Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Dialogue That Needs to Change

*Disclaimer* These are my thoughts based on my own personal train ride. Yours will, and probably are, different. But that doesn't invalidate mine. This is going to be pretty raw, so if you've a weak stomach, you may want to skip this post.

I am not a victim of depression. I refuse to be labeled with the term victim--because, to me, it means that I am helpless to control my circumstances or my reactions to them. That is simply not true. I was a victim of an armed robbery--to a point. I am not a victim of depression.

I was diagnosed with depression at age 16. Growing up was kind of rough and it affected me deeply, profoundly, in ways that I could not control. My doctors put me on medication and I balanced out a bit. The medication came after the suicide note, the realization that I could not make myself better, and the asking for help.

I was lucky--and I don't deny it. Too many kids don't ask for the help they need because of the negative way depression is characterized in our nation. They either don't recognize what they're going through for what it is, or they are too afraid to voice it aloud because of what people will think of them. Or they fall into the trap of believing that they can just "get better" on their own.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't happen that way. I've struggled with depression for 23 years. There have been good bouts, long stretches where I'm doing pretty good, and other moments where I have considered blowing my brains out. I'm not exaggerating--rather, I wish I was. In dark moments I imagine the sweet relief that would come from ending it all. In dark moments I think that my loved ones would be better off without me dragging them down. That they don't need me, or that they would be far better off without me.

But I can't talk to anybody about those moments because they're scary. I tried once, to open up to my husband about how those thoughts do creep into my mind. It freaked him out, rightly so, but it confirmed my harbored suspicions that this was not a 'safe' topic that we could discuss. We can talk about our kids, the right and wrong choices we've made, we can over-analyze to death everything else in our lives.

I cannot talk about the Darkness. Darkness is off limits.

And while I understand why, because it *is* frightening to hear someone you love occasionally entertains thoughts of suicide--even for a fleeting instant. We all know that no action comes without first being a thought.

Before you freak out too, let me clarify. My life is beautiful. I love my life. But for me, and I suspect millions like me, Darkness will ALWAYS be there. When things get super challenging, or we face yet another huge life upheaval, Darkness is there, whispering, taunting, urging. It was there when I lost my baby. It was there when I got my first publishing contract--on the heels of foreclosure. It was there for that year and a half we crammed our family of 7 into half of a duplex and I felt like a colossal failure as a wife, mother, and provider. It's there now, looking at my two beat up cars and a future of part time jobs and schooling, near adult children, and not knowing when I can provide better transportation--or if the cars we have will last long enough for me to save the money.

Darkness is there. In all of us, really. It's just got a louder voice in some than in others. Here's the dialogue that needs to change.

People, individuals, those you love, need to know that they have a safe place where they can express even their darkest thoughts without judgment. Without condemnation. Sometimes we just need to get them out. Darkness is less scary when exposed to light.

We need someone to talk to. We need coping skills for when the Darkness speaks. When I'm having a good day, it's easy for me to tell the Darkness to shut up and go away. When I'm having a bad day, the Darkness's whisperings are comforting and difficult to pull away from. It would be great to have a therapist, or a psychologist, to meet with once a week or so and talk it out. But not everyone can afford that, and many insurances don't cover it, or enough of it.

We need to talk about depression. We need to be open about the fact that we can't control the Darkness--it's there, inside of us. All we can control is how we react to the Darkness, and, sometimes, we can't even control that.

I don't talk about my depression much. I don't admit to people that I'm on medication for it. I'm a private person, and I don't feel it's anyone's business. But, again, that's part of the problem. If we always keep it a secret then we risk missing opportunities to help one another.

Denying the Darkness, trying to pretend it doesn't exist, is exhausting. Eventually we just can't run anymore, so people choose to turn and embrace it instead. So many of us are afraid that if we share the deepest parts of ourselves, those we love will turn away. They will leave us. They will prove our darkest fears true.

We aren't freaks. We aren't losers. We can't just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on. We are wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, parents, children, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists. We are neighbors, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings. We are worthy. We have value.

