Monthly Archives: February 2015

an addendum… the REAL way I survive

So, about three, (ok, more like ONE) days after writing this sweet, naïve post, it hit me again. That nagging, dulling, glimpse of the dark cloud that so strangely beckons me to just enter. Just enter, it says. Enter, succumb to the need. YOUR need. The need to be self-centered, to be ALL CONSUMED with how I feel, how I need. Look, it says. Look at how tired you are. Look at how poorly your kids behave. Look at how bad your skin is. Look at lazy you are. Look at how dirty your floors are. Look at how much weight you’ve gained.

You guys, it is in these moments, (NOT the moments in which I wrote that darling previous post) in which I realize that I am sometimes still merely surviving. And I scramble desperately to all the things I’ve learned, I’ve read, I’ve lived, to grasp the hook of hope to pull me the hell out of hell.

So. After reading that quaint list from that cutesy post, here’s the reality of what the last few days have looked like. First, I started getting a cold. No biggie, right? Then I wrote that lovely post. Then my adorable children woke me up at least 6 times for about four nights straight, because, you know, they’re sick, too. Get over it, you’re a mom, I think. So I’m literally sick and tired. Meanwhile, it rained for like four days. So much for that sunshine I was talking about. And, as one does when one is sick and tired and grumpy, I totally drank plenty of fluids, got exercise, took my vitamins, read the Bible, and spent lots of time praying. (You guys, I did NONE of those things. Not a one.) And the last three days have been some of my lowest since we’ve moved here.

What is it about our lowest moments that make us forget about the things that can HELP US?? The twisted spiral that is depression is like no other medical illness. If you break a leg, you go to the doctor. If you have a headache, you take some pain meds. If you have depression, you just sit. You sit in your depression. The very existence of depression means you are almost completely UNABLE TO HELP YOURSELF.

Unless… unless you know the signs. Unless you can catch it BEFORE you completely succumb. I thank the Lord that I am finally at the point where I can catch it. I can’t erase the feelings, but I can ease them. So today, these are a few things that I actually did. So while my previous list was groovy, here’s more of a real one.

First, I sent a few SOSes. I prayed. It was a I’m-in-the-middle-of-making-breakfast-for-the-kids-who-are-yelling-at-me-from-the-other-room-and-making-each-other-cry-and-I-haven’t-had-coffee-yet “Dear sweet Jesus HELP ME” kind of prayer. But I truly meant it. Then I sent AJ a text that said something like, “My patience and sanity is wearing thin and I think I’m getting a sinus infection” at about 8:30am. (He knows me well enough to know that it was a cry for help and support, sweet man.)

Then I made the kids help me clean the house. (This was after I assessed that my stress level would drop a little if there were not DOZENS of ripped stickers all over the floor and if I could walk down the hallway without stepping on markers.) A tidy house can really do wonders for one’s sanity.

Then I took them outside. I was cranky, they were cranky, but we did it, kicking and literally crying (the two year old was so. angry. about having to sit in the stroller) and I forced them to lie on a swing and close their eyes to absorb the weak, 9:30am sunshine. Because I’m so mean.

Then we had to go to a birthday party, which meant INTERACTING. As in, with PEOPLE WHO ARE ADULTS. This is no small feat if you’ve been beckoned by the dark cloud, but it can often be one of the best remedies.

And later in the afternoon I sent a group text to three ladies I knew would give me the right dose of laughter and practical advice.

So here I am, finally aware that it’s been a rough few days but seeing the light. (And I’ve found a cocktail combination of meds to help my sinus pain…so there’s that…)

Guys. You’ve got to stick with it. All the things you’ve done to pull yourself out, DON’T FORGET THEM. USE THEM. And never think that it’s over. Because, if you’ve suffered from depression once, you’ll probably suffer again. But there’s hope :)

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The worst day of the year: surviving the days with no sunlight

An [American] friend asked me recently, “So are you guys still enjoying your stay over there?” To answer in a word, YES! These last couple of months have flown by so quickly that it’s hard to believe that in a few weeks we will have been in the UK for six months. SIX MONTHS, PEOPLE. That’s a long time. And a short time. You know what I mean.

And, as is the usual, I managed to take a break from writing for, um, a “few” weeks.

To me, these last couple of months have been critical in several ways, but mainly: I’VE SURVIVED THE DARKEST MONTHS OF THE YEAR WITHOUT REGRESSING INTO MY DEPRESSION!!!! Big deal. Huge. You guys, on what I often call “the worst day of the year,” aka December 21, aka the Winter Solstice, the sun rose at 8:00am and set at 3:50pm here in London. Less than 8 hrs of sunlight. And high noon looked like 4pm because the sun is so low here.

Those of you familiar with depression know that the depths of winter can be a trying time. Lack of sunlight = lack of vitamin D and also a lack of visual brightness, both of which are clinically proven to help reduce the effects of depression. Not to mention the potential of added stress of holidays and family and after-Christmas-blues.

I’ll be brutally honest: of all the unknowns and fears and general disruption of moving our family to London, my biggest inner fear was that, even while still taking my anti-depressant, I would not be able to handle the darkness of winter again and my mind would slip back into a state of depression. I was coming from a place where there is sunshine literally 360 days a year, and all I could remember about winters in Boston was being filled with dread, discontent and a general grumpiness.

BUT. So far so good! And here are a few things I believe have contributed to my “staying afloat” these last couple of months.

  • We walk EVERYWHERE.

    We walk EVERYWHERE.

    I’ve been outside a lot. We don’t own a car here (!) so I literally walk EVERYWHERE. I make the point to walk even when I could/should take a bus or cab. And while I wish I could say it was great exercise, it’s moderate at best. BUT being outdoors during the day makes such a big difference than when I was either in school or at work all day, and it was dark when I left home and dark when I returned. My little buddy Anders and I are out and about during the day, which means that when the sun is actually shining, we’re in it.

  • I own a “light therapy” light box, an amazing gift from my mother-in-law. This one, to be exact. It is not UV rays. It’s basically just a bright lamp that you sit in front of to give your eyes the illusion of being in daylight. I use it a couple of times a week, and while it’s not an immediate mood-booster, I’m positive it has benefitted my overall mood.
  • Sunrise Alarm Clock

    Sunrise Alarm Clock

    I also use a “sunrise alarm clock.” It slowly brightens as the hour gets closer to my “awake” time, so that when I need to get out of bed, it’s not pitch black in my room. I also use one in the kids’ room! It’s been most useful, actually, for my son when I need to wake him from his naptime and it’s pretty much dark in his north-facing bedroom.

  • I’ve been pretty regular at taking my vitamin D supplements, along with fish oil (omega 3s) and my multi-vitamin.
  • I’ve been praying against my depression, and I know my close friends and family are, too. (For which I’m so very grateful!!) When I start feeling anxious or stressed, I claim these promises. We’ve also found a church we can truly worship in, yay!
  • I’m still taking 50mg of sertraline. As I’ve written before, this is not a “happy pill”. But for me it’s made a major difference in my life and has enabled me to “wake up” and literally smell the hundreds of roses that are in this lovely city of London :-)

Don’t get me wrong. There are certainly times I can feel hints of my past depression and short-temperedness, usually when I’m tired and trying to haul my stroller/”buggy” and a “soccer/football” and a few bags of groceries and two whining kids up the stairs to my flat and my darling son chooses that moment to lie on the third step throwing a tantrum because he wiped his nose with his hand and now his hand is wet… (Our poor, sweet neighbors have never once complained about our kids…!!)

But for now, for this moment, I’m doing ok. (So thanks for asking!!)