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A dear friend texted me the other day, and after chatting a bit, I asked how she was doing. She’s an ER nurse in Florida, so I was concerned. Florida, if you don’t already know, is a hotspot for coronavirus and the governor is incompetent, in my opinion. This was her reply: 

It’s bizarre and sad. The first wave was mainly elderly folks from nursing homes mixed with regular people; some very sick, some not. In the beginning we had a tent outside where we tested people with minor symptoms, when it declined they took it down. The numbers we saw in the beginning don’t even compare to now. Every room with a door has a COVID patient. Four units have been converted and they’re full. Our governor was actually at the hospital today talking about how everything is fine. It’s not fine. This new wave is younger, mainly Hispanic; people who are low income and work either illegally or in cramped factories, they live in multi generation homes, so they all get sick. I feel relatively safe though, we have enough PPE. It’s just crazy. The saddest part is nursing home patients; they literally haven’t seen their families for months, even if they don’t have it, if they come from somewhere that has people who are positive, no visitors. I try to find beauty and love in tragedy when I can. 

Her response broke my heart. I’ve read that it’s bad but to have my sweet friend recount the chaos and horror just shook me. Can you imagine what first responders, nurses and doctors feel being bombarded with sick patients who can’t see their family and those who die? A local friend who is a doctor said her friends cry in their cars after working a shift because there are so many codes. 

Unfortunately, there is no where you can go to escape the pandemic, the divisiveness that’s occurring or the uncertainty. Corpus Christi is especially bad and has made national news, for all the wrong reasons. We have more cases than the larger cities (Dallas, Houston, Austin) per capita. Since March, 85 babies have tested positive for COVID-19. 

My Florida friend also told me that she had to start taking antidepressants because of stress and trauma of it all. Thankfully, the meds are helping and I’m so glad she reached out for help, but I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Lorna Breen, the ER doctor in New York who killed herself. She had no history of depression, other mental illness or suicidal ideation, according to her father. I can’t say for sure why she killed herself but I imagine the weight of so many people getting sick and dying was too heavy. Not only were people dying, but at that time, medical providers in New York struggled with a shortage of personal protective equipment. Dr. Breen also contracted the coronavirus before her death. 

The trauma of everything she faced every day could’ve changed her brain. Trauma has a way of doing that – just think about our vets who suffer with PTSD and depression. Trauma can also cause feelings of despair, and right now, who isn’t in despair? A 2013 study done by researchers at the University of Liverpool showed that traumatic life events are the single biggest cause of anxiety and depression, followed by a family history of mental illness and income and education levels.

It’s enough that our front lines workers have to worry about contracting coronavirus, but it can be just as bad developing depression (or other mental illness). Both diseases are ravaging and both can kill. I don’t really know what I can do to help these heroes other than bring awareness to mental health and the consequences of untreated mental illness. It’s overwhelming and I hope lawmakers will keep all of this in mind, because make no mistake, this will be a real problem — one that can’t be ignored. America’s supposed to be the greatest country in the world — so what does it say if we don’t take care of those who take care of us? It’s happened before.

After texting me about the chaos and death that surrounded my friend, she left me with this: “It’s so unfair that what should be an exciting time is tainted by all this but find the joy in it, too.” 

My friend is so strong and has such a good heart. She’s doing God’s work and she is more than worth protecting and taking care of.

G, if you’re reading, I love you and cherish our friendship. I’m so proud of you. Just keep swimming, my love.

If you know somebody struggling with mental illness or suicidal ideation, please direct them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

To learn more about depression, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health.

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99123330_10104257334010564_1018913027413508096_nYesterday, I went to the dentist to replace some old fillings. No big deal — except that it was. I got in the chair and the dental assistant put the nitrous mask over my nose. I started to feel intense anxiety. I think it reminded me of my ECT treatments, which give me a ton of anxiety. I grabbed the mask off my nose and tried to calm down but I had lost control. My heart was pounding and I started to shake. I lay back down and the dentist started to numb my mouth but as soon as he put instruments in my mouth, I couldn’t breathe. I felt like I was in danger, as silly as that sounds. By then, it was decided I would come back another day and I left with my numb mouth and all.

