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I Didn't Set Out to Write about Depression

This weekend I set out to organize the last part of the house I had yet to tackle, all my sewing and work supplies. I've been doing technical writing as a part-time job over the last six months and have not taken a lot of sewing work. I recently picked up a few custom jobs this summer and now I have my writing, my sewing, and two little kids to care for.

In other words, I'm pretty busy. Having my tools and supplies out of sorts has been a hindrance because I need to work smart and manage my time. Rummaging around for what I need is not optional.

It took me a day and a half to bring it all to heel. I started snapping photos of the organizational wonder that began to emerge. What I saw in the photos was a blissful order and what I realized I was sitting down to write was actually a post about relief.

For the last five months I have been dealing with a serious round of depression and anxiety. 

Cora took this photo of me in February.

This is an accurate representation of how I felt at the time. Blurry. Foggy.

I didn't realize I was spiraling downward in February but looking back it should have been obvious. January was the first anniversary of re-posting the article about my father. It was traumatic to post it last year and  it was just as traumatic this year too. Months after re-posting it I was in my therapist's office trying to dissect why I was depressed again and she gently explained that I was re-visiting the trauma over and over every time I had to look at that article.

I can only be so strong. I will leave the article up so it can serve as the warning and Public Service Announcement that it is, but I don't think I'll have the emotional energy to re-post it every year. Justice probably will never be served. I have to move on.

Of course January was not the only 'first anniversary' that visited me this year. April had one too.

As the date of the loss of Rebel Heart approached I could feel the anxiety welling inside me. I began to re-live every day of the trip prep, of the passage, of the two weeks of madness that really swirled around the entire event. The time came and went but by April I was deeply ensconced in a maddening circle of depression and anxiety.

March was the worst of it.

Me in March 2015.

Can you tell I'm depressed in that photo? I can always see it in my pictures.

It is even worse when I look in the mirror: the face that looks back at me is a passive mask. The hair, limp and unattractive. The skin dull. My eyes flat pools. I retreat from friends. I hide at home. It is apparent that every person I meet must see how I'm feeling, apparent to me at least. I imagine they notice in the same way as if my arm were in a cast or my face bruised and swollen. They must see the giant neon arrow bearing down at my skull blaring to everyone the way I feel, "DO YOU SEE?" it screams, bouncing angrily off my skull. "YOU CAN SEE IT IN HER, RIGHT?"

I went to two psychiatrists. The second one is now my official psychiatrist. I have a therapist and a psychiatrist. How avant-garde, no? Actually what is avant-garde is that I'm talking about it. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness. As my doctor and then my psychiatrists switched first my meds and then their amounts, I railed against the changes to Eric. I too, fall victim to the stigma.

"This means I'm weak."

"I should be able to pull myself out of this."

"I don't want to be crazy."

"Why can't I feel happy?"

"I'll be on meds for the rest of my life!"

"I don't want to tell the girls. What if Cora tells someone that 'Mommy's brain is sick?'"

There was no denying, however the physical symptoms. Climbing stairs was a monumental effort. Walking around felt as if two giant hands were pushing down on my shoulders, curling my body forward under their weight. My eyelids were tired.  

I couldn't focus on my work, or on reading. I couldn't write. That really stung.

The girls seemed to talk to me from the end of a tunnel. Seeing friends, and pretending to be "normal" was excruciating. It almost always ended in panic attacks by the time I could get back home, or even just back to the car. I'd be hyperventilating as I buckled the girls into their seat belts, my hands shaking as I buckled my own. And so I stopped driving anywhere with the girls at all. When I realized I was basically imprisoned in my own home from the disease I acquiesced to the med changes. I couldn't live like that anymore.

As the meds started to help, I was able to think clearly enough to realize how very little I knew about depression and mental illness.  I regained the mental energy to read again and I discovered The Noonday Demon, an Atlas of Depression, by Andrew Solomon.

It changed my life.

Night after night I kept interrupting Eric's own reading to share passages from the book. He patiently listened to me every time I read.

I was going to quote some of my favorite passages from the book, but my Kindle died half way through reading it and I lost all my notes and bookmarks from the first half. C'est la vie.

Cliff notes? I learned I am not alone. I discovered that parts of me that I thought were simply "the way I am" are reflected in others who experience depression and anxiety. I was aghast at this revelation. There was a tinge of horror to it, to realize others had these same needling thoughts, but mostly I felt overwhelming relief. There was a name for so many things in my life.

Mr. Solomon, if you ever read this post, thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing that book.

This photo was taken mid-April. At this point I knew we had found the right dosage for my meds and that I was going to be all right.

It is also astonishing but true that no matter what you say about your depression, people don't really believe you unless you seem acutely depressed as they look at and talk to you. - Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon [emphasis added]

By mid-June I was doing this again. Taking photos of the food I was preparing for my family and sharing it on social media. This photo equals energy, motivation, and a drive for social interaction.

