falling into darkness: what depression feels like

I was miles away from home, my email, all the lists of To Do’s for the upcoming school year.  I was sitting on a beach under a lovely shade tree. There was just the right amount of breeze to keep us from sweating, but not to keep us out of the lake.  Both boys were happily splashing and digging holes with their daddy.

I was on a towel with my Diet Coke and a book I was ignoring.

And I could feel my head slipping. My world was starting to do that thing when you throw water on a painted canvas. The picture that was once realistic and lovely starts to look like it’s melting and distorting.

Everything started running together.

It came out of nowhere.

I mean, I knew I had been stressed out with thinking about school starting, taking on an adjunct position at the local community college last minute, and all the loose ends I had to tie up with social media campaigns and freelancing before I headed back to work full time. I knew that going on this vacation a week before all the madness started up was cutting it a little close.

But I also knew I was very much looking forward to it.

Cortney and I had been saying to each other repeatedly for a couple weeks, “Soon we will be on a break with no internet or lists. Soon it will be just family and fun.”

We arrived two days before. I didn’t feel the usual release of stress that happens after getting the car unloaded, grabbing a beer, and plopping down in a bag chair.  But I chalked that up to having one more mobile kid this year, having a LOT on my mind, and needing a night to just chill out.

I’m not sure what happened between arriving and sitting on that towel on the beach.

I wish I could pinpoint these things because then maybe I wouldn’t find myself in a delightful situation getting slammed in the face with the load of bricks that is depression.

My reality went wonky.

I didn’t want to do any of the fun things people suggested, but I did want to cry.

I didn’t want to be around anyone, but we were on vacation with my parents and both brothers and their families.

I started finding fault with everyone and everything they said and did.  The more I tried to just hurry up and get over it and “be happy,” the worse it got.

I tried to be positive and it made me more negative.

I tried to see that they were just jokes and humor people were using, but I ended up taking offense even quicker.

I tried to tell myself all the questions were because my family was interested in me and wanted to make conversation, but I couldn’t help feel like I was being judged and eye-rolled.

I tried to “get over it” or “not worry about it” as was suggested when I would mention my stresses, but instead I felt unheard and more anxious.

Within 48 hours of being home (which included some good sleep), I was pretty much passed it.

My falls into the depression pits aren’t as far of a fall or as frequent as they used to be before I started managing them with therapy, diet, exercise, and meds, but they are still disconcerting and exhausting when they do happen.

No matter how long I live with depression, I never see it coming. Sometimes I will have all the triggers, but the depression never shows up.  Sometimes I will have one tiny trigger and BOOM! Like a sack of bricks to the face.

But every time it starts to push me, it feels the same way and it starts with the feeling of falling and of my whole world melting and distorting.

I have copy of the Salvador Dali painting The Persistence of Memory in my classroom. Since I frequently lack words to describe what my brain does when depression hits, I think of this painting. It’s like my life slows down–but not in a good way. In the way that things start to bleed together out of slow motion in dreams. Images melt and droop. I become an almost unrecognizable lump of a grey creature in the middle of it all.  I can see myself from the outside, but I can’t help myself.

If I don’t allow myself to vanish…if I keep awake and don’t melt away…I come out of it.

At least I have every time so far.

And on the other side is always this:

2013-08-30 08.02.39And I promise myself that I will always fight to stay.

Always.

Do you have a story?  Natalie from Mommy of a Monster and I are sharing our stories. She is talking about crawling out of the pit of depression while I told what it’s like to fall into it. If you want to share with us, please join the link up below and let’s all support each other.

 

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glitches

I haven’t talked much about anxiety or depression lately.

From time to time people will ask me how it’s going, and I know they mean my Mental Issues. To be honest, I am usually caught off guard. Not that they would ask about that; in fact, I feel glad people feel comfortable enough with me to ask about that stuff. I’m usually thrown off because I’m not sure if they really want to know, or if they are looking for an “Ok” or a “Great!” type of answer.

Usually if people are asking me about how It is going, they read this blog and know about the Mental Issues already. Again, it’s touching that they care about me to want to keep up on These Things. It’s also means I am not sure how much they want me to go into it. Maybe it’s more comfortable for them to read about it rather than have me talk about it out loud.

But I haven’t said much here about it lately.

It’s not that I haven’t had any anxiety attacks or episodes, but by the time I get around to it, I have worked it out and it’s passed and I don’t have any need to write about it.

I get through each episode as it comes, which means when people ask me how it’s going I say, “really quite well.”

That is not to say that I don’t work at my Mental Issues daily.

Daily.

Still with the daily.

Every day I have to fight my urge to go to sleep all day.

Some days the urge is barely there.  I hear one of the boys wake up and my body eases out of bed fairly easily.  Coffee is poured, the day proceeds.

