I've been wanting to write this for quite some time, but wasn't sure if I could ... or even if I should. There are some things that are just too scary to think about, let alone share. What am I actually going to say? What will you all think of me when you read it? I don't want to lose anymore. I can't. But I also can't continue to hide behind this rock and just keep quiet - that isn't who I am, and it isn't fair to any of us.
There's a history of mental illness in my family. I don't really know how far back it goes, or how many twists and turns it takes. I just know that there are many people sitting on the tree who struggle with all different types of issues. I don't have a clear diagnosis for myself, because as I've aged, I've changed my outlook a bit, and adapted to other things. I'm way overdue for a full physical evaluation, and I know that my poor health has a lot to do with a lot of the obstacles I have to climb. Of course, with the case plan I've had this past year, I've undergone both psychological and psychiatric evaluations, and while it is clear that I have some stressful situations going on that have obvious negative affects, I don't suffer from mental illness.
But that hasn't always been the case. In the past, I was diagnosed with severe depression and borderline bi-polar disorder.
Wait ... how can that be? Mental illness works just like any other disease, right? If a person is diagnosed as diabetic, isn't he *always* a diabetic? Well, there's a gray area.
DISCLAIMER!!! Before I go any further, I want to be VERY clear here. I am NOT a doctor. I am NOT a medical professional of ANY kind. Any medical information that you get out of this blog is simply what I have learned about myself, and my own experiences. Mental illness - of any degree - can be very tricky and take many shapes and forms. I'm only writing this to tell my own personal journey. If you struggle, please see a doctor, talk to people, get help. The only way you can get through any mental illness is if you find a doctor and/or counselor that you trust, that you like, and that understands you, keep seeing that doctor, establish a good and honest relationship, and get the exact care you need. That kind of medical attention wasn't always available for me, and that is the primary reason I've had such a rough time dealing with my own head.
Looking back now, the only times that I've ever seen a doctor was when I was in crisis situations. Not just when I'm "a little blue" or when "I'm a bit overwhelmed" ... but when the proverbial poo was hitting the fan, and when things were so bad that even healthy-minded people would be freaking the freak out. So, of course they're going to think I'm bat guano insane ... because in those times, I WAS!! There were also a couple of times when I was dealing with postpartum depression, and for whatever doofy reason, it wasn't brought up that I had given birth in the last year. OY.
I don't want to sit here and say I have the worst life, because I know there are so many of you that are traveling horrendous paths right now, and I don't want to diminish your struggle at all. And let's face it, have we watched the news lately? If you're reading this, chances are you have electricity and running water and live in a real house within a country that doesn't ban the internet, so we're already doing better than a huge percentage of humans just right there. That being said ... the crud I've dealt with over the past few years has been hard. A lot of it is my own doing (or mine and Hubby's since we're in this together), and a huge portion of it is outside circumstance ... but the path I've walked has looked more like straight up a cliff than meandering through a forest.
So how am I *really* doing?
I get asked this a lot, and there are several factors on which I base my answer: whom I'm speaking to in the first place (because, seriously, not everyone needs to know all this junk), how exhausted I really am that day, how much caffeine I've had (don't lecture me, I'm too tired LOL), and how many meltdowns the kids have experienced so far in the day. For the most part, in any given moment, I'm "alright". Not bad, not great ... just alright.
I have days when I want to hide under the covers and binge-watch Netflix and eat ice cream and nap. I think we all have those days. The question of whether or not this is depression - I think - comes down to how many days are we talking, here? If you're like this more often than not, chances are that you're dealing with depression. For me, it is generally one or two days a month, and it seems to follow a cycle, but I haven't yet been able to figure it out. (Again, I *really* need to get in to see my doctor.) It isn't every month, and sometimes it is just a morning that I'm sluggish and moody, and then I'm fine.
