Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Nature of Depression

Ok, so that last post was a downer.  I warned you.  Sorry.

Want something that will make you smile?  My cat is chasing the letters on my computer screen while I type.  Pretty darn cute, right there. :)  He chases my mouse too.  I made a YouTube video about it. :)

Here are some things that make me smile.

Counting my blessings and the Lord's tender mercies in my life.
Like when my kitten came home after a day and a half being completely gone and I thought I'd never see him again.
Or like a friend who brings me an entire meal plus some when all I asked for was a box of macaroni meat mix stuff that she was getting  rid of.
Or like my family going out for a laugh a couple days after the reunion and how I was able to take off that little bit of work in order to do it.
So when our bank account is low, or when our microwave breaks, our tire goes flat, or our clothes washer starts whining, all I need to do is count my blessings.

Another thing that makes me smile?  Getting a better routine to go by and so I get things done.
"Get things done" means I don't neglect myself, the kids, or my house.  Something in each place gets addressed.
So I started doing just that.  I scheduled a type of exercise for each day of the week: Dancing, biking, yoga, or jogging.  So far so good.  I danced with the kids to Hal Palmer yesterday and today I did yoga.  Sweet.
Other must haves on my schedule: Non electronic game time with the kids (cards, boardgames, strategy and teamwork games, etc.), a focus room for chores (today it was the porch, yesterday was my bedroom, but I ended up focusing more on the basement/toyroom), laundry every other day helps.  Just that kind of organization.
Why does this make me happy?
Because if I don't schedule it, I don't do anything.  I have passed days laying around in my robe doing the bare minimum, which means making sure my kids don't destroy the house or kill each other.
Because I have depression.

Having depression is something I haven't acknowledged as "having depression" for...well, never.  I always want to say I'm in charge of how I feel.  I want to say I choose my feelings.  Because that's what I want to do.  I want to be in charge of my own feelings and be responsible for them.  I don't like blaming my feelings on anything else outside of myself.  But it's just not true.  In spite of everything I try, sometimes I still just feel like crying and have to fake a smile.  That's just how it is.  And I can't often explain it or find any reason for it.  It just is.

I didn't realize this until I was discussing introvert/extrovert tendencies with my family.  They talked about how extroverts feed off the energy of other people and so they get lonely easy and have to go be with people.  Introverts feed off their alone time.  It doesn't mean they don't want to be around people, but they can get overwhelmed because they have to be alone for a while to fill up their buckets, so-to-speak.  During the discussion, I found myself asking the question: But what if you feel alone when you are with a group of people?

No one really answered at first and then my brother told me that was the nature of his depression and why he's sort of become a hermit because he can't handle that kind of loneliness.  At least when he's alone he can explain why he's lonely.  I found that very sad.  But I could understand him completely.

And that was my first step in acknowledging my depression.  I like to take St Johns Wart for it.  I took it when I had the baby blues after my last pregnancy, and when I had my miscarriage it helped too.  So I've started that up again and I will look into using essential oils for it as well.  I'm sort of inching away from medicine (I know there is a place for it, so don't judge me.).

But as I've given myself a schedule and started to try to practice positive thinking, counting my blessings, and finding things to be grateful for every day, I feel like the fog is lifting again.  In a way, I am in control.  I just have to catch myself when I feel like something is bogging me down, before I'm left feeling like the tears are about to spill, or I escape to some form of media distraction to keep my mind off life altogether.

I hate that in the past this is what I've done.  Movies, tv, and for a while internet was my go-to escape route.  But because I did that I missed out on my life.  I missed out on the more important things, like my kids and my days.  Because they are mine.  No one else's.  When I lose myself in media, I'm trying to live in someone elses life and it's a tragic way to live.  It's not living at all.

So this is what I'm going to do.  I'm going to do my best to live, acknowledge the issues at hand but pull myself out of the negative thinking fast.  Today I started to tell myself "It's going to be ok.  Everything is going to be fine.  It will be fine."  I had to say it a few times out loud before I believed it and my breathing got easier.  And then it felt like the sun came out on my troubles.  I still don't know if my troubles are fixed or solved and I know my troubles are far from over, but it feels much better realizing the world will not end because of them.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Family Introspection

 Disclaimer:  This post may be a bit of a downer post.  My apologies.

I just drove away from another family reunion with my immediate family this year.
And I cried.

I started crying at the end of my family reunions for the first time a few years ago and it seems like it's become an annual trend.  At first I just said, well, I missed my family.  That was easy and understandable enough.  But I felt it didn't quite hit the mark on the expanse of my emotions.

I'm the youngest child in a family of 8 kids.  I grew up looking at my older sisters and brother as though they had godlike perfection.  I wanted to be just like them.  All of them.  (Sounds possible right?)  I wasn't aware of their mistakes or flaws until much later in life and it sort of hit me like a ton of bricks at first.  I thought "Oh wait, they aren't perfect?" and then of course the afterthought followed, "No of course they aren't perfect."  But this still didn't stop me from admiring their every trait.

As tears sprung once again as I was driving away from this year's family reunion, I began to honestly dissect the reason for my tears.  Yes, I miss my family.  I don't get to see them near as much as I'd like to especially since I became an adult.  I used to be the last one left living with my parents so everyone would come to my house to visit.  Now that I am married with kids I have to go there to visit and ALSO go simultaneously with other family members in order to visit them.  Or make the effort to connect with them at their homes or mine, but this often doesn't go any further then stating "We really should do something sometime."

So the family reunion comes in the summer and the anticipation to see these godlike creatures again in their glory consumes me.  Then I spend a couple days in their presence and am reminded of how much I don't know them as well as I want to know them, and how much I don't think they know me as well as I want them to.  Then it also hits me that I am now the adult I used to fantasize about being someday sans these fantastic traits I love in my older siblings.

