New Low / New Look


i hit rock bottom the other day.

i know a lot of you are probably a little more than tired of my two month stint of "i'm still not feeling great these days" posts and it finally came to my attention on tuesday afternoon that these days of feeling down were not entirely within my control.  it definitely has not been for lack of trying.  i started going to yoga once a week, i get the kids and i out of the house even if it's raining (that's what umbrellas and boots are for!), i scribbled a bunch of meaningful phrases to pick me up, our social life is active, we are eating well, etc…

i've suffered from depression in the past but this has been the first time it has come back as a mother.  i remember one of my greatest fears when pregnant with moses was that i was going to suffer some hardcore postpartum depression and i was terrified about how on earth i was going to take care of a tiny life when taking care of my own was potentially impossible.  memories of lying in bed for hours, nurturing feelings of hopelessness and wallowing in existentialism haunted me.  fortunately, though i did experience many of the post-partum emotions and eventually adapt to this entirely new and completely subservient lifestyle, i never hit it really hard.  for the most part it was manageable.  of course there were some very depressing days.  those longings for one's old life filled with so many freedoms have never stopped and i doubt they ever will.  they arise on those especially challenging days (sometimes weeks), but laughing with a friend over tea during a playdate and smelling the freshly washed heads of your little ones once they are finally asleep, are usually enough to push those freedom days behind.

monday, around 5pm was the breaking point.  it was actually monday that i had decided to walk into town despite the drizzling rain that normally would have kept us inside.  upon seeing the rain, i was tempted to drive, worried it would be too cold or too wet. "JUST DO IT: we have rain gear, we can make this a fun-splashing-through-the-puddles-with-umbrellas walk into town!"  DONE.  we went back down the hall to our apartment and changed into raincoats, wellies and grabbed the two umbrellas we have.  i needed to get out, i wanted to get out.  i felt good, i chose to do something different, i was proud of myself!  i had dinner planned, or so i thought…  our walk was wonderful.  the kids are finally both at an age where they are capable of walking to town and back NO PROBLEM, no whining of tiredness and pleads to be carried.  FINALLY!  on our way back home, Moses even chimed how nice a walk it had been, warming my the cockles of my heart.  

i was not prepared for dinner.  i didn't have all the ingredients i needed, i tried to substitute, i tried to find other recipes i could use instead, i am just not good at making things WITHOUT a recipe.  that is kevin's strength.  i was a hitting a barrier no matter which way i turned and no matter how hard i tried to keep it together, i started falling apart, and over what???  the fact that the recipe told me not to cut the beet roots off when boiling beets when i had just lopped them off!  i was being overwhelmed and cornered into the counters trying to breathe and feeling my head spin...  in minutes i found myself in the fetal position on the couch, paralyzed by defeat.  defeat by beets.

my mind spiralled and spiralled until it hit the ocean floor:  i don't want to be here.  i don't want to be alive anymore.  i can not handle life.  i don't have what it takes to live.  i'm a shitty mom, a shitty wife and i don't deserve to be here.

at that point, the kids running about and playing so well as i lay defeated, brought me to tears.  but i'm their mother…  even if i had the balls to take my own life, i couldn't, i suck i suck i suck!!!!

it was at this point it finally hit me.  this is depression.  i had been slowly slowly spiralling over the past 2 months without realizing how bad it was getting, thinking that it was just ME and not realizing that i was sick.  my ability to recognize the patterns of depression was held back by the fact that i would have better days that i mistakenly attributed to my ability to talk myself out of my "slumps".  it makes sense only now why i was so frustrated with myself, constantly asking "WHY AM I FEELING THIS WAY???  IT MAKES NO SENSE THAT I AM FEELING SO SHITTY EVERY SINGLE DAY!!!  LIFE IS GOOD!" no matter how little or how much sleep i got, i woke up with a headache and felt crummy as ever everyday.  it took me forever to wake up, shake it off and talk myself out of bed to make breakfast for me and the kids.

one of the issues with depression is that for those who have not really had it badly or at all, is that when someone says "i am feeling depressed", the next question is often "...about what?".  with depression, it's not really feeling depressed ABOUT something.  over the past two months, i could logically assure myself that, first-world problems aside, my life was great.  i have so very very much to be grateful for, and there really isn't much that i need or want that i can not make happen if i really want it.  however, i was still feeling miserable miserable miserable and on top of feeling so much misery, i was starting to feel a lump of guilt growing inside of me when around my friends.  inevitably, i would steer the conversation towards how crummy i was feeling.  when i look back now, i see that i was asking for help.  even as someone who has suffered depression, i didn't realize i was depressed or that i was exhibiting more and more symptoms of depression, so i was desperately trying to attribute my crummy feelings to certain things that were happening/not happening in my life.  as you can imagine, being around someone constantly feeling crappy about seemingly nothing begins to sound like a spoiled POS with too many first world problems and it made me feel like a horrible person and a guilty friend.   

