Wishes

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Little Man: The other day when I made a wish on the wishbone, I wished that–
Baby Girl: DON’T SAY WHAT IT IS IT WON’T COME TRUE!
Little Man: It already came true.
Baby Girl: Oh. What was it?
Little Man: I wished that I would snuggle with Mama.
Baby Girl: But you snuggle every day with Mama?!

***
Wishes are granted, prayers are answered; we look for stars colliding but often it’s the stardust settling into the cracks of our life that holds things together, that holds us in place to experience the good, the great, the snuggles under Blanket Mountain.
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Oh gosh. Not another crybaby with depression.

This is not a crybaby post about depression. Whatever that means.

Author Elizabeth Jolley and (younger) sister Madelaine Winifred in the garden, 1927

It is, rather, a very practical post about how I live with depression and generalized anxiety disorder, especially in the winter when it worsens. I’ve learned to make practical modifications so that suicide ideation is no longer a very real part of my every day and so that I am not an entirely miserable person with whom to share tubes of toothpaste and children and life.

I’ve been envisioning this post for awhile now. It’s been rattling around in my head, dancing with delusions about how I’m going to package it cute-like as if living with depression were a Betty Crocker recipe for making pineapple upside-down cake. But depression slows me down and drains me of motivation (when I am otherwise a fairly hyperactive person with a zeal for socializing and hobbies). I realized this post would never happen if I didn’t just aim low and crank out something, albeit not very fancy.

So here we go. Some things that have helped me stay afloat through especially hard months in Depression Town. I hope it helps someone. 

I learned a long time ago that taking a particular dose of a particular anti-depressant helped me to feel a certain way. It means I don’t laugh really hard like I used to. This also means I don’t cry at the drop of a hat like I used to. I take my pill every day and I may very well take it for the rest of my life. Oh no, aren’t you afraid of being dependent on a chemical? I am afraid of a heapton of things in this world. Many are beyond my control. Many exist as figments of my imagination. Many exist well beyond the horizon line of my lifetime. I can’t be preoccupied with them. I take each day as it comes. That’s what effectively living with depression looks like to me. Taking my prescribed dosage and being thankful for healthcare coverage and not worrying about how many more days I will need to keep doing the same–that’s my jam. 

The mascot pup after a bath 1943

I am not a morning person by nature. I often take hours to fall asleep at night and oftentimes I don’t stay asleep. Every semester, I teach an 8 a.m. class. When a colleague evaluated my teaching last semester, she said, “I can tell you’re not a morning person but you do a really good job of trying to pretend you are.” I laughed. Just because we have depression doesn’t mean we can all have a schedule that is favorable. Still, I have learned to fake only what is necessary. I wouldn’t recommend faking pleasure or friendship or happiness. I am willing to put a brave face forward in my early classes, though, because it only requires that I show up, prepared and ready to face the day, and I can tell that most of my students are trying to do the same. We are in the early morning struggle together.

Image from page 385 of "Abraham Lincoln and the battles of the Civil War" (1887)

I keep my life very simple, especially in the winters. I rarely say YES to things, and prefer a month of lame weekends to busy ones. I don’t like to dread activities that should otherwise be fun. I have learned which friends will take things personally and which friends are safe to tell that I really don’t feel up to things right now. Some friends will hold it against you and others will totally understand that you just feel overwhelmed by social expectations but look forward to seeing them when you’re feeling better.

The hardest thing I have found about living with depression is still being present for my hubby and kids. They may ask so little of me, e.g. to read a book to them or listen to a story and yet Depression, liar of liars, will trick my mind into thinking it’s a huge mountain to climb. The best way I have learned to be present is to be honest right out of the gate. To say to my kids almost immediately when I pick them up from school: Mommy is having a hard day. Do you ever feel like you just want to watch TV and not talk to anyone? That’s how Mommy feels today. My kids are remarkably accommodating when I let them know that I am wearing my grumpy pants and it’s not because of anything they have done. My husband is a living saint where depression is concerned and gets it and doesn’t hold it against me and makes me salads without asking. Praises be.

