The weight of depression

The weight of depression

Depression is no joke
I was diagnosed with Major Depression in 2005. I had no idea that upon diagnosis I would become the family pariah. I had no clue the family didn’t believe in mental illness and counseling psychology. I didn’t have the kind of illness you could see, touch, smell or hear. It wasn’t as if I had a cast or bruise or other visible signs.

What is depression
The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) says, “Depression is a serious medical illness; it’s not something that you have made up in your head.” This is a brilliant statement. It validates I couldn’t have “brought it upon myself” and the fact that it is real. I wouldn’t know how to make it up if I tried. Another significant statement from NIMH is:

“Major depressive disorder or major depression is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Major depression is disabling and prevents a person from functioning normally.Some people may experience only a single episode within their lifetime, but more often a person may have multiple episodes.”

I have sensed for months that the Lord has called me to start telling my story. I’ve had that confirmed several different ways so I’ve ramped up how frequently I post. Writing has always been as natural to me as breathing. My mantra is, “I write; therefore, I am.”
What you don’t know is how much work it takes to do something I love and am passionate about, i.e., writing. Major depression is like kryptonite to Superman. It’s debilitating and kills, in this case, my spirit.
Depression has stolen my will to do and enjoy what I love. For example, I started writing this post over a week ago. I have done as much stalling as I possibly could even though I really want to write about this topic.
Today I finally started writing after I cleaned my house, started laundry, fixed my Internet connection, installed my HD DVR box, fed dogs, got on Facebook, found other web sites to market my blog, finished/submitted my final edits to a book project and answered e-mails.  Depression makes the simplest tasks overwhelming and procrastination to a new, higher art form.
Did I mention how difficult it was just to get out of my bed? If I had my druthers, I’d sleep the rest of my life away. My waterbed and pillow are my best friends.
That’s the weight of depression. It steals my ability to feel light, rested, full of energy. I  could sleep well for a solid eight to 10 hours only to feel just as exhausted as the night before as if I never slept. The simple act of getting out of bed feels like it ought to be an Olympic event. I can’t sleep without my medication and recently I can’t stay awake without my medication. This is not to be confused with addiction to medication. I want to take less but I can’t. I tried and it wasn’t pretty, i.e., more moody, quick to anger, etc.
My favorite things are overwhelming
This kind of behavior is absolutely not me. There are things I’d like to do, places I’d like to go and jobs I would love to take but I can’t. I’ve tried. For example, I love camping. Our whole family loves it. I live less than an hour away from some simply awesome, low-cost camping spots. Despite how much I miss it, I can’t get there from here.
My brain automatically starts thinking about the fact that I’ll need to plan the menu, shop for groceries, pack, load up the car, drive there, setup the tent, cook, clean, be entertainment director, tear everything down, reload the car, drive home, unpack and put away everything as if we never left. The list of things to do is enough to curb my camping appetite and it has. We haven’t camped in our favorite spot, i.e., Yosemite Valley, in years because I’m overwhelmed before I start.
My other favorite thing to do is gardening. However, the thought of getting on my hands and catcher’s knees, getting dirty, working in the sun for hours followed by clean up has been enough to stop me dead in my tracks.
When we bought our first home, I was the landscaper. The only thing my husband had to do was mow the lawn. One particular weekend I was so angry at my husband I dug his grave and planted a beautiful backyard rose garden.
Another time I spent over 12 hours planting, trimming, weeding, etc. That Saturday I had been up at 6 a.m. for a 7 a.m. meeting. The landscaping was beautiful. Nowadays I rarely spend time in my backyard to garden.
Today, we have roses but only because a girlfriend who had over 500 roses gave me four high-end varieties. I had to plant them or else they would have died. When faced with selling the house, I planted hibiscus in between the roses. There is so much I wanted to do but just couldn’t.

I used to exercise alot. I walked up and down a very steep hill during lunchtime at work. Later I would take our 70-lb. dog for another three-mile walk after dinner. I felt so good. Stress felt manageable. My body shape was changing and my hubby noticed and liked what he saw. These days, my two little dogs rarely get the walks they so enjoy.