I am prone to panic attacks, so I have a lot of coping mechanisms I use – not just for acute incidences like at the dentist but also for times I can’t go to therapy every week and now for a pandemic!

It’s hard to distract yourself when you’re in the throes of an attack or in a depressive episode, and I’m not perfect. For almost every healthy coping skill I have on file, I also have an unhealthy one. When I don’t use the healthy mechanisms, I definitely pay the price emotionally, and even physically.

Here’s what works for me, whether I’m stressed or having an attack:

  • Practice deep breathing – When you do deep breathing exercises you increase the supply of oxygen to your brain and it stimulates the parasympathetic system, which promotes a state of calmness, according to Stress.org
  • Watch Friends bloopers on YouTube – This is one of my fave ways to relax because as soon as I start watching, I’m cracking up and my brain has managed to think about something else. I highly recommend laughing your stress and anxiety away
  • Sing my favorite songs – I sing a lot. The kids are constantly telling me to stop but it makes me feel good. It’s something that I do regularly to improve my mood but probably not something that can stop a panic attack in its tracks
  • Take VERY hot baths – I like to turn the heat up as much as possible to where the only thing I can feel is the hot water. It’s also therapeutic for me to have a good cry while the water is running
  • Write – Again, blogging really helps maintain my mood but it isn’t something I would be inclined to do when I’m panicking
  • Get a massage – This is my favorite thing to do to keep me de-stressed but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get one because of the coronavirus
  • Get under a weighted blanket – Healthline.com says the weighted blankets help ground your body by pushing it downwards and has a deeply calming effect. The blankets also stimulate deep pressure touch, a type of therapy that uses hands-on pressure to reduce chronic stress and high levels of anxiety
  • Sew – I really have to concentrate to sew, so I tend to leave my troubles behind while working on a project
  • Read – Reading is awesome and you can get lost in a completely different world
  • Pray – It helps me to pray, especially when I’m feeling completely out of control
  • Go to therapy – This probably should go at the top of this list. Talking to my therapist helps me sort my thoughts and she provides practical solutions to some of my often-illogical behavior
  • Get my nails done or do them myself – My friend Meredith and I have a saying — “Everything is always better with painted nails.” Solid philosophy

Those aren’t all the coping skills I’ve employed but my favorite ones that have proven beneficial. Now, for the unhealthy mechanisms. I DO NOT recommend you try to deal with panic, stress, anxiety or depression with these but I know they are very common. While I aspire to nix those from my list some day, I understand that it’s hard to break these habits and behaviors.

  • Overeat or binge on healthy foods – Depending on the situation, I purposely overeat until I’m uncomfortable or in pain. More rarely, I binge on unhealthy foods like candy and LOTS of carbs. I do love my carbs but I had gastric sleeve surgery last year, so it’s REALLY not in my best interest to eat them. (If you have unhealthy eating habits, check out my cousin’s Facebook page. She’s a licensed nutritionist and has great ideas about intuitive eating)
  • Compulsively shop – Sometimes, I just feel the need to shop. It’s fine if I need something and need to buy it for the house or kids, but I’ve had times where I’ll spend hundreds of dollars on stuff we don’t necessarily need. And it makes me feel terribly guilty. That’s the thing with unhealthy coping skills, they only feel good for a little while
  • Blow off appointments – When I’m dealing with a lot I feel like I need to retreat into my home and be alone, which is fine some of the time but at other times, I really need to go to therapy or my doctor. There have even been times I blow off the not-so-important appointments like getting my hair done or a massage appointment but I’m still being inconsiderate but not going and wasting others’ time. I feel guilty about this, as well
  • Abuse my medications – I don’t do this anymore but there was a time that I would take too many of my anxiety pills because I just didn’t want to feel, well…anything. I would also take too many pain pills, pushing the limits of what was safe. This is a serious problem, and for some people, it’s a deadly problem. If you abuse your medication and need help stopping, please contact your doctor

Having depression and anxiety is hard. They both can take over almost every aspect of your life and make it even harder. While I implore you to find coping mechanisms that work for you, I think I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention that things such as talk therapy, medication and a good doctor can drastically improve your life. Sometimes we need to arm ourselves with more than coping skills, and that’s OK. Whatever your plight, I hope you find peace with it and thrive.