All good things.

All Charlotte things. 

I have been socializing.

I have been exercising.

And I have been creating.

The relief I feel to know I've pulled out of the last few months is immense. I will be dealing with depression and anxiety for the rest of my life. I'll be on meds for the rest of my life. And that is okay. I have learned so much more about myself over these last five months. I know now that I'm not alone. I have more support and more tools in my arsenal for beating this back when it rears its ugly head.

A final note: to my friends. It can't be easy to have a friend who suffers from depression/anxiety. I'm sorry about that. If I seem distant sometimes, trust me, it's not you. I'm retreating backwards, even if I don't want to. I need your love and friendship very much indeed. When I'm capable, I try to show that in every way I can. Please also know that the new medication I take has a side effect of forgetfulness. It looks like mommy-brain isn't going away for me any time soon. I forget text messages. I forget where I put my earrings. I may read a message and then forget I read it entirely. I ask for your patience. And I'll never be perturbed if you ask me two times about the same subject. Promise. I'll take forgetfulness over the last five months ANY DAY. It is a price worth paying.

With that, I give you photos of the organizing I did this weekend. Perhaps you'll understand their significance to me now, for they represent the-things-I-could-not-do over the last few months.

In order I find comfort, bliss even. And when I am in the depths, there is no order.

Bias tape, binding and facing on the left, elastic, bungee, and embroidery thread on the right.

Welting, piping, cording, and trims in both of these boxes.

Zippers, glorious zippers.

Large spools of thread, webbing, and ribbon.

Heavy-duty/upholstery thread and bobbins on top, a rainbow of thread in the bottom two sections.

Tools. They aren't just for dudes, you know. I also put my Sailrite Edge Hot Knife in there too.

Sail makers kit, zipper pulls and stops, needles, Sailrite spare parts, hardware and accessories.

This box of beauty is my well organized Pres-N-Snap set. The red-handled tool is hog ring pliers. Hog rings are to the left of it.

I call this my "junk drawer," a well organized one at that.

Lyra had gleefully dumped this whole set out while I was installing some book shelves. Cora helped me re-organize everything.

Household bits-n-bobs.

I had been holding on to the paint colors for the rainbow mason jar organizer and from the girls' dress up armoire. Now I have them immortalized in photo. Into the recycling these went.

Ta-da!!!! Here is everything in its nicely ordered existence. 

Now I can begin to tackle the rest of the sewing projects. More to come.


A few final thoughts on Depression and Anxiety:

  1. It is not my thyroid.
  2. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say it. 
  3. Yes, I probably will be on meds for the rest of my life. If you don't understand that, please educate yourself further. 

DIY Dress Up Cabinet | Kids' Costume Armoire

Back in December last year a kind neighbor in my local Buy Nothing group gifted me this little mini-armoire. 

She installed that closet rod on the right and her kids had used it as an armoire for dress up clothes. I had a bigger vision though. And to cut right to the chase, I took it here:

Ta da!!!

First I pulled out all four drawers and then cut the wood beam piece between the two bottom drawer areas to create a larger open space.

I chopped off that bar right there.

The four drawers were re-purposed as shelves in the outdoor play kitchen:

Pretty sweet, right? I'll be doing a full post on our outdoor play/mud kitchen soon.

Waiting for stripes to dry so I could finish the rest.

I got to work scrubbing, sanding, priming, and painting. I used paint I already had on hand. Recognize those colors and that pattern?

Yes, when I asked the girls how we should paint the new dress up wardrobe they immediately pointed to our mason jar organizer and asked for the rainbow. I love it when things work out like that.

(Like our solar system chalk board wall? You can read about it here.)

The bottom bin holds all the dress up bits-n-bobs that can be easily stored in a cubbie. The other shelves hold books, puzzles, and games.

The spaceship on the wall on the left is drawn by Cora.

While I love the look of the dress up armoires below they all have the same problem, and so did this armoire before I got a hold of it.

While it looks ADORABLE to have a mini-closet rod and little hangers holding all those dress up clothes, you know what a 22 month old cannot do? Hang up their dress up clothes on a tiny hanger and put them back the way they look in all those photos.

You know what that means, right? It means that the grown ups in their lives are cleaning up after them, day in, and day out, and in the long list of things-I-don't-want-to-do-today, cleaning up after my girls is NOT one of them.

No. I installed hooks all the way around instead. The girls can easily reach in and hang up their various costumes, PLUS, the hooks-method means we can store a lot more outfits. We keep the pirate hat on the floor space in the center of all the poofiness.

My kids clean up after themselves, thank you.

The clear white and blue boxes on the top left and right are 12"x12" bins that hold the artwork the girls want to keep until I can take a picture of it. It was a bit inspired by this blog post, but I have yet to turn it all into a book of art for the girls....YET.

This DIY cabinet has been a hit with both the girls and their friends when they come over to play.