I wish there was a program I could install into people’s brains that would make them instant experts on depression like they do in The Matrix. Depression, simply put, is as if someone has put a millstone around my neck, a very large ball and chain on  my leg and a soaking wet wool blanket on my back. I wish I could unhitch these from my body but no such luck.
If I want to do absolutely anything, I have to work with the weight of those items upon my psyche. I can’t merely shake them off and walk away. Simply putting a smile on my face won’t change how I feel inside either. If I want to do anything all of those items weigh heavy on me. I’m exhausted before I ever start. No one wants this depression to end more than I do. I’ll do anything to shake it but it’s not that simple.
It takes hours upon hours of talk therapy with a qualified therapist, psychiatrist or both while taking a very complex psychotropic-drug cocktail so I can function on a relatively normal basis. Months of therapy have turned into over nine years and counting.At one point, I got over six separate professional opinions hoping to find someone who would disagree with my course of treatment and prognosis to no avail. Every last one of them backed up my therapist and psychiatrist. I felt like a rat in a corner between a rock and a hard place but isn’t that where Jesus is? Isn’t he the Rock? Isn’t He in the hard places?
Chronic illness means forms, forms and more FORMS!
I have come to loathe forms because I’ve had to fill out so many. All of us have to fill them out but not on the order I have. Pastor Sid Harms once remarked, “Filling out forms is like a full-time job.” Truer words were never spoken. Here’s a brief list of the forms I’ve had to deal with:

  • Short-term disability forms for employer
  • SSDI forms including: filling out forms authorizing information exchanges, requests, etc.
  • COBRA forms to keep medical insurance
  • Manifold forms for my daughter’s own mental illness including
  • 1. Hospital admission forms
  • 2. Outpatient program forms, questionnaires
  • 3. A 30-page admit form for Utah safe house that required me to explain in detail what lead up to the illness, medical history, family histories, etc.
  • 4. Another excruciatingly detailed online form for new lawyer to represent my daughter
  • 5. Another 30-page admit form for Tennessee boarding school that required even more detailed and different information in addition to what I already prepared for the safe house above.
  • 6. Application for SSA extension of benefits
  • 7. Application for permanent disability status
  • 8. Two separate appeals of SSA denials
  • 9. New forms for new lawyer to appeal SSA denials
  • 10. Tennessee Medicaid application
  • 11. California Medicaid application
  • 12. Conservatorship court papers, respond to requests for more information
  • Bankruptcy intake forms for two different lawyers
  • At least four attempts at a home loan remodification
I’m sure there are plenty more I’m leaving out but you get the idea. If you’ve ever had to fill out even one of these forms, you know exactly what I’m talking about. These aren’t one-page employment applications. These forms are so ridiculous it’s as if they were designed to discourage anyone from seeking the help that is needed just to survive.
However, these forms are designed to get extremely detailed information about you and your situation. They don’t know you from Adam so in order for them to make a proper determination about how to help and/or treat you, they need details … lots of them.
Usually once the forms are complete, there’s either face-to-face or phone interviews to go over the accuracy of the information and get any details that may have been left out. We’re talking hours upon hours of written work, information gathering and interviews.
Fortunately I have a computer with a scanner. I scanned everything and converted each and every one of those applications into Adobe PDFs. That single bright idea likely saved me even more hours of work. In fact, the county department of social services lost, yes misplaced my original MediCAL application for my daughter. Since I had the complete application on my computer I simply reprinted it and mailed them yet another copy. My heart aches for those who don’t have this luxury. It would have meant even more hours of filling out an extremely long and complex application.
I don’t like being disabled much less by something I can’t see. It’s a full-time job to do what I have to do in order to stay alive.
A family is important
Thanks to our mental health challenges we lost our families of orgin. We were drowning in depression as a family after losing my husband to cancer. The only support system we had was our church family. I couldn’t reminisce too much about my husband because almost none of my church friends knew him. I was invited to a grief group but couldn’t follow through. It was too much for me to handle. I still haven’t really had a chance to verbally process my grief with friends.
Meanwhile, while I was drowning in grief, major depression and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) my kids also were suffering greatly. They missed their cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. There was nothing I could do about our relatives. See The Price of Being Right, Happy Father’s Day, Now I see, The secret life of Bs and Blog therapy.
What saved us was the church worship arts department. Pastor Dan Baker had an amazing background in worship arts on a scale our church never imagined before. Thanks to this man’s vision and extensive experience, I was able to join our 100+ voice choir and helped record a choir CD. I participated in annual Easter productions and two Christmas productions. Talk about getting plugged in.
The worship arts department made it possible for my kids and I to do something truly meaningful together. The kids and I made new friends, and began to feel a part of rather than apart from something bigger than ourselves. It was the lifeline we desperately needed. It would never replace our relatives but it was certainly a very close second and good enough for us to walk through grief and ugliness.
As a direct result of all the ugliness, we, as a family, have also grown much closer to Jesus and each other. In October 2010, we visited a possible new church home. I made the hard decision to leave after the Lord revealed some things.I felt bad for my son because he hated having to meet new people, make new friends and start over. He’d had enough change for someone his age. But I’ve learned that what’s good for me is good for the kids.January 2011 we were regularly attending a House of Prayer. Three months later my son got his prayer language and–in tears of joy–he made me swear I would never go back to our old church home. He had a God encounter and the rest is history. When my daughter returned home for good she also fell in love with our new church home. It was the perfect fit for us.
I stay connected to my old church family on Facebook and have a whole new church family that I connect with on an even deeper level. The validation is overwhelming. Consequently, I get to experience the presence of God every time I walk in the door. The School of Supernatural Ministry also has taken my Biblical understanding to new heights.
I used to pride myself on being the Ice Queen, i.e., I rarely cried much less in public. However, a recovery program began the thaw. My former church home nursed it along and I began to cry in public but it was still a rare occasion. Being in my new church home is as if I’m sitting directly underneath a hole in the ozone layer and global warming of my heart is happening faster than I would like.On one occasion recently I came for a community gathering and I couldn’t hold back the tears. I couldn’t stop the flood and just cried. I didn’t care who saw me. I was able to connect on an even deeper level with women who were supportive, have been where I am and spoke life into my circumstances.
I say all of this to encourage you to connect with your local church in addition to your talk therapy regimen. There is absolutely no reason to suffer alone. Get some perspective from those who know Jesus for themselves and can be compassionate. Steer clear of anyone who seems to have all the answers to all of life’s problems including yours.
I’ve heard it all
The phrase that kills me most is, “All you have to do is …” Here’s what nubile pundits think I should do to solve my problems:

  • Smile
  • Go for a walk
  • Change your attitude
  • Believe in yourself
  • Get over it
  • Exercise regularly
  • Give it to God
  • Believe God has your best in mind
  • Pray more
  • Journal about it
  • Get a pet
I could go on and on. Some have validity. However, when you’re dealing with major depression exacerbated by PTSD none of these are very easy. They may have been easy before but the reality is the order and magnitude of my depression is paralyzing.
One of my cousins used to think depressed people were simply lazy until she got hit with postpartum depression. “Oh my God, now I get it,” she said.
Oh but Jesus …
Yes, Jesus is for you and me. However, Jesus is all about the journey, not necessarily the destination. I am not a fan of what I just said but I know it’s true. I think this depression crawl is now becoming a very slow walk uphill in five feet of snow. I’ve made progress but it’s the obstacles that are so overwhelming. What I know today is if I continue to stare at my circumstances and obstacles I won’t move. If I keep my eyes looking heavenward I’ll make it.
I want to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That is what I’m living for today. I’m also living for my children. They need me. They’ve already lost one parent. They can ill afford losing another anytime soon.
My heavenly assignment is to live. It’s the only thing that gets me out of bed. If I didn’t have Jesus in my corner and two adorable kids then I would have nothing to live for.
To my brothers and sisters battling depression:
The battle is not yours. It’s the Lord’s. Surrender and stand. You’re not alone because I’m doing it with you. God bless you.

ABOUT BORICUA CONFIDENTIAL©™
Boricua Confidential chronicles my new life as a single mom of two kids after my husband died from cancer on our son’s seventh birthday. Join me on this journey of change, revival, reformation, discovery and new direction ordered of God. Being a widow ain’t easy, that’s for sure. I refuse to rollover and die. Quite the contrary. I intend to thrive from this crazy life. You can’t keep this woman down. If I’m down, I won’t be for long.

God created me to bounce back. Watch me.

5 Comments

  1. Sandra, I’m hopeful that this article lets you know you are not alone. We can walk through this journey together. Hang in there. Channeling that energy into your boys is what I did with my kids. They are my saving grace, God’s reminder of why I’m alive.

    Barbie, Of course I’ll be praying for you. Don’t you just love the onslaught? Ugh. I’m standing with you my sister.

    Helen, Thank you so much for your kind words. I need those from time to time. I wish I could get that hug in person. Virtual will have to do for now, though.

    Take care everyone! Know I’m praying for all of you.

  2. This is so moving. Thank you. From your eloquent words, I can begin to feel the edges of what you’ve been through, and this connects us across space. You are a wonderful Mom to your kids. I wish I could give you a hug!

  3. Thank you for this post. I have dealt with mild depression in the past, and recently, due to an onslaught of life’s circumstances, find myself there again. Medication? Yes! But I lift up my eyes to the hills, for I know where my help comes from. I loved your tips at the end. I will be praying for you, and I know you will do the same for me!

  4. I’ve struggled with mild depression for years; there’s a term for it, I forget. But I do tend to dwell on the bad, and anticipate the worst that hasn’t happened. Meditation can really help but I haven’t been able to pursue it. Things in my life now weight heavily and for good reason, so the cloud can hang lower. But I have two boys and I am trying to learn how to channel the energy I can put into depressive thoughts toward them and interests that distract me.

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