If you are suicidal, please call the Suicidal Lifeline Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org to use the chat function. Stay in the light.

 

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Me with my Going to Therapy is Cool shirt

“You need to think positively.”

“You need fresh air and sunshine.”

“You’re lazy.”

I’ve heard all three of these statements in regards to my depression, and even though they are NOT TRUE, they make me feel such a sense of shame.

Shame (for me) is that awful feeling I get in the pit of my belly; it’s surrounded by humiliation and I feel less than. Unloved. Like something is seriously wrong with me. And really, there’s not a single thing to be ashamed of when you’re mentally ill. I didn’t give myself depression, or anxiety, or even avoidant personality disorder. But here I am 20-plus years into my diagnosis still feeling the occasional prong of shame and guilt.

When I was first diagnosed, I kept it a secret. I was embarrassed and didn’t want to admit to my family and most friends that I was flawed. I didn’t see anyone in my family struggling, so it felt like I was the only one suffering. And when I went to a psychiatric facility last year? Holy shit, was I embarrassed. But if going to the “mental hospital” is the worst thing people can say about me, then let them say it, scream it if they want.

There’s nothing wrong with seeking help, whether it be for a mental illness or diabetes. Taking care of myself enables me to take care of my two young children and husband, and to be there for my friends. To live a life I’m proud of. Ain’t no shame in that.

Far too many people suffer in silence and that’s so dangerous. There needs to be a shift — a societal shift of acceptance, understanding and no judgement. Why there is still a stigma surrounding depression and other mental illness is beyond me. The stigma that people perpetuate is what’s flawed. Not me. Not anyone else.

Depression is not a matter of smart and dumb, weak or strong. But it is a matter of life and death sometimes. And the silence surrounding mental illness only widens the gap between those suffering and the help they need. Shame about it feeds anxiety and low esteem. Anxiety feeds depression and depression feeds risky behaviors, drug/alcohol abuse or suicidal ideation. It’s an awful cycle and it’s very hard to break, especially if you can’t afford psychotherapy, medication or doctors’ visits.

It’s overwhelming to have depression, to say the least. It’s OK to stay in bed all day (to an extent), it’s OK to cry. Being angry about it is OK. Whatever emotion you choose, just know that depression can be treatable. You can live with depression. You can be happy. Some of us will work harder than others at it — also OK. Be proud that you are a fighter, I know I am.

I will continue to fight my disease until I die. I will be a voice for those who can’t speak. I will help normalize depression and there sure as hell no shame in that.

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Warning: This post mentions suicide and suicidal ideation. If you will be triggered, please go back to the homepage. 

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Me, playing with the kids

 

There are days where each of my limbs feels like I’m dragging 50 pounds. All I want to do is stay in bed or on the couch, which proves difficult when the kids are home, which is all day, every day these days.

Showering seems like an impossible task and honestly, I can go days without one. It takes me that long to get the energy to take one and then it’s an exhausting ordeal.

With the kids home, I don’t have the luxury of lying around and mustering the strength for a shower. The kids have needs and those needs have to be met. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking care of the kids but at the end of the day it feels like I’ve run a marathon or I’ve been hit by a truck. Not only is there zero time for self care but also I have zero energy or desire to take care of myself. There’s just nothing left – no reserves to tap into. And that’s ok, for a little while, but it’s not sustainable and almost always leads to total exhaustion or a breakdown.

How I combat these feelings is with medication and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). But guess what? When you’re depressed, you don’t want to take your meds, even though it’s so simple. Another impossible task. Taking care of yourself while depressed is a full-time job, one that my brain prevents me from showing up to. And what’s dangerous is the belief you’re not good enough to take care of. That it’s easier to make bad decisions. Bad decisions can make you feel so good – like overeating or bingeing on terrible foods.