i believe it was at this point that i began the self-hate talk.  i was beyond frustrated with myself.  frustrated over not knowing what was wrong with me, frustrated and feeling guilty about my loved ones, and sick and tired of the misery that was taking over my life.  foresight, it was so obvious it was depression, but at the time i didn't know what was wrong with me.  i felt guilty about bringing my friends down and not being my usual self.  i hated myself.  i couldn't do anything right.  simple everyday tasks could not be fulfilled and i began to verbally abuse myself daily, telling myself i was an idiot / a moron / a shithead and other worse things i will not mention, asking myself what the eff was wrong with me and why i couldn't do something soooo easy….  so along with feeling horrible with a headache day in and day out, i was now making things worse by beating myself up and killing any self-esteem and self-worth i had left.  inevitably, with my lack of confidence, my work suffered as well.  my time off to reflect and restart had become a time to wonder if i should do something else with my life because i clearly wasn't capable of taking photos anymore.

when monday came and those beet roots were lopped off and i couldn't get dinner together, my last shred of self-worth flaked off and my life at that point was not worth living.

and it sounds ridiculous.  i know.  normally i would call myself a moron, but now i know that it's not me, it's not my personality, and that i haven't just morphed into horrible person, only now can i laugh about it.  i'm thankful that i actually hit the bottom because now there is nowhere to go but up.  realizing that i have been sucked into a depression cycle, i can be softer on myself.  there is no more self-hate.  it's not me.  i haven't been myself.  this wasn't the kick-ass go-getting person that had an incredible first year of photography.  NO WONDER I'VE BEEN UNABLE TO FEEL INSPIRED.  it's pretty impossible to be an inspired and motivated individual when being suffocated by feelings of despondency, self-loathing, and destructive thoughts... or maybe that's just me.

i wish i had seen this coming.  i don't know how i would have seen it coming, but it doesn't matter now. the relief and the hope i am feeling now that i know what has been the root of all this misery, is so uplifting.  just knowing there is a solution and treatment is a huge weight off my shoulders and already the tight grip around my chest has loosened.

kevin finally arrived home.  the kids, thank god, told him i was sleeping on the couch.  truly, i cried as quietly as i could on and off until kevin got home.  he believe them when they told him i was sleeping.  it was about 10 minutes before i could finally audibly say "i need help…" at which point he came over and realized what was going on.  it was only then that he too realized what was so obvious.  he had been down this road with me before.  and i am so thankful that i married someone so understanding, so supportive, so sweet and so willing to help in any possible way.  it was 7pm, it was late, we had no dinner prepared, so we drove out to Richmond for some deep-soothing, warm bowls of pho and shared a rainbow beans drink for dessert.

thank you to my wonderful friends who have listened and have been nothing short of supportive and loving.  i just don't know where i would be without you.


i'm eager for the things that will happen once i am back on my feet.  i'm eager to get back to my old self.


i wanted to share this for anyone who is going through a bout of depression themselves or knows someone that might be.   some links below.



 10 Ways to Show Love to Someone Who is Depressed shared this morning by a fellow Mama as well as a shortlist of Different Kinds of Depression.  I have listed the 10 Ways to Show Love below here, but feel free to click the link above for the original.


10 Ways to Show Love to Someone with Depression

Do You Love Someone With Depression?

If you have a partner or are close to someone who struggles with depression, you may not always know how to show them you love them. One day they may seem fine, and the next they are sad, distant and may push you away. It is important that you know that as a person who is close to them and trusted by them, you can help your friend or partner have shorter, less severe bouts of depression. Mental illness is as real as physical illness (it is physical actually, read more about that here) and your partner needs you as much as they would need to be cared for if they had the flu.
Your relationship may seem one-sided during these times, but by helping your partner through a very difficult and painful affliction, you are strengthening your relationship and their mental health in the long term.