Sometimes we struggle to get out of bed. At all. Sometimes we struggle to go to work. Sometimes we struggle to have a conversation. But we are intrinsically tied to your human experience. We are family. We are part of you. We are you. We.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

At Sixes and Sevens

Stress is a killer. We all know this. But, I think we tend to underestimate the many, many ways stress wreaks havoc with your life.

Bryan lost his job at the end of April. He got another one right away, so I didn't worry too much. But then they kept stringing him along, taking their time, and then ultimately said no thanks. After almost a month of thinking he'd be starting any day now, he found out he needed to keep looking.

That really shook his confidence, as did the "thank, but no thanks" rejections he got from two other places. So, at the end of two months, he was still jobless, still waiting to hear on applications, still whittling down his options--and trying to figure out how never to be in this situation again. Because you know, if you've followed our story at all, that this happens every few years. And it totally stinks.

Right after he lost his job I got sick. Stress. Then, just when I was thinking I needed to start job hunting myself, I got sick again. That was about the same time he got the official *no* from the first place. After I got better, I put in applications. Then my grandma died, and my brother paid for me to go out for the funeral. I got the first interview call while I was in Utah, and had to explain to a total stranger why I couldn't make the interview that day.

Contrary to Bryan's experience, I've been offered every job I've applied for so far. I had to turn down the video store job when being there gave me a continual creeped out feeling. Not a good indicator for a job. Then I worked at the second place for about three or four days, if you count the day they sent me home because their computer systems didn't recognize me as an employee yet. I can only describe that incident as soul-sucking. It felt damaging to even be there. I'm still piecing that together in my mind. But I only quit AFTER I got another, part time, job cleaning 3 nights a week.

Today, I got another call for an interview for a full time day job. I'm going for it. We need it. Bryan and the boys are working part time at a ranch, which is great (right now anything is great), but it's not enough to sustain the family. We've lost our car. The other two cars aren't going to last much longer. The dogs need their shots. Things are basically falling apart.

All of this chaos has wreaked havoc with my creativity. I want so badly to be writing, but the stress is killing me. I'm speeding headlong into my deadlines with nothing to show for it. And I don't know how to get back on the wagon. I'd been doing so well these last months--finishing projects, getting edits done, publishing completed works. And now I'm stagnate. I haven't done anything since I finished the edits on Birthright and put it up on Kindle Scout. I don't know how to reactivate my writer mojo.

I know that you know that I'd rather be writing and publishing. But, right now, those pesky survival needs come first. We've got to pay rent, utilities, keep our kids clothed and fed, etc. I haven't given up on my writing, but for a while it may have to take a back seat. Again.

And that really hurts my heart.


I quit a job last week. Pretty sure I know what you’re thinking. How could I quit a job when I was the only one working?! After 2 months of unemployment? I got a job, barely gave it a chance, and quit.
The good news is I got another job, which is why I quit the first job. 

Have you ever worked at a place that made you sad just to go inside? I’m not even sure I can properly explain the way it made me feel to go to work, or plan to go to work, or get ready for work, or think about going to work. 

It wasn’t the job itself—everything they asked me to do I was willing to do, and I did it. I worked hard. Tuesday I was stocking and facing shelves. Nothing I haven’t done before. It’s not like I felt like the job was beneath me—when your family is struggling to make ends meet you’d be surprised what you’re willing to do. I guess I’d have to put it down to the atmosphere. I knew when I took the job that it was wrong for me. One might argue, if I knew that, why did I take the job in the first place? I didn’t have to accept it. Again, family needs, dire straits, no job for over 2 months. 

I kept my ear out, my applications moving. I looked into every alternative I had, and one quickly presented itself. When I got that job (the second one), I was so relieved tears came to my eyes. I’m not even exaggerating. 

Sometimes you have to go through a situation in order to learn how deeply you feel about it—for good or bad. I had no idea I was so deeply opposed to working for this company until I accepted a job from them. Are they evil? No. Are they bad? Not that I found. I just knew with every fiber of my being that the job was wrong for me. I wish I understood why, exactly. I’m still trying to work it all out in my head.