Tag Archive | mental health

Happy things

Let’s focus on the bright side today, shall we? I’ll start with the best happy thing: the girl came home last night! She’d been saying all along that she couldn’t come home until Wednesday because of Tuesday classes. Well, apparently those were cancelled and she’s been planning this surprise for weeks! The dogs went nuts, Grace especially, and the boy was excited and thrilled to have her home, and it just feels good to have everyone under one roof again. So I’m thankful to have my girl back, at least for a few days!

Here’s another happy thing, a little story: when I started working at this company, there was one person who was always so helpful and kind and fun, and I appreciated her endless patience while I figured everything out. So that first Christmas, two years ago, I made her a gray cowl, and she seemed happy with it and it was fun. Then yesterday I saw a group photo with her in it, and she was wearing the cowl!! I asked her about it and she said she loves it so much and wears it all the time and thinks of me whenever she wears it. Yarn friends, I don’t have to tell you about the warm heart and tear in my eye her words gave me. I’m thankful for the support I’ve gotten at work, thankful for kind people in the world, thankful for people who recognize the love in my knitting gifts.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving for us, and I’ll be going to the brother’s house for a big family dinner. I’m thankful I don’t have to do all the cooking and cleaning this year, and I’m thankful that we can all be together and that we enjoy each other’s company.

I got lovely supportive comments on my post yesterday and each one really was like a balm, as cheesy as that sounds. I’m thankful for this blog, for those of you who listen to me and offer support. I hope you all have a happy and peaceful weekend, whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or not!

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It’s okay to not be okay

Okay, buckle up, kids, because shit’s about to get real.

I cried in front of my boss yesterday. It was horrible and awkward and super embarrassing. There’s a lot going on in my life and in my head, and most days I’m able to paddle along and stay afloat. But yesterday morning I was feeling overwhelmed and I had an argument with my husband and then I came to work and someone said something that felt critical of my efforts, and when I went in to talk to my boss about something else, it just kind of came out. That’s one of the unfortunate side effects of my depression: I cry super easily and sometimes I’m not able to prevent it.

So, yes, let’s start with the logical and factual and reasonable: my boss is wonderful and supportive. She was kind and said all the right things. In my head I know that what happened was not a disaster.

And yet, here I am, cringing because I don’t want her to think that I’m weak or that I can’t handle my job or my life. I’m embarrassed because I feel like I’m supposed to be strong and capable and competent, and most days I am. What I did left me vulnerable, and in my head that means vulnerable to her thinking less of me.

This morning I chose something purple to wear, and I put on eye makeup that I rarely wear, because I needed those things as a shield. War paint, right? I needed them to help me feel like yesterday was an aberration, not the norm. Then she stopped at my desk and asked how I was doing, and I felt embarrassed again, self-conscious because I don’t want to be on her radar for this kind of reason. I want to be on her radar because I’m awesome at my job. Period.

Why do we do this? Why do we think it’s shameful to be overwhelmed or sad or anxious? Why do we expect so much of ourselves? Why do we think we have to be strong all the time and unaffected by what’s going on around us? Why should we think we have to keep work life and personal life completely separate? They aren’t separate.

I don’t have the answers, obviously. I just have these feelings at war inside me, the one side arguing that what happened was fine, and that we need to be more aware and accepting of those unpleasant emotions. The other side says no, those outbursts are somehow shameful, and I need to project an image of strength and perfection. Yep. I can know it’s wrong and still feel it.

But do you want to know the funny thing? I woke up feeling better today. Part of it was taking care of a nagging home repair, part of it was making up with my husband, and part of it was probably just time and sleep. But I’m wondering if part of it was the release of letting go, because I so rarely get that. I hate to lose control like that, so I hold a lot in, but I also have very few people I feel safe losing control in front of, being that vulnerable in front of.

Plus, if you’re the one always asking people if they’re okay, who’s asking you?

