Just For Today

August 29, 2012

I feel all right again and not even especially breakable.  I feel like a normal person again (haven’t had a lot of experience with that, but some) and like maybe my meds are working.  I don’t feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I also don’t feel like I have anything exciting to celebrate like many people do.  No babies, no new house bought, no impending marriage or new boyfriend, no husband with a promotion… sometimes Facebook is hard.  I wish more people were honest and would say what was hard in their life too because then I wouldn’t feel so far below the norm.  But I know that’s not how we humans work – that’s way too vulnerable.

I want to celebrate something but right now I’m going to stick with being OK and going to sleep.  It could be much, much worse.  And I’m going to try to remember to thank God for this.


No, I’m Not OK.

August 26, 2012

I’m actually doing OK right this minute.  If you’ve been reading, you know it’s been a hard summer.  Really really hard.  A lot of good things happening for other people that I want to rejoice in but my heart hurts.  A lot of med changes that work in some ways and are horrible in other ways.  A lot of grief about the summer being so sad – I was looking forward to it, damn it!  But right this second, I feel OK, but breakable.

That’s where I got the name of the blog, (which I may have explained in the first post) because we are saints, we are part of the community of God’s saints, but I am very, very broken.  Three was a time when you could see that on me, visually.  I’ve always had some way of dealing with the pain of depression.  Often it was just sleeping.  Sometimes eating, sometimes not eating.  For a very brief period of time, it was drinking, alone (the train of thought being “I can’t be an alcoholic even though there’s basically no chance I am not one, genetically, and even though I am drinking alone in my room because I am sad and I need to STOP FEELING RIGHT NOW.  I can’t be an alcoholic!  I didn’t start drinking until I was 29!  And it’s just wine!” More on that in another post).

But the behavior that “helped” me the most was cutting.  So, if this is going to be a problem to read, you might want to stop now.  I haven’t written about it up until now because it’s so personal and it’s SO shameful.

When I was a little kid – and I was depressed from VERY early on – I realized that physically hurting myself made me feel better emotionally.  I had a ring that my grandmother had given me that had a sharp edge on it and I would press it into my hand.  The pain would make life a little more bearable right at that moment. Because my life was very not bearable.  I sprained my ankle several times, once by climbing a tree in a floor-length velvet party dress (not sure what my mother was thinking letting me wear that), and once by stepping in a gopher hole, and I realized that not only did the pain make me able to live in my own skin, but people could see that there was something wrong with me.  

They didn’t know I was depressed and wanted to die – I didn’t really have words for that.  But they knew that I was hurt and so they made an effort to help me.  It wasn’t the kind of help I needed, but there was such a relief to people seeing – visibly – that there was something wrong with me, that I decided to be hurt as much as I could.  I have a very strong memory of stomping on my bad ankle with my other foot to try to make it sprained again, and not seeing anything wrong with that – that I was consciously trying to injury myself.

I stopped that when I was a teenager, and until I was an adult.  I had horrible horrible depressive phases where I was almost catatonic and I mostly went to sleep as an escape.  I have no idea what people thought of me then or how visible it was.  When I was about 26 or 27 though, I found cutting.

I never got very “good” at cutting because I’m actually kind of a wimp about blood, which is ironic.  But I found that straight razor blades provided a good stinging sensation and X-acto knives were even better, and there was something incredibly satisfying about injuring myself.  It made me feel numb which is all I was looking for, and it gave me some relief from the feeling that I didn’t deserve anything better for some reason.  I did it mostly where people couldn’t see.  On my stomach was easy, especially in the winter, as sweaters hide everything.  On my left wrist was harder but again, the winter is a good time for long sleeves.  I never did it deep enough to leave scars and it was never a suicide attempt or anything close to it.  I just needed the feelings to stop.

At one point, I was really not doing well.  My Bible Study was aware of this, I had been asking for prayer, and I wasn’t even pretending any more.  When someone asked me if I was OK, I would say, “NO, I’m not OK.”  And usually they wouldn’t know what to do and would probably wish they hadn’t asked.  At one point, I went to a SuperBowl party.  I hate football but I didn’t know what to do with myself. I went and I sat on the stairs at my friends house and sobbed through the whole game.   I had been cutting before the game because quite honestly, it felt like the choice between that and driving my car off a cliff.  A friend from my Bible Study came up to me and asked if I was OK.  I said no.  My sleeve fell back a little and he saw my wrist and said, “You’re NOT OK!”

