This blog post was a hard one for me to write. It touched on a subject that is personal, raw, and heavily clouded in stigma. It took me several months to write and weeks to press publish. Be gentle with me on this one please.
Somewhere I lost myself.
Somehow I became unrecognizable to me.
Sometime I stopped living and began merely existing.
Some point I decided to fight my way back.
Depression is never easy. It slinks into our lives and encompasses us whole over a period of time. It is slow, silent, and methodical. It changes everything about us, stripping us raw in the process. By the time we realize it has a firm grip on our soul, we are often at a loss about how to rebuild our lives once again. There is so much stigma surrounding depression that many will decide not to seek help or treatment. Others will not receive the proper forms of treatment and will “give up” treatment altogether.
- 17.5 – 20 million Americans and 30+ million people worldwide are affected by some form of depression.
- 70% of those affected by depression will be women.
- 1-4 people will have some form of depression by the time they are 24 years old.
- Many forms of depression are often linked to other mental illnesses.
- Those experiencing PTSD are especially prone to having co-existing depression.
- 50% of depression stems from genetics according to experts.
Some Causes Include:
- Thyroid and hormones
- Chronic Illness
- Chronic Pain
- Alcohol and recreational drug use
- Family History
- Life changes
- Loss of someone or something
- Eating disorders
- Personal issues (isolation)
Some Signs And Symptoms Include:
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.
Long Term Side Effects Of Depression:
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- Low bone mineral density causing osteoporosis
- Mental Decline
- Alcohol and drug use
- Chronic pain
- Lowered immune system
- Increase chance of having a stroke
- Complications in pregnancy
- Breathing related sleep disorders
Who To See To Be Diagnosed:
- Family physician (although most will refer you to a licensed Mental Health Practitioner)
- Licensed Mental Health Practitioner
Treatment Options (Mainstream):
- Medication is one of the most popular forms of treatment prescribed for depression.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Psychodynamic therapy
- Interpersonal therapy
- Combination of medication and psychotherapy
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) for Depression
- Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS)
Treatment Options (Non Traditional):
- herbs, supplements, essential oils
- Adult coloring books
- Exercise (Especially Yoga)
- Managing stress levels
- Getting enough sleep
- Find and do things you are passionate about.
- Go to a movie, a ballgame, etc. that you once enjoyed.
- Set realistic goals for yourself.
- Have patience with yourself.
- Break up larger tasks into small ones.
- Set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
- Spend time with people that truly care about you and are positive.
- Confide in a trusted friend or relative.
- Try not to isolate yourself,
- Let others help you.
- Do not expect to suddenly “snap out of” depression.
- Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
- Think positive.
- Educate yourself about depression.
- Surround yourself with things that calm you.
- Remove the clutter in your life (Both physically and metaphorically speaking).
- Plan and start a project around your house (revamp a room, organize a room).
- Plan a mini vacation or day trips to places you have always wanted to go to.
- Fresh flowers (can come from grocery store, farmer’s market, florist).
- Surround yourself with daily reminders that are inspirational to you.
- Find your creative side.
- Take a class on something you have always wanted to learn about or to do.
Ideas To Help Loved Ones Fighting Depression:
- Offer emotional support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
- Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
- Never dismiss their feelings.
- Never tell them to “get over it” or “move on” etc.
- Never ignore comments about suicide.
- Invite them out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don’t push him or her to take on too much too soon.
- Offer to just hang out and keep them company.
- Provide assistance in getting to the doctor’s appointments or any other errands they may need to do.
- Do realize it will take many things being done simultaneously before they begin come out of depression. There is not a one size fits all treatment.
I wish I could say I am not an old acquaintance of depression. I refuse to call it a friend. But I have lived with various forms of depression on and off since I was a teenager. Probably further back than that if I am going to be honest. My past, like many, is colorful. I strive on a daily basis to prove that I am not my past. Just like with my PTSD, I refuse to allow depression to define me and take away all that I have in my life. Trust me, depression is a master at it. Sometimes it just takes me longer to fight back than others.