So yesterday was about my body/mind/heart finally saying, “You know what? I know you didn’t ask but I’m actually not okay right now, and I need to let it out.”

I want to support my friends and family, I want to be there for them when they need me. I don’t ever want them to feel like they can’t talk to me. But in doing that, I absorb some of their negative energy that stacks up on top of my own anxieties and worries, and I need to allow myself to release it sometimes, in some way. And I’d like to be able to pick the time and place, rather than emotionally vomit on my boss, you know?

What does that look like? Not sure yet. I’d like to start with regular journaling because writing out my problems helps me so much. I’m not opposed to therapy again, but the therapist I liked is in a very inconvenient location, so I’d have to break in someone new. I probably need to remind myself that it’s okay to be honest with people sometimes, to pick a sympathetic ear and unload occasionally.

These posts are the easiest to write and the hardest to publish, because I know some people in my real life read my blog and this is really painfully honest. But maybe some of them are putting up the same shield. Maybe some of them will realize now that depression can wear a mask much of the time. So for them, I will say what I keep telling myself: It’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

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Brighter days ahead

Can I tell you a secret? I’m almost afraid to write it in case I jinx myself but…guys, I feel optimistic, for the first time in a long time. We’ve had such a stressful year, mostly due to way too many big financial emergencies, and things were just getting stretched way too thin. I’m sure most of you have been there, or are there. It sucks a lot. But we made a plan to work forward, and we cut back our spending, which wasn’t fun, and suddenly I can see progress. I can see that our changes are working, are helping, and we might be close to pulling ourselves out of the pit of despair. We are still facing a big, expensive rehab project on the house, but if we can make it wait until early spring next year, it’ll be okay. I feel like we can handle it now. It helped a lot that I had a car repair done over the weekend that I’ve been putting off for months, afraid it would be super expensive, and it wasn’t that bad at all. That’s apparently been weighing on me more than I realized. It’s just been a really dark year in my head, so it’s lovely to feel even this small sliver of hope. (I’m knocking on all the wood that nothing else falls apart in my house or my car!)

Something that never fails to brighten my day is yarn. Last week I got these two beautiful skeins of Manos Del Uruguay in the mail. It’s their new Feliz yarn, a blend of merino and modal, and I can’t wait to find the perfect shawl pattern.

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Thank goodness for yarn and dogs!

 

Waving the white flag

Can I whine just a little bit? You can skip this post if you like, it’s fine.

We had the A/C repairman out this week. Again. We might have been their best customer this year: I believe we saw them four times between May and now. We have two units, so it was two visits per unit, but still, I find that excessive, don’t you? And thanks to one of those visits, we had to replace a heat pump with a furnace and do some other expensive crap. It was great. (Can you hear the sarcasm?)

It’s just been a stupid expensive year. We started off with some insulation to try to keep the winter temperature in the house above 62. My car needed body work, and then new brakes a couple of months later. The girl’s car needed some repair. We had our own A/C issues, plus a repair at our rental property. We had to redo two sets of wooden stairs outside once one rotted and broke, as well as redo the concrete work and build a new retaining wall. A dog got sick and along with vet bills, we added an expensive monthly medication to our vet expenses. We had to replace two tires on the husband’s car.

It just keeps coming and coming. We try to plan for projects that need to get done, but then something else falls apart and the other stuff never happens. I keep thinking things are looking up and we might get to turn this ship around, and then bam, something breaks and we have to pay for it. And this is all on top of all the senior year/off to college expenses.

I’m tired, friends. And just a little frazzled.

I know it will be okay, and we’ll muddle through just fine. I keep telling myself all the “cheer up” things I can think of, and in my head I know they’re true and sometimes they help. And yet, I worry, and it’s been hard at times to manage my depression/anxiety crap. It ebbs and flows, and I really do think I might be on the upswing, as long as I can keep the house from falling down around me!

