tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

Archive for the month “August, 2018”

Surrounded by people but completely alone

Tonight I went to a church event with a bunch of people in attendance. I wasn’t sure if I was going to go, but then my friend said she was going and one of the people hosting it reached out personally by text to ask me if I would be attending. Even as I got ready to leave the house, I wasn’t sure that it was a good idea, but I’d already told the boys that we would be going and I didn’t want to disappoint them. I wasn’t feeling very social and I have been struggling a lot the last few days, but I figured I just needed to go and put myself out there and maybe I’d start feeling better. The moment we walked up to the gathering though, I knew I had made a mistake.

I wasn’t in a good place and realized that no one there was a person I could muster up the strength to put on a brave face for and hold a conversation with. The kids were sent off into groups for child care, something that I’d normally be excited for, an opportunity to be with other adults kid-free, but tonight I longed for the days when they used to cling to me, giving me an excuse not to talk to others. My husband didn’t come with me because he hates social things like this and has horrible social anxiety. One of my good friends showed up with her family and I thought for half a second that I might be able to get through this, but before I could even really talk to her, an ice-breaker game was announced and everyone was told to pair up. Being there alone, I immediately felt iced out by the ice-breaker game. All the pairs were told to find seats at the dinner tables and I was left standing alone. I tried to look busy on my phone, but my husband wasn’t answering my texts as I went looking for reassurance. I was left on the outskirts completely alone.

Normally, I would have been fine in this situation. Usually I’m the person looking for the person in the crowd that looks lost or alone. I march right up to them, introduce myself, and ask if they want to be my partner. Having spent so many recesses, lunchtimes, and parties alone and overwhelmed by shyness, I am all too familiar with how it feels to be on the outside looking in, so when I finally found my confidence, I made it my mission to make others feel included. That wasn’t the case tonight though. I was back in elementary school, watching all the kids at recess playing together, too scared of rejection to ask anyone if I could join in.

I was back in a position of weakness because of my mental illness, my depression. It was messing with the messages in my mind again. Knowing that it is just my wiring sending me wrong signals doesn’t help make it better though. My head is filled with poison and just knowing this doesn’t make an antidote. The worse part is, I know I slip back into these horrible places sometimes, but I can never remember how I have gotten out of them in the past. It isn’t like there is some trick that works every time. My mind isn’t a sticky door that just needs a jiggle and hit in the right place to open so I can be set free. Every time is different. Adjusting my medicine dosage is always a piece of the puzzle, but it isn’t the only one.

So there I was, left trying not to break down with all these people surrounding me. I wanted desperately to just grab my kids and leave, but they were having fun. I thought about retreating to my car and just sitting there and crying until it was over, but I knew I couldn’t do that. I tried, unsuccessfully, to fight back tears, as a few leaked out and even more threatened to escape. I did anything I could think of to try to distract myself from the situation, checking the time ever couple of minutes. Somehow, by the grace of God, I managed to make it through those two excruciating hours. I collected my kids the second I could and preformed an Irish goodbye, hurrying to my car without so much as a wave to anyone. At least the kids had fun, which made it somewhat worth it, but not really. When I got home, I locked myself in my bedroom and binge watched Netflix while folding clothes, trying to lose myself in somebody else’s story because my current one isn’t any good right now.

Right now I am not in control of how I feel and that sucks. This is not who I am or who I want to be. Except, it is who I am. It is a big part of who I am. It is the side of me I never want anyone to see. The side of me I wish didn’t exist. It is the part of me that makes me feel isolated and alone, even when I’m surrounded by people.


Confession: everything is not ok

I have a confession to make: I do not like myself, I never really have. In fact, I pretty much despise myself the majority of time. I detest my existence so much that I’ve attempted suicide more times than I can count. The only thing that keeps me going are my boys. My boys have been my saving grace for the past 11years.

I live with depression. Everyday, every hour. I have all my life. I was finally diagnosed when I was 19 and put on medicine, which for the most part helps. That doesn’t mean though that the depression is gone, it is still there. I feel it everyday. Some days more than others. There are many days when I almost forget about it, but it is always there, lurking in the back of my brain.

