Recently, in a conversation with someone I love, I realized that I write a lot more of the depressing than the happy or uplifting. It’s not necessarily because there is more depressing than good, but because of my need to write when I’m depressed. I guess you could say it’s a way to “purge” my soul.
When I was in high school I wrote a lot of poetry. Most of the time I wrote when I was depressed, and the poetry was depressing. But it was like therapy to me. It was something I needed to do. I think there is something about writing what I’m feeling, getting my thoughts on paper (or computer, these days) that help me understand or begin to sort what I’m going through. And that is important for me. It is needed.
Sometimes when I write about the struggles I go through, I try to do so with a question in mind. I hope that it will open a discussion with others who have felt the same way. I hope we can help each other by discussing different perspectives and things that have worked for or helped us. And it really, truly does help to know that we’re not alone, that we’re not the only one feeling a certain way or struggling with a certain thing.
I never want anyone to read my blog and go away feeling totally depressed and discouraged. I will try to write more about the good. I will try to write more about progress and hope. Because there is good, I do make progress–we all make progress–and there is hope.
Do you ever feel like you’re taking one step forward, two steps back? Lately I’ve felt like I take one step forward and a million steps back. Sometimes I wish I could go back and have a do-over, do things right this time. But it’s not that kind of “back” that I’m going to.
Every time I feel like I’m making progress I slide back through a tunnel of sludge and sharp thorns, ending in a heap of darkness and pain. Becky Craven, a leader in my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) spoke about this from a spiritual perspective. (https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2020/10/32craven?lang=eng) She said when she was younger she visualized herself walking along an “upward, vertical” path toward her goal. Every time she felt herself sliding down she thought she had to start all over again, but in time she discovered that with each failed attempt she didn’t have to start over. She could keep the progress and change she had made as she continued to progress.
I understand this from the spiritual perspective, but can it really be this way in life and in our relationships? Can we keep the progress we’ve made even as we fall backwards? Can things ever truly be good again if we don’t make up what we’ve lost? I’m struggling to find or live the answer. And is that struggle what is actually holding me back?
I didn’t start, nor do I continue, this blog because I have all the answers. It’s about opening and having a discussion about mental illness and things many of us struggle with. I hope that through this discussion we can all help each other, even if it’s just to know we’re not alone.
Balance. I’m not sure I believe in it. People try to say you need to have balance in your life, but how are you supposed to balance your mental and physical health along with home life, work life, church life, being a wife and being a mother when you literally don’t have enough time?
I’ve been feeling my identity slipping away again. I don’t have time to be me anymore. I don’t have the confidence. It seems like in order to have “balance” you have to give something up. And then you’re not balanced anymore.
How does everyone do it? How do you do everything you have to do and still make sure your mental health is good? How do you maintain your sense of self, who you are, with everything else? I’ve been the victim of identity theft—real identity theft–my first time suffering through severe postpartum depression. I lost it again in a bad marriage. When I found myself after my divorce it was the most glorious thing in the world! I was so happy again. I had confidence again. And now I feel empty again. How is it done? How?
Things can change day to day or week to week. I may not feel this way tomorrow. It’s not how I felt a couple of weeks ago. But it is how I feel right now.
The Bottomless Pit
I fall through the bottomless pit.
Down . . .
Down . . .
Down . . .
Deeper I go,
darker it gets.
Sometimes I hit a sharp, rocky bottom
and think it’s finally over,
only to find a false bottom that pulls out.
And I start falling again.
Down . . .
Down . . .
Down . . .
Into darkness I go,
the deeper it gets.
The bottomless pit.
My coworker has this cute daily calendar. This is what was on it the other day:
When the rain is pounding us and the darkness, thick, envelops us it’s hard to always see the rainbow or the stars. But they are there. Sometimes it takes great effort. Sometimes it takes someone else reminding us. Sometimes it takes time—after the storm is gone and the light has come back—to realize we saw them.
I try to look for the lessons (the rainbow and stars) I can learn from the difficult times (the rain and darkness) I go through. Sometimes I can see tidbits as I’m going through it, but more often I don’t see it until after, when I have time to reflect. That’s okay. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel only rain and darkness. But it’s also important to remember the light is there. It won’t always be dark. It won’t always be stormy. We can have light and lessons and growth with time.
Life has been so crazy lately. I feel like I’ve barely had time to breathe. Everything is GOGOGO! all the time, and I’ve been feeling very overwhelmed. I haven’t exercised much at all the past couple of months and have gotten so out of shape. But exercising is something that helps my depression. It helps me feel good, so I decided I have to do it. I have to make the time—for my own sanity and happiness.
I also started light/heat therapy again recently. My goal was to go at least twice a week, but lately it has been hard making it even once. My husband, however, has done a good job of helping me find time that I can go because he knows I need it.
It truly is important to take care of ourselves. It’s like the oxygen mask on the airplane. They tell you to put yours on first before you help someone else. You can’t help others if you’re passed out from lack of oxygen. I really do believe that if we are helping ourselves—doing the things that bring strength to our minds and happiness to our hearts—we will live better lives, not just for us, but also for those around us.
So often, lately, my mind has been plagued by all the things I “should” be doing. I end up feeling terrible about myself because I’m not doing enough. But I’ve decided to try focusing on what I am doing and be okay with things that I feel I “need” even if they aren’t what I “should” do.
One of the things that I condemn myself for the most is being a bad mom. I tell myself I should be spending every spare second with my kids—teaching them, helping them with their homework, playing with them. I don’t spend every second doing that, but I do spend some time doing it. My daughter wanted me to help her with her English homework the other day. It was something she probably could have done on her own, but I helped her with it anyway, just so we could spend some time together—and because English is one thing I actually can help her with!
