Yesterday I saw my therapist. We did an ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) session. I swear, it’s like magic. It made such a huge difference. I have done several ART sessions before, but it has always been about specific trauma or learned behaviors from trauma that I was struggling with. I’d never done it about something as broad and general as depression. But it worked wonders! My therapist said she wished she had a picture of me when I walked in and after the ART was over because she could see a difference in me. We discussed medication and other options as well, but at this point I feel best about going in more often to have more ART sessions during the winter.
In simple terms, Accelerated Resolution Therapy combines eye movements and visualization to treat trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc. A good definition I found was that ART “works directly to reprogram the way in which distressing memories and images are stored in the brain so that they no longer trigger strong physical and emotional reactions.” https://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/ It has worked for me in a truly life-changing way. After the session yesterday I felt as if a huge, heavy burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I feel hope again.
I wouldn’t say ART “cured” my depression or took it away. It’s still here, like it’s here every winter. And every spring it goes away. That’s why I’m going to do ART more often this winter, until there’s more warmth, light and sunny skies in the world. I do think that medication has its place, and I’m going to talk to a doctor about medication for anxiety because my anxiety never goes away. But for now, I feel good about continuing with the plan I have in place. I think that’s one of the most important things to remember about mental health. When you find something that works, stick with it.
It’s been hard to find the motivation to write. It’s been hard to find the motivation to do anything. I’m not doing well. Winter hit sooner than usual this year, and it hit hard. The last several years people have still been out mowing their lawns the first weekend of December, but we’ve had snow and cold temperatures since the middle of November, it seems. And it hasn’t gone away. My depression hasn’t been this bad in a long, long time, and my anxiety is also the worst it’s been in—well, maybe ever. I’ve been having almost daily panic attacks for weeks now, often multiple a day.
I’ve been having a hard time distinguishing between what’s real and what’s just the depression. I try to be logical, to remind myself that depression is a liar, but it’s hard when I feel like there’s so much evidence that I am a horrible mother, a horrible wife and just a horrible person in general who is not doing enough. Who simply isn’t enough and never will be. I keep asking myself why I’m even trying, when it doesn’t seem to matter.
Logically, I can look at what I am doing and see how much better I am at dealing with my mental illness than I used to. Despite just how much it takes from me to get out of bed every morning, I do get out of bed. I get my kids to school. I exercise. I’ve been going to light therapy even though I’d rather stay in bed all day. It takes longer than on healthy days, but I still have been getting dressed, doing dishes, cleaning, getting dinner ready (some nights), going to church, trying to socialize when I can. Yet, every day, as I sit alone crying, feeling so alone and worthless, I don’t feel that I’m doing better or that I’m doing good enough. I don’t feel as if I’m being the person I’m supposed to be. I don’t feel what the logic is telling me.
I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. I might want to try medication again, despite the fact that my last several attempts years ago didn’t work. I have to hope that something will help.
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.
I feel stuck. This has been a really bad winter for me so far, and it’s not even halfway done. I have this urge to hibernate—to hide away from everything because everything is just so hard. I keep trying—trying to be a good mom and stepmom, a good wife, a good coworker. I keep trying to keep my house clean. I keep trying to write. I start. I write a few sentences, then I stop and can’t write anymore. I keep trying to find motivation. But I have none. I just feel stuck. Even when I do put forth that effort it exhausts me, so I don’t even know if I’ve done the right thing or not.
I just feel stuck. And tired. And wishing I could hibernate until spring.
I’m experimenting with a new treatment for my seasonal affective disorder—heat and light therapy. This place has a sauna, a hydration bed, red light therapy, a hydro-massage bed and more. I try to do at least one, hopefully two, and possibly three of these services three days a week. I’ve only been going for a few weeks now, but I’m already noticing a difference.
Normally, at this point in the winter I stay inside, away from the coldness, as much as possible. It also gets pretty hazy where I live. We get an inversion that traps the cold air, with all of its awful pollutants, under a layer of warmer, clearer air. It’s incredibly depressing. Yet, last Saturday I motivated myself to brave the cold and walk along a trail at Farmington Bay, near my home. Yes, it was cold. My ears froze, my nose ran, but it was so incredibly beautiful! Peaceful. Still. Needed.
I took a bunch of pictures, I was outside, moving around, feeling happy. I even saw a bald eagle! As I walked back along the trail to my car the sun reached this perfect angle. All of the tall, yellow grasses glimmered golden in the light; the reflection in the frozen water, clear and mesmerizing. I actually felt good, happy, confident. It’s not the sort of thing I normally do in the winter, and I’m not suddenly gleefully happy all of the time, but I do think the heat and light therapy is helping to keep me more optimistic and motivated than I usually am. I’ll have to do an update in a couple of months. February is usually when I’m at my worst in the winter. Hopefully the new treatment will continue to help. It feels so good, like a weight lifted off my shoulders, to finally find something that is helping after so many failed attempts with medication and lack of funds for other therapies. But that’s why you keep trying—until you find something that works or at least helps.
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