Two steps forward, one step back

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I disappoint myself in many ways. Some who know and love me say I’m too hard on myself. Being sick has depleted me. Sad news today that a little boy who lived nextdoor years ago committed suicide at the age of 18. So sad. But if I find it so sad, how can it be something I contemplate? I find the inside of my head very confusing.

Journal (not sure of the date)

I had three really good days. Then I caught the crud my husband had. Fever, body aches and cough. Wish I had gotten the flu shot. My fever is going up daily.

I know my immune system is compromised from the extreme depression. This is very reminiscent of 2009, getting viral overload and ending up with bilateral pneumonia, nodules in my lungs and eventually undergoing a lung biopsy.

This time I am committed to healing thoroughly rather than soldiering on and exacerbating a run-of-the-mill virus. Concerned about my job though. I have no sick leave left.

Journal 1/22

I had a few really good days and now I’m sick. I’m determined to get better, but it does make me nervous that, in past episodes of major depression, once I’ve gotten lifted up a bit I’ve been hit with illnesses or circumstances that have dragged me back down. I have a couple more chapters outlined, but I’m taking a break until feel better.

Journal 1/18

I’m actually in a good mood! I feel like maybe I’ve turned a corner, but I’ve felt like that previously. It also occurs to me that if you turn enough corners, you are going in circles. Going to enjoy this good mood though.

I’ve spent the past four days in bed. Yesterday, I told my husband I wanted to go visit my mom and go out to dinner. It was really good to see my mom, and the Mexican food we had was great. Somewhere during dinner, I felt something kind of loosen in my chest.

Afterwards, I had a messaging conversation with my cousin, who has also dealt with depression and suicidal thinking. I told her I’d gone to my mom’s and out to eat. I wrote “baby steps.” She replied that it was a big step to get out when I didn’t have to and I should not diminish it.

I work the next two days and am hopeful they will be easier to get through than last week.

Journal 1/14

I feel weary and pathetic. I worked the past two days, choking on tears to keep them at bay. Last night, when I got off work, I sobbed from the deepest part of myself for an hour. One of my best friends texted to see how I was doing, so I called and she talked me through it.

When I woke up this morning, the tears started to flow again and I knew I couldn’t make it through today pretending to be okay. I’m not okay.

I feel so bad for my husband.

If I had a badly fractured leg, I wouldn’t try to bear weight on it until it was strong enough. After a c-section, I didn’t lift weight until I had healed. If I could be strong, I would. If I could pull myself together, I would. My husband reminds me I’m ill and it’s still early days. It’s less than two months since I had to take a leave of absence. My friend and my husband both assure me that I will get better.

My friend suggested looking for something to be grateful for each day. Today, I am grateful that I have a beautiful view out my bedroom window.

Journal 1/12

Difficult day, hard to get through work. Molehills look like mountains and I overreact to family issues. Dr. Liz likened the process of recovering from major depression to being in labor and compared working while recovering to walking around during hard labor. She said she’s trying to get me through as quickly as she can but it’s messy and hard. I’m feeling every bit of it today.

Journal January 10

Saw Dr. Liz today. I’ve been tracking my mood one to ten. It’s been mostly fives and sixes with a couple fours. I’m really feeling wiped out. So glad to have a few days off.

Dr. Liz says I’m right where I should be in this healing process- and it’s to be expected that I’m tired because it’s hard work. She said we’re going to get me to a mood rating of eight on a regular basis before long. I got excited and said, “That would be awesome.” She smiled and said, “That would be normal.”

So overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, encouragement, support, understanding, and connection with other people dealing with mood disorders. Thank you so much to my family and friends, old and new! I feel embraced with love, for sure. I am so grateful.

Relaxing for the next couple days.

Chapter Three – Early Days

I’ve published the third chapter about my background. This chapter covers my first experiences with anxiety and mild depression.

The next chapter will be about my first major depressive episode.

I took some time to read other blogs. Mine looks plain next to those I saw, but I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. Comparing mine to others or the idea of trying to dress mine up, stresses me out.

Journal 1/8/20

Today is my third consecutive day of work. I’m going to walk through this day, but I’m so tired. I thought about skipping applying make-up, but then decided to follow my own advice to myself. I’m near tears but I’m breathing and I think I can do this.