I thought of this because of my last post.  People seem to need some kind of visual or a malady that they can understand.  I had been begging for help and no one got it until they saw my wrist.  Last weekend I really really wanted to take that approach again.  I didn’t because I could survive, and my life is not unbearable even if sometimes it feels like it for a short period of time.  But I really wanted to.  Just to make my outside match my insides.  To show, “Look, THIS is how much I hurt.  Can you see now?”

I stopped drinking and cutting (again, hadn’t gotten to what anyone else would probably see as a major problem but I know myself and I couldn’t have stopped if I had waited) both on Dec 30, 2005.  This was partly because I realized that no one in my family who had ever used alcohol as a way to numb themselves had ever turned out well.  It’s not a beverage to me, wine, it is a feelings management system, and that’s dangerous.  But also because of something my therapist had said.  I had told her about the cutting but not the drinking because I felt so silly since it was not “real” drinking).  She told me it would make me feel better temporarily but it would make the feelings I was trying to avoid last longer. And I thought to myself, “I will not survive if these feelings last longer.”

So I stopped.  But I miss it.  Them.  This summer has been a time for both wanting to numb feelings and for wanting to show other people how hard it is to be me.  How much it hurts.

The other thing is that I don’t have any scars from cutting.  I should, even though I didn’t cut very deeply.  I have scars from paper cuts and mosquito bites.  I scar very easily.  But I have none.  Most of the time, I can see this as God’s grace to me.  Sometimes I wish I did have them.  Because again, they’d be tangible proof of the pain I’ve been through and that even when I look OK, things have been really really hard in the past.


How Not to Help With Depression

August 24, 2012

Here’s the thing with depression: people don’t understand it.  If you have a broken leg with a cast, they get that you need help.  Cancer, diabetes, MS: horrible diseases that I wouldn’t wish on anyone but (I think) people understand that those with those diseases need physical help sometimes, need rides places, need food brought to them.  No one is going to tell them it’s in their head, they’re not trying hard enough, or they’re not trusting God enough.  Well, maybe so, but it’s easier to see that those comments are horrible and untrue.  Not so with depression.

Two weekends ago, my ex-boyfriend got married.  It is a good thing we’re not still together and hi wife is probably in for some tough years unless he’s dealt with more than I think he has.  But it still hurts.  It’s the dying of a dream; it’s the feeling that I wasn’t good enough, that he’s able to find someone who wants to spend the rest of their life with him and I can’t find that.  It’s the fear that I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.  This was coupled with helping get ready for a very dear friend’s wedding.  I wanted to badly to be happy and excited for her but I was in a lot of pain.  Plus the summer of med-adjusting has definitely taken its toll on my confidence and mood.

I tried to take care of myself.  I knew it would be hard, so I asked for prayer and I asked for help.  In retrospect, maybe I didn’t ask for help as specifically as I should have but I know I did tell people I’d really like having people to hang out with and that I really thought I needed it.  Everyone kind of said they were really busy.  Which they are!  Someone had parents in town.  Someone else was out of town.  A lot of people were helping get ready for the wedding.  Someone had family birthdays.  Someone else was moving.  There was legitimate busy-ness.  But I know that if I had broken my leg and needed to go to the hospital, all of those people would have been there for me.  If someone had died, same thing.  If I had been throwing up, many of them would have come even if it meant dealing with vomit.

I texted people during the weekend too.  I was crying too much to call.  Many people asked me if I was going to be safe.  I answered that if I meant was I going to kill myself, I wasn’t.  I wasn’t going to self-harm.  But that I wasn’t by any means OK.  Some people said they were glad I wasn’t going to do anything stupid.  Some people told me to look on the bright side, I didn’t want to be married to him anyway.  Some people told me to stop being self-defeating.  Some people told me to go back to counseling.  Some people said if I could get to their house I could hang out (I couldn’t get out of bed or talk on the phone, driving was out of the question).  When I pointed this out, they said well sorry, they couldn’t get there.

