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