Plus that’s what I have my knitting for, right? (Well, and meds too, thankfully.) My knitting has definitely been therapy for me the last several months and right now my Dotted Rays shawl is my favorite. It’s so soft and squishy and soothing, garter stitch over and over…

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When it’s done, it’s going to be the coziest shawl ever, I do believe. Yarn is Zen Yarn Garden Serenity 20, which only seems appropriate. I need some zen in my life!

You know, every time I write posts like this, I worry that they’re too honest, that I’m sharing too much, and maybe I should just journal. But…whatever. It helps me to write them. And maybe it helps others to know they’re not alone, or to show those who haven’t experienced it that depression isn’t always a “cure it and it goes away” kind of thing. 

The Joys of a Fixer Upper

Summer in Missouri often means thunderstorms. Spring brings tornadoes; summer brings thunder and lightning, hail and strong winds. You put those against a giant old tree, and sometimes the thunderstorm wins. We had just turned off our lights at 9:30 pm Thursday evening (we’re getting old, we get tired early) and were listening to the wind beat hail against our windows when suddenly we heard a crack and a loud bang. We jumped out of bed and were heading downstairs when we realized the power was out. Thanks to the flashlight on the phone, we could make out a large limb laying across our back yard, and while we couldn’t really see the power lines, obviously the tree had pulled them down. We called the power company and they came out within an hour or so. It was hot and stuffy inside, and too quiet at first, since we sleep with a ceiling fan and white noise. Then as the guys started working, it was too loud. It was a long, mostly sleepless night for me. I was up around 5:30, going out to investigate. This is what I saw:

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Yikes, right? It had pulled down the lines, which in turn pulled down at least one pole, so they had to replace the pole, plus chop away some of the branches to free the lines. At least four of our neighbors were out of power too. I could shower, but not blow-dry or straighten my hair. I could eat cereal, but not make tea. It was an interesting morning. The dogs were quite delighted with their new stick, though.

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So, yeah. That’s fun. Even now, it still surprises me a little when I look out and see it out there. It’s just so … incongruent. We’ve contacted someone to haul away the broken limbs and are going to get an arborist out to see if we can save the tree. It really is a magnificent tree, and I’d hate to lose it. Plus, well, that would be damn expensive and I’d rather avoid it if possible.

Really, this house is doing its best to bring me down. Before this tree incident, we had a smaller tree lose some limbs, we’ve had raccoons in the attic, we’ve had birds and/or squirrels in the soffits, and we found out the addition in the back of the house needs significant work, like possibly even demo and rebuild. I am discouraged. I love the potential this house has; I think it has gorgeous bones. I love its history. Here’s a photo we just got of our house in 1925, when it was a mere five years old.

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How wonderful it would be if we could restore it to its former glory! But there’s just so much. The back of the house needs renovating, the floors ALL need repair/refinishing, the windows need work, the exterior badly needs to be painted, the porch and stairs need to be fixed/replaced. The landscaping needs to be redone. The upstairs bathroom needs to be gutted and redone. And those are just the big jobs; there are tons of little ones that add up and overwhelm me if I think about them. Lately I’ve just been seeing this house as a money pit and wondering how long I can put up with it.

I’ve been told not to worry, told that if I’m overwhelmed, it’s because my depression has crept back into my brain and I just need to deal with that. (Which I am. Better living through drugs. They’re helping quite a bit.) But I disagree. Yes, I have recognized that my anxiety has been stronger/quicker lately, and I’m trying different ways to manage it. And I know the depression/anxiety don’t help me deal with the worries. But the truth is that I would worry nonetheless. I am a worrier. Always have been, always will be. Is it really that unusual, to be overwhelmed by a large number of big/expensive list of projects?

