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.

Journal 12/27

That second day of work really kicked my ass. I spent several hours helping in the busiest part of our company, and by the end of the day I was anxious and near tears, but I held on. I rested on Christmas Eve day.

On Christmas Day, we took things at a relaxed pace in the morning and opened presents around 2 o’clock. It was just the four of us. Later, we played games. I didn’t go to my room to lie down at all, though I wanted to. While playing games, I began to feel “squiggly” inside. That’s been my shortcut expression to explain the physical sensation of anxiety mixed with dread in my chest when I’m losing the battle and sinking into depression. My sons, husband and I were sitting around the dining room table, playing a game called Code Names, when I kind of froze. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to talk without crying. I said, “I’m having a hard time,” in a shaky, tearful voice. All three of them stopped and paid attention. My husband asked what could be done to help and my younger son questioned what had caused me to feel unsteady. My older son held my hand.

Now, I don’t want others to think these responses are automatic. When I suffered my first two episodes of deep depression, which I’ll cover in the Chapters of My Life, you’ll see that my husband’s responses have been far less sensitive and helpful in the past. I think that’s why it touched me so to have three strong, attentive men focus on my needs.

I’d scheduled a doctor appointment for the morning after Christmas to establish care with a new primary care provider. I knew I wouldn’t be drinking alcohol, so I figured it would be no problem to make a 9:00 a.m. visit to a new physician the day after the holiday. However, sitting there on Christmas afternoon, I felt tired and thought to myself, “I need to spend tomorrow in bed.” I immediately realized I couldn’t because of the doctor appointment I’d already confirmed. I explained this to my family, and we agreed that I should cancel the appointment and have a day of rest. I called the provider’s office, expecting to leave a message, but a triage nurse answered. She cancelled my visit.

This was the first time I’d spoken to my family as a whole while struggling, instead of hiding behind a smile and soldiering on in an effort to maintain a happy holiday facade. It was such a relief to say out loud that I wasn’t doing okay and have it received so thoughtfully by my guys. I felt less pressured then, and we continued to play games. My husband single-handedly prepared a wonderful surf and turf dinner while my sons and I continued to play games.

Now, a couple of things I want to emphasize here. I will describe my earlier major depressive episodes in chapters and you will see that the current support expressed by my family has not always been the response to my difficulties. The other thing I want to point out is, if you are a family member or friend of someone struggling with depression and/or anxiety, being there for the person, asking what you can do to help, and accepting that your loved one is experiencing a difficult time, even if you don’t fully understand, is a gift. I was so grateful and amazed at the love expressed for me. I opened up and was vulnerable, instead of trying to carry on and “not ruin” the holiday. Instead of ruining our time together, we actually worked through what was bothering me most and went on with our evening.

We may not have had lots of expensive gifts or a large family gathering, but this was undoubtedly one of my best Christmases ever.

It also occurred to me throughout the day that, had I followed through with my suicide plan, Christmas Day would have been the one month anniversary of my death. I hadn’t thought of that when preparing my departure, but now it made me feel like such an asshole. I’m so glad I was spending the day with my family, giving and receiving love, rather than having devastated them all.

Journal 12/10 part two

My writing is in a notebook currently and I’ve mixed journal entries and chapters. I just realized I’d failed to include the complete entry for 12/10, so here it is.

My husband opened up to a friend about what he’s been going through. I asked if he’d told everything. He said, “Yeah, the whole thing. My wife was already depressed and then she went over the edge, planned her suicide. I would’ve found her when I got home from work the Monday before Thanksgiving. Yeah, I spilled it all.”

I thought to myself, “Wow, hearing him say it aloud, I really sound like an asshole.” I also felt a twinge of embarrassment at someone knowing. Figure I gotta get over that if anybody is going to read this.