I’ve always known I wanted to be a mom, more than anything else in the world. When I got pregnant, my life became about someone else, someone who needed me. Being a mom gave me purpose. I knew that little baby needed me even if I didn’t need me. I was no longer disposable and I knew I had to keep going no matter what for the sake of that little boy. Now I have four little boys and they count on me more than anyone else in this world, so I soldier on, no matter how bad things get sometime. I even pride myself on my strength to keep going. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some days I just want to check out completely, I just know that I’m not allowed to anymore, at least not right now. There are many days that I cry in the shower, binge on tv shows in attempts to escape being me, or try to sleep more so I can be someone else in my dreams (unfortunately, the hate I feel for myself follows me into my dreams and everyone in my dreams hate me). When things get really bad and I feel like I just can’t do it anymore, I lock myself in the bathroom with a razor blade and cut myself in hopes that the physical pain will relieve some of the emotional pain. Of course, most people that know me have no clue about this.

I don’t hide that I have depression, I’m very open and honest about that, but I’m less open about when I’m suffering from depression. Like most depressed people, I have a very hard time expressing that I’m struggling or asking for help. In fact, I’ll probably never even post this despite my desire to be frank and honest about things no one likes to talk about. When famous people commit suicide, people often say that they had no idea it was coming and that the person seemed happy and fine. That’s because that is the act depressed people put on everyday. We live our lives stuck inside of our own heads, which is a nightmare. Our brains are dark and evil and feed us images of ourselves that are distorted like a fun house mirror reflection. I’m sure many depressed people learn, as I did early on that no one likes depressed people. When I was first diagnosed, I lost many friends and was literally told by a few that they didn’t like when I wasn’t happy and couldn’t be around me if I wasn’t going to be happy. I’ve also discovered over time that if you show your weakness to someone and ask for help, they will punish you for being weak. Yet another reason this will probably never get posted. Depression isn’t something people want to talk about or be around, so we put on an act. The thing is, we aren’t trying to fool others as much as we are trying to fool ourselves. Maybe if we act happy and pretend to be ok then the monster in our minds that wants to devour our souls will stay quietly caged in the back of our minds a little longer. So each day becomes a battle. Most days we win, we hold back the monster, we live life. But doing battle everyday is exhausting and eventually cracks start to form in the cage and the monster gets free. Over time, you figure out ways to push the monster back into the cage (a good cry, cutting, small self destructive behaviors, upping meds, etc) . Sometimes it is over quick and other times it takes a few days or weeks. This is often when depressed friends will be MIA, but people don’t tend to notice because everyone is busy with their own lives. The problem is, it only takes the monster getting out once to become too much for a person who struggles everyday and for them to finally give up. That’s where these suicides that people think came out of no where come from.

When people do kill themselves the response is often that the person was selfish or weak or took the easy way out. All of that is bull shit though. Many times a person commits suicide because they feel like the world doesn’t need them or would be better off without them. They want to save their loved ones from having to deal with them. Even famous people who are remembered as “beloved”feel this way. Their brain doesn’t allow them to see reality, it distorts everything. That person certainly wasn’t weak either. I guarantee that they suffered with depression for years before they took their own life whether they were diagnosed or not. People don’t kill themselves on a whim. It is something they have repeatedly thought about and fought many times before. It isn’t an “ease out” either. Like I said, this person has thought about it many times before, thought about their loved ones, thought about what comes after death if anything, thought about nonexistence, and still decided that this was the better alternative. There is no easy way to kill yourself either. Before I had kids, I attempted several different ways. Pills aren’t painful, but they give you lots of time to think and possibly change your mind before they take affect. Slitting your wrists is painful and takes a lot of pressure on the blade, making it difficult to work against your bodies reaction to the pain. In fact, the body’s natural desire to survive is so strong that it makes just about any choice extremely hard to follow through on, it takes real determination to be successful. Only one of my attempts was successful. I flat lined, but I’d already confessed to taking too many pills to someone, my self-perseverance instincts kicking in, and they sought help. It only takes one successful attempt without interventions to be the end of someone. One missed sign that a person needed help. One person too scared or unable to ask for help.

So why am I writing this? It isn’t a suicide note or anything, but it is a cry for help. A cry for help for all people who are suffering from depression. After a couple of recent famous suicides there was a lot of talk about suicide and prevention. It got me a little angry because people kill themselves everyday. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Statistics say that 123 people commit suicide everyday in America and for every successful attempt, there are 25 failed attempts. That means that 3,075 people attempt suicide in America everyday. More than likely, someone you know was one of those failed attempts at some point in time and you probably don’t even know it. If you know me, then you know someone who has tried to commit suicide. So why is it that suicide and depression are only really talked about when someone famous dies from it? Why are the 1,122,375 suicide attempts each year never discussed? For the same reason that people suffering from depression don’t tend to share that they are suffering from depression, because of the stigma, because no one wants to be around the person with depression. According to the APA, “one in four primary care patients suffer from depression,” but only a third get diagnosed. If that is the case, we are all surrounded by people suffering from some type of depression so it is time we start being ok with talking about it. I’ve always been honest about my depression because I don’t want others suffering to feel like they are alone, but I haven’t been as open about my past suicide attempts. However, I’ve decided it is time to be open about them and my still daily struggle with depression, despite the risk of rejection, punishment, or ostracization I might face, because I’m not ok and neither are a lot of people and we shouldn’t be afraid to say that.

