A Season of Change

The first green of spring.

Spring break up is here, bringing black ice, snow melt, and 15-hours of daylight. I’m finally shaking off the seasonal depression and have packed my happy lamp away.

Which means it’s time to assess the damage depression has done.

We sometimes think of depression solely in terms of emotional damage. People focus on lost happiness, lost relationships, lost time… but there’s a very physical toll to depression. The lethargy and the fight to survive a period of depression means that the physical body is neglected most of the time. This results in either unhealthy weight loss or unhealthy weight gain, loss of muscle mass, loss of routine. And those things matter.

For me, it’s very stressful looking at what I’m left with physically after a bought of depression. Last fall – before the seasonal depression hit – I was walking a couple miles several times a week, my only major dislocation problems were on my right leg, and I was inching closer to my goal weight. Winter hit, I survived, but the physical toll is severely damaged ribs that have been subluxing and dislocating almost daily since December, loss of shoulder stability, and my sedentary habits of winter have led to weight gain even while I was trying to eat healthy. That’s depressing all on it’s own.

There’s also the psychological toll of depression, which for me looks like higher susceptibility to stress, anxiety, and negative self-talk.

So, while Alaska is shaking off the last chill of winter, I’m looking to take back control of my life from depression. I want to shake off the lingering ills of winter and move forward with more focus.

One of the things that I do fairly regularly when not dealing with depression is yoga and meditation. For whatever reason, when I hit a depressive state I lose me-time very early on. The depression tells me I’m selfish to take time away from work and family and friends for quiet time. There’s an overwhelming guilt that always accompanies my depression, and it always becomes this crippling belief that nothing I do will ever be enough.

Depression looks different for everyone, and so recovery will look different for everyone, but for me I need to bring back the element of control to my life. I need barriers between work and home. It’s so easy to let the two lives stream together when you work from home, but it isn’t exactly healthy. At least not for me.

I need to find an end of day for work. I need specified times for writing and editing for myself and editing for clients. I need time for my kids, time for my husband, and time for myself.

But not time for dishes, because I have kids and they are old enough to clean house without me. We all have our hard limits, and that’s mine. 🙂

Obviously this is a struggle-point for me. I’m not good at managing my time and making time for myself. This is step one: setting a goal. Feel free to follow-up with me throughout the week and see if I’m actually taking time off from work.

This is the first step of recovery: recognizing the problem and making a plan to address the problem.

Wish me luck!

Just Keep Breathing (reposted from Tumblr)

As many of you know, I’ve struggled with depression for several years. First postpartum depression aggravated by severe anemia, and then seasonal depression caused by living through an Alaskan winter. It’s been rough going. Some days have been very, very bad, especially as the pain associated with my Ehlers-Danlos has gotten worse over the years. I do try to keep my rants to a minimum, but you’ve probably seen one on Twitter or found one of my older blog posts on the subject. Last week, after a particularly bad day, I posted a bit of a pity-party on Tumblr.

This morning I had an Anonymous message in my Tumlbr Ask Box.

Liana, your message about not killing myself made me cry. Thank you so much, so much. This post might only work for now, but it,s possible that that’s one moment longer, one day longer than it would have been

… I can’t reply one-on-one to an Anonymous message, so here’s my response (posted here and on Tumblr so Anon can find it).

*hugs* 

Hang in there. I know whatever you’re going through is rough. Maybe it’s something I’ve been through too, maybe not, but I know anything that drags you down low enough that you think about killing yourself is rough. And I can’t tell you it will be over soon, or ever. But that doesn’t matter. Because you have so much potential. So many wonderful things still to do in this life. Don’t give up on it yet.

A new season is coming. There are things to look forward to. There are flowers and new people and who knows what else. Probably some of it won’t be so great, but you and me… we’re pros at dealing with “not so great”, right? Been there, done that, bought the over-priced t-shirt.

People like us, we are so much stronger than the world imagines. We have incredibly bad days. We sink down, and we fail, and the darkness all but consumes us. And somehow, against all odds, we get back up again. We take the weight of that pain, and the crushing despair, and we still stand. We still fight.