Another symptom of depression/anxiety I get really surprises me. I have eczema on one leg, and it’s like a barometer of my mood. It literally worsens or improves daily based on how I’m feeling. When I first noticed this, I had a hard time believing it, but it has consistently shown itself to be true. The past couple of days, the little patches faded really well and didn’t bother me. This morning, they’re itching like crazy.

A coping mechanism I’ve used when my mood is low has been turning off the news. In the past, I’ve pretty much been a news and politics junkie. When times get tough in my life, I stop watching the news. My husband and I have agreed not to discuss politics. Turns out, world events go on without me.

The last few days, I heard about tensions escalating in the Middle East, so I started listening to news in the morning again. I can usually get a synopsis of what’s transpiring in about 15 minutes and then it repeats itself all day with different reporters or commentators delivering the talking points, no need to listen longer.

When I quit listening to news in October, I found Calm Radio. It’s a digital station with hundreds of channels. I like to listen to the guitar channel or guitar and strings. It’s a great replacement for the talking heads (not the band, I love them!).

I have the next three days off and plan to work on the next couple of chapters. For today, just breathing and taking one step at a time.

Last night I had to remind myself that I’m still healing. Just because I’m back to work doesn’t mean I’m all better.

Later – I made it through work today, did better than I expected. It feels like a real accomplishment.

Journal 1/2/20

Unfortunately, I feel like I’m getting worse instead of better. I called Dr. Liz. She said I’m having a relapse. I thought to myself, “How can I have a f**king relapse when I really only felt okay for about a week?” I guess it’s not uncommon. In the past, my recoveries from major depression episodes have been slow but they’ve been steady improvement without this kind of setback. I already had an appointment coming up with Dr. Liz later this week but, in the meantime, she recommended drinking chamomile tea and getting some passion flower herb to help me cope. I got the tea but haven’t gotten the herb. I have today off, so if I feel up to it later, I may go find some.

I’m surprised I made it through the last two days of work. I feel very fortunate to have a boss who understands what I’m going through. I told him I’ve having a tough time still. He told me it’s about the chemicals in my brain and the medication takes time to build up and take effect. He told me it’s not something I can control and gave me the option of staying or going home, whatever would be best for me. I chose to see if I could stick it out, and I did. I worked New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Tears were near the surface constantly but I smiled and said, “Happy New Year”over and over to the customers. It was exhausting. Working while seriously depressed is harder than working through a fibromyalgia flare-up.

This was my family’s first holiday season without my dad, and I miss him.

Journal 12/29

I found a couple of journal entries I missed. At first I thought I’d just skip them, but then I thought it’s pretty illustrative of how hard it is for me to keep my ducks in a row when I’m depressed. So, I’m adding them out of order.

As written on 12/29:

I feel overwhelmed with sadness and fatigue. It was hard to get through work yesterday, and I’m feeling discouraged that I’m not improving more quickly. Maybe I went back to work too soon. I’m resting today.

Chapter One

Being new to blogging, I now realize publishing chapters on a separate page may not be the most effective way to share them. When I add a chapter, I’ll put up a post describing what the chapter is about and providing a place for comments or questions.

In chapter one, I describe the shorter version of how I ended up in such a dark place.

Journal 1/6 – Taking care of yourself

Worked today and will work the next two days. Three days in a row probably doesn’t sound like much to most people, but it’s my first three day stretch since my leave of absence.

It occurred to me this morning that people who’ve lost a loved one to a brain aneurysm might be really offended by my references to such. I apologize if I have offended you. I have a friend who died from one and it seems like a peaceful way to go. They say he didn’t know what hit him.

I’m going to focus on self-care over the next few days to get through them. Dr. Liz has me tracking my mood daily on a scale of one to ten so we can adjust medications as necessary. Yesterday was a four, started out rough because one of our dogs has liver disease and she was symptomatic Saturday and Sunday morning. She rebounded and had a pretty good day, but any time she refuses food and play or vomits, I’m sure the end is near.

I will do my best to stay fully present in each moment, getting out of my head as much as possible (besides writing).

I put on make-up and jewelry. That makes me feel like I’m kind of putting on social armor, and I definitely feel better when I go in the work restroom and see myself in the mirror. The lighting in there is horrible, so my mirror image never reflects what I thought I looked like when I finished getting ready in the morning.

