Depression

Anxiety is usually what gets me these days. It is the demon I live with on a daily basis. Depression does rear its ugly head in the winter as SAD takes effect, and every once in awhile I’ll get down for a little while, but for the most part I don’t get depressed a whole lot. Until recently, anyway.

The last couple of weeks depression has attacked me. I have been painfully stumbling through life in that dark place, and I don’t know why. That’s the thing about mental illness—there doesn’t have to be a reason. It just is. It just happens. And I hate it! I hate feeling this way. I don’t want to feel like I’m worthless. I don’t want to feel like I’m inadequate. I don’t want to feel like I’m not enough. I don’t want to feel like I’m a terrible person. I try. I try hard to do what I’m supposed to. I try to feel good. I try to feel happy. But I don’t. And I wish there was a reason. If there was a reason I could fix it, or at least have a starting point to work with. But there’s no starting point. And there’s no ending point. It’s just a circle that sometimes, luckily, is in the light, and sometimes, inexplicably, rolls on in utter darkness.

Just a Poem

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Maybe

Winter.
SAD.
Cold, wet, dark.
Siren song of depression
lulling me to sleep,
enticing me deeper into blackness.

I need to prop my eyes open
like Odysseus.

But maybe I don’t want to see
the endless ocean,
relying on nothing but hope
to get me home.
Maybe I want to close my eyes.

Let the dark overtake me.

-Tacy Stine

Real Identity Theft

A few days ago I was looking through an old journal and came across an entry from about a month after my daughter was born.

“Who I am lies dormant in words that are packed away beneath stacks of notebooks. I am forgotten, unknown poems, unable to bring them back to life inside of me. If anyone should ask where I am, this is where I’d tell them to look.”

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I had forgotten just how much postpartum depression steals your identity from you. It is the truest form of real, actual identity theft. Some women get it back after a month, a few months, a year. I didn’t begin to start feeling like myself again for three years. And even then, there were parts of my self that never came back. I lost so much.

After reading this journal entry, remembering, pondering, I realized what a good place I’m in right now. I know who I am again. I have a sense of self, and I can be that self. And I like who I am. I feel strong, confident, independent, though able to admit when I need help and ask for it, and I’m happy. Life isn’t without its struggles, and sometimes I get down, feel disappointed, am sad. But I am still me, and that is one of the biggest reasons I’m able to get through those hard times without letting them consume me.

What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

A couple of weeks ago I hit an extremely low point—one of the lowest of my life. The next morning I woke up early to make sure I had enough time to curl my hair and put on makeup. I think part of it was wanting to feel like I still had control over something in my life, even if it was just the way I looked. However, even though I looked like this:

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inside I felt like this: hopeless, depressed, sad, alone, empty, hollow, sick, dead.

Several times in my life I’ve been surprised to learn someone has mental illness because on the outside they appear fine, put together, happy even. We live in this society of fronts. For some reason we are raised to believe we have to put up a front for people no matter how we really feel or what we’re going through. It often becomes automatic to smile and tell people you are good even when you are not. That’s one of the most difficult parts of mental illness. It’s a disease you can’t see.

The other thing people should know is that there are moments of good and happiness. Sometimes my smile is real because I’m happy to be around you or I laugh because I really do find what you said to be funny. But those are moments in the midst of the whole story. And the whole story is that I still have mental illness. Depression, anxiety and OCD are still my constant companions. It isn’t like a broken arm that can be casted and healed in a few weeks.

Of course there are things that can help. I’ve written about those things a lot already so I’m not going to go into it again right now. I guess I just wanted to make people aware that mental illness isn’t always something you can see. That doesn’t mean it’s not real or that it’s not there. It is.

Beating My SAD

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I live in a desert. It’s a high desert, there are mountains, we do get snow, but it’s still an arid region. Because of this, winter snow and snowpack are very important. I know how important it is to our water situation come summer, yet I can’t help but be grateful for the mild winter we have had. I can only think of two major snowstorms this winter. There was a brief period of time where it got pretty cold, but for the most part it hasn’t been a bad winter at all. This is great new for my seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which hasn’t been nearly as bad as previous winters. It hasn’t abandoned me completely, unfortunately, but just like this winter, it has been mild. I think part of it has been my consistent light/heat therapy, but the warmer temps and overall nice weather have definitely played in as well. Rather than being holed up in my house, escaping the cold, but getting antsy and claustrophobic, I have been able to get outside, enjoy the sun, the warmth, birds, water, the sky, nature. It’s had an amazing effect! Yesterday morning I planned on hiking around this trail near my house, but got caught up taking pictures of all these great blue herons and white-crowned sparrows—which was just as much fun as hiking!