Often, no one else knows about the battle raging inside us. It’s a secret we keep.

But one day, you’ll see someone else fighting a battle you know they can’t win. They’ll be in a situation where all is lost. But you can step in, because you’ve fought hard for your scars. You’ve fought to stay alive. And all this pain, and suffering, and frustration has taught you how to build a shield. All the strength you have will be the only thing that saves that person.

You and me, we’re fighters. We’re on the toughest training ground on the planet. Like every hero in every story, depression has stripped us of our friends, our family, our joy, our weapons… all that is left is us, alone.

And like the hero you are, you are all you need.

You are going to get up and win this fight.

Today maybe all you’ll do is survive. Maybe the way you win the fight today is to just keep breathing. I know how hard that is some days. But if you keep breathing today, then tomorrow it’ll be a little easier. Next month it’ll be easier still. And inch by inch you will crawl out of the hell of depression and when you do, you will be the strongest person in the world. You will have faced all the demons of hell and crushed them with nothing more than your will to survive.

That day, you will stride the world as a titan, a god among men. Stronger, braver, and kinder for the battle you have survived.

You will be someone’s hero. You will be there to understand what no one else could, to stand against a foe so foe so few understand. You are going to save someone, because right now you are learning to save yourself.

And, today, all you need to do is breath.

I love you. Keep breathing.

<3

A Different Kind of Parent

Recently I had a reason to look up childhood depression.

It’s exactly as depressing and heart-breaking as you imagine. And one of the themes I found running through the posts and discussions were the stories of people who struggled with depression but didn’t have familial support. People who were told that it was a mood, or to keep a stiff upper lip, or treated as if they were somehow unclean because of their illness.

It’s a common thread in the Spoonie Community. People with rare and hard to diagnosis diseases often hear from doctors, parents, and friends that the illness is all in their head. Symptoms are dismissed as bad behavior. They’re told their pain is exaggerated, or nonexistent, that they’re only faking it for attention. As hard as it is to sympathize with this abelistic abuse, it is in some ways understandable. Rare disease are really rare, and their symptoms are often bizarre and seemingly unrelated. It’s possible to see how someone with a limited education, no medical training, and an underdeveloped sense of empathy (or a history of being used by other abusive personalities) might see the people suffering from a rare disease as liars.

Depression isn’t that rare. As a disease it’s been well documented for centuries, with cures from lavender baths, to orgasms, to arsenic recommended as a cure. The idea that people with depression were dismissed by their loved ones when they were at their most vulnerable is as appalling as it was (apparently) wide spread in previous generations.

Depression carried a stigma in the past.

Even within my own family I’ve seen relatives hide the fact that someone died from losing the fight to depression. A sibling who was buried at a teen goes unnamed as the generation ages. His name is never mentioned in public. He doesn’t appear on the family tree. In every way this young man has been erased because of the fear that hovers around depression. In some parts of the family it’s taken on an almost taboo-ish face. Speaking of depression results in censure and ostracism.

When I stepped back and looked at my own cohort of parents I had a very profound realization: we will never be those parents.

Just like we don’t need help with computers because we started using them in grade school, we’ve grown up with an open discussion of depression and mental illness. Our social networks are more than gossip chains, they’re information chains connecting me to other parents raising similarly at-risk children. When my child’s friend goes to the therapist we don’t tut-tut and exchange sideways glances; we sit the kids down at the dinner table and discuss the signs of abuse, depression, and addiction.

My generation has been called many things, most not that complimentary. Undoubtedly we will make some horrific mistakes in the future. Undoubtedly some of us will get parenting wrong. But I’m optimistic for our children. I look forward to a future where the statement, “I want to be happy but it’s like my heart has a mind of it’s own and can’t be happy.” is met with a hug and support not someone turning away and denying the truth. It’s not enough. We haven’t cured depression or taken this burden from anyone yet, but we’re moving in the right direction.

For those of you in the trenches fighting these hidden diseases: call if you need backup. Depression lies. You are not alone.

For those whose love ones are fighting: Stay strong. Reach out if you need to talk. You are not alone.

You are never, ever alone.