This past year has been one of the hardest for me. I knew that depression had set in, but I did not realize how deep it went until I began to fight back. My PTSD was horrific this past winter. It manifested itself in new ways. Between my PTSD and the depression, I was constantly overwhelmed. I knew I needed to change things. It just took a while to figure out what needed to be changed, how to change it, and in what order.
I can not say that I was suicidal. I did not sit and actively think about ways to kill myself. I did not wish for death. Nor was I to the point of “If I wait a couple of seconds longer or slow down my speed then the semi that is driving 70 miles an hour will hit me.” or “I could just slightly vear off the road and roll down the embankment or hit that tree.” I am not going to lie though, I think I was close to that point. I began to understand those that do attempt or are successful in committing suicide. I have always viewed suicide as a selfish act. I still see it that way. But I completely get it.
wanted needed the pain to end. My entire body, mind, hell even my soul, is / was so tired of the daily pressure and pretense of looking like my shit’s together. I often feel like I am anything but together. My “give a shit” meter was on pause in terms of my appearance. My clothes and hair reflected my inner love for myself. I wore stained, holey clothes when I was at home. If I matched, BONUS. Make up?? What was that?? My main go to hair style was a bun or pony tail most of the time. If I brushed or combed it every couple of days, that was another bonus! Finger combing worked just fine for me usually. When I went out into public, I did try and make myself more presentable and less embarrassing, I promise. I was once told “What does my appearance matter because I am a stay at home mom?”by someone. Yet that comment got stuck on auto repeat this past yr. It is amazing what gets stuck on auto repeat sometimes in our brains.
Then there is the guilt as those I love pass silent and more often than not, not so silent judgment about the effects the depression is having on me and those around me. Comments about maybe trying medication or I am “acting off” are said frequently as well. Defending my decisions on why I refuse to use medications or why I am acting off are met with yet more judgment. Medication will help my PTSD and depression how???? It’s nothing but a bandaid in my eyes. You need to assess the issues first before you can decide how to treat them.
Please understand that I put enough guilt and judgement on myself for my lifetime and yours. My mind was and is in a million other places so yea, I am going to act off occasionally. I do not know anyone who does not have off days. I constantly feel overwhelmed and like there is not enough of me to do what is needed to be done in the time frame that it all needs to be done in. Something is always not marked off on my to do list from the day before and sometimes from the day before that. I wish for a clone on a daily basis. The funny thing is, I am told constantly that many people would not be able to do all that I do daily and that they have no idea how I do it at all…Yet, I am here I am, doing it daily. Maybe not perfectly, but I am still doing it.
You often hear that those that are depressed feel completely numb. They are right…We do! I think we feel numb because we feel too much. Those emotions never seem to leave us, they just compound one on top of the other. I think that the feeling numb part is the only way the body can still function while the brain tries to process it all while it and keep us going daily. It is trying to keep us safe.
My Fight Back
Counseling / Therapy
One of the first things I did was start back into counseling this past year. Due to personal reasons, I had to stop counseling for a few months. I think it was one of my downfalls. I did not have a choice though.
If you chose to go this route, find a counselor / therapist that will understand what your needs are from the start. Do not just settle with a therapist for the sake of going to therapy. Chose wisely. I have heard from so many people that they were not able to relate to the therapist or that the suggested therapies and coping strategies did not work for them in any way because the therapist did not have an understanding, experience, or proper training in what they were seeking help in.
Write A List
Seriously, if you want to conquer something, you need to be able to see it all in black and white. I created a list of everything that was overwhelming me. My Hubby and I sat down and divided up the list. This is what was on it and what we and I did about it.