In the past, I’ve also abused some of my meds, like benzodiazepines and sleep meds. These self-destructive behaviors are just my experience. Other risky behaviors include excessive drinking, drug abuse, unsafe sex and cutting. I don’t condone it but I certainly don’t judge – I understand it all too well. What’s scary is that people who do these things are more likely to attempt suicide or die by suicide. I can’t speak for everyone but when I have engaged in self-harm or risky behaviors, it’s all about stopping the incessant pain that’s felt everyday. And even though it might be there, it’s hard for depressed individuals to see the light at the end of the ever-elusive tunnel.

I get why people attempt suicide. I have thought about it many times, unfortunately, but each time I just wanted to numb the pain, drown out the mental and physical pain. Before I went to the Menninger Clinic, I felt there was no hope with my depression. I was labeled treatment-resistant, meaning none of the meds available would help. I won’t go on a tirade now but I was lucky to go to Menninger. Not everybody has the funds or time to be inpatient at a facility like that. Hell, no everyone can afford medicine, therapy or psychologists. My therapist and psychologist are cash only – they do not accept any type of insurance. I guess my point is that there are many obstacles that people with depression face, internal and external.

Even if I take my medicine perfectly, get regular ECTs, go to therapy and avoid risky behavior, I’m still going to struggle. Those things definitely help stay on track but during a depressive episode, every day – and everything I have to do to life – is exhausting. I have to do all those little things to barely survive and I’m not the only one who feels that way. Mental health care in this country sucks – not everyone with depression is treated and those who are aren’t treated well or efficiently. Some people still wrestle with reaching out for care because of the stigma.

It’s easy to abandon a treatment plan. It’s easy to fall by the wayside, and it’s so unbelievingly hard to fight through the pain and fight the stigma on a daily basis. The exhaustion of living can wear you out. It does me, anyway.

Many people are fighting this invisible illness, some fighting just to get through each day. I certainly relate. I’ve been through hell and back and even though I’m doing much better now, I still feel the weight of depression (and everybody’s expectations), not to mention my sometimes crippling anxiety. I don’t know if that weight will ever lift but at least now I’m strong enough to carry it. I pray that others suffering will feel the same.

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A year ago I started electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for my severe depression. I try to do one every four to six weeks because I need them to live, truly. When I’m going through a depressive episode, it resets my brain somehow, and after my stint at the Menninger Clinic, I want to avoid going to that dark place (in my head) again.

While the ECTs help me to be my best self, they have crippled my memory. Usually, ECT will affect your memory around the time of treatment, meaning you might not remember coming in for the treatment or directly after it. For me, I can’t remember things from years ago. My memory is just so random; I can’t figure out how my brain has decided to keep some memories and discard others. I’ve also forgotten entire people. Months ago I went to a nail salon and a woman asked about David and the kids. I did my best to talk with her but I was so embarrassed and frustrated. 

When I try to remember something I often come up with nothing – just a fuzzy gray wall in my brain. Sometimes it shakes me to my core because I’m afraid I’ll forget my most cherished memories — being with my grandmother as a child, getting married and memories of my babies being born, etc. And as weird as it sounds, I want to remember what it was like before I went to Menninger, so I can recognize those painful feelings and behaviors and stop them as soon as possible.    

But above all, I want to remember me and the memories that helped shape me, so I thought I would write myself a short reminder. 

imageTo my future self, please remember how strong you are. Remember when you bravely moved to Corpus Christi, hundreds of miles from family and friends and didn’t know a single soul. That you had two children in 23 months and won a horrible battle with postpartum depression. Remember when things got hard again and your brain betrayed you, telling you to kill yourself but instead you found hope in a psychiatric treatment facility for six long weeks. And that during that time, how you fought like hell for your family and friends.

Please remember your big heart and limitless capacity to love. Your sense of humor and generosity. Don’t forget how loudly you laugh (it’s more of a guffaw, really) and your ability to be inclusive and open-minded. Know your worth, that you are deserving of love and respect.

