nature for someone to talk about their struggles and illness in general. I don’t want them or anyone to feel the shame and guilt that seem to come with every depression diagnosis.

Lying and keeping my illness to myself only worsened by condition. Not being educated about mental disorders only hurt me; had I had early intervention when I first started showing signs of anxiety and depression, I might not have ended up at a psychiatric facility. I certainly would’ve been better off learning about coping skills at that age. I’m not trying to blame anyone in particular but society as a whole. When you know what to look for, it’s a lot easier to get help.

And now we know what to look for, but we’re still thwarted by the stigma, thwarted in our recovery and maintenance.

So, yes, I do want my kids to read my articles and blogs. I want them to be aware that it could happen to them. I want them to know that even if they don’t struggle with mental illness, they still need to be empathetic and not cast judgement on others. I need them to know that it can happen to anyone and that you can’t just wish it away. I surely would have done so a million times by now.

I also need them to know that it’s not their fault that I’m the way that I am. It’s not theirs, and it’s not mine. It’s a disease like any other, and that’s something people choose to ignore.

I’ve had many people send me messages and emails saying they love my blog but can’t talk to their family and friends about their mental illness because they were afraid of the consequences — I know them too well. The ridicule and ignorant statements that it’s something that we choose. Just the other day, a good friend came over and was admiring how new house. He then looked at me and said, “I wouldn’t have any mental health issues in this house.”

I scoffed. I thought he was kidding, and maybe he was, but it’s not funny. I am blessed and fortunate to say the least, but even my good blessings can’t keep the dark, lonely, violent throes of depression. That’s the kind of thinking that keeps people quiet. And when people keep quiet about their struggles, they’re more prone to kill themselves. We must stop that dangerous rhetoric now.

Honestly, it will probably be a little painful when my kids read what I write, but at least they’ll know that I’m honest and authentic in my struggles and I worked very hard to lend my voice to those who couldn’t quite find theirs, by no fault of their own. That I stood up for people like me, that I demanded change. That I fought for their generation to be different. That ever since I gave birth to Isla, I’ve been fighting every single day for my life, and it’s because of them that I will never stop fighting.

Never.

I Hate My Brain

Ever have a long day and think to yourself you deserve a treat? So you get ice cream and start to feel better? That sounds normal to me. My problem is that I think I deserve a treat multiple times a day. I constantly want to feel good. To feel happy. I compulsively eat to get that high and, enjoy that “treat.” Then I feel sick. After I’ve recovered, I look for another treat, forgetting how sick I felt earlier. It’s a vicious cycle.

I do this a lot but especially when the kids are away at my mother-in-law’s. I tell myself that I need to relax, enjoy the quiet and that I need to feel good. Last night, even after I had a big dinner, I sat there thinking of what I could eat that would make me feel good. And I even tried many things, despite being uncomfortably full already. M&Ms didn’t work. Neither did peanut butter crackers, ice cream or SweeTARTS.

But there is nothing I can eat that will make me truly happy.

Now, I’m trying to give myself a break because I am in need of an ECT treatment, which is scheduled for Friday. Usually the week before treatment I run out of gas, and I try to cope however I can. BUT this doesn’t just happen in the weeks leading up to treatment. This happens all the time, even when I’ve just had an ECT.

So I pose this question, “Why do I feel the need to be happy all the time?” Honestly, that question was asked by my therapist last week. She following up with, “Can’t we sit with other emotions? Nobody is happy every minute of the day.”

And she’s right. We don’t need to be happy every minute. I think my problem is that I HATE being uncomfortable, so I’ll do anything to push those negative emotions aside. Emotions like anxiety, stress, anger or sadness. It’s clearly not working for me to ignore these problems, and even if overeating has helped in the past, it sure as hell is not working now.

This may sound strange, but I think I need to acknowledge and honor whatever feelings I’m having. Maybe I need to grab my journal whenever I’m feeling negative emotion, talk about what’s going on and then release that feeling. I don’t know.

All I know if that I need to stop coping by bingeing. It’s made me gain a bunch of weight and really, aren’t I just eating my emotions?

Sometimes I really hate my brain, which I hold responsible for my debilitating-at-times depression and anxiety. I hate that it doesn’t respond to other treatments. I hate that my mental health is so precarious, and I resent that I have to be so careful as to not disturb it. I hate that happiness seems so fleeting at times. I’m not a big fan of my eating disorder either.