I can not function in a house that I feel is not straightened up and actually clean. It physically weighs on me. My 11 year old helps me straighten up the house several times a day (5 minute clean ups here and there as needed) but I also needed help with the bigger things like cleaning bathrooms, dusting, vacuuming, mopping. My Hubby and oldest daughter were not helping in the way I needed. I looked into hiring a cleaning service. At $500-$700 a month, they decided that helping more was not a bad thing.
MOUNDS of laundry
5 people create a LOT of laundry. We do not use paper towels or paper napkins. If the laundry was on a main floor vs basement I think it would have been better for me to keep up with. But that was not the case. It was hard for me to sort, transfer, etc with Reine. She would take off and get into things immediately. Hubby took over the collecting, sorting, and washing of all laundry. The girls and I fold it and everyone puts their own laundry away.
Meal planning consisted of me creating a meal plan because no one wanted to help and then everyone telling me they were not hungry for what I made. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement. Now, everyone sits down and figures out a month worth of meals together. I then figure out a weekly meal plan and write a grocery list based off of the “master” list.
Errands and Grocery shopping
Errands and grocery shopping have always been hard with Reine. I can only go to 1 or 2 places (for only a couple of items) before it becomes too overwhelming for her. My grocery shopping is not 1-2 places. I now run errands and or grocery shop when the kids are able to remain at home.
This past year when my PTSD was really bad, I also began to “disassociate” when I had a massive anxiety or panic attack. I now go at times when I know the stores I am going to, will not be crazy. That is usually early morning or late at night. I wear noise cancelling headphones and listen to music when I am out in public. If I know I am getting to the point that I am close to disassociating, I will cut grocery shopping or errands short immediately, call my support circle (Hubby, Mom In Law, or best friend) and they will stay on the phone with me until I am in “safe” location which is usually my home.
If you follow the blog then you know that I cook almost everything from scratch. I LOVE to get creative in my kitchen and cook. Meals began to get routine and I got very overwhelmed with the cooking and attempting to keep Reine safe and in the same room as me. I still do most of the cooking. My middle daughter has now started cooking full meals a couple days a week. Dinner waits until someone else can have control with Reine.
My Autistic Mermaid (Reine)
If you follow Simply Reine, then you know my youngest daughter has autism. Trying to navigate into her world and to understand her can be exhausting. Trying to stay one step ahead of her is a never ending process. Honestly, it has been just as exhausting for me to get my Hubby to help me implement certain things to give Reine her freedom and me my sanity.
In his mind, none of these things should be needed to keep Reine safe. I should be watching her 27 / 7. I am often left feeling like I have failed her once again as a parent. Realistically, that is not an option. I have things that also require my attention. Before you pass judgement on me and tell me I am a horrible mother, understand that my kids are my #1 priority. Their safety and well being is apart of that #1 priority. I am talking about things like cleaning up after her when she creates a mess (spilling a drink, leaving toys all over the floor, dogs need to go outside and we are in another room, occasionally I need to go to actually go to the bathroom, or when I am getting her a snack, drink, or a meal. She loves to go into our bedrooms and get into things she knows she is not allowed to (Like Big Sis makeup and perfume). Or to try to go outside when no one is with her.
Recently Reine has begun showing signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD). She throws things (sometimes breaks them) and hits people. We are in the process of being placed on a weight list to her tested for it. But I can not leave glass on the floor or broken plastic pieces for her to cut herself on can I?
I need things like locks on doors, extra locks on the front and back doors, alarms on windows, video monitors to help me keep her safe as she grows and begs for more independence.
My Oldest Daughter’s Schedule
This may seem like an easy one, but it has not been. My daughter will often make plans that I do not have any knowledge about. I do not mind that the fact that she made the plans at all. What I do mind is the lack of sharing of these plans with me, reminding me of them, or letting me know the times that they are happening. She often needs a ride to work, school, etc. She has a calendar on the back of the front door that she tries to put things on but I honestly needed a better system. Sometimes changes that were made are not on the calendar or the plans have changed last minute. She now gives me a copy of her work and school schedule. She is working on letting me know if she is going out and whether or not she needs a ride to and from wherever she is going. Better planning on her part and on mine.
