Why I Survived Depression and Choose to Live
Wow. I ran across an emotional post from a year ago. (Down the Rabbit Hole)
A post that had ties to a more difficult time.
I realized I left a lot of things unsaid.
Mostly because I wanted to be a 100% sure I had moved passed it before I talked about it.
I discovered that depression is not something you can give up when you’ve had enough. It was easier to ignore and live with it. It was like a friend who comforted you by telling you the world was a cruel place. You shouldn’t dare hope for anything better. This is all there is.
Except I do remember a time when it wasn’t always like this. I do not falsely hope that I will regain the exact same outlook I had before. But I do believe I can have a healthy outlook on life.
That’s why I have over the years made an effort to show what our life looks like on Facebook, on Instagram, or here on my blog.
The more venomous people would talk about our home, our family, and our choices – the more I shared and the less I cared. Especially when I knew they had problems of their own. I felt like I was being punished for being honest. For letting people know where I stood and accepting them for where they were. For being imperfect in an imperfect world.
There are very few people I have revealed my depression to.
It’s even sometimes hard for Honey Bear to remember that I deal with it on a regular basis. Probably because I look happy.
It’s only hard to tell people about it for a couple of reasons. Somewhere along my life’s path I had been taught to shun weakness. If someone was weak and continued to fight, you honor that by ignoring the weakness. You don’t talk about it. The flip side to this kind of thinking is people are afraid to admit their imperfections. By acknowledging yours, it reminds them of their own. They immediately go into survival mode and withdrawal from engaging. They openly mock the person who is hurting, to keep the attention away from them or to put some distance between them.
I’ve seen it.
I’ve been on both sides of it.
That’s why I stopped talking about it. It made people uncomfortable.
It made me sad but it also made me secretly more conscious of other people who were struggling. I wanted them to know that I saw them and in return it made me a kinder person. I want them to know it’s possible to be happy again. I want to help them be inspired to make new memories. Even when the circumstances are crap.
When people do find out they wonder how it happened.
I can honestly say the post-partum depression was present after the last 2 live births (and if I’m being honest with myself each of 11 miscarriages in the last 15 years). After the twins I threw myself into police work, but the situation was stressful. I felt I worked myself through it. The more I worked the better I felt.
The next time it happened there was no such relief. Added to both occasions was a divorce where my social group felt I had committed some awful sin… because you know… they had met the other person once and they were sure it was my fault. I decided it didn’t matter. Even when I would walk around the corner and hear them talk about the situation. I smiled and bore it all. At that time I believed in karma, and karma doesn’t work if you tried to control it. Then later when I decided I no longer believed in karma, I decided that there was no right or wrong. Only human beings who refused to lend a hand to right a wrong and human beings who were too busy to care. I decided that only ignorant or immature humans could see the world so black and white.
Why I didn’t learn my “lesson” the first time?
Unfortunately when you are not whole, or you’re distracted by different stressors you deem more important like being pregnant, the wrong sort of people show up and take advantage of you. Like a virus it feeds off of you. A couple of high strung marriages/divorces later and the recipe for my current mental state was set… I was always told to submit yourself to the will of your spouse… the two shall become twain… but no one talks about how to be a balanced couple. No one talks about an exit strategy before you drive into the tornado territory of divorce.
Before when someone would ask if getting married was the right decision, I would ask them “are you happy?”
Now I know there is more to it than a marriage checklist anyone can provide. Now I ask them what they think they need in a marriage and how well they know the other person. Usually by the time people ask they are no longer looking for insight, but it doesn’t hurt to speak up. I ask the questions I wish someone had asked me.
I also learned that we all lie to some extent.
I learn that people who are dishonest about their “happy marriages” end up hurting the hopeful or the newly married. We sell only a part of ourselves, we ignore problems, and then we tell ourselves that we (or something else) can change the other part. The truth is we have no control over our partners. So when you aren’t aware of all of them, you are dealing with variables that will come out at all the worst times conceivably possible.
Someone probably told you that those are the moments where your character is tested. I believe that is when your character is forged. You can be a master with your words and convince me of your intentions… but unless the actions are there to back it up it means nothing.
Divorces are more than messy affairs.
Especially when the other party involved will say almost anything to prove they were “innocent” in the affairs. Destroying your credibility in the community (physical or social) you live in… Displaying a lack of concern for the welfare of their offspring outside of a courtroom… but claiming fowl play inside a courtroom.
What shocks me is that they may not even realize what they are doing. Or how their words… actions impact the lives of others. The more I learned about them as a child, the more I realized that their life lessons taught them that this was a way to get what they wanted. That although this was a selfish thing to -this was a way to survive. For them.
Finding yourself with such a virus, you only have two choices. Either be aware of your habits so you can change them or let it run its course. Sometimes you have no choice but to do both.
So last year’s post reminded me of the hidden under currents.
It reminded me that sum of my experiences has caused me to be distrusting. It has caused me to timid, in a way that annoys me. There is nothing I hate then being forced to feel like a victim. It’s the main reason I try to stay away from anything that sounds like a “woe is me” impression. The problem with that is it’s hard to tell that kind story unless someone is willing to tell that story for you. Which is why I have fallen in love with Humans of New York’s Facebook page. If nothing else than it reminds me to have courage to share someones’ story… but maybe I should start with my own.
It also reminded me of how I deal with my depression.
