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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

I’ll be completely honest: I hate the idea of getting older. I am not at all comfortable with my number as it continues to go up..

Before this goes any further, I am fully aware of how lucky I am to be able to get older. I know that people have terminal and debilitating conditions and I count myself as fortunate to not have gone through that as of now. I understand that there are people who are sensitive to this topic, but this blog is about dealing with the feelings and emotions that come with transitioning into this new territory because they exist and are valid, so no comments on how I should feel lucky to be getting older, please. I’m not whining, just processing. (But I will be wine-ing, later, at an acceptable hour. See what I did there?)

At 44 (yeep!) I feel better than I ever have; I’m healthier, mentally and physically, than I’ve ever been in my life. I (mostly) eat healthy and exercise almost every day. I’ve been seeing my therapist for around eight years now, which has done wonders for helping me with depression, anxiety, and my past. I’m deliriously happy in my marriage. While I’m not even close to knowing it all, I’m much more comfortable in understanding that that’s okay. But for the first time, I’m worried about this getting older thing. It isn’t so much about how I will look, although I admit that does bother me. I do my best to stay in shape, to eat right, drink a lot of water, and I use my moisturizer every morning and night, the way my grandma taught me, but I know that physical changes are inevitable. I do intend on fighting that particular aspect every step of the way.

What I will eventually look like isn’t what bothers me the most, though. What gets my stomach churning is the thought of being seen as less of a person because I will be old. I fear the perception that I will be feeble, the loss of control in my life, the lack of respect from younger people who won’t think I’m “with it”, the impatience of those around me. I’m afraid I won’t recognize that I’m not capable of doing things anymore, like driving. (Although, if my evil plan works and we move to London, I won’t need to drive anywhere, eliminating that painful milestone.)

For the record, I fully intend on being an independent, bad-ass, older person complete with tattoos, but I also know that an accident or disease could take that choice away from me in an instant. I’m also downright terrified of having dementia or Alzheimer’s. It was painful to watch both of my grandmothers decline mentally and physically. I’m sure it was loads more painful for them to go through: the confusion of the disease and the understanding in their lucid moments must have been terrifying. I’m hoping to escape their fate and doing everything I can to ward off those demons: puzzles of all sorts, reading, exercising, and drinking my red wine faithfully. (Don’t laugh, there are tons of articles on red wine preventing dementia. Who am I to discount research?)

I know that this is a long way off yet, but I see signs. There are fine lines forming when I look in the mirror. I have two adult children, one who is living completely on his own, with a teenager close behind. I remember things that happened twenty years ago like they happened yesterday. I actually need reading glasses now, which really sucks. I had been prescribed glasses for years, but I’ve only recently noticed a big difference. Marty thinks this is funny. Me, not so much. Certain theatre roles would be a bit ridiculous for me now, which makes me sad.

BUT… I saw a post today from a friend who’s only a bit older than I am and she was absolutely embracing the idea of getting older. It was about the freedom to be yourself, having less of a filter, and being comfortable in one’s body. I want to feel that way, I want to get there mentally. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. My therapist says to not dwell on things that haven’t happened yet and might not ever happen. The key is thinking positively and planning for what you want to happen. There is a 103-year-old woman who still runs competitively and was on the news a couple of weeks ago. I’m aiming for that.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to do all of things that I’ve been doing not only because it will combat the bad aging stuff, but also because it’s fun.

That includes the red wine. Obviously.

Salute!

Red Wine

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Depression and anxiety both really suck sometimes. It was a rough, overwhelming day (it’s been a rough, overwhelming week) and I was drained, emotionally and mentally, but I’m crawling out of the hole now. I can see the light again and it will be okay. Some alone time to process, allowing myself some tears, forcing myself to get some physical activity, and the support of my husband helped me to stabilize. I’m feeling well enough to write now, well enough to go to work tomorrow. I can handle it. Support is huge, strategies are huge, therapy is wonderful.

It’s going to be okay. I can see that now. I couldn’t a few hours ago. It’s going to be okay.

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“Help me, it’s like the walls are caving in.
Sometimes I feel like giving up,
No medicine is strong enough.
Someone help me.
I’m crawling in my skin.
Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t.
It isn’t in my blood.”

