Friday, August 15, 2014

Eradicating Shame on a Down Day

If mental illness make you uncomfortable or triggers something in you, please do not read. No, this is not about a recent suicide. Or suicide at all! Also, if reading about my personal battle with depression annoys you, you may also skip this (no offense from me). I know I'm pretty public with my demons and it makes people uncomfortable. But I share because I know it will help someone, and even if it's just one person, it's worth baring my soul. 

I was taken off one of my medications this last month, due to the pregnancy. It's simply not safe for the baby, especially come third trimester. I am still on one of them, though, and although I can feel the effects of losing the other one, it's not nearly as bad as when I had neither. My psychiatrist bumped therapy up to once a week in order to try and compensate for the loss and it's been helping.

Even when I'm medicated and healthy, I've noticed a pattern in my depression. Every 4-8 weeks, I will have what I call a Down Day. I'm sure I've written about it before. When I'm not on medication, Down Days occur at least 4 times a week. Sometimes every day. The beautiful part of medication and health is they are few and far between --but they still happen. It's as if the Depression in my brain/body is saying, "I know you are working hard to eradicate me, but I need to remind you that I still exist, here, and so here you go. Have fun!"

What is a Down Day? Well, it's different from my Lazy Days or my Who Cares!? Days or my Man Alive, I'm Just So Tired! Days. Down Days create the inability to move, to care, to function, to... well, everything.

In the past, I would spend my Down Days wracked with the torment of immeasurable guilt. Shame would leak from every pore and I would wallow in the cesspool of incredible self-pity. I would lament the shame of a woman incapable of taking care of her family, incapable of doing her share in a marriage partnership, incapable of stopping herself from  feeling depressed. This would make my Down Days worse --sometimes turn them into many days...

Yesterday, I decided I was tired of analyzing everything, I was tired of feeling shame for being this way, tired of the guilt associated with the shame and turning each thought into a philosophical and religious debate (with myself. Who else would I be debating with? Well, I guess sometimes it's God...). I was tired of trying to find blame ("well, Murphy's Law and all that, you've just seen the psychiatrist and told her you were doing pretty good, and you did just write a blog post on how you are managing, and you did just tell your therapist how much better you've felt lately, so of course this would happen, blah, blah, blah") and so you know what? I just let it be.

I just let my brain be.

I sat in my room from 11AM until after 7PM. I left the door open so my kids could come in and out to ask questions. I gave out assignments for chores, but I didn't follow up on any of them. I watched three movies (2?) on my phone and read about half of Jane Eyre again (say what you will about the creepiness factor, it has some of the most beautiful prose ever written in it, and when you read the book and don't just go with the movies, you find the love story is not so crazy, after all... I mean, when compared to Wuthering Heights?!), I tried to nap, I cleaned out some jewelry boxes (i.e. I looked through old things very slowly), and I was surprised and grateful my oldest brought me some lunch at 3PM. I knew I was at an impasse with my brain by 2PM, and so I asked my husband to grab dinner on the way home. Not only did he agree to do it, he also went grocery shopping.

At 7PM, when he got home, he came into our room. Without fanfare, disappointment, ridicule, or frustration, he held out his hand and invited me to eat with the family. I told him I didn't want to, but he said I needed to. Then he made a funny quip that made me laugh, and I took his hand. I joined the family for dinner, he helped me put the groceries away, he got the kids to clean up, and then we watched a movie as a family ("Flight of the Navigator" --we're slowly introducing awesome movies from our youth to our kids).

When we went to bed, I shared a photo on Instagram that I had taken shortly after dinner. A storm had quickly passed through (just a little rain) and the sun was setting. The kids were on the trampoline and romping around in the backyard. I took the photo from the kitchen, but then I went and sat in our screened porch for a few minutes and watched the sky fade to dark (our backyard faces East). And all I could think was that it was going to be okay. I wasn't alone.

"Courage doesn't always roar. 
Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day 
that says I'll try again tomorrow."
 ~Mary Anne Radmacher

What I learned from this particular Down Day:

*Shame and guilt about my mental illness makes it worse. And it's probably the stupidest thing in the world to feel guilty about, and yet the easiest. I had the thought: what if this was a fibromyalgia or Multiple Sclerosis flare-up? What if this was a diabetic problem? What if I had to take the day off because of anything physical? There would be no shame. This is MY flare-up. This is MY problem. It has as much validity as things that are physical and tangible, does it not?

*My husband has learned how to care for me and my disease in a gentle way. It's been a learning curve for us both, but he truly personified this scripture last night and my love for him deepened significantly: (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42)
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; 
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
*Letting my older children understand that my brain is sick was the wisest thing I have ever done. They've known about it for a few years (my oldest, probably longer). Instead of letting them question why mom is acting this way, instead of letting them assume they have done something wrong, instead of letting them wonder why I might not love them based on my actions, they simply understand that mom has a sick brain. Mom sometimes needs a day of rest. Mom takes medication for her brain; mom still loves us and tries hard. She makes mistakes because she is broken, but everyone is broken, and it's okay.

*Heavenly Father answers our prayers through means other than what we usually hope. I prayed most of the day that I could climb out of my Well. But His answer was sending my husband to help me out. And give me all of these insights. And reaffirm He loves me.


Mother of the Wild Boys said...

Once again, thank you for your openness and perspective. I learn something new about my own depression struggles whenever you write about yours. You really described the "down day" so well. And I love the way you've explained this to your kiddos, you have done them a great service by allowing them to understand. Love you.

camellia said...

I think you are brave and awesome for sharing your soul with us. I love that you recognize all the blessings in your life along with all the hard times! Keep being awesome!

Lisa Zirker said...

You are wonderful!!! You are amazing and you can do it!!! Love ya!

Donna Larson said...

You should not feel shame or guilt over your depression (I suffer from bipolar disorder), it makes us strong, and when it rears it's ugly head we turn and beat it back down with a stick and tell it is not going to control our lives. Heavenly Father told us before we came to earth what our burdens were going to be and we joyfully accepted them(ok I'm still working on that concept). Like everyone who suffers from depression those down days are there and you roll with the punches knowing that this too shall pass. You have taken this disease and turned it in to a teaching tool using it to reach out to others. You are to be admired because you have the strength to step up and say this is what I have but not who I am, my illness does not define me, and it doesn't need to define you. You let others know they are not alone.