I do agree that being overwhelmed can make one stagnant. It’s hard to tackle that list if you don’t know where to start. So we’ve picked a starting point: the front stairs. They’re cracked, sagging, and peeling, and we see them every day when we come home. Plus they’re not totally stable. We just need to find a good contractor and get a bid, and hope that we have enough money to pay for it once we pay for this darn fallen tree thing. And maybe once we fix one thing, it will motivate us to keep going, and we’ll just slowly go one job at a time. Bird by bird, right? And someday maybe we’ll get the house close to as beautiful as it used to be.

Sorry, this post was a bit more of a downer than I set out to write. I’ll finish with something happier: new socks! Apparently I can make two socks per week, so I have one easy one for travel knitting, and one more complicated one for home.

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This is the easy one, just finished this morning. Pattern is Vanilla Latte Socks, yarn is Plymouth Yarns Stiletto. I love the little metallic glint!

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I really love this one! Pattern is Sylphrena Socks, yarn is Done Roving Yarns Frolicking Feet, which is so squishy and marvelous. I’ll definitely take better photos once I get the second sock done.

And speaking of second socks, I have two to make! I better get to casting on!

Life After Depression

Four years. Is that a long time? Or not? My instinct is to say it’s not. As I approach my 40th birthday, four years is a blip. But today, Facebook reminded me that it was four years ago that my life changed completely, and it feels like eons ago.

Four years ago last month, my dad died. Yep, it was hard. It pushed me into a dark place, a place I was on the verge of anyway. Suddenly I was no longer emotionally able to maintain my current life; I realized I wanted more. More than working 50 hours a week as a retail store manager. More than saying goodbye to my kids one morning and not seeing them again until the next night. More than asking my MIL to take care of my kids and take them to activities and pick them up when I couldn’t. More than seeing my mom twice a year when one of us could visit the other.

Thankfully, I’m married to the best man in the world. He agreed we could scale back the budget to allow me to quit my job and stay home with the kids while I figured out my next step. I didn’t know what it would be; I still don’t know if I’m “there” yet or what. But wow, what a difference those four years made in my life.

I see my kids every morning and I greet them when they get home from school. I’m able to drive my daughter to flute lesson and band camp and auditions and study sessions and all these other things that would have been impossible before. I’m able to get a few minutes of conversation with my almost-teenage son before he disappears into his room to play video games. We eat dinner together as a family every single night. Instead of a pet-free house, we have two dogs who bring me great comfort and joy.

And during the day, I create. In those four years, I finished and revised a book. A whole book, that I’m now sending to agents in hopes of getting it published. I’ve proofread books for clients, several books, and I love that process. I learned to crochet, and then knit, and I sell my little beauties to people who love them. Through the yarn, I’ve found a wonderful friendship with my Knitting SIL. Through this blog, I’ve found a wonderful community of writers and knitters and all-around fabulous people. As one of my readers commented, I have a very rich, creative life, and somedays I’m overwhelmed with how lucky I am.

Now I can’t imagine being where I was four years ago. Remembering the job itself makes me cringe. I do miss the people, my lovely Creeker family, but thankfully I still have many of them in my life.

I still miss my dad. Of COURSE I do. I desperately wish he were still here. But this seems to be the way it goes: you have to go through something terrible to get that push to do what you’re really meant to do. Life is short and all that jazz. I can tell you the words, but until something makes it true for you, it won’t work the same. At least that’s my theory. Losing my dad set in motion a chain of events, including getting my mom and siblings in the same town for the first time in decades, and having them all around me has been one of the best blessings ever. It brought us together; it helped me get through the hard times.

I’m happy now. My life is peaceful and joyful and colorful. Those four years were rough and bumpy and jagged and sharp, and now I feel like I’ve reached a smooth part, where the lows aren’t so low and I can get past them more quickly. Thank goodness for my husband, my kids, my mom and siblings, my puppies, the friends who were truly there for me when I was struggling. Thank goodness for kind, gentle doctors. Thank goodness for antidepressants and thyroid meds and melatonin. After three years of taking them, I’m almost completely off the happy pills and doing well, but I know they’re there if I ever need them again.