I don’t like to say hate; It forces a dichotomy with the idea that I should love and respect myself. I’m trying really hard to love myself, even almost 30 pounds heavier and a handful of mental disorders. But I feel betrayed by my brain. I know I need to reconcile those ideas. I know there is more benefit in loving all of me. I’ll get there. Despite everything that my brain has thrown at me, I’ve only become stronger. Take that, asshole.

And there are times that I think God made me this way because He thought I could handle it. I can, and I will. I remember this quote: “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” I don’t mean to sound haughty, but maybe He knew I would use my voice and (hopefully) help others through my writing. That’s why I can’t stop blogging so much about mental health; there are so many who feel alone and haven’t found their voice yet. I certainly don’t mind lending mine in the meantime.

I guess my brain is just as much a blessing as a curse.

The Dark Always Precedes Light

Before the pandemic started, I was experiencing a depressive episode. It wasn’t too bad but enough to struggle day to day with some activities. With Major Depressive Disorder, people like me experience episodes where they’re moderately or severely depressed for more than two weeks. Nobody knows exactly what triggers the episodes, and they recur periodically throughout one’s life. There is no cure, just treatment.

When I’m experiencing an episode, my symptoms can be what I consider mild — loss of interest in hobbies and activities, feelings of sadness, fatigue, headaches and changes in my eating habits (read about my eating disorder and how it plays a role in my depression here). During a severe episode, it’s hard to get out of bed. I feel weighted down all the time and very emotional, weepy even. I can’t take a shower, as gross as that may be. I can hardly brush my teeth. Every little thing feels overwhelming and impossible. In the past, I abused my anxiety medication because I just didn’t want to feel what I was feeling. And I have thoughts of suicide. I don’t want to die, but my brain focuses on it and tells me I should kill myself. It’s awful.

Anyway, I was experiencing a mild to moderate episode before the pandemic hit. When the schools closed and we went in lockdown, instead of crumbling into a more severe episode, something just clicked in my brain. A survival instinct maybe? I don’t know, but all of a sudden I had more energy and even more patience with the kids, even though I had no breaks or backup. I had to dig deep, become more mentally tough. David and I learned to cook, I learned to bake bread, I started sewing again, I took showers more frequently and everything stopped feeling so damn hard. I also started blogging more consistently, once a week, then twice weekly. I didn’t realize it at the time, but blogging helped me so much. I needed to get everything off my chest and be honest about what I was experiencing. Soon, others were telling me how much I helped them, so I kept going, and a year later I haven’t stopped. If I helped even one person, I’m happy. And I’m proud of myself.

Now I easily take showers every day to every other day. I brush my teeth more and sleep a lot less (no naps during the day). It’s easy for me to get out of bed every morning at 5 a.m. (when Eli wakes up) and the sadness I felt before only comes and goes. My anxiety is still pretty bad, but I’m able to manage it with therapy and healthy coping skills — most of the time.

I don’t know what it was about the pandemic that caused this seismic shift, and maybe it has nothing to do with it, but I’m so grateful. I’m still continuing therapy and ECT treatments, but I’m able to go longer in between treatments, which is a huge accomplishment for me. Before, I was going every four to six weeks, and as previously mentioned, I hate them!

Moving to our new house has improved my quality of life as well. For one, I don’t have to share a tiny shower in the kids’ bathroom. Now it’s enjoyable to take one and I have lots of space and hot, hot water. Having my own office is nice, too. And a laptop — now I can blog from anywhere in the house and am able to write more during the day while keeping an eye on the kids.

All in all, I’m happy. I have my moments, we all do, but I’m so, so much better. I didn’t ever think I could be this happy again. And I told David that I’d NEVER shower every day, that it just wasn’t possible. I’d be thrilled if this lasted awhile, even forever. I could do this forever.

I know I’ll still have bad days, be uncomfortable and have spells of great sadness even, and that’s OK. Because now I know that darkness isn’t forever. That it always precedes light — warm, beautiful light where I can shine and grow. But to be honest, I can grow in the dark, too.