I recently told someone about a time when I was pregnant with Lil Man. The crappy situation was so bad I attempted to take my own life. Why did I stop? I felt that there was no else who could care and love these kids like I could. I knew if I finished what I was doing they would most likely be separated… disconnected from each other… and I knew a quality of life on any level could not be guaranteed.
It may feel weird that a profound sense of duty pulled me back to the light. But it did. I thought the worse that could happen was that I would be miserable the rest of my life, but at least the kids could have a chance at happiness. I knew what happiness was and how to look for it. I knew how to protect it from the things in this world that could rob one’s soul. Those were the gifts I could give them and that was my reason for living then… and now.
I knew then that my rubber band had snapped. Up until this point I felt that I could rebound from anything. Now it was a cliff and I had been pushed over.
I knew it would be up to me every day to climb the rock face and get back to a better place. I foolishly told my friend it was easy. That I had simply made a choice. Somehow it shocked me that I said that. It was never easy… and it still isn’t.
The difference between myself and someone else in the same situation was that I knew what healthy looks like. I knew what kind of habits would keep me on track. I knew what behaviors were warning signs that I would slide. I knew what I needed to do to survive the day.
It wasn’t until I climbed up far enough that I realized that I wasn’t alone. There are so may struggling to climb… but they need help finding the footholds first.
I once believed in an eternal perspective… now I had a daily perspective.
There were choices I made with a daily or weekly perspective in mind. It ended up causing a lot of unkind scrutiny. But you know what? I don’t feel guilty for making the best choice possible for my health or my family’s. Not then, not now.
At one point I started to lose my way so I sought out a therapist. When my mother’s health declined I turned to blogging. I blogged about business. I blogged about homeschooling. I blogged about anything I felt would help.
It took me a while to find the words but I discovered the last two marriages had taken something from me, even if I gave it freely… so I set about getting to know myself again.
For me this meant I had to constantly question if my actions were aligned with my beliefs. If my actions were healthy. For example I looked at my activities and asked if running around ragged added to me or my family – or did it rob us of things we held precious? It turns out this was the key question to getting myself back on track.
In the beginning I reached out to a couple of friends and invited them to check on me or drag me out. If I didn’t answer the door and they knew I was there, they had permission to enter and make sure I was okay. That was a good fail safe and it did help me get to a point where I had the energy to work on myself. Eventually I found a couple of mood busters that could help me find the energy to live. Things that have always made me feel connected with myself.
Find a few “mood” busters that give you the energy you need.
- Outside of normal errands for the household I made plans to get out a certain number of times each week. I set aside “Me” time.
- On the opposite side of the spectrum I reduced the number of commitments that left me no time for me or my family to connect each week.
- I made sure I walked or hiked once a week. If I couldn’t bring myself to do that, I at least spent time outdoors. I found nature inspired me and took me in her arms to heal me. If only I would make time to walk with her.
- I rediscovered hobbies that interest me. This year I added photography… I love capturing a beautiful moment of my time. When I felt depressed I needed a reminder that I had good days. That this crappy moment was just another moment and it would pass.
- I made it a goal to learn or discover something new every day. Often this is the driving force behind my wanderlust. My Life-Learning adventures are empowered by whatever homeschooling unearths for the day. When I haven’t traveled for a while, I can feel myself slipping.
- I have to add one more here that I don’t always consider a mood buster but it falls under service. Volunteering to educate my kids or help out with the local homeschool group reminds me that serving others in my capacity is a depression lifter.
- For a time I was irritated when my kids laughed with such ease. Then I gave myself permission to join them and now I look for ways to laugh and be silly.
Occasionally I would beat myself up because I felt like I wasn’t doing anything important. I didn’t know if I was making any progress.
I felt like a failure. I felt like I had fallen so far from the person I was. One day I found myself fighting a guilt trip and suddenly I saw myself again. I found joy in things I felt was a waste of time. I found myself in awe of a leaf. I found that when I was close to triggering another cycle of depression I was rude and pushy and angry. I found myself swearing every third word. I gave myself permission to express myself… I looked for new ways to express myself… and I allowed myself the freedom to appreciate the way others expressed themselves.
I’m at a point where I no longer feel it is a failing.
I always hated labels. Depression is the kind of label where people look at you like you are an invalid. As if this impairs you from doing anything worthwhile or important.
I saw that this kind of ignorance kills.
It’s been a big reason why I haven’t spoken openly about it before… it can kill a person’s confidence when you’re being second guessed. It’s such a toxic behavior that it can do more than trigger a depression cycle. It can cause depression in healthy kids and adults.
It is the absolutely worst thing you can do to their face or behind another person’s back. Why? It’s undermining them at a point when they need your support.
That’s why I love this meme about Cathy Fisher.
The human race has benefited from a wide variety of people who suffered from depression (or where highly sensitive individuals), and learned to function with it. It is not something to be ashamed of.
I understand it is human nature to use our fears and uncertainties to protect ourselves. It’s what we do when we are operating in survivor mode. But it is not the mode humans operate from when we are thriving.
Because I wanted to encourage positive habits in others… the kind that would help them thrive- I started a series last year… and I never finished it…
Instead of picking up where I left off I hope to share it in a different way.
A way that might have more impact than a checklist can be. A way to share how other Winkies are dealing with the hardest part of life, was/is for them, and what they found that helped them survive and thrive. A way to live and a way to share the reason why they choose to live.