The Dark Side

I don’t like to talk about this subject.

It’s painful. It’s personal. It’s often lonely and ignored. But I feel like I’ve reached a point that it’s necessary.

I mentioned in the post announcing that we’re pregnant that the first trimester “almost took me under.”

And that it did. A depression unlike almost any I had ever experienced took me down.

It took me to a very, very dark place when I was supposed to be glowing with anticipation and excitement, even amidst the throes of morning sickness and insane fatigue.

I’ve battled depression for over 10 years – probably longer – but was first ‘diagnosed’ in my early 20’s. I was put on the same anti-depressant as everyone else by my primary care physician (who, it should be noted, was more of a psychologist than many in psychological professions I’ve seen since then.) Not much was said about it, and truthfully, I don’t know what it did or didn’t do for me because I didn’t really know the demon I was battling.

I stopped taking it after I felt “better” and spent the next several years on a roller coaster of other medications and “talk therapy” trying to treat a foreign ailment that sometimes seemed like something I just dreamed up or just an excuse for doctors to get me to stop complaining about whatever was bothering me. The only thing that kept me from being certain I was just making this up was that I knew there was a strong family history of depression, so perhaps I was just lucky enough to get some of those genes.

I managed pretty well when anxiety was finally recognized about 3 years ago as a big part of my problem in addition to the depression and I started being able to put pieces together of what caused my depression. Hormonal issues, my personality of perfectionism and need for control, and especially when I physically don’t feel well all can lead me into a dark fog. You may as well drag my emotional health down the river when I’m physically down because it’s a relatively lost cause.

As you can imagine, the first weeks of pregnancy are the perfect storm for me. Hormonal changes every SECOND, being completely out of control of what your body (and mind) is going through, and of course, physically feeling like death spread on a cracker. I was sunk. As the depression worsened, so did the anxiety. Suddenly, I was fretful over every little thing regarding the pregnancy: I would have a ‘good’ day where I didn’t feel sick and would convince myself that must mean the pregnancy wasn’t healthy or viable any longer. I calculated massive numbers in my head of how the odds of miscarriage in second pregnancies was so high that I may as well be prepared. Every pain, cramp, or twinge of change was certainly spelling impending doom. My mind was out of control.

I was hoping for some consolation and perhaps an increase in medication, something – ANYTHING – from my first appointment at 8 weeks but instead was met with none of the above. I saw a nurse practitioner I had no past with for that first visit, and unfortunately, my tears and pleading meant little to her. I completely understand there was probably nothing she could do at that point anyway, but a little compassion can go a long way sometimes. I was desperate. I didn’t want to feel this way, think these things – ESPECIALLY when I would much rather have been living in a place of thankfulness and peace. It was horrifying, knowing there was so little I could do while I waited and prayed for the first trimester to move quickly. Thankfully, I have a husband and family who are more than supportive and understanding and helped me walk through those dreary days.

When Robin Williams died though, it really bothered me as the outpouring of “concerned” bystanders started rolling in. Suddenly along with every news story about Williams, there was a PSA about how anyone facing depression needed to “seek help” or “reach out.”


The LAST thing a depressed person WANTS to do is reach out. It’s not selfish, it’s just part of the beast. Depression is so isolating anyway that by the time a person actually recognizes that they are depressed, they’re well past “reaching out.” AND, beyond that, chances are that person may have already reached out and been met with far less help than they needed. Like most ER visits, unless you’re crying ‘heart attack,’ you’re not an emergency. Same with depression – unless you’re talking suicide (and even sometimes when you are), it’s not an emergency.
Here’s what I’ve experienced – seeking help for depression usually goes something like this:

First visit, usually with a primary care doc lands you a recommendation for a counselor, which can’t see you for another 2 weeks. If you do walk out with a prescription, it’s for a mild, run-of-the-mill, just slightly better than a sugar pill drug that won’t begin to work for at least 4 weeks, if at all. And during that 4 weeks, you’re likely to have some “mild” side effects that make the whole process more fun. Meanwhile, word may get out that you’re seeking help for depression and your friends may say things like, “what do YOU have to be depressed about??” and your coworkers just think you’re a coward and your family may even go as far as to think you’re just being lazy. And if you’re a Christian, like me, it’s sad how many times you may be told that you’re just not praying enough. Oh my heavens, what a kick in the gut that is because truthfully, prayer is likely the only reason I was still willing to try to beat depression at all. These responses are ALL too common, from what I’ve learned. You diligently attend your “talk therapy” appointment, but your “counselor” may as well have gone to hairdresser school as far as you’re concerned because her half-witted attempts to explain what you’re feeling seem futile and her assertions of “you seem angry…” just infuriate you more. And an hour session every two weeks is not really doing much except draining your bank account. Really, what can you cover in an HOUR?! You battle with that go-around for six months to a year maybe, only to discover that you’re not any more “well” than before.