This one was hard for me. I felt obligated to groups and pages I was a creator of or admin on. However, I realized I needed to be selfish and do what I needed to do for my own health. I weeded out the pages and groups that I did not feel I contributed to in the way that was needed of me.
I rebuilt Simplicity Redesigned on Facebook from the ground up. I was not able to add things or do things on the page that I truly wanted to do to it. It was something I had thought about doing for a long time, but was too afraid too. I lost all my followers on the page during the rebuild of it. If they are truly fans of the page then they will find it once again.
I recently weeded out family and friends on Facebook as well. I decided to keep my inner circle limited to those that support me instead of those that I felt obligated to have on my list.
I spent the better part of a couple of months trying to stay within compliance guidelines of an essential oil company I use. I rewrote blog posts, deleted boards on Pinterest, deleted pics on Instagram, my blogs, FB pages, deleted tweets, etc. I received emails, phone calls, and letters telling me I had to remove everything that contained their branding. The catch was that I had already removed the content. I was told I would be suspended and lose my ranking within the company if I did not comply. This went on for months. It was seriously ridiculous! I was ready to end my relationship with them. I decided that I will no longer advertise by either print or verbally that I have anything to do with this company directly instead. I will not share, post, blog, takes pics of anything about the company or it’s products ever again. I was never in it for the money. It is a Multi-level marketing (MLM) company. But hey, I will never be non compliant with them again either.
Writing is one of my biggest “therapies”. I write for myself and if others like what I write or can take anything from my life experiences and lessons that can benefit them, than that is a bonus to me. Like cooking, it is a release of emotions and relaxing for me. However, I had so much going on in my head, I was unable to get it out. I lost my voice so to speak. I decided to walk away from my blogs for a time. I continued to write on them as the words came to me. I knew it would not be forever. I needed to be gentle to myself and my soul. I had to allow myself time to find my voice once again.
It seemed like everywhere I looked there was just “stuff”. It was hard to get people to pick up after themselves all the time. I got tired of it. I decided it was time to purge. It is now a kind of obsession for me. I have purged my two younger daughters’ bedrooms. This included their closets and toys. I then moved into their playroom, the classroom, my kitchen and my closet. I am now moving onto my living room, bathrooms, and linen closet. If I do not use it, have a use for it, or truly want it, it is gone.
Family is always complicated, messy, chaotic, and rarely works the way we truly wish it would. This year, I have had my share of family heartaches and chaos. It really took a toll on me. I made decisions, did what I thought was needed to be done. Some worked out for the better while some…let’s just say I was expecting doors to be slammed in my face but I truly was not expecting the doors to be slammed in my kids faces as well. I do not regret my decisions or my actions. I just wish the ending was very different.
This one is a big one for me. I feel like I never take enough time for myself. I am always “on” as a mom and a wife but not for me. I rarely felt calm or relaxed at the end of the night. Instead, I was going to bed hyped up from the day. Sleep was not what you would call restful by any means.
Hubby now takes our youngest daughter when he comes home from work so that I can make dinner, unwind, blog, etc.
We gave Reine a strict bedtime of 8 PM. My Mom In Law gave me the idea to put my middle daughter to bed at 9 PM. She has an hour to either bathe, read a book, craft, or do something on her tablet for an hour. It has to be done upstairs. This way I have 2 hours to myself.
I often experience bouts of “insomnia” like episodes with my PTSD. I can not get my brain to shut off. I am sooo exhausted, but not exhausted enough to sleep. It is like my body is not allowing me to get the much needed rest it needs. Going to bed at 5 AM and waking up at 6:00- 6:30 AM (when Reine says Hello to the Sun) does not do the body, mind, or soul any good. Sleep deprivation only makes my PTSD and depression worse. Now I go to bed at 11:00 PM whether I am tired or not. I am training my body that bed means sleep and it helps tremendously. My brain is learning to shut itself off.