That’s the thing about depression — it makes you stronger and beautifully resilient. One of my favorite quotes is “Sometimes when you’re in a dark place, you think you’ve been buried, but you’ve actually been planted.”

And my friends, I’ve been planted.

This is My Fight Song

Last night, Isla had her first sleepover at the new house. We’ve never hosted one, though she went to a sleepover last year at her BFF’s. I’m not going to lie, I was scared. I wanted it to go well for Isla’s sake (and mine). I don’t know the two girls that well (thanks, COVID) but their moms are very nice, and I want to get to know them better. I know it’s silly — and these particular moms aren’t judgmental at all — but I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this, despite my depression and other mental disorders. That I’m a fun mom, a responsible one. So, it was important for me to put on a good show.

And a good show it was. We swam, ate snow cones, got in the hot tub, did facials, had a charcuterie snack board and a dance party. The last was my favorite. I started playing my music, but one of the girls requested “Fight Song,” which I didn’t have. No problem — I downloaded it and they began to sing, dance and flex their muscles. While they were singing at the top of their lungs and dancing around, tears came to my eyes. They were so happy and carefree. So strong for being only 6 years old.

Then I started listening to the words to the song and wondered why I’d never downloaded it before. It resonated with me, and I was proud that Isla somehow knew the words. I should learn them. I should be more like these 6 year olds, screaming and dancing around without a worry in sight, because my mental illness doesn’t define me. Why was I so wrapped up in the idea that this sleepover had to be perfect just because I have depression? Silly. Despite what I go through, I’m still a responsible, fun, kind, loving person. People respect me, so maybe I should follow suit.

Those kids had a blast, and so did I. I need to remember that all that hardship I endure is worth it to see moments like these in my kids’ lives. This is what it’s all about, and I refuse to worry that I’m not up to snuff anymore. This is my fight song. My anthem is written all over the faces of my kids, husband, in my blog, and this is one song that I have memorized. And it’s a happy one.

It’s OK that I’m a little broken — we’re all a little broken; that’s how the light gets in.


FIGHT SONG by Rachel Platten

This is my fight song

Take back my life song

Prove I’m alright song

My power’s turned on

Starting right now I’ll be strong (I’ll be strong)

I’ll play my fight song

And I don’t really care if nobody else believes

‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me

Yesteryear

Last year, I took my kids to Dallas for Spring Break. David couldn’t go because of work, so the three of us drove up to spend the week at my parents’, stopping at every Buc-ees along the way.

While we were there, the news starting to report more and more cases of the virus we kept hearing about. Cases were multiplying and spreading across the U.S. at an astounding rate. Cases were even reported in Corpus Christi, which is a bit more remote than the bigger cities.

I got the email that my kids’ preschool was closing for a week, and I started to panic. I didn’t want to stay in Dallas any longer, so we cut our trip short and again made the seven-hour drive home. This time we didn’t stop at Buc-ees.

The following week with all of us home was not so bad. We played, went to the beach and watched movies. Then the school emailed again saying that school would again be closed the following week. And the one after that. The teachers starting sending out packets for the kids to complete each week, but they didn’t get done, not without yelling and crying on both our parts.

I started to realize that our lives weren’t going to go back to “normal.” And I started to worry about my mental health, always precarious but now even more so because I had virtually no breaks from my kids. Eli’s sleeping pattern changed and he started waking up at 5 a.m. every morning, further compounding my stress and anxiety.

I finally gave up on the packets and starting teaching them what I could. We played more outside and watched more movies. We baked a lot. We survived.

Last Saturday I received my second vaccine and contemplated the past year. Even though my mental health has taken a hit, I survived. Not just survived but thrived in some ways. For one thing, I started blogging once a week, then twice a week. People started commenting on how much my blog has helped them or how I was brave. I was even asked to join State Rep. Todd Hunter’s Suicide Prevention Task Force and spoke at a symposium about my experience with suicide. I also had a mental health series published in the local paper. I became more confident and have evolved into a version of myself that I’m pretty proud of. A more authentic, more fearless version.

I’m also able to go longer between ECT treatments, which has been my ultimate goal. I did gain 26 pounds in the past year, and sometimes that really bothers me, but I coped the best I could. If I come away from this only having gained weight, then I am considerably lucky, and I’m grateful.