I’m still giving a lot of thought to whether or not to actually publish this. I’m pretty sure I’m going to because I want to make it easier to talk about. I have to start with myself. I practiced yesterday. I was standing in the street out in front of my house because that’s the only place I could get unobstructed sunshine. I stood next to the neighborhood mailboxes with my coffee cup in one hand, my face turned up to the bright blue sky, soaking up some vitamin D. It felt so good. My neighbor, and friend, brought out two chairs and blankets. Even with the full sun, the temperature was probably in the 30’s. She set up the chairs, handed me a blanket, and we sat together. I decided I was going to use the opportunity to say out loud that I was suicidal. It was hard and I cried. Another neighbor saw us out her window and joined us. The conversation turned to lighter topics. I was relieved. I wiped my tears, blew my nose, and made my exit, or should I say entrance since I went into my house?

I’m going to wait a while before I try again. It’s difficult and stirs up all the emotions. I’m trying to even out and work my way up out of this deep hole of darkness, so I need to get stronger and give it more time before I try to talk about it conversationally, for sure.

Journal 12/23

The Christmas party on Friday went well. I started back to work yesterday and it was okay. I was really nervous about coworkers’ reactions and about helping customers. I hoped I could talk without crying – and I did! It felt like a really long day, after being away for nearly a month. Back at work today and then I have four days off.

Journal 12/19

I’m going back to work on Sunday, 12/22, and I’m very nervous. Tomorrow night is my husband’s company Christmas party. That will be good practice to make sure I can talk without crying. We have a room at the hotel where the party is being held, so I’m planning to attend only the dinner and then go to the room.

Journal 12/18

I feel shaky and nervous. I met with Dr. Liz last week for an emergency visit because after initially feeling like I was getting a bit better every day, I found myself in a panic that I no longer had the suicide plan I’d put together. I’d had to hand it over to my husband. My mom and sister came over Thursday, and I admitted to them I was sorry I’d let my friend at work know that I had a plan and the means. My mom and sister talked to me about how much they love me and want me to stay. My mom told me she could not handle it if I took my own life. The thoughts kept running through my head until I came up with a new plan. I didn’t have the intent to carry it out, but it gave me a sense of relief to have an alternate plan. When I woke on Friday, I felt terrible. Then I remembered my new plan; it made me feel better and worse at the same time.

Dr. Liz had me set up a buddy system with an identified person to whom I would reach out if I began to feel suicidal again. My buddy is my husband. I was reluctant to call him with this latest suicidal thinking because he was at work. I texted and asked him if he wanted me to ask my sister to be my buddy instead. He suggested that maybe they could both be my buddies.

I called one of my sisters, explained the buddy system, and asked if she was willing to be one of my buddies. She readily agreed but said I’d have to tell her how to be my buddy. I explained that I’d come up with a new plan and felt relief to have an option. She encouraged me to call Dr. Liz, which I did. Another patient had cancelled for later in the day and she offered that time to me. I asked my husband if he’d be home in time to take me, and he said he’d make sure he was.

When I told Dr. Liz that I was again having suicidal thinking and had a new plan, she explained that the antidepressant I’d been on long term, and that she’d increased the dosage of, must have worn out its effectiveness for me. She began me on a new medication that I have not been on previously. So, now I am on the medicine I started ten years ago, the one she’d started me on in November, and a third. She said we’d work me off the one I’d been on since 2009 when I stabilized on the other two.

By Monday, three days later, I felt like I’d turned a corner. The prescription she’d started me on when I saw her initially was taking effect. When I saw Dr. Liz for my already scheduled appointment on Tuesday, I wasn’t feeling great but I wasn’t feeling suicidal any longer. She had me take a depression inventory, and I scored as only mildly depressed versus the serious condition I’d presented with on the day after Thanksgiving. My anticipated return to work date had been 12/22. When Dr. Liz asked me if I felt ready to return to work or if I needed another week, I requested that she decide. I have trouble trusting my own perceptions and judgments right now. Dr. Liz said I will be getting better every day now and she thought I should try returning to work. This coming Sunday, I will be back at work. I’m nervous but I trust Dr. Liz and I’m following her advice.