Other days the minute I hear a child I want to cry, and I have to fight with myself not to introvert on the spot and to interact meaningfully (and not just dutifully) with my kids.

I have to be conscious of everyone’s temperaments and know that when the natives get restless, we need a change of scenery…regardless if that is what actually want.  If I ignore the signs from Eddie and Charlie, the restlessness will turn into fighting which will turn into disobeying which will turn into screaming and crying.

And then I am triggered.

Even the days when I am tired and feel like I am just a hair away from a trigger and I just want to sit and drink my coffee and be all in my own head…I can’t. I can’t fall into that.

Every single day is still a challenge.

It’s not bad though.  Not like it sounds.

Well, some days are.

Some days are just hard.

Some days the ugly falls like a heavy fog on this house and I cannot see the good a joyful and beautiful even with my fog lights on.

But I have to keep going.

Sometimes I make bad choices that leave me feeling guilty and awful and mad because I feel like I should have been able to control that outburst. I shouldn’t have yelled at Eddie that way or redirected Charlie with such force.

Sometimes I sit in my bag chair in the garage staring at my phone while the boys play during that last 30 minutes before Cortney gets home because I can’t STAND to be the sole parent for one second longer and staring at my phone is all that is keeping my head from exploding.

Sometimes during Charlie’s afternoon nap, I take a nap on the couch even though Eddie doesn’t nap anymore. I just put in a movie for him and tell him that Mommy needs a rest.  I turn my back to him, face the back of the couch, and silently cry myself to sleep.

But in the grand scheme of things these moments are but glitches.

There are way more good moments that bad, and there are very few whole days that I would put in the trash pile.

I guess that is why I don’t really talk about it.

I don’t have any HUGE EPISODES that require me to “write it out”.

I’m aware that sometimes, things just suck because that is the way life is. I am also aware that sometimes things suck because that is just how my brain is.  It’s hard to tell the difference, but it doesn’t matter.

Every day I take my meds.  Every day I thank God for my family, my husband, modern medicine, and my faith.

Every day I start again.

living with depression

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Through Their Eyes

This particular day, I had been asked 2347983345ddfa234879 questions.

(yes, there are letters in the middle of that number.  It’s a whole new high number that was just discovered the day that many questions were asked of me).

Every single one of these questions was begun with either “Mrs. Sluiter?” or “mom?”

And all of them ranged from slightly tinted with whine, to being drenched to the point of dripping with it.

I had calmly answered all of them.

(Calm being subjective.  On the outside, I never snapped.  There may have been twitching, but no snapping.  My insides, however churned fervently.)

For those wrapped up in getting their questions answered and their “needs” met (needs also being subjective here and really would be better defined as “wants”), nothing was different.

I was just a means to an end.

A grade question.

A make up test.

A missed assignment.

Absent work.

A sounding board for complaints.

Chocolate milk.

Mickey Mouse via Tivo.

That rattle over there that can’t be reached {yet}.

Doing all the things that aren’t allowed.

They didn’t notice the weakening in the wall…the cracks running up from the base all the way to the top, slowly splitting the foundation of the calm exterior.

That which was whole and safe was moments from crumbling.

But no one noticed.

I sometimes wonder if these fault lines would be detected if I was around friends or family or my husband more than I am during the week.

If Cort wasn’t gone three nights a week he might see me weakening.

If I reached out to my mom, maybe she would recognize the tell-tale signs of a wobbly foundation.

If I was around more friends during the week would they notice the chips and cracks?

But adding “people” to my already jam-packed week is more stressful than relieving.

And so the foundation quivers.

And the cracks deepen.

At first I speak uncalmly.

Then I speak unkindly.

And then I do not act out of love, but out of frustration and anger.

My boys cry.

Out of sadness?

Out of fear?

Out of hurt?

Probably all of them.

I don’t hurt my children ever.

Not with my hands.  It never comes to that.

I would rather die.

But I know my sharp words and harsh tone and surprising volume pains them.

They bear the brunt of it because their wants and needs happen last in the day.

All day my bucket is emptied into others’ buckets and there is precious little left for what is most precious in my life.

The ones who deserve the most of my bucket get the least.

As soon as a chunk of my wall falls, I immediately work to patch it up.

Fill the hole with plaster.  Sand it down.  Paint over it.

All is fine.

Fix it.

It didn’t happen.

I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry.

And every time they forgive.

There is love and hugs and…understanding?

But after everyone is put to bed and the house is quiet and all I hear are humidifiers humming and the heaving breathing of all the boys slumbering…

when I lie there and try to quiet my brain–and heart–I wonder.

What do they see?

What does mommy look like to them in a fit of rage and weakness?

And what does mommy look like as she immediately humbles herself and makes herself vulnerable before them?

What effect will this leave on their impressionable hearts and minds?

How will this mold their view of me, of women, of family?

And I am left to pray for a fresh start, a new heart, and a stronger wall tomorrow.

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