From this point, it’s a crap-shoot as to what happens. You may continue to seek traditional care, usually winding up at a psychiatrist who will promise not to turn you into a “zombie” when in fact they do just that with their high-powered meds and psychoanalysis. Or, you turn to unconventional methods with herbs or yoga or something you read about on Facebook, usually to no avail. And yet, all the while, you’re hearing that depressed people should “reach out.” A year or two after you REACHED OUT and you’re more desperate for care than you were before, but also more hopeless that you’ll actually find a suitable solution. It’s dark, people. VERY dark.

I wish I could say I found a key, a secret weapon or some way around all of the above so that others didn’t have to face it, but unfortunately I don’t have that. For me, it took getting to that place of desperation and expressing it to my husband in such a way that there was no denying my sincerity of how deep my despair was. Elly was one, and looking back, it’s evident now that I had late-onset post partum that easily overtook me based on my predisposition for severe depression and anxiety. I’m also an excellent actress and can mask my interior like no other. I still had to go through quite a bit of trial and error and more doctor ‘fails’ before finding a relatively simple but effective method of management for me. For now. Because the beast changes, a person with depression (and anxiety) has to stay on their toes – what works today may need to be changed in a year or two or even sooner.

Again, I wish I could say I had learned the trick or even an appropriate argument for all those well-wishers who say “seek help” because while they mean well, they obviously have no clue what a depressed person is really dealing with. I can only speak from my own experience and what that means for me. I know what my depression looks and feels like. I vividly remember what Elly’s first year was like and how I relish in her existence now, where as I couldn’t then. I know what most of my triggers are and try at best to avoid them when possible. I know I need special care from myself, especially while pregnant, to make sure I stay in a healthy place. And even then, there’s going to be some bad days. I know prayer and my faith is extremely important, as is the support from my family and friends, so I do what I can to keep those things in check.

I’ll step down off my soapbox for now, but please. Before you tell someone to reach out, try reaching in.


My Love of Fall Trumps Your Love of Fall

I win.

If you could take a sampling of all the female bloggers who live in an area that experiences any remote semblance of four seasons and I guarantee most of their “About Me” sections will include something about their love of fall.


I’m here to tell all you fall-lover-wannabes, I WIN. I love fall more than you. I just do. I could literally dance and sing when the temps drop and the humidity disappears…it’s literally the most glorious time of year. End of story.

All kidding aside, there’s no question the autumn season is when I feel most alive. I should strongly consider making my “new year’s resolutions” in fall because I could totally last longer doing something in the fall than I ever could in the dreary days of January.2014-09-23 10.21.12I’m not entirely sure where my love of fall comes from. I’m an October baby, so I’m sure by some law of nature, I’m supposed to love fall (although I’ve known plenty of fellow fall babies who don’t love fall) so who knows.




My husband (and family) is baffled by my love and knowledge of football every year. Again, I DON’T KNOW. I just love it. Michael seems to think my history in band and cheerleading led to my affection for the boys in pads, and that’s absolutely possible, but whatever the reason, BRING ON THE PIGSKIN.

IMG_558485623768635But I tend to think my autumn affinity is deeper than that. It never ceases to amaze me that God completely transforms the Earth in preparation of the seasons to come – but first, he shows off, and literally paints a picture that’s humanly unmatched. How can you not love that?


There is one thing I dislike about fall – the illnesses that accompany seasonal allergies and other bugs that seem to come out of nowhere in the fall – but those are usually temporary and might just slow us down enough so we can look around and enjoy the trees and watch one more NFL game. Totally worth it.

So I’m going to enjoy my cider and yoga pants and focus on the fresh air.

And share my love with all the other fall fiends out there too. I’ll provide the flannel blanket for us all. 🙂

Fall is here

Silence is Golden

Sometimes I wonder why I write at all. It happens as often as once a week that I stumble upon an article, a blog post, or even a book that I literally could have penned myself. This used to really bother me and was a huge hang-up for writing at all, but when I have a dry spell and I just can’t bring myself to write, I’m thankful that someone has taken the time to write down the EXACT thoughts I’ve had. (Or at least similar enough ones that I can feel justified.)

Just such a thing happened this week when this blog post popped up on Facebook. Down to and including some of the dry humor, I could have spoken or written these very words myself. This post isn’t really anything extraordinary and there are probably 100’s of other similar ones that have received as much attention, but this one particularly got to me because it addressed infertility in a way that really hit home.

So, enjoy this post below. And thank you to those who take the time to write my thoughts.

All Over the Place

I probably shouldn’t even been trying to write anything because I just spent 20 minutes trying to decide whether “over” in the title should be capitalized or not. I still don’t know if it’s right.

So that’s a fair indication of where I am right now. After the longest shortest-day-of-the-year ever, inexplicably warm weather, and a whiny toddler while I was trying to finish baking the last of holiday gifts, I’m fairly spent. Thinking about all that’s left to be done is far too overwhelming at this point and I’m about to resort to “singing Christmas carols loud and clear for all to hear” to channel my inner Buddy the Elf and find a shred or two of Christmas spirit somewhere in the depths of all that’s going on.