I’m not drinking alcohol for the time being. It depresses the nervous system, which is what I am trying to combat, and it uses space on my serotonin receptors that I need to be receiving the antidepressant medication.

I’ll remind myself to take deep breaths occasionally, using my lungs and diaphragm. I hold a lot of tension in my chest and abdomen, so this helps my body relax and, hopefully, not stay in fight-or-flight anxiety.

For the anxiety, Dr. Liz has also recommended I seriously increase my protein intake and decrease my carbs. Actually, she told me the number of grams I should have of each daily and suggested I get a food counter; but the idea of that stresses me out, so I’m just focusing on a general increase in protein and trying not to eat as much junk. She also recommends eating a small amount of high-quality, very dark chocolate each day for depression. I’m kind of loose with that one. I just make sure to eat some chocolate every day.

Dr. Phil says not to worry about what people think of you because they’re not thinking about you. They have their own lives going on, and I remind myself of that.

One of my really good friends, who has supported me through all of my depression episodes, has urged me to get a special light for chasing the gray days away. I finally got one. It’s a “happy” light. I used it for the first time this morning.

My gynecologist recommends 5000 units of vitamin D a day. He says it’s proven that people who take it feel better. Of course, I’ve been taking that for quite a while, even before this most recent flare-up, but I’m continuing.

Hugging can also improve one’s well-being. We usually hug for just a second or two, but science shows that a 30-second hug releases oxytocin, a neurotransmitter, into our brains.

Not sure what anyone else says about it, but smiling makes me feel better. Even if I’m not in a great mood, and especially at work, I try to smile with teeth showing once in a while. If I’m in an okay mood or better, I try to smile a lot.

One of the most obvious self-care activities is exercise, and this is the one with which I have the hardest time. In the best of circumstance, I don’t exercise regularly or have the desire to do so; and when I’m feeling low, it’s not what I want to do. I just want to lie down. I used to walk our dogs frequently, but I injured my shoulder and my poorly-trained dog pulls hard on the leash. I feel guilty going for a walk without them, though. This is one I’ve got to work on.

Painting is great creative outlet for me, but I haven’t for months. I know I won’t get into that for the next three days because I’m working, but it remains on my list of goals for my days off. A top priority this week will be taking down the Christmas decorations one of my sisters was kind enough to put up for me, and then I hope to paint. Who knows though, because since I’ve come back to work, writing and resting are all that I’ve managed on my days off.

I try to be kind and helpful to anyone who crosses my path, because that makes me feel better too.

Another thing I plan to do is re-read a post/meme one of my sisters sent me yesterday:

It's okay if you thought you were over it but it hits you all over again.
It's okay to fall apart even after you thought you had it under control.
You are not weak. Healing is messy, and there is no timeline for healing.
Be gentle with yourself.
@Enlightened Consciousness

Journal 1/5/20

I got my blog up and running over the past two days. I’m energized by the process, which is something I can really use right now.

I saw Dr. Liz on Friday. I told her I felt like I was getting worse instead of better. She said that’s not uncommon but she’s confident I will get better. I shared with her an experience I had recently where I’d been upset with someone but hadn’t said anything, chalking it up to that’s just how that person is. Dr. Liz said those feelings I stuffed didn’t just evaporate but, instead, festered. She thinks that’s why I felt a downturn. Part of my homework was to calmly an respectfully communicate to that person why I’d gotten upset and how I’d like us to handle frustration or conflict moving forward. That won’t be possible in every situation, either out of my control or too much to lose by, for example, telling someone in authority that their actions or words are unacceptable to me. In those cases, she said it’s appropriate to distract myself. Working on my blog helped my mood improve by displacing those uncomfortable emotions. Painting is a good outlet for me, as is gardening during the right season.

I did meet with the person who had upset me. I told him I had homework to do as part of my therapy. He was willing to hear me out, didn’t get nearly as defensive as I thought he might, and we ended with a hug. We agreed we’ll work on handling problems more respectfully in the future. Success!

On the heels of writing the above, an incident occurred involving one of my sons. My initial reaction was one of panic, feeling like I needed to fix the situation. It felt big to me. My husband helped me put it in perspective and reminded me it wasn’t about me at all. I calmed down. It really wasn’t the end of the world.

Writing and publishing this blog stirs up lots of emotions for me, so I need to take my time and breathe. Enough for today. I did publish my second installment on the Chapters of My Life.

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