Friday, April 25, 2014

Somedays, I just don't feel like laughing.

It's a weird thing, to be asked how you're doing and reply, "Fine," and know that you are the biggest liar liar pants on fire. Let's face it, as you pass someone in the hall or at the store and they say, "How are you?" it's really more of a, "Hey, I see you!" And that's fine. I can reply, "Great!" Even if things aren't exactly great because of two reasons: 1) In general, my life is great, so there's that. 2) If I say it's great, then maybe I'll believe it. Lately, however, it's been a different story.

I'm going to be honest and admit something I've confided in few others. I think I've been depressed for the past few months. At least, I think that's what it's called when you cry every day for two months. On the upside, I suspect that it is circumstantial. Call it a little post-traumatic stress with a side of poor gut health. Here's what I've learned:

1) Having everyone fall incredibly ill can do a number on your mental state. Several nights I would lie awake, worrying about what was happening, what might happen next. (Recap: After Christmas, and for about the next month and a half, we took turns having the flu - like, the H1N1 - and in all of us, except Joel, it developed into pneumonia. All of us spent time in urgent care, besides various other doctor appointments for breathing treatments and check-ins.) Gratefully, we accepted meals brought in because for the first time in my life I couldn't function. I have never been that sick, and I hope to never be so again. It is incredibly frustrating to be the mother, the one who is supposed to make everything better, and have no idea what to do, not to mention how terrible it feels to threaten your children if they don't drink a tablespoon of liquid every 10 minutes.

2) It helps to have a family history of dealing with depression. I don't know that I would use the term "lucky" but I guess I'm fortunate to have an aunt who has been open and honest about her own struggles in the past. It doesn't necessarily make me feel better, but it makes me feel better about respecting when you just don't FEEL right. It has given me permission to decline invitations and take time for myself. I also have remembered when she would sign up for certain things or participate in things because that would force her to socialize. I've done that, too. Unbeknownst to her, her example has been a huge blessing.

3) It helps to have a spouse who respects you. A few weeks ago, I sat on the couch next to Joel and cried about how I didn't know WHAT was wrong, but that I knew things weren't RIGHT. I knew I wasn't acting like I usually did and wanted him to know it wasn't him or about him or because of him, but that it was making me anxious because I knew I wasn't the wife he knew. I had replayed in my mind how I would bring up this topic, a little scared about how he would react. To his credit, he thought for a moment and then just replied, "Don't let it get much worse before you go see somebody." That may sound like nothing monumental, but in those words he honored my feelings and approved of a means of help.

4) Your gut matters. A couple months ago I started taking St. John's Wort (sounds ew, and if you don't drink enough water, the burps ARE ew) but knew it may take up to a month to build up in my system. A month later, I finally confided in a friend here how I was feeling. She shared her own very personal experience with depression and then talked about the benefits of taking a probiotic. That very morning, I had taken Ainsleigh and Donovan to their well-checks where the pediatrician, after hearing about Ainsleigh's sporadic middle-of-the-night stomachaches, said we should start her on Zantac. She talked about how with all the antibiotics she was on after Christmas, it could have done a number on the lining of her stomach and that it probably needed to heal. As soon as my friend mentioned a probiotic, it was like it all fell into place - *I* had been on antibiotics. I wondered if my gut had been affected. My friend recommended listening to the podcast "Guts" by RadioLab. It's fascinating, and it supports the probiotic theory (if you don't listen to the whole thing, skip to the rats part).

5) Sleep is important, especially when it's hard to sleep. I don't think anything else needs to be said here.

A couple weeks ago at church, a woman was talking about a recent injury and how as she was in so much pain in the emergency room, she suddenly thought of Jesus Christ and all he had suffered and suddenly her pain seemed so insignificant. I know she meant well, and I'm glad she had that experience. But I just sat there listening and thought, "Nope. Not there yet." I'm not trying to be sacrilegious, and I wouldn't say my testimony has been altered, but I'm just not in a place where I can relinquish the stuff I'm feeling. I have hope I'll get there, though. I respect that these things take time.

It has now been 9 days since I've cried (I'm not counting getting teary while typing this). I know this because I started keeping track by putting stars on my calendar. I had joked with Joel I was going to make one of those workplace signs, "We've gone -- days without an accident" but with crying. Instead I just use icons on my calendar. I don't know if it's the St. John's Wort or the probiotics or both or neither. I'm not messing with the system. Some days I fully immerse myself in serving and helping others, and some days I fully immerse myself in cycling and organizing. Depends on the day, depends on my mood.

I've been hesitant about mentioning this at all because...why? I don't know. I guess I don't want people asking me how I'm doing. I might say, "Fine," and mean it, and I might say, "Fine," and be lying, but if I'm lying it's because I'm not in the right head space to talk about it. You're not going to be able to tell - I'm a really good liar. Also, I don't know that I want to talk about it a whole lot. That's a big reason I haven't mentioned this to family members. Talking about being sad hasn't proven to make me happier. I know I'm getting better, though, because a month ago I didn't even want to talk about this and wondered if I'd ever get to the point where I could. Look - I'm doing it!

I wish I had some witty or clever way of tying this whole thing up, but I don't. I guess I just hope that by being honest now, maybe it will tell someone else that it's ok to not feel happy. I'm generally the kind of person who can laugh through anything (see: making jokes while in labor, dilated to a 10), and I'm trying my hardest right now to do that. But somedays I just don't feel like laughing. There -- that's how I'm ending this.


Annie said...

Thank you for sharing. I just appreciate so much your honesty in life. Love ya lots!

PaloAltoCougar said...

Why be depressed when you have so many great things in your life? Be happy! Yeah, that's utterly worthless, but I thought I'd be among to first of many who would make that observation. Depression is a tough thing, and can take a long time to work through. But it's great you have Joel and many others to help. And in a few weeks I'll talk your ear off about this as we ride our bikes for several hours and climb thousands of feet. Now that's something to be depressed about.

NancyO said...

The digestion system has been called the second brain. I've long believed that taking antibiotics can trigger depressive feelings. But it's just part of a bigger picture. Talk soon. Love...

laura said...

I usually have some seasonal depression, and this year was definitely on the worse side, probably due in part to our eternal winter. I just couldn't motivate myself to do stuff, I felt inexplicably sad at times, and I'd burst into tears at random (that was super fun for David!). So yeah, I feel you, and you've certainly had to deal with some not-fun things lately. Thanks for sharing--imagine some spahkalah hugs flying your way!

Becca said...

I find some relief in knowing that I am not the only child that isn't 100% perfect or normal all the time, due to the fact that I have a hard time with anxiety. But I am feeling better and I attribute that to getting all of my vitamins in check (which also have probiotics, along with several other extra good stuff!). I also have started meditating, which I have resisted for years but after Dad told me he was reading an interesting book on it, I tried it. It really does make you feel better and at peace with everything. Okay I'll stop rambling but I'd love to talk more about this!