I surprised my son by checking him out of school and taking him out to lunch so we could have a little one-on-one time.
My step-daughter sat next to me during scripture study one night. It made me so happy! I feel like I’ve been struggling to cultivate a personal relationship with her, so the fact that she wanted to sit by me meant so much. I could beat myself up for not doing more or not trying harder, but instead I’m focusing on the fact that I’m doing good things—I must be or she wouldn’t have wanted to sit by me.
Another thing I’m learning to be okay with is relaxing after the kids go to bed. Most nights my husband and I grab some popcorn or some kind of treat and watch a sitcom on Netflix of Prime. For the longest time I would sit there feeling guilty—because I should be cleaning my room instead, or I should be doing the dishes. There were many things I felt I should be doing instead. But I realized that I need that time. Winter is so incredibly hard for me. By the time the kids are in bed I feel so overwhelmed. It’s constant go-go-go! from 5:30 in the morning until almost 10:00 at night. Taking a little time to relax and laugh is good for me! It is self-care. I’ve tried not to feel guilty about it the last few nights. I’ve tried to completely enjoy it and feel good that I’m doing something I need. My husband even said he had the thought that realizing self-care/relaxing is actually something we should be doing might help us enjoy it. And we should enjoy it. We do need it.
I think we all are hard on ourselves and we all have those times we beat ourselves up for not doing what we “should” be doing. But you are doing good things. Remember that. Focus on that. And do something good for yourself, too.
There’s a quote from The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson that really stuck out to me, this past time I read it. “To lack feeling is to be dead, but to act on every feeling is to be a child.” I am a passionate person who feels intensely. I feel so much, so strongly. As I read that line recently it really hit me. I realized that I probably, too often, act on every feeling I have.
I think it’s true. I don’t think we need to or should act on every feeling we have. Sometimes it does more harm than good. I also, however, don’t believe it’s healthy to keep everything inside. I guess there has to be some sort of balance. Unfortunately, I still haven’t completely found that balance. Or I at least haven’t figured out what to do with the feelings I do keep in instead of acting on. I’m still learning. I’m still trying to figure out which feelings don’t need to be acted upon. What are your thoughts? And have you found anything that helps?
Yesterday was a struggle. There were too many thoughts crowding my head. Thinking of times I’ve been hurts, especially recently, and how I don’t know what to do about them. Several times at work I was on the brink of tears. Then some boys at the high school where I work brought me a flower—they bought enough to give every girl at the school—teacher, staff and student! It totally made my day.
Later, those same thoughts attacked me again. I was in the hall when I saw a group of students walking toward the counseling center. One of my neighbors, a sweet, beautiful senior, motioned to me to follow. She gave me a little hug and told me to come listen to them sing. It was one of the choirs. They sang a song for Valentine’s and sounded amazing! Again, my day was made by my wonderful neighbor thinking of me and the beautiful music the choir sang.
I was trying my best to feel good and think positively, but I was still a bit down when I got home. I was getting ready to leave for my light/heat therapy when a couple of other neighbors—girls my nine-year-old son’s age—stopped by with something from some women at my church. They were taking them around to everyone, but the girls stayed and chatted with me for a few minutes. They were so cute! And it totally made my day—yet again.
Three little things that were really big things. Things that I needed, things that helped so much. So I’ve again been reminded of how much the little things we do make a difference in the lives of others. We are needed. You are needed, no matter how much the lie of depression may tell you otherwise.
He sent messages through Facebook asking my friends to write something about me. I was a crying, blubbering mess most of the time I read through it, though there were plenty of smiles and laughs, too. I remembered and learned several things from this.
The first thing I was reminded of was what an amazing, wonderful husband I have who loves and cares about me so much. I was also reminded of how blessed I am to have so many good people around me.
Now, some things I learned. First, we really do make a difference in each other’s lives, even when we can’t see it. People brought up specific examples of things I had said or done that didn’t seem big to me. They were things I did or said simply because that’s me. They were things that I figured anyone would have done. Which leads me to something else I learned—little things, simple things, make a difference. Even if we do or say something that seems small or ordinary to us, even if it’s something anyone would do, if still means something or makes a difference in someone’s life. That means we matter. We all matter because we all make a difference.
Another thing I am in the processing of learning or trying to tell myself is to listen to the positive instead of believing the negative. My husband said he did this because he wanted me to see that there are so many people who love and value me—that there are far more people who think I’m of worth than have told me or made me feel I’m not. A friend also commented on my last blog post that something she does is try to remind herself that her brain is lying to her. That’s what depression is. I have written about and shared this too. Sometimes it is so hard to remember, especially when people have told me to my face what a horrible person I am. But it’s true—there are more people who have said good than bad, and that’s what I need to focus on. That’s what I need to believe. That’s what we all need to believe.
I also learned, from this, how important it is to let people know we appreciate them. Whether we suffer from depression or not, we all get down at times and are hard on ourselves. We all need encouragement and to know we are of worth. I want to be better at letting people know how grateful I am for them and that they have made a difference to me. I also want to be better at seeing the beauty around me—because there is beauty everywhere. In nature and in people. In circumstance and experience. It’s hard to see, sometimes, for those of us with mental illness. It is especially hard for me to see in the winter when my SAD threatens to crush me. But I’m going to try.
I don’t know that all the people who responded to my husband and sent kind and inspiring words will read this. But for those who do, thank you. Thank you, and I love you, and I’m so incredibly grateful for the love and inspiration you have given me. You’ve helped remind me of my worth. I hope you know you are of worth and value too.
Walking through that door makes the blue a little lighter. She holds space as I gently spill. We sit, we talk - we water, dig and bury. Nurturing a shoot. Aiding it in light - to find its path through thorns - Malan Wilkinson