Journal Day 5 12/10/19

I’ve decided if I’m going to blog about being depressed and suicidal, I should get comfortable with saying it to people who care about me. I’ve changed my mind. They can read about it on my blog. Oh, wait. One of my goals is to make it easier to talk about suffering from depression and being suicidal. I’ll have to work on that.

If I was diagnosed with cancer, I wouldn’t be embarrassed. I wouldn’t feel like it was my fault. I want people to be able to talk about what they’re struggling through and ask for help.

So, in the hot tub the other day, I thought of some things to follow up on later.

First, I was having a hard time deciding where to start to describe how I ended up writing a suicide note and gathering the necessary supplies. I’ve decided to start with the death of my dad in April of 2019. See Chapter One.

Next, I discussed the idea of my blog with Dr. Liz at our appointment Friday. She’s behind me 100% and gave me permission to refer to her as Dr. Liz.

Lastly, I’m not always in a position to write down what I’m thinking about for my blog, like sitting in a hot tub, but it’s okay. The thoughts will stay in my head and maybe I’ll even be able to recall them when I have pen and paper later, which is not a given.

Journal Day 4 12/6/19

I’ve never followed a blog or even checked one out. I thought about doing that before I started mine, but then decided to just plow ahead. I’ve also started this blog in a notebook to be published online later. This gives me time to think twice before posting or considering whether or not I should even have a blog at all. I’m going to publish the dates of my journal entries and they are accurate to when I actually wrote them.

I’m fine with my closest friends and family knowing what I’ve been through, and I’m not worried in the least about strangers reading this. The thought of friends, acquaintances, coworkers, people I run into in the community reading this – I’m not going to lie – that makes me nervous.

I’m feeling better every day. It helps that I was already on an antidepressant and we increased the dose. I’ve also started on a new, complimentary medication. I continue on bed rest for the most part. This will get more difficult as my condition imrpoves. I know this because my m.o. has always been to do too much, too soon, when recovering from any illness or injury. The first couple of days of rest, I kept running a “should” list through my head. My sister recently listened to a podcast on which anxiety was discussed. One person said he tells himself, “Not now,” when he starts should-ing. I’m trying that. Now, a week in, it is such a relief to know I’m not supposed to be doing anything. When I woke up this morning, my first instinct to go through a to-do list was easily brushed aside.

Because I’ve been dealing with depression for 25 years, the story of how I got to the point where I was planning my end has a very long version, but also a more recent chapter. I’ve decided I’ll start with the most current set of events and circumstances, later giving a full account of my initial experience and extended journey with depression and anxiety, as well as the effect on the stages of my life and relationships.

I sat in our hot tub today for the first time since shit hit the fan on 11/24. Much as I tried to be fully present, my mind kept returning to my writing. I can’t get it all on paper right now but as a reminder to myself:

  • Chapter One
  • See what Dr. Liz thinks – am I crazy to put this out there? What if trolls come out and say terrible things?
  • Relax, it’s all in my head and I can remember later

It’s really hard to talk about being suicidal, especially with someone who has a legal duty to report if a person is suicidal or homicidal. You have to choose your words very carefully.

Journal Day 3

I feel relaxed for the first time in a very long time after five days of bed rest. I have to resist the urge to begin doing, planning, and worrying about what comes next.

I’ve thought about suicide more times than I could ever recall. It’s one of the symptoms I get when my depression increases, along with decreased appetite (I call it the depression diet), troubled sleep, crying easily, etc. In my younger years, thoughts of suicide really scared me, but over the decades it’s become a gnat I can swat down, chalking it up to just another symptom. Until a week-and-a-half ago.

I’m not going into details about what my plan was, but for the first time I had a real plan. I wrote a suicide note. I assembled the things I would need. I couldn’t beieve I was actually doing these things, but I was; so I believed I really would carry it out. Then a friend asked me to meet for coffee later in the week and I said, “I might not be here.” Of course, I wasn’t in my “right mind” but I thought this friend might not interfere. I was wrong.

She told me I couldn’t go through with it, and I asked her, “Why?” Because she loves me, my family and friends love me, she explained.