Bitterness, confusion, and frustration are trying their best to creep in on me as the stress level of the holidays also creeps up. I have so many questions and very few answers which leads to very little peace. And I need some peace. I know God has everything under control and that somehow we’re going to get through all of this, but it just seems like at least some of the things marked “pending” on my prayer list might get checked off sometime soon? Maybe? Maybe dad can get a liver? Maybe Sonny can get a job? Maybe Michael and I can finally get on solid ground after years of family and financial turmoil? Maybe Elly will FINALLY START CONFIDENTLY WALKING??!! (I might be being a bit dramatic about that last one, but come on sweet girl. You have until your 18 month check-up to be more sure-footed or they’re going to force us into therapy and I don’t want to go there. Please get the memo.)

These are just some of the issues plaguing us, though I feel it’s enough. I also feel like there is a really good Biblical paradox here somewhere about how this must have been what Mary and Joseph felt like as they traveled to Jerusalem before Jesus’ birth, etc., but I’m just not theologically sound enough or have enough energy to make the connection tonight. Therefore I feel Elly’s depiction of her manger scene is impeccably accurate:


I will make this simple connection though – just as the world waited for Jesus’ birth, “in error, pining,” if you will – during this Christmas season, we too are still waiting. Waiting for many unknowns that will likely be brought to us in the least expected ways. We’re pining for answers, desperate for peace. We know where and who that peace will come from, so I hope we can find some strength and enjoy the magic that is all things Christmas in the meantime.



The Breakdown to the Breakthrough

I think it’s safe to say I’m no Valerie Harper.

If you’ve seen even a glimpse of Dancing with the Stars this season, you know that Valerie Harper has been the most sensational inspiration EVER simply by being willing to step foot on the stage to train, learn, and dance in her condition. Given three months to live after a diagnosis of brain cancer this spring and here she is, this fall, competitively dancing. DANCING. I have cried every time she was on the show just based on her incredible attitude and spirit that wasn’t forced or fake in the slightest. It was compelling and heartbreaking all at the same time.

If I was ever in the same situation, I would like to think that I would have just a bit of the same courage she has exemplified, but the truth is that I would likely be somewhere pouting, whining, or complaining about something with no reasonable justification. As sad as that may be, I know that would be the case – at least for a short time – for one reason: anything that takes me ‘down’ takes me ‘out.’

Any time I’m knocked out of my semblance of “normal” and “control,” whether it’s from being mildly sick, to having a baby or having surgery, I go through a crazy time that it so totally unexplainable that I don’t even think I fully understand it myself. It’s like an alternate personality takes over in some foreign universe where I become convinced that whatever I’m going through at that moment is going to be FOREVER. Everything becomes overwhelming – Cook? I’m supposed to cook edible food? HOW DO I DO THAT? Shower and be presentable within a normal range of time? WHAT? You’re kidding, right? Not have round-the-clock help and attention for whatever disaster may befall me next? NO WAY.

I quit.

I completely shut down, break down, and literally melt down in this crazy place for usually about 48 hours as I get over the transitional hump that inevitably has to come with healing. It’s not pretty. I blame anything and everyone for it and nothing satisfies. Fear and anxiety usually sing and dance around me, mocking this inexplicable chaos I’ve created for myself when I’m just trying to get better. Faith becomes a chore and somewhere in the middle, I convince myself that even that is futile – nothing and no one can rescue me from this. It’s ridiculous and I KNOW my thoughts and behaviors are ridiculous, but I can’t shake it off. For this brief time no amount of journaling, good thoughts, and praying seem to do any good until this “alternate universe syndrome” runs its course. It’s the breakdown. It happens every time. And it sucks.

But then the light somehow comes back on. My humor comes back. Life is a little less overwhelming. I’m sane again. (Well, as sane as I get. Ha.) But it’s gone, like a black cloud that pours a heavy rain and then disappears as fast as it appeared. It’s weird and strange and horrible (and anyone who’s ever been around me during this “crazy” will certainly attest to the awfulness.) I’m just a beast.

And then I’m exhausted.

(Just as I’m sure you are trying to read this.)

But tonight, in the exhausted glow of finally getting over this surgery’s ‘healing hump,’ while I watched Valerie Harper dance and smile and cry happy tears and plainly exist in such an amazing light of life, I scolded myself for ever having to break down over a petty illness or recovery. But then she said something that made me think that maybe all of this is really a normal and necessary part of healing (as ugly as it can get sometimes.) She said “I had to get to a point where I couldn’t carry on to decide I would carry on.”

Those are some powerful words. And whether she came to that conclusion by being a beast for a bit or by sheer will alone, I’ll take my opportunity and decide to carry on too.

Until the next time, anyway.