Remember that you are the best mom to raise Isla and Eli and to always lead by example. Never forget the words to George Strait songs you sing to Eli at bedtime or that Isla gets scared at night and needs extra cuddles. How Eli is totally obsessed with seahorses and named his seahorse stuffie Weerow. That Isla’s sense of humor is beyond her years. Remember how amazing your mama is and how you feel such comfort and love when she is near and that Mema made you feel the same way. You are loved – and were shaped – by very strong women. YOU are a strong woman, despite what your brain tells you. 

And finally, when it is dark and you can’t seem to find the light, remember that one shines within you. If you can’t remember that, just know that you have really good friends with really good flashlights. 

 

 

 

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Dr. Lorna Breen. Photo from Ny Times

A couple weeks ago a well-liked ER doctor at a Manhattan hospital killed herself. Dr. Lorna Breen, the medical director of the emergency department at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital, had been reportedly working long hours and on the front lines fighting the coronavirus. She was 49 years old. Her father, also a doctor, said Dr. Breen had no history of mental illness or depression, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. Dealing with trauma, be it a one-time situation or an ongoing ordeal, can lead to depression and I imagine that was the case for Dr. Breen. She saw hundreds, if not more, of people suffering. People who couldn’t be with their loved ones during their final moments. Just thinking about how scary it must be for those dying alone makes me so overwhelmingly sad – not just for those dying but their loved ones who couldn’t say goodbye. Couldn’t tell their loved ones, “I love you,” or pray with them.

As of April 7, there had been 59 patient deaths at Dr. Breen’s hospital, according to an internal hospital document.

New York continues to be a hot spot for COVID-19, with 333,000 people infected and more than 21,000 dead. The weight of those numbers is so heavy, it hurts my heart. And I feel a combination of compassion and pain for nurses, doctors, first responders and others who are fighting this battle that has no end in sight. These people are heroes. They continue to fight a losing battle with not enough personal protective equipment and other life-saving medical supplies.

Everything I just mentioned can have a huge toll on anyone, and sometimes traumatic events can actually change your brain and can cause depression. A 2013 study done by researchers at the University of Liverpool showed that traumatic life events are the single biggest cause of anxiety and depression, followed by a family history of mental illness and income and education levels.

According to the National Institutes of Health, some depression can be situational and with life changes, medications and therapy, it can be manageable. Other times, depression, anxiety or PTSD can be life-long problems.

What’s scary to me is that Dr. Breen’s depression (I’m assuming it was depression brought on by severe trauma) came on fast. There wasn’t much time to prepare for COVID-19, as fast as New York was hit. I’m sure priorities were treating sick patients, providing PPE to health care workers among numerous other jobs that had to get done. Which means, there was no time for Dr. Breen to get help. She felt she was best needed at the hospital and no doubt she helped hundreds of people and supported everyone in the ER Department, even after contracting COVID-19 herself.

Dr. Breen was no doubt a hero and dying by suicide doesn’t change that. It just emphasizes the need for better mental health care, more support for those struggling and more understanding from the public, who still support the stigma of mental illness and depression.

Look for these symptoms of trauma-induced depression:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Frequent crying
  • Feelings of loss
  • Emotional numbness
  • Disillusionment
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Recurring memories/flashbacks
  • Nightmares about the traumatic event
  • Social withdrawal

If you know somebody struggling, please direct them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

To learn more about depression, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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7th grade photo

I remember it like it was yesterday, which is a feat because I don’t remember anything from all my ECT treatments. I was in the nurse’s office having left my 7th grade computer class. The nurse, who had seen me several times that month, called my mom from her office. I couldn’t hear everything but I did catch this, “Your daughter is in the nurse’s office again. I believe she has school phobia.” Little did I know that was the first “diagnosis” I would receive in the years to come. And there have been many.

The 7th grade was a difficult one for me and looking back I can see the first signs of an anxiety disorder and depression – extreme sadness, intrusive thoughts, and of course, anxiety. I thought it was normal to feel that way so I never thought to tell anyone about these symptoms. I can remember being scared, and it is scary to experience those thoughts and emotions, especially at the age of 12 or 13. My anxiety included being worried about dying, scared my family would die and I got nervous and agitated about school, fretting about projects due, homework and tests. Some of that is normal but what I remember is the sense of dread that went along with it. Every Sunday night (read my Sunday Night blues blog here) I would get anxious and my stomach would hurt. On top of that, I developed a phobia of thunderstorms. I began obsessively watching The Weather Channel, checking the radar and barometric pressure for signs of storms even when it was nothing but blue skies outside. When the weather did get bad I would experience more stomachaches and stress.