To that end, the final strategy I’ve learned to help immensely when I feel depression cloaking me is to practice radical self-care. I am uncompromising when it comes to eating healthfully and exercising just about every day. Depression will tell me that I deserve to eat a pan of Rice Krispie treats for dinner and be a wicked slob. Fast forward to when I am so much worse off and feeling all frumpalump and really? No, Depression. You may win the battle of the couch potatoes but this yoga mat is not your battleground. Move along.

Physical Culture Class, 1934

I am thankful for my faith and for my friends and family who have loved me through some rocky times. Depression can be a badge and a burden but it can also be the reason that blessings flood us when we need it most. Sending courage to all the depression warriors out there, and those who love them. <3

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2015: The year of the release

We were just talking in bed, Loverpants and I, as we do more often, now that we have children who can breathe on their own. And that was the point, I was explaining to him. This year has been a watershed one for me because I no longer feel like I need to breathe for my children. My lungs started working overtime at the birth of my children, and it has been unceasing, this breathing for them, until recently when I felt released.

2015-11-05 18.58.35Parenting in America will do that to a person predisposed to control issues. If you read the books and practice the fine art of narrating your life aloud, you will appear in command of your and your child’s life, which is just as vilified as it is rewarded in America. Hashtag helicopter parenting. You oftentimes feel so responsible for the entertainment and well-being of your child that you will feel tethered to him/her at all times, much like you are breathing for him/her. 2015-11-05 20.25.29

You become a ventriloquist controlled by an unseen ventriloquist called SuperParent. But then one day you realize even ventriloquists take turns speaking for themselves and their puppets.

2015-11-05 21.00.00This year has been gracious to me in showing me my condition. My helicopter propellers were about to fall off.  My lungs were on the verge of collapsing. My ventriloquism wasn’t even very good. I went to a conference in October and did a lot of talking to myself and listening to God and walking up and down the streets of Greenville, SC until I was good and ready to come home a new woman mom teacher human BEING, not a human DOING as my bosslady says. 2015-11-05 20.16.21

Above: Christmas at the Clay Pot

I resolved: I had to stop stressing over Baby Girl’s spelling tests. This was second grade, after all, and I had already passed the class myself. I had to let Little Man sit in the hula-hoop of shame at gymnastics and not send him laser glares from the balcony. I had to bench myself, both as a coach and a player, over and over because this wasn’t my game. I was only a fan in the stands.

2015-11-05 21.36.21As I let go of my clipboard and picked up my pom-poms, strange things started happening. Baby Girl started getting 14/12 on her spelling tests. Little Man emancipated himself from the hula-hoop of shame. My team started winning and I had nothing and everything to do with it. I could feel my lungs relaxing a little–what was this new elevation? It was manageable and less stressful. I went to the gym more and gave myself permission to sit at my kitchen table and play with markers and glitter and be a hobbyist.  The only unhealthy obsession I nurtured this past year was with watching every episode of “Friday Night Lights.” And pondering why Michelle Obama and I are not yet best friends. 2015-11-05 20.26.19

I trusted that my kids could handle some consequences of their own making. I released myself from this tightly-wound rope and–what do you know? It might have made me more available for sessytime with Loverpants. I’m saying it’s a possibility. WINK.

“This has been a very creative year for you,” Loverpants said as I was starting a new chapter of a novel that was not written by Roald Dahl. There could not have been a higher compliment coming from my dashing counterpart. He recognized someone who was no longer immersed in creating problems and creating opportunities to provide air support. He saw someone creating things that brought delight and in so doing she was creating space for change. Change this past year has looked like a lot of glitter glue and paint on the kitchen table, and four members of the FamiLee breathing a little easier. God bless us, every one.

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