How I’m saving my own life right now…on living with Depression

I have a mental illness. It is called Depression.

I’ve probably had it my entire life, according to my doctor, but one day 10 years ago my life detonated and lay in shreds all around my feet…and then those pesky brain chemicals just couldn’t keep up anymore.

Before then, I was a pretty decent ringmaster of the crazy circus that made up my emotional life. I could alternatively hide what I was ashamed of about myself and fake control and happiness in front of others.

But then the worst thing that could happen, did. And my old wine skins burst.

And ever since then I’ve been living with “The Big D”.depression1

My Depression:

Maybe my depression is different than anyone else’s, but it has taken me 10 years to get to this place…where I’m ready to publicly acknowledge and write about my life with depression,

But more importantly, how I’m saving my own life right now.

I’ve always felt very ashamed of and embarrassed about having Depression. I’ve suffered from the stigma associated from it, of course. I’ve weathered well-meaning friends and family saying all the things that well-meaning (but not depressed) people tend to say.

(I liken it to taken divorce advice from someone who has never been divorced, parenting advice from someone who isn’t a parent, or weight loss advice from a skinny person.  All the books and courses in the world will not teach you what it FEELS like to be depressed.  And even how I feel with Depression may not be the same as how you feel.)

I take objection to even the definition of Depression.  They call it a “mood disorder”.  I don’t think of it as a mood that I’m in.  To use the term mood denotes something changing with the whims of the day, or something fleeting, or something insignificant.  Like I’m a hormonal teenager.  Like I’m being immature or cowardly or manipulative.

Instead, I’d call it a “thinking disorder”.  Instead of affecting my lungs or kidneys or another body part, it affects my thinking, which then directs my behavior and mood.  Thinking irrational thoughts IS the disease.  Thinking that you’re worthless, hopeless, replaceable, pointless, and better off dead IS IRRATIONAL and is part of the illness…and it is not the truth.  depression

My depression is being so happy on the inside, but not able talk to people at my daughter’s engagement party, so that people imagine I’m upset.

My depression is having to give myself a pep talk before performing mundane household chores.   And not having the will to give myself the pep talk a lot of days.

My depression is spending too much time on Facebook, watching TV or reading as a means of distracting myself so I do not have to think the thoughts in my own head.

My depression is…for some reason I can’t figure out…feeling like the only place to be is on the floor of my bedroom.  On these particularly awful days, I feel a physical weight in my arms and legs and a palpable exhaustion that makes me prefer to sleep than have to battle through it.  On the floor, I cry a lot and I cry hard and I wish that I could find a dark whole and crawl inside of and simply cease to be.  I call these “Attacks of Depression” because that is what it feels like…an actual assault…and I don’t always know what triggers them. And sometimes I do.

My depression is good days and bad days…sometimes lots of each in a row.

How I’m saving my own life…

First, it’s this…deciding to be transparent and authentic about my depression.  Yes, I’m still embarrassed.  Yes, I’m still worried about how others will react or treat me.  But I’m choosing courage over fear and today, at least, courage is winning.

Yesterday, for the first time ever, I texted a friend when I felt an attack coming on because I believed she would pray for me.

Right then.

I was really terrified to text her.   An email would have taken too long to craft and explain.  But a text? Maybe?

“Pray for me, please. Depression is rearing its ugly head and I am feeling paralyzed.”

I was feeling so very vulnerable and afraid.  I really didn’t want to talk at that moment and I was afraid that my phone would ring…

And the dots showed up as she was answering  me.  I could feel my heart quicken…

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A wave of relief washed over me because I knew that somebody knew. And although I was alone, I didn’t feel alone in my pain just then.

And then I left my phone and my computer downstairs and I sat on the floor of my room and cried.  Hard.

But then, a thought that I’d never had before came into my mind.  It was, “You’re not worthless, you have a mental illness that makes you think that you are.”

And my tears slowed as I repeated that sentence over and over to myself.  And soon I was able to pray.  I said, “Dear Heavenly Father, please give me another perspective about myself than what I have about myself right now.”

And I starting thinking about my kids.  I thought about how my kids love me.

And how my husband loves me.

And my mom and dad love me.

And my former students love me.

And my friends love me.

And I started feeling that maybe, even though I don’t always feel it inside myself, that I am lovable because some really fine and wonderful human beings love me.

Lastly, I got up off the floor and I made myself some chicken salad and added some avocado and almonds for some healthy fats, and then I went to sit outside in the sunshine.

And as I sat there, eating a healthy lunch that I made for myself, sitting in the sunshine on a warm afternoon, I felt a feeling of pride…

I just saved my own life today.