Then there are the days when I'm just mad. No one has done anything to hurt me, there isn't a situation going on ... just everything ticks me off. Kids didn't put their dirty laundry away? I'm yelling at the first reminder instead of the fourth. Hubby is frustrated that we didn't discuss the kid taxi for that week? I'm yelling about how our communication is in crisis and he never listens instead of backpedaling and going back to the schedule we need and making sure everything is covered and settled. Dad and/or in-laws being grumpy and demanding? I'm stomping around my room throwing inanimate objects instead of just rolling my eyes and going on. Again, I think that what you have to decide here is how often this is happening. For me, it might be once every other couple of months.
So is this depression? I don't know, actually. When I take a look at the bigger picture, I know that I could be doing better right now. Mental health goes hand in hand with your physical health, and if you're not taking care of your body, your brain is going to take a hit.
I ran out of my vitamins a couple of months ago, and I keep forgetting to get more (you'd think this was a simple thing to remedy, but I keep forgetting because I'm a doof). When I do take them, I have more energy and function better overall. Yes, I know, I've got to get them. I will try to remember this week. ;)
I haven't been sleeping great, and I'm all out of whack. Quite frankly, Hubby's weird work schedule does a number on me, and I often feel overwhelmed just by trying to get the kids to school in the morning by myself and to bed at night by myself, even though it isn't a daily thing. I think now that I'm older, my body is starting to thrive more on routine, and we don't have that with his work schedule. It was a little easier when we were homeschooling, because I didn't have to be anywhere, but now that getting up and out of the house by a certain time is a *must*, and getting the kids to bed by a certain time so they get enough sleep is a *must*, I feel a bit more pressure and I get tripped up by it. I'm working on it, but it is a slow progress as I figure out my own needs and try to balance them with everything else going on.
I'm not exercising like I was. I've almost completely stopped, and we all know that is not doing me any justice whatsoever, for MANY reasons. I have more excuses than my pride will allow me to admit. But when I took one of those long hard looks in the mirror the other day, I told myself to shut up and at least get out and walk. I'm doing better, because I'm afraid I'll kick my butt. ;)
Is a better sleep schedule, working out, and a few vitamins enough to fix me? I don't know. I know that when I'm doing all of those things, I feel better. I know that I feel better when I'm out photographing and editing (until my editing folder gets as long as it is right now, then I get a little anxious lol). I know that I feel better when I'm journaling and blogging. I know that I feel better when I'm spending more time reading and studying the Bible. Yet, for the past couple of months, I've left all of those things behind. I'm not very smart, am I?
So, could my own definition of depression be that when I'm not helping myself be better, then I get worse? Could it be that the more I wallow, the more I *want* to wallow? And is this actual depression, or am I just not in a good place right now?
To that end ... well ... I'm *not* in a happy place right now. The events of this past fall did me in. Issues with family, this stupid court system, worrying about job situations, the holidays ... it has not been a fun season. I think, that for me personally, I face the tough things head-on, and just want to collapse when they're over, and sometimes that collapse lasts longer than I want to. When that happens, I start abandoning all the things that I know make me feel better, because I'm just not sure I'm ready to feel better - I fell justified feeling crappy. Once all of those things are gone, I start to wallow. I'm miserable when I wallow. So, I wallow just long enough until I tick myself off, then get up and start doing the things again, and I feel better. When I start to feel better, I do better. When I do better, I AM better. And all goes well ... until another curve ball throws me off track again.
So, again, the question ... am I depressed? Or do I suffer from depression? Probably both. I strongly feel that, for me personally, dealing with meds is not an option I want to face right now. I've been down that road too many times, and each time has screwed me up more than the last. I'm not saying I'll never take meds ever, I just don't think so right now. I think, at least for now, my best option is to just keep chugging along. I'm very blessed to have a wonderful husband who understands that I struggle, and who is patient with me ... most of the time ;)
And ... I have all of you. Most of you may not have realized that this is what I face. Some of you may be facing some of the same issues. You're not alone, we're all in this together, and we can all get through it together. If you're buried ... reach out to me, you know I'll understand. Paths intertwine, they're not meant for you to traverse them alone.