I often joke that the pandemic is an introvert’s dream — socializing has never been my thing. But there’s really nothing funny about what we’ve been through. The past year has been gut-wrenching, difficult to say the least and heartbreaking for those who have struggled with COVID or lost a loved one. I’d like to believe that now more people are getting vaccinated, we’re closer to the end, but I just don’t know. I’m afraid to hope, but at the same time, I just can’t help but hope. Being optimistic is newly acquired, too.

So many of us will not come out of this nightmare unscathed. Millions will continue to struggle with their mental health, not to mention grief or financial ruin. I don’t mean to sound tone-deaf in writing about the positives I’ve gained this past year. I acknowledge and deeply sympathize for those who are struggling, whose lives are indelibly changed.

It’s only been a year, but there has been enough heartbreak for a lifetime. If you are experiencing any fraction of that I’m so sorry, I pray that this year will be a vast improvement.

One can only hope.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

This past week we spent the kids’ Spring Break in Mabank, where my parents have a lake house. The weather wasn’t that great, so we couldn’t fish, swim or go on the boat but we still had a good time. My mom found all my old Beanie Babies from when I was a kid and Eli played with those quite a bit.

I’m going to cut this short, because I got the second covid vaccine yesterday and it has knocked me on my ass. If you’re not vaccinated, please find out how you can be.

Gifted and Talented, Part III

As previously mentioned, I have been stressed and anxious about the results of my daughter’s gifted and talented scores. The scores determine which school she’ll attend next year, and the G/T school is amazing. My husband actually attended when he was little.

Because of the winter storm that passed through here a couple weeks ago, the results were delayed, which I understood. But my brain did not — I wanted the results and my anxiety made a mountain out of a molehill. After being told the second deadline would not be met, I was so upset. I’m so impatient, and then my anxiety made everything worse. You’re probably saying that worrying doesn’t make the results come sooner, and I know that, logically. But the logical side of my brain gets overpowered all too often.

I digress. Yesterday while I was nursing a migraine, I checked my email and there it was — an official school district email with the results. My heart started pounding (dramatic, right?) and I opened the attachment — she got in! I’m so happy that she’ll get to benefit from such an amazing school. I think it’s important for me to say that I don’t care about the “title” of being gifted and talented. I already knew she was gifted and smart, but it’s important to me that she learn critical skills needed to succeed in this world and the school can help prepare her. Not only that, but the program will challenge her and nurture her intelligence and creativity. That’s what I’m happy about. It’s just such a great opportunity.

So, I was relieved, to say the least. I feel so stupid saying this, but her getting in validated some insecurities about myself. I thought to myself, “Yes! She got David’s DNA and mine’s not going to screw her up!” And I know it sounds silly, but I’ve always been scared that she’s going to have all my bad traits — that my genetics had overpowered David’s and she was destined to be depressed and unhappy (more drama, I know). But David is just so amazing and it makes me happy knowing that she’ll follow David’s footsteps at the G/T school. Not that I’m putting any pressure on her.

I need to stop worrying about what my kids inherited or didn’t. They’re a mixture of an intelligent, generous, logical dad and a creative, kind, sensitive mom. I don’t need to concern myself with their potential flaws. We all have them, that’s what makes us us. And even if they are riddled with my flaws, it doesn’t matter — I’d love and support them anyway.

That’s what makes me me.

What Makes Night Within Us May Leave Stars

Earlier today, I was writing a piece for my kids’ preschool, and I wrote something that I’ve never really discussed before, at least here on my blog.

I talked about how my depression and anxiety weren’t that bad until I had children. That it wasn’t lost on me that after I had kids my brain changed drastically and my depression worsened. But at the same time, my heart opened and I felt love that I’ve never felt. Sure, I experienced pain that I’ve never felt before too, but oh my god, the happiness and love that I feel when I’m with my kids is so amazing and just indescribable. It was some weird trade-off, I guess. And I’m here for it.

I also talked about how Isla sometimes is anxious. It isn’t surprising given my history with anxiety but it sure is painful to see her struggling or in a panicked state. She could just be an anxious child or she could just have common, every day 6-year-old worries. She’s too young to diagnose, and I hope she doesn’t have an anxiety disorder at all. Eli, either. Of course, I don’t want my kids to go through what I’ve been through. But just in case, I’m ready for it. I know how to navigate mental illness, believe me, and I so wish that I had the knowledge and resources when I was 12 that I do now. Early intervention is so important.