I don’t feel like I do this very often.  In fact, it’s been years.  I guess I used to need people a lot more but it hasn’t been true for the last few years so I don’t feel like I’m asking that much.  So I’m going back and forth between I am so angry and hurt that no one could be bothered and oh my goodness, I ask too much, I’ll never ask again.  But again, had I needed a ride to the ER, all of these people would have been here in a second.  Had I been sick from chemo, they probably would have scheduled an around-the-clock watch.  These are people who love me but do not understand.  I stayed in bed all weekend and cried more than I have in years.  Not only was the weekend bad, but I felt abandoned.

I did have two people come by – and they were the two people who really shouldn’t have.  The bride-to-be, who had 10 million things to do, came by to get me out of bed and take me to the grocery store, with no judgement or resentment, even though she REALLY didn’t have time.  My friend who is still post-op and needs to be careful with over-exerting herself AND had a family birthday AND was practicing music for the wedding came by with food.  So I’m incredibly grateful for those two people who really really didn’t have time.  But I’m so resentful and hurt at the others and I don’t know how to let it go or address it or even know if it should be addressed.

Again, if it had been something else, I feel like the reaction would have been very different.  But I also don’t feel like I should have to say I’m worried about being suicidal in order to have support.


The Far-Reaching Effects of Suicide

August 7, 2012

A member of my church committed suicide last month. I didn’t know him – his wife and I had some mutual facebook friends and I have probably met her but I wouldn’t have known him if I had bumped into him on the street. I wouldn’t have expected someone who was a total stranger to affect me like this but it has for a number of reasons. {If reading about suicide is not a good thing for you at this moment, by all means, don’t do it. Just thought I’d say that)

I have lost two people who were important to me to suicide. One was an uncle who was one of the most creative, loving, inspiration people I have ever met – when he wasn’t drowning in mental illness, drug addiction, and alcoholism. He tried for decades to get sober and hung himself when he was being sentenced for abusing his girlfriend. Obviously, this devastated our family, although it wasn’t really a surprise. He had a 14-year old daughter at the time. I was incredibly sad but not super angry, maybe because I wasn’t surprised. Mostly sad.

Another was a friend from college. We weren’t particularly close in the normal way but we were youth group leaders together and that creates a really special bond. He knew that I struggled with depression and he even knew when I was briefly hospitalized because of it. I think that’s why my main reaction was anger when I found out he had been diagnosed with depression for years and ended up taking his life. He wasn’t messing around either – he had it set up so that if the gunshot didn’t kill him, the fall would have.

I was heartbroken at this too, but also furious. He knew what I was dealing with, how dare he not let me know that he was going through the same thing! Not just for himself, but I would have felt a lot less alone. He was one of those people who gave and gave and didn’t let us know what he needed. I feel cheated by that – I didn’t get to know my friend like I could have and I didn’t get to help someone who helped me.

As someone who has been depressed enough that I wanted to die and fantasized about dying, other people’s suicides affect me by making me feel like it’s a possibility for me. there’s always been kind of a wall up – I know I won’t do it no matter how much I want to. I’m not always sure why, but I know I won’t. I’ve been through periods of self-harm but I knew it would never go that far. But suicides of people in my life make me think, “Oh, maybe it is OK. Maybe I could do it. Maybe that is one way out of the pain.”

Thankfully, I haven’t been in that much pain in a few years so I’ve been thinking much less about suicide. But I still tend to react when people talk about how selfish it is. Of course it’s selfish. You’re not thinking about anyone but yourself (except when your thinking is so twisted that you start assuming everyone else is better off without you), but there’s a reason for that. When people are in enough pain, I don’t think they can think of anyone else. I know I couldn’t. It hurts so badly – physically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way – so much pain that you’ve lost your survival instinct and are ready to end it all… I think depression IS inherently selfish because there’s just nothing left at all for anyone else.

I’m rambling because this is a hard subject for me, but there’s something that this bereaved family did that I think was incredibly brave. They told people what happened. In the announcement at church and in the obituary online, they didn’t say “suddenly passed away” or any other euphemism. They said that he struggled and he took his own life. I’ve been trying to find the words to explain why I think that is so important but I haven’t been able to. It’s the truth and that somehow feels honoring of him. It’s an admission that he was ill. And maybe it will make someone else feel less alone or get help? I’m not sure, but I think it was so brave to say.