I've been quiet about what's going on with me lately. Sharing a bit of it today.
.The past few months, I've gone through a difficult episode of depression. Previously, I had several years with Seasonal Affective Disorder that began when we moved to Asheville six years ago.
The worst time of year for me is January through March. This year, I was ready to tackle it again with light therapy, exercise, even travel to a warmer sunnier place if needed. SAD kicked in just about the same time as some unfortunate extended family drama occurred and the depression that hit me was unlike any I've experienced before.
Until recently, I haven't felt on solid enough ground to share this with anyone but close family and friends. Speaking out about depression is difficult. It's easier when it's a physical health issue like a broken leg. There is still so much stigma to acknowledging and dealing with mental health. I share in the hope it may help others.
Last fall, solid ground was like that lovely paved path through the park where I didn't need to watch where I stepped and could just enjoy the sky and the sound of the birds even if I was running. I traveled to New Mexico to see family and friends in September and attended the International Balloon Fiesta while I was there. I had the best time.
In January, depression knocked me off that path and right into quicksand. For a while, I didn't know what had hit me. I lost interest in doing much of anything. I wanted to sleep all the time but at night I couldn't sleep. I often didn't leave the house and found excuses to not see friends. I had to force myself to eat and lost weight. I did the very minimal I could to get through the days without worrying my family. I felt that I couldn't move and if I did, I sunk deeper into the muck. I was trapped in it and there were days when I just wanted to be sucked under.
During that time, I was so aware of loving hands reaching out from my family and friends. While that brought comfort, I needed to dig my way out on my own. It has taken tremendous work but I'm getting there. As summer wanes, I am tentatively taking small steps on firmer ground again.This ground is not as smooth but I'm able to appreciate it more. This path is like some of those that I've hiked on the Appalachian Trail. It has dirt and mud and puddles and tree roots and steep inclines. I have to watch carefully where I step but with that comes more beauty. The sun filtering through the trees, the wildflowers, the sound of birds and waterfalls in the distance are with me as I step onto this new trail of life. I don't take any of these moments along the way for granted these days and I hope I never again will.
Depression is different for each person and recovery can be ongoing and filled with ups and downs.. As I begin to experience more moments and days of well- being and joy again, I'd like to share some of the things that are working for me. It's often been a two steps forward, one step backward approach but I am just keeping at it.
Therapy ~ I've done therapy before over the years to deal with childhood trauma and situational depression and it helped in varying degrees. This time, I was so aware that I needed help of a different magnitude. I was willing to go to as many therapists as I needed to find one that was a good fit. Luckily, I found her on the first try. Months in with my work with her, I continue to be so grateful for this amazing person who is so intuitive and responsive. She has helped me sift through a whole lot of sand so that I can trust myself again. Having a therapist I trust is like having a good car mechanic. I go for regular check-ups to make sure everything is working as it should and once in a while I need a brake job or a new battery. She helped with the complete engine overhaul to get me running again. I continue to see her every two weeks and go to workshops she leads. A side note here is that I was very willing to try medication. However, my sensitivities to antidepressants left that as a last resort. For now, the therapy has been enough. I recognize that I need to stay vigilant and medication might be an option down the road.
Yoga and Meditation ~ I know. It's the thing to do these days. I first started doing yoga when I was 20 years old. I'm now 60 something so that's a long damn time.. There weren't yoga classes on every block back then. I learned from a book and had a personal practice for years. Then it become off and on again when I'd find a class or teacher I liked. This time, I went to some meditation workshops as well. That and my yoga practice has made a significant difference in my anxiety levels and overall health. Sun salutations, inversions, breathing and candle meditation are part of my daily routine and have reduced my anxiety as well as improving my flexibility and overall physical strength and health.
Music and Learning ~ We have a piano from when the kids were young. I decided I'd learn to play it. With the help of my sister and a couple of adult piano books, I just started at the beginning and spent some time each day at the keyboard. I'm on book two now and can play a few songs. I also spent a few months learning Spanish with Duolingo. Recently, I've been taking classes and am in the process of launching a small business.. I imagine it's all good for my not so young brain and best of all, I enjoy the process of doing it. I'm not trying to win any awards. Just spending some time doing things I enjoy and learning as I do. That unschooling mindset has paid off in more ways than I could have imagined.
Photography ~ I take photos. So. Many. Photos.. Since I was very young, I've seen the world through the kind of lens that lends itself to photography. I'm an amateur. I take photos on automatic with my SLR or on my IPhone or if I have neither, just in my head. Everywhere I look, I visualize it in a photo. Occasionally, I get one worth sharing. I love that. I love the colors and the symmetry and the focal points of life all around me.
Oh? Yes, I play PokemonGo. I'm delighted by it. I loaded it on to my phone just on a lark and it has brought me so much happiness these past few weeks. I love catching the cute little Pokemon and evolving them. I love walking to hatch the eggs and seeing what they turn in to. Endorphins from walking and running are the best drugs for me and I can do both while I'm catching Pokemon. Also, I'm an introvert but I've met so many people out walking and at Pokestops. It has been a silly sweet thing to do and share with one of my grown kids. This past weekend, Broc loaded it on to his phone and we spent all day yesterday catching Pokemon in downtown Asheville. More fun and less introspection are two of my goals and both are met through this game. (For those that don't know the game, "Oh?" is what comes on the screen when a egg is about to hatch.) One of my favorite writers is Jenny Lawson. On her blog, The Bloggess, she shares some perspective that I've found to be true.
I've made a few other positive changes. Eating healthier. Walking every day and doing challenges with unschooling friends around the country with my Fitbit. The warmer sunnier weather helps and I'm hyper-aware that I need to make plans for darker colder months.. For now, I'm better. I had an entire day last week where I felt a sense of well-being. I slept an entire night without waking up and had lovely dreams. I trust that will begin to happen more and more.
I've been so supported by many of my family and friends. It's meant so much to hear from them via text or cards or phone calls or Facebook messages. Just knowing they cared during the darkest times, was a lifeline. As I've felt strong enough to share my story with others, I have been happily surprised with their encouraging responses.
Broc and I are celebrating our 17th anniversary today. . His care and kindness and trust in me is monumental and I so grateful to have him by my side. It's been a tough year for us both. The sweetest and simplest times have been simply watching sunsets with him this summer.
I'm so grateful for the moments I am lucky enough to enjoy these days. Alone. With him. With Brenna and Logan. Every single one of them is precious to me.