1. Help them keep clutter at bay.

When a person begins spiraling into depression, they may feel like they are slowing down while the world around them speeds up. The mail may end up in stacks, dishes can pile up in the sink, laundry may go undone as the depressed person begins to feel more and more overwhelmed by their daily routine and unable to keep up. By giving your partner some extra help sorting mail, washing dishes or using paper plates and keeping chaos in check in general, you’ll be giving them (and yourself) the gift of a calm  environment. (I’m a fan of the minimalist movement because of this, you can read more about that here.)

2. Fix them a healthy meal.

Your partner may do one of two things when they are in a depressed state. They may eat very little, or they may overeat. In either case, they may find that driving through a fast food restaurant or ordering a pizza online is just easier than fixing a meal. Eating like this, or neglecting to eat will only degrade your partner’s health, causing her to go deeper into her depression. Help your loved one keep her body healthy, and her mind will follow. This is a great article that talks about the “Brain Diet” which can help the symptoms of depression, and this article talks about how our modern diet could contribute to the recent rise in depression. Here is a recipe for a trail mix that is quick to make and has mood-boosting properties.

3.Get them outside.

 The benefits of getting outside for a depressed person are huge. And it is possibly the last thing on earth your partner will want to do. Take them to be somewhere in nature. Pack a picnic and lie in the sun, take a leisurely hike or plant a garden. Being barefoot in the dirt, or “earthing” helps ground the body and reverse the effects of living in a world of emf’s, and digging in soil can actually act as an antidepressant, as a strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of seratonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. Sunshine increases Vitamin D production which can help alleviate depression. My friend Elizabeth wrote an excellent post about Vitamin D and its link to depression here.  For more information about other sources of Vitamin D, this is a great post as well as this.

4. Ask them to help you understand what they’re feeling.

If your partner is able to articulate what they are going through, it will help them and you better understand what you are dealing with, and may give insight into a plan of action for helping your partner. Also, feeling alone is common for a depressed person and anything that combats that feeling will help alleviate the severity and length of the depression.

5. Encourage them to focus on self-care.

Depressed people often stop taking care of themselves. Showering, getting haircuts, going to the doctor or dentist, it’s all just too hard, and they don’t deserve to be well taken care of anyway in their minds. This can snowball quickly into greater feelings of worthlessness since “Now I’m such a mess, no one could ever love me”. Help your loved one by being proactive. Tell them “I’m going to do the dishes, why don’t you go enjoy a bubble bath?” can give them the permission they won’t give themselves to do something normal, healthy and self-loving.

6. Hug them.

Studies show that a sincere hug that lasts longer than 20 seconds can release feel-good chemicals in the brain and elevate the mood of the giver and receiver. Depressed people often don’t want to be touched, but a sincere hug with no expectation of anything further can give your partner a lift.

7. Laugh with them.

Telling a silly joke, watching a comedy or seeing a stand up comedian will encourage your partner to laugh in spite of herself. Laughing releases endorphins and studies show can actually counteract symptoms of depression and anxiety.

8. Reassure them that you can handle their feelings.

Your partner may be feeling worthless, angry and even guilty while they are depressed. They may be afraid that they will end up alone because no one will put up with their episodes forever. Reassure them that you are in the relationship for the long haul and they won’t scare you away because they have an illness.

9. Challenge their destructive thoughts.

A depressed person’s mind can be a never-ending loop of painful, destructive thoughts. “I’m unlovable, I’m a failure, I’m ugly, I’m stupid”. Challenge these untruths with the truth. “You’re not unlovable, I love you. You aren’t a failure, here are all the things you’ve accomplished.”

10.Remind them why you love them.

Look at pictures of happy times you’ve had together. Tell them your favorite things about them. Reminisce about your relationship and all the positive things that have happened, and remind your partner that you love them and they will get through this.
My friend Julie who blogs at Real Fit Mama has a great post about more things you can do to help with depression. Go have a look here! She also wrote a post about finding true happiness here.
This list is in no way exhaustive. I’d love for this to start a conversation, please leave the ways you have found to love someone with depression in the comments.






Comments

  1. dearest phanie ... you are brave, you are amazing, you are real. so many people love you and support you! sending you all the hugs i can muster through the internet. i'm sooo up for watching a comedy, making you a meal, going for a walk, or doing our crazy ice cream photoshoot when you feel like it. xoxoxo

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  2. dearest lyndsay

    your friendship is one i am so happy to have made over the years. your work, so inspiring and delicious, in the face of your own challenges has been an encouragement throughout my own struggles. thank you so much for the talks and the hugs (both URL and IRL) and for reaching out so often when you have a busy schedule of your own. i am looking forward to the blogpost for this amazing day we will have!!!!

    love to you and the boys <3

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