I am one of the lucky ones. I know many people, too many good people, who have struggled, will continue to struggle, with depression forever. So many times, depression is ongoing and constant, not the (relatively) short experience I had. So many times, the meds don’t work, or you can’t afford the meds, or you’re ashamed to ask for the meds. So many times, you don’t take the time to see a therapist because you think you can do it alone.

But sometimes you can’t, and THAT’S OKAY. Trying meds, even lots of different meds, is OKAY. Seeing a therapist is OKAY, probably one of the best things I did, and I highly recommend it to everyone, not just people suffering from depression. Don’t just say you’re “fine” if you’re not. Find one person you trust, and tell the truth. Let them help you.

Here’s what I’ve learned over four years:

  • Smoking DOES cause cancer, and cancer CAN kill you, and it SUCKS for everyone involved.
  • There can be beauty and great meaning in death.
  • Time does help heal. Wounds don’t go away, but you can find joy again.
  • A family of four can live on one salary. It’s hard sometimes, and I worry about money a lot, but this is still the best choice for me, for us.
  • Most people are truly kind.
  • It’s worth it to keep fighting. Life may be short, but it’s beautiful. Find the beauty.

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I Can’t Adult Today

May, you’re killing me already. My brain feels so full. I feel like I’m trying to do 50 million things every day and forgetting 49 million of them. Sometimes people think that because I don’t have an official job, I’m a “lady of leisure”, and while it’s true that I do get great downtime some days, I definitely make up for it on others. My schedule is flexible, but that doesn’t mean my days are empty. I’m lucky, so lucky, to be able to be a mom full-time, but it can still be hard and crazy. And when it’s being a mom to a super-active teenager who doesn’t drive yet, managing and supporting her schedule feels like a job by itself sometimes. It’s one I like, one I chose, and remembering that does help.

I just feel scattered right now, unfocused. I’m trying to get the yarn orders done, I just started a proofreading project, and I’m trying to coordinate all the spring/end of school year stuff that needs to happen. There are birthday presents to buy and forms to fill out and concerts to attend (on a school night, natch, and some of them I want to bring my mom to, which adds another layer of planning) and Mother’s Day is coming up and some days I just want to abdicate my role as social coordinator. Really, that’s all I want for Mother’s Day: someone else to prep the house for company, someone else to buy the food and cook the food and do the dishes without me having to nag. Isn’t that funny, the best gift for Mother’s Day is a day off from being the mom?

Deep breath. I’m on week three of some big changes, and it’s possible they’re affecting me too. I’m halfway through my weaning period for my antidepressant, and I really think it’s going fine. I mean, yeah, I’m stressed out today, but I get stressed out every May when this craziness hits. But I’m not sluggish, overly cranky, weepy, or sleeping poorly, and all of those things are my problem signs.

I think it helps that I’ve committed to becoming healthier, and part of that is regular exercise. I’ve known all along that exercise helps; it’s just been a matter of motivation. Well, I’m tired of being the weight that I am, of feeling the way I have, so yeah, I’m exercising. And even though I admit I feel better when I do it, I still don’t like it. I’m never going to be an exercise junkie, or someone who preaches the joys of exercise. I do it because it’s better for my body and my mind. So, whatever. The stationary bike has become my friend, and I turn up the music and zone out on games on my phone. It works. And I’m making better choices in what I eat, cutting calories, but I’m not calling it a diet. It’s just making healthier choices, and that’s something I need to commit to for the rest of my life.

Ugh. It sucks getting older. Yeah, it beats the alternative, but I do miss the days of not having to worry about calories or exercise or being in charge of multiple people.

But it’s fine. We’re fine. Right? Right. I was going to take today as a rest day, but I think I need the head-clearing action of a little workout, and then I’ll tackle my to-do list, and maybe I’ll feel better when the list is a bit shorter.

Here’s hoping your head space is clearer than mine today!