Am I suicidal? No. Have I been struggling with depression? Everyday, all my life. I tell people I was diagnosed with depression at 19 and many assume that means I’m ok now, but that isn’t how it works. I constantly struggle with it whether I show signs of it or not. Should that make people worried? Not really, but it should make people aware. You can go online and look up signs of depression and suicidal behavior, but in reality, that isn’t going to help as much as being open and honest and willing to talk about depression. Someone you know is suffering from depression right now and afraid to talk about it. Open up a dialogue, normalize it, make it no big deal to talk about depression, then maybe people will feel safe enough to get help or you might find out who needs it. If nothing else, people who are suffering from the isolating effects of depression might feel less isolated and stigmatized.

It is ok to not be ok! I’m not ok most days, but I’m still here.

Disclaimer to my mom and loved ones: please don’t call all worried and asking if I’m ok. I’m not struggling anymore than any other day. This isn’t about my current state, it is about the message that no one should be depressed alone. I love you and promise I’m taking care of myself.

depression: a dirty little secret no more

This is a preciously unpublished piece from a few months back.

Tonight I received a text from a friend who is a mom and who is really struggling. She was feeling like I myself have many times in my journey through motherhood and even just life. She was feeling overwhelmed, like she was drowning, and she was trying to stay afloat while keeping her family afloat as well. She was afraid to ask for a life preserver or to even call attention to herself struggling for fear of judgement or appearing weak to others. She told me she felt like she had to do it on her but she could unravel a little to me because I’d been through it and I wouldn’t judge. This really pissed  me off. Not what she said, but the fact that she felt so all alone. I felt pissed off because I remember feeling the same way, alone and shamed. I remember feeling like I was falling to pieces, but that I had to pretend like everything was fine in order to be strong for everyone around me. I’m temporarily on the other side right now though and know that well hidden secret that so many of us carry;the secret that she isn’t alone. The secret that many of us feel the same way, but society has taught us to be shameful of it and not to speak of it. The secret of depression.

This isn’t something that I necessarily write about here, but I’ve decided that it is time that I add a new category and start to write about it. The topic of depression and mental health is a big part of my story on a very personal level in so many ways and I know it is a big part of a lot of people’s lives whether they are a parent or not. Whether you even realize it or not, some one you know is dealing with depression or other mental health issues right now. Maybe it is you who is dealing with it. If you are, I’m here to say you aren’t alone.  Eithe way, I want to break down these walls of shame and secrecy. I want to stop these lies that we tell ourselves that we have to be strong and can’t ask for help. I don’t want my friend or anyone else to feel like they are drowning but can’t ask for help. I want discussing mental health and depression to be an everyday conversation held loud and proud by people at every Starbucks or Jamba Juice or wherever people normally hang out and discuss the latest episode of The Bachelor or The Voice. I want the stigma to be lost and help to be found. So, I starting with my story.
Depression runs in my family, but I didn’t know that until it had me full in its grip and was crushing my soul. I’d always felt great bouts of sadness, despair, and emptiness, but I just assumed that everyone felt this way sometimes or that it was just “teenaged angst”. I’d bounce around from therapist to therapist since I was about five, but I just figure it was because I was strange and unlikeable. I had no idea that I had a medical condition that I could get help for and that I didn’t have to live feeling this way all the time. I had no idea because no body wanted to talk about it or the many others in my family who had struggled with it. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old and locked up in a state mental institution for attempted suicide that I received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder and was finally given some help in the form of medication. This was one of the darkest times of my life, so dark that there are still pieces of that time period that my mind has blocked out and I don’t completely remember until something triggers it in my mind. It is like someone ripped pages from that chapter in my life and every once in awhile I find one of those pages and am reminded of writing it.  One thing that helped me to make it through this time was reading about other people’s stories about their struggles with depression and bipolar. I felt less alone and more hope that I could get through this because they had. I vowed that one day I’d write about my own experience in hopes of helping someone else make it through their dark times. Maybe this is my chance.

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