The problem was that for all those years I’d had suicidal thinking pop up, I swatted them down with that exact thinking. “I can’t hurt so many people who love me.” But it wasn’t enough to tip the scales this time. This emptiness was bigger than the pain, disappointment, and anger I knew would follow for my husband, our children, my extended family and friends.

My purpose in life, which had buoyed me through many down times, was that I’m here to weave love and compassion into the fabric of life. I’ll write more later about how I found that purpose. But the weekend before Thanksgiving 2019, this was no longer a credible defense because I was empty, unable to give love or compassion to anyone.

I literally felt a “whoosh” as the last vestiges of myself were spent after I wrote my suicide note. I had nothing left to offer. It occurred to me that I had served my purpose. I’d done what I was here for and used up all of myself. If there is nothing left to give, I must be done.

I would include my suicide note here but I’ve offered my family and one of my closest friends the opportunity to read it, and they’ve all declined, with the exception of my husband. Maybe I’ll publish it later.

Journal Day 2

I have an illness, have had for about 25 years. It goes into remission but recurs at the worst of times. The illness is depression with a side of anxiety. If you’ve experienced either of these, it’s my hope you find company, understanding, encouragement, maybe something to hold on to. If you love or are involved with someone who suffers from depression and/or anxiety, I’m trying to give you a glimpse into what it’s like to deal with them. I know from my husband and my best friend that if you haven’t had clinical depression, it’s very hard to relate. Perhaps walking with me for a while will improve your ability to empathize with and support your loved one more effectively.

As administrator of my site, it’s fine with me if you disagree with something I say. It’s not okay to call names, judge or bully (me or other readers), any of which will not be published.

I don’t begin to think I speak for anyone else who struggles with clinical depression or anxiety. I’m sharing my thoughts, feelings and experiences, which may or may not resonate with others. Like I said, if no one reads it, I’ve still written it and gotten it out of my head.

Depression is just as much as illness as diabetes or heart disease. It requires treatment and lifestyle adjustments. It’s much more than a bad mood or a pity party. It affects me physically, mentally, and emotionally.

So where am I right now? As I write this, I’m under doctor’s orders to sleep as much as I can for two weeks, complete rest, because I came very close to taking my own life 10 days ago. I’m receiving professional help including medication and therapy. I’ve signed a contract agreeing I won’t hurt myself. I’m on a leave of absence from work with some time on my hands, so I’m documenting my experience as I move forward, wanting to memorialize this time in my life while the thoughts and feelings are fresh. I want to be real. I’m afraid I might give out too much information. I know I’m vulnerable right now, so I’m nervous. Because I’m choosing to share events and situations as closely as I can to how they play out, I’m not going to use the real names of my friends and family; they didn’t choose to be part of this.

For years, one of the things that has helped me maintain balance is having a purpose in life. My purpose is to weave love and compassion into the fabric of life, regardless of where I am, who I’m with, or what I’m doing. Recently, however, I found myself empty with nothing to give. This blog will be a way for me to sort out how I got here and how I work my way up and out, putting one foot in front of the other.

Some people may find topics I discuss disturbing, so this blog might not be for everyone.

I’m tired. Enough for now. I’ll leave you with a poem I wrote three days ago.


A paper cut out of a person
with nothing left inside.
The front and back still look the same
so it's not too hard to hide.

Keeping up appearances,
play acting on life's stage
is lonely and exhausting,
an effort to turn each page.

Meanwhile, cares and troubles trip along,
no break I get from juggling
until I cry, "Enough, enough,"
and admit that I am struggling.

Aware that I am more fortunate than many
with family, friends, and a good physician
who will help me on the path to healing,
there is hope on the horizon of my limited vision.

First Blog Post – Ever

Here I go, starting a blog, my first. I’m here writing in spite of myself. I am sharing my experience as I move forward, healing from my third, and worst, episode of major clinical depression. I welcome interested readers who would like to walk through this journey with me. If not a single person chooses to read my words, I’m okay with that. This is my real time experience as I travel out of darkness and into light.

%d bloggers like this: