Surviving Depression

Some posts, like my last one, are so easy to write. The words and images flow to the page in no time. This post isn’t one of those. I’ve pondered it for weeks on end. How do I say it just right, so that I don’t look like a crazy person do the topic justice? Will I say it right? Will I embarrass myself? My family? The cats? They would never forgive me.

I am just going to stay in this tiny little ball and pretend the world doesn't exist. M'kay?

I am just going to stay in this tiny little ball and pretend the world doesn’t exist. M’kay?

So here goes, for better or for worse. I have experienced depressive episodes for most of my life, for different reasons. I know now that I have a congenital liver disorder that can affect my whole body, including my moods. The psych symptoms are the hardest to deal with, and it doesn’t help to remind myself that these feelings aren’t “real,” that they are a biological reaction to a missing enzyme. It also doesn’t help to remind myself that I should be grateful for what I have. I can’t be grateful for my beautiful family when all I can remember is how I have let them down. I know I have a great job, two of them, actually, but I can’t think about it without thinking of all the balls I have let drop or how I could be better.

Depression is a beast. It’s a paralytic. I cannot appreciate the big things because they are just too, too big, a shadow looming overhead. Sometimes in the thick of it, I need the little things, things small enough to hold in my paralyzed hands. So there you go. My tiny things.

Kittens. Forever and ever and ever. Ravenclaw and Pandora are sometimes what keeps me going. I can put one foot in front of the other if I know that in an hour or two, I can cover myself in baby kittens and peace out.

Pandora says she just can't even, ya'll.

Pandora says she just can’t even, ya’ll.

And they sleep beside me, and they keep me company, and even when they are grown up cats, they will be my refuge. Ravenclaw’s love language is a game called “Imma trip you until you pick me up and hold me like a little baby.” And Pandora’s is “Imma lick your eyeballs in the middle of the night.” I don’t even have to think about whether or not I deserve their love. Deserve it or not, they’re serving it up.

My plants. I might have a problem, you know. I have a green thumb, and I LOVE to grow things. The only tiny wrinkle here is that I only have one window for winter when all the plants come IN. And five cats. F-I-V-E cats. But my plants help me to keep going.

The more complicated it is to grow a cultivore, the more I like it. Maybe when I have success with the tough ones, it proves I can do something right, despite the voices in my head to the contrary.

Harry Potter. And it doesn’t bother me at all to say it. I love being in a world that has Harry Potter, and even NEW Harry Potter things. And I can cos-play with the best of them. I won an award at The Cursed Child book release party. Best Costume Overall. I feel proud to be a part of it. (If you click to enlarge the images, you will see the Playboy mags on the shelf behind me)

Cherries. There are cherries in the world. I guess they are out of season now, but that means it will be less than a year before they are BACK on shelves.

I couldn't find a license-free image of cherries, and they are not available now. so I drew you some.

I couldn’t find a license-free image of cherries, and they are not available now. so I drew you some. I am a giver.

Friendship in unexpected places. We had a Harry Potter event at the zoo, and I had too much work to do and couldn’t participate. But the people running the event didn’t want me to miss out. They made me a magic wand. With Slytherin sparkles and a ribbon that looks like snake-skin. I am humbled every time I look at it.

The photo doesn't do it justice (I used a point-and-shoot). It is a thing of beauty.

The photo doesn’t do it justice (I used a point-and-shoot). It is a thing of beauty.

This might be the beginning of a series. Out of curiosity, how do you keep going when things get tough?

 

One Step Ahead

Fall is beautiful and wonderful. It’s filled to the brim with family hikes, delicious foods, the incredible smells of fall. And it’s also the time of year I struggle. I don’t know why, but there it is.

I thought that this year I might be immune. My fall is packed with good things. I’m meeting up with people I adore for a whole weekend, I am going to my first out-of-state professional conference for the first time since I had kids, and I may even get to take a challenging eight mile hike I’ve never completed before. Depression can’t bite if I’m in my insulated happy-suit, right? Wrong.

For some inexplicable reason, it sneaked up on me early this year. Maybe it got a peek at my calendar of awesome and knew that this time in the waiting was its only opportunity. Depression is a sneaky little you-know-what. Anyway, it got me. Suddenly yesterday I found myself tangled like a bug in that all too familiar web of self-doubt and despair, all my personal failings both real and imagined playing in a continuous loop.

But I’ve got a secret weapon; stubbornness. This time I refuse to play by the rules. Just because it’s got me doesn’t mean it gets to keep me. There is still good in my world, even if it wants to hide itself behind a mask of inconvenience or disappointment.

I went shopping for a new book but didn’t find anything I wanted to buy. Instead, I found a book in the free bin at my favorite used bookstore.  It was a book sj has mentioned a time or two, but I had never read it.

It rained on Saturday. Poured for hours, knocking outdoor activities off the schedule. Instead, I spent my day in bed reading my free book. And said book turned out to be my first five-star book of the year. It is also on my personal top 10 ever. Ever. It made me cry, it made me think, it made me wonder.