~Sean Mendes

I really listened to these lyrics for the first time a few weeks ago and they hit me. Hard. This is a description of an anxiety and/or a depression hole, folks, pure and simple. I’ve, of course, heard of Sean Mendes, but I didn’t know that he sang this song until yesterday. It’s clear, though, that he knows a more than a bit about anxiety and depression. Here’s a bit more from the same song:

“Laying on the bathroom floor, feeling nothing.
I’m overwhelmed and insecure, give me something
I could take to ease my mind slowly.
Just have a drink and you’ll feel better.
Just take her home and you’ll feel better.
Keep telling me that it gets better.
Does it ever?”

Sounds completely hopeless, yes? That’s because it is, at the time. He’s absolutely hit the nail on the head. When you “fall” into one of these holes, this is the feeling. And it’s scary. And it sucks. And, for a while, it feels like you’ll never be right again. In my case, eventually I do feel right again, quicker these days than before I started talk therapy a few years ago, but for some, it lasts for days, weeks, and months. Through therapy, I’ve learned strategies to cope, but while that helps to quiet the demons, it doesn’t keep them away entirely. The combination of extended childhood trauma plus my genetic disposition toward depression make it clear that I will probably always need some sort of therapeutic outlet. I know that and I’ve made peace with that. I’m strong, but not strong enough to carry this thing by myself.

And I’m not by myself. Besides my therapist, Marty is a huge support and I have no doubt that my “holes” frustrate him at times, but he’s done his best to understand and he has learned about depression in order to help me with what I need at the time, which is usually for him to keep a watchful distance and let me ride it out in silence. He never complains.

I wish I could control it.

Twice, I’ve seen posts on Facebook this week about choosing to be happy, that you only have to make the choice to be happy and it will be all better. How easy that sounds! Unfortunately, I can’t choose or pray my way out of this disease any more than I can choose or pray my way out of any other disease. Just because it has to do with my brain doesn’t make it easier to get rid of than bronchitis or a broken arm. It amazes me that people still think that way.

What has brought all of this depression talk on, you ask? These past two weeks have been a struggle for me; it’s been rough. Triggering, in popular talk. Writing helps me deal with it. I’m not okay with mocking sexual assault victims, in public or otherwise, but right now, the administration of our country seems fine with that. I’m hurting, not just for me, but for all victims, especially for those have kept it to themselves, who were not believed or helped. My heart aches for them.

The worst thing was the laughter at the Trump rally as he mocked Dr. Ford, especially after he had called her testimony credible. My god, that was hard to stomach. Vile, really. Inhuman. Who thinks that this is okay? How much of a scum do you have to be to laugh at someone who has clearly been victimized, whether or not you believe it was the named perpetrator? I felt sick when heard it. A lot of bad words were flung at the TV screen.

I’ve been there, been through it. Years of it. I didn’t make a noise about it until it was too late, legally, to make a noise. I didn’t report at the time, I was terrified. I was a child, and then a teenager. But it happened. I know that. The step-monster knows that. That is enough for me. I understand why things don’t come out until later. You have to be strong enough, first. That takes time for some of us.

Depression sucks, and I have to be stronger than it is, but I’m tired this week. Exhausted, really, but I’m okay. When triggers like this happen, you have to work through it, you have to process what’s going on and choose how you will respond, but it has felt like a continual battle lately. I need a break. I know it will pass, and there will be good days, really good days. But I know that it’s waiting in the wings, just waiting for that next rape “joke”, that next unexpected scene in a television show, that next disturbing section in a book. Then, the cycle begins again but by then, there’s a reserve of strength to deal with it.

“Sometimes I feel like giving up
But I just can’t.
It isn’t in my blood.”

I’m not giving up; not even close. There’s too much to fight for and after a short bit, I’ll be back to fight again.

You are not alone.

 

 

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A friend of mine is going through a rough time right now. A friend of hers chose to end her own life a few months back, leaving behind a husband and young children. Just recently, the husband decided that he, too, couldn’t take it any more and also took his own life. The children are left with no parents, the family and friends are devastated, and it’s so difficult to see the point. They were young, so young. They were parents, with babies to think of. At first, the thought that ran through my head was how selfish it was to do that to your kids, to leave them confused and grieving for not only one, but both parents. Studies show that children of a parent, or parents, who commit suicide not only have a significantly higher chance of doing it to themselves at some point, but increased chances of emotional and mental problems, including depression. I didn’t know the couple, but it made me sad and angry all at the same time. It stayed with me, though, and after a while, I started to see things a little differently.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t agree that they had the right to do that. I still think there was so much else that could they could have done to combat the urge to end it all. There’s therapy of all sorts, medication, even just talking to friends or relatives, which would hopefully encourage a visit to said therapy. There seems to be no logical reason why two people would decide the events in their lives were so overwhelming that they couldn’t function. But the little nagging voice in the back of my mind urged me to not be so self-righteous and to remember that dark thoughts have crept into my own mind as well.