I look at sister number 1 and see strength and contentment.  Sister number 2, and her all-consuming happiness and optimism.  Sister number 3 and her healthy respect, let alone her gardening and mothering skills.  Sister number 4 and her joy and enthusiasm with life.  My brother comes next with his unique humor and style.  Sister number 5 adds on the contentment and confidence.  Then of course sister number 6 has always been perfect beyond my ability to understand.  There are traits and beautiful things about each one of these amazing people that I admire so much.  As a kid I used to dream I'd be just like them.  I expected to be, because I was their family.  So I'd inherit these things, right?  But every year I'm reminded that now I'm adult and I still haven't amounted to those things I thought I would.  The biggest thing that seems to run in my family is everybody's innate contentment and resolution to life.  Somehow I skipped that gene.  It takes a lot of work for me to hunker down and get happy about my place in life.

Then I find myself thinking...each one of my siblings has something that stands out as their best quality.  She's good at organizing.  She's good at being positive.  She's supermom and green thumb.  She's fix-it lady and storyteller.  He's the cool, confident quirky one.  She's the cook and awesome mom.  She's the one that's always right.  So......what about me?

I'm the...messy mom with good intentions?

I think the reason I cry after the family reunion every year is because I'm disappointed.  I get so excited to reconnect and never feel like I have reconnected to the extent that I'd be satisfied.  I'm disappointed with myself for not living up to the expectations of who I wanted to become -my siblings.  I'm disappointed that I don't even know what my niche is.  I'm just the youngest.  The observer.  The silent one in conversations that awkwardly speaks up at the wrong time to try to fit in my own story.

People shouldn't compare themselves to other people.  But growing up in a big family of people I've idolized made that really hard for me not to do.  I have lots of good people to compare myself to, and I fall short.

Escaping My Nevers

Things get so busy during the summer I haven't posted as much, but I had some deep thought lately I thought would be post worthy.

As you may have gathered already, I am prone to self-evaluation and examination on a regular basis.  Sometimes this gets to the point of obsession and some people would probably see it as a bit exhausting.  But it's what I do because it's who I am.  I've seen it in personality types, actually.  So I was once again thinking about the way I think.  Which sounds incredibly dull but it's not, it's pretty deep.

I realized in recent months that I am a dreamer in more then just the sense of the words.  Usually when one says "I am a dreamer." People take it as a positive thing, like someone who has a great imagination or someone who thinks big things and does them.  But I haven't been that kind of dreamer.  I am trying to become that kind of dreamer because I see that kind of dreamer as much more healthy then the way I have been for the majority of my life.  I don't dream about what ifs.  I don't dream about somedays.  I found that throughout my life I've dreamed about alter-realities that I think of as nevers.  Because I have accepted within myself these dreams are nevers, I sort of contented myself with a lesser reality and escaped my reality by dreaming.

I recently read a phrase posted on Facebook that said: Your imagination should be used not to escape reality, but to create it.
True dat.

I looked back on my life as a hopeless dreamer and realized something rather tragic.  Because I dreamed in this way, I gave up on reality ever being at all dreamy.  I gave up the hope of a realistic romance or an amazing life.  I told myself things like that only happened on television or only happened to other people.  So of course they never happened to me.  This mindset made me settle so hard in real life and then I would live in my dreams because that was where I felt happy.  But it wasn't real, and I wasn't really happy.  So my depression grew with my disappointment with the gap between real life and my dreams.  But whoever told me my dreams weren't realistic?  Why didn't I think I was good enough for the dream-boat dark and tall to sweep me off my feet?  I think I saw opportunities sometimes and let them pass by because those things don't happen to me.  This mindset really messed up my dating life back in the day.

Over the last year or so I have been focusing on the real more.  I've escaped the dreaming for a while and it's like my head has been lifted out of the deep water.  I took a stroll down the street this summer and it felt like I was seeing my neighborhood clearly for the first time.  I'd walked down that street multiple times in past years but I always did it in a fog of dreams.  I also wasn't taking advantage of my children realistically either.  Instead of seeing the blessings right before my eyes I was dreaming about the blessings I felt I never realistically could have.

Then I opened my eyes to the reality of my blessings.  I am married to a great guy who not only helps cook and clean when he gets home, but he's incredibly responsible and a hard-worker and he cares deeply about me and our children even if he can't express it sometimes in the way I wish he would.  Men are being shaped into emotional cripples...it's an epidemic that must be stopped.  I could write a whole other post on that, but I'll stop there.  I love my husband.  When I get my head out of the clouds of alter-reality and nevers, I find the nows and the this-is-happenings and realize what I have been SO taking for granted like an idiot.

I am also the mother of some great little boys.  I thought I was investing everything into my children as a good mother should.  I feel guilty all the time as most mothers would because every single day something is not done that should be.  But I've got to learn that the list of to-dos and to-dones will always be lop-sided and priorities must be variable and what I didn't get done today can always be done tomorrow.  And life doesn't end because of my not-done-yet list.  What is most important is that I watch my kids in the now.  I see them today because of course everyone knows the cliche, tomorrow comes too soon.  But the first step is opening my eyes and stop dreaming about nevers because with my kids the possibilities are endless and I know of one never to embrace: I NEVER want my kids to think of their dreams as nevers!

This world I live in is a beautiful place with lots of good.  I'm going to start seeing it for how it truly is, because dreams are founded upon realities.  People really do great things.  Great things really do happen to good people.  Instead of losing myself in my dreams I can work for my dreams to be realities.  I'm going to create and stop escaping.  Because honestly what's real is too good to try to escape.