I cared for myself.  Yes, I asked for help from a friend and from God, but it was my bravery and humility and action on my own behalf that did it.  I do know how to care for myself, and I feel like I can trust myself to be good to my physical body and my mental health.

I have to be real here.  I have a mental illness and that means I will have more sitting-on-the-floor-of-my-bedroom days in the future.  They will be awful and they will feel like an assault.

But I’ve equipped myself with some new weapons with which to fight…

I can text a friend so that I’m not alone in my pain.

I can pray for a new perspective and courage.

I can remember that I have an illness, and I am a grown up and I can take care of myself. Just like if I was sick with pneumonia or anything else, there is a medical protocol.  I need to visit my doctor, take my medicine, take vitamins, eat well, and move my body.

And just like I wouldn’t get mad at myself for having pneumonia or a kidney infection, I don’t need to beat myself up about having Depression.  I can rest when I need to without feeling guilty or ashamed.

I have to remind myself that this illness is an illness of my thinking.  It goads me to dwell on thoughts that are not true or rational.  I’m not always able to control it, and I’m not always aware that my thoughts are irrational.  The mantra, “You are not ____, you have a mental illness that makes you THINK that you are ___” was a helpful one.  I must have read it somewhere on the Internet once, and it came back to me when I needed it.

I can live with The Big Angry D.  And I can save my own life.  I did it and I can do it again, and again, and again.  And I will.

 

 

 

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Why a retired Homeschool Mom is the Best Candidate for Your Job: An open letter to the employers who aren’t paying attention to my resume.

Dear Future Employer:

First, every job posting is the same.  There is a description of the requirements and the qualifications of the ideal candidate.  I understand, my resume and cover letter is a little different, or maybe not different enough?

That’s because I can’t say I what I want to say on them.  So here, I will explain what will make me excellent at any professional job.

It is not because I finished my M.Ed. in one year to earn a new credential.

It is not because I know so much more than anyone else about the content of the position.

It is not because I have so much experience in the field that I am the most obvious choice in the universe.

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It is because I was a homeschool mom.

I know that the world of work does not recognize motherhood as a qualifier for professional employment.  Homeschooling does not give me recognition as a highly qualified educator according to the state department of education.

Yet, I submit that being a homeschooling mom is a terrific prerequisite for any job.

Before I began homeschooling, I was a professionally trained teacher.  I was very proud of all I knew about child development and learning theory.  But then my son, the beholder of my heart, when to kindergarten and did not learn the same as the other kids in his class.  I have written about this experience here.

Convinced of my ability to get him “back on track,” I quit my teaching job.  The plan was to help him get caught up and send him back to school in second grade.  However, by grade 4, he was still not reading.

The Ed.D. who tested my son looked at me with concern, even reproach, when he explained my son’s learning disabilities.  Finally he concluded with “I don’t know why you just don’t give up. Your son will never learn to read”.

To that I answered, “You’re wrong.  I will teach him to read.”

Being a mom means that whatever I don’t knowhow to do, I will learn.  When I declared that I would teach my son to read, I wasn’t depending on my professional qualifications as an educator.  I didn’t know the first thing about how to teach students with learning disabilities. It was my love for him that determined that I was going to learn what I needed to learn and do whatever I needed to do.

I read everything I could get my hands on and tried every suggestion I was given.  Progress was painfully gradual.  But as I learned, I adjusted. I came up with some of my own ideas.  I kept what worked and threw out what didn’t until finally he began to read.

Being a mom meant that I would be courageous, tenacious, optimistic, and hopeful. Being a mom meant that I was determined to try again after every setback.  Being a mom means getting into the messy and then cleaning it up.  It means that love wins when nothing else can.

Even though I do not know everything about the position I’m applying for, and although I have never done some of the required duties in a professional setting before, I can guarantee you have never met a more determined learner.

And though I do not have years of experience in your specific requirements, I will not quit after a few setbacks.  I will work until the goal is achieved.  You can trust me to care for the thing that matters to you the most. I will not disappoint you.

Because I gave 17 years to homeschooling my kids – and teaching many other people’s kids, too.

Because I sacrificed my career goals to assure my children could have any future they chose.

And I will never regret it.

But my life isn’t over just because my kids have grown up.  I still have a lot to offer and a lot that I still want to accomplish, but first, I need the professional opportunity.

So look no further.  Hire me.  I’m the candidate you’ve been looking for.

Because  it isn’t the credential or the experience that is the most important element in your search for a great employee.  It is that unquantifiable  x-factor that every employer looks for on the resume and tries to clue in on in the cover letter. My courage, my determination, my creativity, my optimism, my tenacity, my never-give-up-until-the-job-is-done strength of character is what makes me the best candidate.

And I became those things
while being a homeschooling mom.

 

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