I also remember intrusive thoughts interrupting my daily life. I constantly prayed to God that my family or I would not die because my brain was telling me it was going to happen. There were milder thoughts like, “You’re a loser. Nobody likes you.” Thoughts that still plague me, even at 36 years old.

A lot still plagues me, including intrusive thoughts, anxiety and depression (I was diagnosed as having Major Depressive Disorder in my 30s). Even though it’s been more than 20 years, I still battle all of this every day. I might not be depressed every minute of every day, but it is a fight. Sometimes, a very hard fight. I still feel like that little girl, worried and anxious, trying to quell her thoughts. Only now I’ve traded little girl worries for big girl worries but at least I have support and a treatment plan.

It saddens me when I think of the kids struggling now – the ones who can’t verbalize their pain. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 3.2 million 12- to 17-year-olds have had at least one major depressive episode (A depressive episode is characterized by low mood and other symptoms of depression that lasts for two weeks or more. Some episodes can last weeks to months). NIMH also says that depression in teens is on the rise.

If I could go back and tell myself it would be ok, that it would get better, I would in a heartbeat. More importantly, I would tell myself to come clean to my parents about the anxiety and dark emotions I was feeling so I could receive the help I needed.

It is my hope by blogging about my experience others will realize this can happen to anyone, at any time. I had a wonderful childhood and amazing, supportive parents. I always felt I had everything that I needed. Still, depression struck. It doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t care who you are and apparently, it doesn’t care how old you are either. Such a cruel disease.

That’s why support from family and friends is so important, especially for kids and young adults. If one of your loved ones is struggling, please reach out. Do research about depression and anxiety and educate others who might still buy into the stigma surrounding depression.

Here are some things to look for when it comes to adolescent depression:

  • Irritability and moodiness
  • Abnormal sleeping habits
  • Isolation, especially from adults and family members
  • Low energy

Something to note about depression in teens is that symptoms vary by age but also by gender. According to a study published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, girls report feelings of sadness, guilt, worthlessness, punishment, tiredness, low energy, where as boys report irritability, depression and suicidal thoughts.

According to the CDC, only 20% of youth suffering from a mental health disorder receive treatment. That means 80% or 12 million youth are undertreated or not treated at all.

There are more alarming stats but I’m going to stop here for now. I know all the aforementioned symptoms may sound like “normal” teenage behavior but hopefully this blog and the studies I mentioned earlier will give you insight into teen depression and encourage you to support a loved one if you see them flailing.

Depression is difficult and ravaging for adults, let alone kids and teenagers. Let’s focus on supporting and taking care of each other. Thanks for reading.

Stay in the light.

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The other day I blogged about my mom – how she was cut from a different cloth and how she was an extraordinary woman. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my dad, as well. He too is cut from that same cloth – he works hard and has created two businesses, both successful. He is smart, though he is a quiet man until he gets around his family, then he’s silly and goofy.

One of my favorite memories is him telling me (fictional) stories about him and his brother going to Africa on safari. I also enjoyed him telling me stories about his pet monkey, Peanuts – which turned out to be true. Now my kids love to hear about Peanuts on the roof running from my dad.

As you may know, I’m an overly emotional person and because my father is not we would bump heads during my adolescence. But no matter what, he took care of me in so many ways. He (and my mom) paid for my college, enabling me to become a first-generation college graduate. He helped me pay for apartments after college because of course I didn’t pick a major that was accompanied by a big pay day.

He’s really done too much for me to innumerate. And I’ll always be grateful. I’m also grateful for how he’s shown me to be a good person. If there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s take care of his family. I’ll never forget how he took care of my mom’s mom – giving her grocery money, helping her pay bills among other things. The goodheartedness of my dad for taking such good care of his mother-in-law, my beloved Mema, overwhelms me and makes me respect him even more.