Now that I’m in a better place, I can say that every terrible thing I’ve felt and gone through has been worth it. It’s so worth it if I can be with and enjoy my kids. The meds, the psychiatric hospital, the panic attacks, ECTs, suicidal thoughts — it’s all worth it. Maybe it’s easy to say this while I’m not experiencing a depressive episode. But it needs to be said, I feel. I need to express just how grateful I am for my family, especially my kids and how they’ve shaped my life. Yes, my life would be dramatically different had I not had kids, but screw that idea of “what could have been.” My life, despite my illnesses, is so good. And again, I’m so thankful. And if I have to endure hell sometimes, so be it. Every depressive episode or panic attack only makes me stronger. My kids will see that, and it’s OK that they see me suffer and cope. They’ll see my resilience and perseverance.

And maybe that’s why I had to go through all that I did — to help one of my children go through the same. If that’s the case, it’s been more than worth it, and I’d do it all again. As a parent, I’ll always want to help my kids (read more here) and even remove all the roadblocks in their life, but I know it doesn’t work like that. But I can help. I’ll always be there.

Maybe my kids are just fine and I’m making too much out of nothing. Maybe I’m supposed to be blogging about my experiences to help others. If that’s the case, if I’ve helped even one person, it’s all been worth it.

It’s all been worth it, no matter what the case. I’m a better person for what I’ve been through, and all I want to do is make someone, anyone, feel that they are not alone. That their feelings are valid. That they are worthy and important.

And even though my brain tells me the opposite, I’d like to believe all that, too.

Maybe if I say, “It’s all been worth it” enough I’ll believe it. Maybe I can believe that I’m worth it.

It’s all been worth it.

And I’m worth it, too.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I don’t have much to say about this past week, other than it was OK. It went by quickly, which is good because I’m been anxious about receiving the scores of my daughter’s gifted and talented test. I thought they’d send them out, and I got so worked up about it that I called to office only for them to tell me they’re not sending out the letters until this upcoming Friday. That sucks, because we’re supposed to be leaving for Dallas that weekend for Spring Break. Oh well, I can’t do anything about it, and I know that worrying will only hurt me. So, I’ll try to let that go, lol. But I did talk to two other mothers who both told me they were constantly checking their email for the results, so I’m not alone.

I’m looking forward to our trip to Dallas to see my parents. We haven’t traveled in a long time, and it’ll be nice to get a change in scenery. I’m hoping to see my best friend, too but I don’t know if it’s in the cards.

Anyway, that’s it for me. This week I’m going to focus on decluttering, so I’m not so anxious and writing some more. I hope y’all have a great week. If you’re so inclined, please say a prayer about Isla’s scores. It’s important to me and my husband.

Stay in the light, my friends.

In a Nutshell: My Week in Review

I’m proud of myself this week. I had to move up my ECT (to this past Friday) because I quickly became depressed after the last one, which was four weeks ago. I hate getting them, but I knew I needed it. I went into survival mode last week (and had to cancel plans) and made it to Friday.

I was more nervous about this one, but I don’t know why. When we got to Laurel Ridge, I started pacing in the waiting room. Luckily, there was only one girl ahead of me, so I didn’t wait long. But when a bed was available, the nurses couldn’t get my IV in. This made me incredibly nervous. I was afraid that they would do a bad job with the IV, then I wouldn’t get all the anesthesia I needed. I know that’s not likely, but that was the thought racing around my head. One of my favorite nurses finally got it, but to be honest I had shed some nervous tears. I tried to chat about my kids to take the focus off, and it helped.

When I went into the room, everyone was really nice and accommodating because of my anxiety and I had a good seizure — 72 seconds long. I was told the shorter the seizure, the better, but looking at my records, all my seizures are kinda long, over a minute. One was two minutes long — after that seizure, I was doing very well and was able to go nine weeks without an ECT. So, who knows. I am keeping a notebook where I’m documenting my symptoms a week leading up to an ECT and immediately after. I think it would be helpful to find patterns or correlations.

Enough about that. My birthday is this coming Saturday, so I’m looking forward to that.

That’s really all I got for now. Y’all have a good week, and stay in the light.