This morning I woke far too early with a sudden, jump-out-of-bed illness. After such a jolt of adrenaline, going back to sleep was impossible. So I canned eight jars of pumpkin butter and did three loads of laundry. After taking Squish to school, I dug in to my afternoon chores. Now my floors are steam-cleaned, laundry is finished. By 10am, all my chores for the day were done. Now I get to start a project I’ve put off for a while, and I get to play.

There weren’t near enough jars for all of my pumpkin butter. A breakfast of hot pumpkin butter, coffee, and fresh bread is divine. And I can do it again tomorrow.

Some of the photos I took last year and had high hopes for are unusable. But the contrast between my old camera and my new are vast. My new camera has incredible capabilities, and I have just scratched the surface of what it can do. There are tortoise books in my future. Plus, by clearing out the bad photos, I’ve made a bit of room on my computer.

I know that positive thinking isn’t a cure. Depression is not exactly a choice, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a choice to be made. I can focus on what’s good and try to stay afloat while I ride out this storm, or I can give in and sink. For today, I am stubborn. I am counting those blessings as fast as I can see them. For today, I’m one step ahead.

 

 

*Update – As I tried to publish this post, Chrome and all its extensions crashed, taking part of my post with it. Depression is a sore loser.

Today, I Remembered

I hit a rough patch a bit ago and kind of ran off the road..  You may have visited that particular ditch in your travels as well, the place where things that would ordinarily slide off like water from a duck’s back instead bring you to your knees, and even the chocolate doesn’t taste good anymore.  I won’t bore you with details, but at the beginning of this week, watching my plans and efforts crumble to dust, I wondered why I bother at all. It was a low point. But not today. Today, I remembered.

Today, Phyllis came to visit my camp and pooped on the floor, and I remembered how to laugh.

Phyllis the Polish hen. She never stopped talking.

Phyllis the Polish hen. I can’t look at her without smiling.

Today, my new friends met my old friends, and I remembered why I love them both.

Rex, meet campers. Campers, meet Rex. Want to go to a movie?

Rex, meet campers. Campers, meet Rex. Want to go to a movie?

Today, an elephant played me a harmonica tune, and I remembered how to sing.

I don't even care that I have to clean the harmonica.

I don’t even care that I have to clean the harmonica.

Today, an otter caught a snack, and I remembered there is wonder in the world.

I wonder how she bends like that.

I wonder how she bends like that.

Today, there was a splash pad and ice cream, and I remembered how sweet life is.

July 11 splash pad 013

July 11 splash pad 033

Today the water stopped, and I remembered I can make my own magic. Someone reminded me. Thanks for that, little buddy!

July 11 splash pad 029

Today, I remembered why I love what I do. Today was a blessing.

A Good Place To Be

It’s a good day. Yesterday I experienced a big perspective shift that really knocked my socks off. I’ll share it with you soon.

I am a lucky girl. Here’s how I am blessed today:

1) We’re coming up on the half-way point in NaNo, and I’ve realized I will not finish my book by November 30. You want to know why? The story I am telling pleases me greatly. It has been easy to write up until this point. That may change tomorrow, but for now it’s cooking along well. But I will need more than 50K words to tell the story. Like, way more. I’ll meet the word goal, but I’ll only be about 1/3 of the way through the book. So I won’t write “The End” by November 30, but I will still be a winner. In a big way.

2) Last year’s project is speaking to me, also. It’s a story that still wants to be told and desires to see the light of day. I am getting excited about that story, too. And there are two other future works that are talking to me. I am a writer again.

3) Every time I ask my kids what they want for Christmas because grandparents are anxious to finish their shopping, they say “Um, I haven’t really thought about it.” Wow. They aren’t spending all their waking hours (or any time at all, actually) thinking of things they want people to buy them. They’re better at the whole contentment game than I was at their age.

4) I made a giant crockpot full of apple butter yesterday. Want the recipe? It’s easy. And the best part was that the Girl-child helped me make it.

5) I canned the apple butter this morning. I have nine jars lined up like little soldiers on my counter, and all of them sealed successfully. There is no sweeter sound than the ping of a sealing jar. Never canned before? It’s not too hard.  And you don’t need any special equipment to do it, I don’t care what the Ball jar box tells you. A big pot and a dish towel is all you need! Oh, and some jars. And some apple butter. Get peeling!

6) The depression that threatens to swallow me whole around the holidays hasn’t made its appearance, glory to God. It may show up at the door tomorrow, but for today I am not just functioning but thriving. I will take each good day as it come, and we’ll make the most of it.

7) Squish has become my cooking buddy. Yesterday he wanted to make muffins, so we found a good recipe and set to work. They were so good that we’re making them again today! I’ll try to take some pictures and share the recipe.

8) I’ve managed attended a write-in with real people in a real room. Writing has become a very solitary activity for me since I am no longer in close proximity to other writers. I grew up with AJ, and I always had a live and in-person collaboration buddy/idea bouncer off of-er/critic. I miss that. And her. So I attended a write-in. Next time I’ll get brave enough to introduce myself.

9) The last lesson I worked with my computer students on really captured their attention. They took notes, were engaged and interested, and they may remember what they learned for longer than a week. I really felt like a teacher.

So that is where I am. And where are you this fine day?