Let’s be honest here, I have a mini zoo. We have 1 turtle, 1 lizard, 2 birds, 2 dogs, 3 cats, 4 hermies, and lots of fish. The zoo upkeep was just not as high on the list of priorities as I needed it to be. Kids stepped up and the zoo is clean and smells nice.
To say that doctor and specialist appointments are HELL for me is putting it mildly. We have been to several appointments, specialists, and even a trip to the ER this past year. My Hubby or my oldest daughter now come with me to all appointments. I am not facing them alone and they are able to help me with my PTSD flares.
Lack Of Creativity
This one was rough for me. I am a very creative person. Somewhere along the way I lost that part of me. I buried it deep! I created my two youngest daughters’ Halloween costumes. I thoroughly enjoyed that. Ripping seams and shredding the dresses and veils after dealing with epic meltdowns was extremely therapeutic.
I have rediscovered adult coloring books. I am getting ready to start drawing and painting again. It has been a long time for me.
I spent months trying to find the perfect life planner and blog planner for my crazy life. Many life planners also include some kind of a day planner in them. However, I could not find any that met all my demands. So, I spent the past 6 months creating ones that did. I also bought a Passion Planner and added that to my planner I created. It fits perfectly inside of it. This has proved to be one of my favorite ongoing projects I have done in a very long time. I am able to change it up, customize it whenever the mood strikes. But it also is my life line. It has my menu planner, grocery list, food money, calendar etc all in once place.
DISCLAIMER….DISCLAIMER….I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH PASSION PLANNER, NOR WAS I PAID FOR THE LINK IN THIS POST. I JUST REALLY FREAKING LOVE THE PLANNER!
Fires & Flowers
Fires have always calmed and relaxed me. I light them in my fireplace year around or I put on an HD video of a fire in a fireplace on my TV or laptop. I LOVE flowers, especially wildflowers. They are an amazing pick me up for me. When I am able to, I surround myself with smaller bouquets that I create out of larger ones. I place them in the areas I am in the most.
I am a firm believer that those you chose to surround yourself with will greatly affect who you are, who you become, and your overall health. I have a VERY small support base in my life. The people I have chosen to be in my inner circle have proven that they are always there for me time and time again.
Words and thoughts are just as important to me as the people I surround myself with. When I am at my worst, I try to think about all I have positive in my life. I start out with the basics. I can breathe, see, hear, speak. I can walk use my hands and feet. I can think and move my body. I am not in copious amounts of pain, I have a place I call home, I have food on my table and running water and both heat and AC. I have a vehicle that I am able to drive. I add to my list until I realize how truly blessed I am. There is always someone out there that has it worse than I do.
In my planner, I have placed my favorite positive quotes along with quotes that inspire me to better myself in my planner. I also started to purchase inspirational jewelry that I wear daily to remind me that I am a survivor and not life’s victim. I can overcome anything that is thrown at me.
I use essential oils daily to help with my PTSD and depression. This year I found a stainless steel and leather aromatherapy bracelet from AromaRain that I am in LOVE with. (You can see it on me for size reference in the pic above.)
DISCLAIMER….I AM NOT AFFILIATED WITH AROMARAIN, NOR WAS I PAID FOR THE LINK IN THIS POST. I JUST REALLY FREAKING LOVE THE BRACELET!
Yoga, Meditation, EFT Tapping
I have recently began to do yoga again with my kids. I have found that Reine enjoys sharing my mat even though she has her own. Many of the poses resemble more of a game of twister then actual yoga.
Meditation, oh sweet meditation! This is my sanity more often than not. I am able to do this anywhere, at anytime, without anyone being the wiser.
I do EFT Tapping. It is one of my most used forms of therapy. This I do not do in public or in front of anyone if I can help it.
It has been a LONG journey.
One that is not over yet.
Each day I am more determined than I was the day before.
I am a survivor.