I have depression. A lot of people do. I’ve been properly diagnosed, it’s not debilitating, and I’m in treatment for it, going on three years now. The side effects of medication proved to be too much for me, so I’ve been in talk therapy instead. It helps, it really does. Being able to be completely honest with no fear of judgement is a great relief and it’s accompanied by strategies to combat those dark thoughts. My therapist specializes in treating people with my kind of past and doesn’t make feel that I’m crazy. It’s a good thing.

Let me be clear: Having depression does NOT mean that someone is suicidal. But having depression does make one more susceptible to having suicidal thoughts. Let me try to explain what it feels like when depression is in full swing.

I call it a “hole”. That’s the best way I can describe it. When I have an episode, it’s like I’ve fallen into a black hole. Sometimes there’s a trigger, like a flashback memory or a really upsetting day. It could be bad news, it could be that I didn’t get a job interview, that there was a misunderstanding at home, or just overwhelming feelings of failure. Whatever the case, it results in an onslaught of negative feelings. I fell hopeless, like nothing will ever be okay again. Horrid thoughts run through my head, like I’m worthless, that I’m never going to achieve anything, that I’m ruining my kids, my marriage. Awful, debilitating things that have no base. These kinds of thoughts are common for people with depression. They’re not “poor me, feel sorry for me” thoughts, either. When I get like this, I retreat into myself, really trying to hide it from others. I can function at work if I stay busy, but that usually results in stronger feelings when work is over. When I come out of a hole, I can’t believe that I allowed myself to sink in, which is silly, because it’s something that can’t be controlled, only managed. Eventually, it started to really affect my life and I knew it was time to get help. Since then, I’ve learned to pay better attention to when they’re coming on and different exercises to keep them short or away all together.

Before I started talk therapy, these “holes” could last an entire day or more. Like I said, I still functioned and went to work, but I felt like a zombie; dead inside. Since starting therapy, these holes occur very infrequently and when they do happen, they’re usually gone within an hour or two. In these “holes”, though, it feels like nothing will ever be right again. Even minor crises, like an argument with Marty or with one of the boys, can throw my whole world off, at least for a little while. For people with severe depression, those awful holes can last for days, weeks, or months. Some experience such utter hopelessness that they begin to see themselves as better off dead. I’ve never been in that spot where I’ve seriously considered the unthinkable, but it has gotten pretty scary.

Most people won’t think of suicide. Most people have bad days and can brush it off. With depression, which often mixes with anxiety, seemingly small things can balloon to huge proportions.The difficult part of that, though, and I mean really difficult, is recognizing that one needs help, and then to ask for it. It sucks to admit that you’re weak, that you can’t get over it on your own, that you couldn’t “pray it away’. That last one cracks me up. I’ve seen so many Christians who claim that you can pray depression away, and that if you can’t, it means that you don’t have enough faith. What complete and utter crap. It’s like saying that if you break your arm, God will heal it instantly if you have enough faith. I’m not denying that miracles happen, they do. Cancer suddenly disappears, a junkie no longer craves drugs, a person diagnosed as brain-dead wakes up with normal brain function, all of these things have happened, but not regularly, which fits the definition of “miracle”. Millions of devout people pray for loved ones with all sorts of illnesses every day. Some get better, some don’t. A mental illness is the same as a physical one; it needs help and attention. If you belong to a church that shuns mental health services, it can make asking for help that much more difficult and in the meantime, can create further damage.

We see both ordinary people and successful people, like Ernest Hemingway or, more recently, Robin Williams, take their own lives and we wonder how seemingly happy people, people that “have it all”, could seek out such a permanent end. I don’t think there’s an easy answer, or any answer at all. What I do know is that we need to treat mental issues differently. Rather than making it a taboo subject, shaming those with depression or anxiety, or condemning them for wanting to die, we need to be compassionate and caring. We need to stop threatening them with Hell or other horrors because thoughts of harming themselves creep in uninvited. We need to help them through whatever hard times they’re going through, get them to seek professional help, and just be there for them, without judgement.

Two small children will go to bed tonight without their parents. What can we do to prevent it happening to another child?

If someone you know is suffering from severe depression, or is thinking of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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