He may joke and give me a hard time sometimes, but there is no doubt in my mind that man loves me, and now loves the family I’ve made.

I hope he’s proud of me, like I am of him, and knows how much I love him because it’s a lot.

But my favorite thing about my dad? He calls me every night at 9 p.m., which some people have told me was weird, but I love it. Even if we only speak for a few minutes, there’s actually more being said.

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I can feel it coming. My body feels weighted down, I’m irritable and even more sensitive, which is saying a lot. It’s sort of like PMS but it’s more than being moody and there’s no relief in a few days. Sometimes I just want to die.

I can remind myself how lucky and privileged I am, who I need to live for but the pain is deep and distorts everything I know to be true. It’s a scary feeling and I hate feeling out of control. Despite having a safety plan (a plan of action for when or if you’re suicidal), I don’t feel safe. There have been times I have called the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and tried to use the chat feature but there were more than 70 people also waiting for help and support. I could have called the hotline but I resigned myself to sleep.

Things looked better in the morning but it was still creepily dark in my head. I didn’t want to get out of bed but had to take the kids to school. I couldn’t shower. I couldn’t brush my teeth. I forced myself to take my pills and retreated to the comfort of my bed.

After a couple of (weepy) days, I did feel the fog lift but it took awhile to return to “normal.” That’s the scary part of depression – one of them, anyway. You can do everything right – take your pills, see your doctors, see your therapist, put real pants on and shower but depression will find you.

So will anxiety. My depression and anxiety go hand and hand. Mine makes me obsess about the weirdest things – things that have happened years ago, hypothetical tragedies that could happen to friends/family, bad things happening. Sometimes there are no thoughts behind it. It’s just there, a heavy weight on my chest making it hard to breathe.

Since going to the Menninger Clinic these symptoms have gotten better but not all together gone. When I can muster the strength to combat my overwhelming sadness and panic, there are things I can do to help.

  • I take my anxiety pills
  • I get under my weighted blanket
  • I listen to guided mediations or favorite music
  • Write

But if you’re in a scary situation that you can’t get control of, please call the National Suicidal Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or call your city/county’s mental health resources to see what’s available to you. And you can always call your primary physician. There is help out there and I know sometimes you don’t feel you need help but that’s just the depression talking. People care.

I’d you’d like to list your positive coping skills, please feel free to in the comments.

Stay in the light, my friends.

 

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Self Care Isn't Selfish

“Do I stay up, relax and watch trash TV or do I go to bed at a decent hour?” For weeks I’ve been having this internal debate and I know I can’t be the only one. I used to go to bed at 9 pm (in the good old days) because I need A LOT of sleep but now I blow past that 9 pm mark knowing that I’ll likely regret it but I also know I need “me time.”

Surely I’m not alone in this. Especially now because the coronavirus is holding us all hostage. Don’t get me wrong, I do like being around my children but after 8-12 hours of their incessant arguing, watching freaking Peppa Pig and wanting to climb on me and whatever else, I’ve just had it. I’m touched out. I want to be on the couch, watching my shows and not asked to do one single thing, even by my husband. I don’t even like the cats on me until after I’ve chilled for an hour. It’s too much. And I know y’all feel me. At least I hope you do otherwise I need to up my meds, lol.

My usual self-care routine includes massages, getting my nails done, reading and napping. I would also go to therapy. But none of that is plausible now and I think it’s ok to mourn that. It’s ok not to enjoy every second with your kids, because this shit is hard even when you do have outlets and self-care rituals.

Staying home with the kids right now is one of the hardest things I’ve done. My 3-year-old wakes up at 5 am every morning, which means I’m up. He’s clingier than usual, most likely from the uncertainty of life, which he can probably sense from us adults. But despite his 5 am wake calls, I’ll still probably go to bed late because that’s the only alone time I’ll have all day. The only time I can eat the kids’ cupcakes. The only time nobody is shouting, “Mommy!”

This precious time to myself has become a ritual and until the schools open back up, I’ll just be exhausted and crazy looking because frankly, I’d rather have bad TV and cupcakes.

If you’d like to share your self-care rituals, please do so in the comments.

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