Hope this inspired you to do your own creative DIY as well. Thanks to the Buy Nothing group for being a wonderful group of giving neighbors.

To see my last big Buy Nothing project, click here: http://www.therebelheart.com/charlottes-blog/2015/3/29/diy-outdoor-couch-thank-you-buy-nothing-project.html


1 Second Every Day | Kaufmans in May 2015

I finally caved and got a smart phone. And the best part is the app called 1 Second Everyday. My friend, Amanda, showed me how to use it, and as you can see from the video below, I'm very much still learning. Some of the shots are sideways, some are blurry, but I'm learning. And I'll get better.

And I love this already.

I give you Cora's month, Lyra's month, and then what I call 'My Life.'

Sooo much better than scrapbooking (for me!)


There's a race of men who don't fit in, and thank God for that.

To the adventurers and misfits. To those who can't stay in one place for long. 

To my sailing friends who take their children out onto the water, thank you.

To those parents who take their children out in canoes and kayaks, up high in paragliders, or climbing gear. 

To men and women who teach their children to kiteboard or hike out, to paddle, or to surf the waves.

There's a race of men who don't fit in, and thank God for that.

If you ache and yearn to see the brightest starlit night, to live as deep into the wild as you can, than for those people, especially those who take their children to the important places, thank you.

The Important Places, by Forest Woodward and Brendan Leonard


Camping in Joshua Tree | May 2015

Early last week Eric, Cora, Frankie, and his son, Auggie (Agustín) headed up for several days of backpacking in Kennedy Meadows.  The plan was for Lyra and I to drive up with Frankie's wife, Sandee, on Thursday and meet them not in Kennedy Meadows, but in Joshua Tree.

Road trip!

We ladies left at 6:30am in hopes of getting to Joshua Tree early enough to secure several adjacent camp sites before the hordes of Memorial Day campers got there and took everything.

We succeeded.

Camping at Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park

You may remember Frankie and Sandee from this recent post, or this one, or this one, or, remember when Frankie and Sandee and their two oldest kids went sailing with us and a few hours after returning to the dock I went into labor?

Sandee, pregnant with her third. Me, pregnant with my first, July 2010.

I've known Sandee since I was 17. Sandee is the reason I went to the University of San Diego. I lived and traveled with her in Mexico. I read at her wedding.

Guanajuato, Mexico, 1998.

I like her a lot, can you tell?

Cora and Auggie, both four years old, Kennedy Meadows, 2015.

As we waited for our husbands and kids to join us, we pondered the interweaving of our lives. Seventeen-year-old-Charlotte would never have guessed that her future daughter would one day be backpacking with Sandee's son, or that my husband and her husband would be friends.

I love how life brings you together with wonderful people, again and again, over the years.

Sandee and Frankie had to go back to San Diego for the night. They needed to pick up their older kids and bring up all their supplies. That left just the Kaufman family out under the stars that Thursday.

Only problem? Take a look at Cora, she showed up from backpacking with a head cold. Eric did too.

And then there was this one. She kept asking to lay down and take a nap.

Lyra NEVER asks to lay down and take a nap. Something was up.

Don't be jealous of my mad socks-over-my-pants skiillz.

The kids passed out quickly and Eric and I had some time to catch up on the week's events.

Eric and Charlotte, Joshua Tree, 2015.

We took this selfie, which reminded me of this photo from ten years ago. 

Charlotte and Eric, Cuyamaca, 2005.


We were babies.

The next morning there was coffee. And Bailey's. Well, okay, Trader Joe's version of Bailey's but same difference.

Breakfast is served.

Take a look at Cora. She still wasn't doing too hot.

Still, trooper that she is, she got to work playing with items on hand. See the long line of carefully constructed piles with a stick pointing out of each one?

The kids played while we drank more coffee. It was a nice chill morning.

We introduced the girls to the National Park's Junior Ranger Program. Cora was very enthusiastic.

After reviewing the plants, minerals, and animals we would need to keep a look out for in the park, we set off for a morning hike.

Joshua Tree is gorgeous.

The desert is very much alive and after all of the rain we have had lately, it was blooming in the subtle way that deserts do.

The Junior Rangers program emphasizes the motto of 'Leave only footprints, take only pictures & memories.'

Take pictures and memories we did.

Learning how cactus spines work.

We hung out for the rest of the morning at camp and as the hours went by, all three of my family members felt worse and worse.

I love children's indomitable spirits. Even when they don't feel well they want to keep going, going, going.

We packed up and headed home that afternoon. 

A trip cut short, but not one that will be forgotten.

On the way back home, Eric thanked me for all the prep I had put into the weekend. As someone whose primary love language is words of affirmation, this meant the world to me. I was bummed we missed out on a long weekend with friends, and bummed about the work I had put into making it all happen. Eric was a gem in that moment for noticing and appreciating me. 

See? I even made a menu! Next time!