I know the warmer-than-usual, lack-of-snowfall winter has many people concerned, but I am going to remain grateful for how it has helped my health this season!

Live For These Moments

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This is Happiness!

Not the best picture of me since I didn’t bother to put on makeup this morning, but that’s not what it’s about. Normally, I hate gray, clouded days in the winter – because most days are gray and clouded and gloomy. But today it was somehow enticing, inspiring, so I went out for a walk. It was down-right balmy in the mid-forties for this time of year in Utah! The clouds, the lighting, the snow on the mountains and listening to Renegades by X Ambassadors and Second Chance by Shinedown (yes, I may have sung out loud some of the time because I’m that sort of a person) were exactly what I needed. Nature and music are two constants in my life, things I know I can always count on to lift my spirt and renew my soul. For someone with mental illness and terrible Seasonal Affective Disorder right in the middle of winter, life is all about living for these moments to help take you through to the next.

 

Stigmas, Stigmas Everywhere

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Mental illness isn’t the only thing with a stigma. Stigmas can be found all over the place. I think divorce is one of those things that can have one attached to it, particularly within my religion. Marriage is considered sacred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially when the marriage has been performed in one of our temples. Throughout my life I’ve noticed there is this stigma that if a couple who was married in the temple gets divorced it is because at least one of the two had an affair, has some sort of addiction or was physically or sexually abusive. I’ll admit, when I was younger and only knew how to see things from my own limited point of view, I thought those were the only reasons a couple should ever get divorced. Now, having been through a divorce myself, I see that there is more to a marriage than that. A truly good marriage is more than just being faithful, not having an addiction and not being physically or sexually abusive. Neither I, nor my ex-husband, had a problem with any of those things. Neither of us cheated, neither of us had an addiction, and neither of us were physically or sexually abusive. It’s hard not to wonder if people look at me and judge me because of my divorce, especially when they hear that it didn’t happen because of any of the aforementioned reasons. If marriage is so sacred, then I must be a pretty horrible person to end it otherwise, right? It might be a nice sentiment, but actually comes from an incredibly limited perspective, lacking understanding and any sense of compassion.

It has been six months to the day since my divorce was final. Perhaps that is why I wanted to write about this now, though it is a subject that has been on my mind for quite awhile. Another stigma, or perhaps I should say stereotype, that I have seen attached to divorce is that divorced couples hate each other and fight all the time. Stereotypes do come about for a reason, and, sadly, I have seen or heard about this sort of scenario a lot in the last six months. I will admit, my ex and I got into a couple of shouting matches while going through the divorce process and we continue to have disagreements now and then, but for the most part we were, and have been, pretty civil to each other. That’s because we are two mature adults who love and care about our children more than we care about ourselves. We’ve done everything we can to ensure their happiness through all of this.

Some states, including mine, make you take a divorce education class if you have children under the age of eighteen. I grumbled about it, because I tend to rebel against anything that is forced upon me, but it ended up being a really great class taught by a man who had been divorced himself, with two sons in the middle of it. He shared sad stories of couples who put themselves before their kids, but he also told us that you can make things work. He admitted there were times he wanted to say something bad about his ex-wife or put the kids in the middle, but then he’d think about what was best for them and would make the right decision. He also told us that they would all still go do things together sometimes. One of his sons played hockey so he and his ex-wife would sit next to each other at their son’s games, then they would both take him out to dinner after. What an incredible example of parents who put their kids first. I feel as though my ex and I have done the same thing.

Now, do I still believe marriage is sacred? Of course I do. We had our reasons for getting divorced, but, frankly, that’s no one’s business but our own. Instead of judging or wondering or perpetuating the stigma and stereotype perhaps it would be better to simply accept, encourage and love.