2.21.2019

Medication Increase

Yesterday, this little man was all smiles and giggles and Brooklyn entertained me with some fun games of I-Spy and 20 Questions, while I spent 95% of the day in bed trying to survive a medication dose increase. I really don't like the medication process, but I trust that better days are coming soon, and until then, I have two cute kids and a wonderful husband to make me smile and to help me survive the most difficult days.

Also, I made it out of the house before 8am today, so I already feel accomplished. #WinningAtLife #ICanDoHardThings #FindingJoy

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2.17.2019

My Husband's Side of our Journey

For some time, Shantelle has been wanting me (Kyle, her husband) to write something about my side of her struggles. I have been putting it off mostly because I am a pretty closed person who doesn’t like to let anyone in on the mystery that is Kyle’s emotions. This type of post has the smell of probing into my feelings, so I have avoided it, but Shantelle has put together a list of questions that I could answer, so I suppose I can manage that. Just don’t expect me to get all mushy gushy about it. The most personal parts will remain unwritten.

I should also preface this by pointing out that I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I suppose we would cease to have a problem, because I could just solve everything. Unfortunately, I can’t solve all our problems, but I have learned a little from them, so I will share some of what has worked for us and hope that it might help others. Here I go.

How has your perspective on mental health changed?

Before I married Shantelle, I had very little knowledge about mental illness. I think that is the case for many who have never struggled with it personally. We can be kind of oblivious to the internal struggles of others. To describe my way of thinking, I need to describe me. I think I would classify my emotions as logical and steady. Steady, because I rarely deviate from the norm emotionally speaking, and logical, because if I do deviate from the norm, there is always a direct reason. If something gets me down, I simply identify the reason and remedy the problem. Of course, I can’t always fix the problem, but I can at least almost always identify the reason, which makes sadness easier to deal with. 

I assumed that everyone ought to have the same control over their feelings as I did, so it was difficult to understand depression. To be honest, I rarely gave it a thought. I do remember a few times in my early adult life talking about someone who had depression. I was somewhat sympathetic toward their situation, but at the same time, I secretly felt that they must be grossly exaggerating and that they just needed to buck up and get over it. To me, there was always this question, “If something makes you feel that bad, why don’t you just identify the source and then work on solving the problem?” Easy right?

Wrong. I, of course, tried to solve Shantelle’s problems using that method of thinking, and soon realized that there is not always a direct reason for the way she feels. Sadly, that meant that there also was not a direct solution. I have come to understand that thoughts caused by mental illness don’t make sense, so it’s hard to apply a logical solution. I also know now that there is no “just getting over it.” Those who struggle with this trial are not weak or lazy. They have a real illness that requires real strength to get through each day. I don’t think I will ever understand exactly how Shantelle feels, but I at least understand that her trials are real and that she is giving her all in the fight to conquer them.

How do you support her?

  1. Resist the urge to fix it-- Fixing things is what husbands do, but we can’t just fix this and trying usually makes things worse.
  2. Listen-- Shantelle often needs to vent, so always being willing to listen is helpful.
  3. Make her cry-- This sounds counterintuitive, but most of the time when Shantelle is in a real funk, she won’t get out of it without crying. She usually will cry on her own, but sometimes she gets angry with herself. When that happens, she will not cry. She just angrily attacks herself with lies, and it just escalates. I can hear a difference in her voice, and I know that I need to intervene. At those times, I have to pretty firmly tell her in a stern voice that she needs to stop, that she knows what she is saying is not true, and that it’s time to stop. She always melts into my arms, the tension leaves her body, and she just sobs. I typically have to change my tear and booger soaked shirt afterwards, but her mood makes a turn for the better after that.
  4. Hold her close-- Hugs are magic and I have an unlimited supply, so I use them. Also, tying back into making her cry, she doesn’t like me to see her cry, so she needs to bury her face in my chest. (She doesn’t know that I know this about her, so don’t tell her, but the trend suggests that it’s true. She always either hides in another room or sticks her face into me. More boogery shirts. Yuck!)
  5. Help her get some traction-- Even with depression, Shantelle does a pretty good job of keeping up with life. Sometimes, however, she gets a bit behind, and getting caught back up is more than she can handle. For example, Shantelle typically does the dishes while I’m at work. She usually can keep up with the day-to-day dishes, but sometimes she gets a bit behind because of other things in her schedule, extra dishes for a particular meal, or whatever reason. When she isn’t feeling well, a big pile of dishes is just too overwhelming to even start on. I simply do the dishes, I am declared the hero of the kitchen, and she can now keep up with daily tasks again. To sum it up, I try to be a good spouse. If I see something that she usually does that she hasn’t gotten to, I help out. (This may blow everyone’s mind, but this actually is a really good idea even if your spouse doesn’t have a mental illness.)
  6. Make sure her needs are being met-- When Shantelle isn’t feeling well she often neglects her own physical needs like eating, drinking, sleeping, and exercising. I try to notice these things and encourage/make her do them.
  7. Make cheesy jokes-- I am the king of bad jokes, and I distribute them in abundance. Silliness can go a long way in lightening the mood, and laughter is a great medicine. One example is that I call her the depressed super hero-- I hope nobody finds this offensive. I just think it fits because she tries hard to use her depression, AKA her super power, as a means to help others. Anyway, we both get a chuckle out of it and out of many other bad jokes of the like. By the way, nobody else is allowed to call her that. ;)
  8. Remind her how wonderful she is and that she experiences good times too-- Depression is like this filter on her mind that will not let her remember anything but flaws and sorrow. She gets herself down thinking that she is a terrible mother, wife, and person. Also thinking that her life has always been miserable and that she has never experienced anything but sadness makes her believe that sadness is all she has to look forward to in the future. I was so surprised the first time she said negative things about herself. I couldn’t believe that anyone would think that about such an amazing person. Now that I recognize the depression filter I am prepared to argue with her, and this is an argument that I can win. After all, she gives me loads of ammunition. I simply remind her of specific good things that she has done in the recent past and happy moments that she has had. I also try to remind her in the good moments that things are good and that she is good. At good moments I like to just ask, “Are you happy right now?” She kind of gives me a little smile, sometimes without even answering, because by now she knows my purpose is to help her identify happy moments.
What has been hard about her struggles with depression? 
  1. Nothing is logical-- I am very logic-minded, so throwing logic out the window is very difficult to me.
  2. Not being able to fix it-- It’s very hard seeing a loved one suffer without the power to make it better.
  3. Not knowing how she feels-- I don’t think I’ll ever know how she feels, so I can’t really relate. I feel like this limits how much I can help her. In fact, she finds comfort in talking with others who can relate more, which is a little hard also, seeing that she has to go elsewhere to fill a need that I am unable to fill.
How has this affected your marriage?

I believe that it has strengthened our marriage. It has forced Shantelle to rely on me more and forced me to care about her more. It provides us with a common enemy for us to unify us as we fight it, and it also helps us to keep our priorities straight. I think we are much closer than we would have been without it.

What advice would you give to someone going through the same thing with a spouse?

You, your spouse, your relationship, and your family are all very unique, so the way you act must be unique as well. The best you can do is love your spouse, make them and your relationship the highest priority, be selfless and patient, and use trial and error to figure out what works best for you. Others can give suggestions of things that may or may not work, but in the end, your solution will be tailor-made by you, and will likely continuously evolve. 

How do you keep yourself from spiraling into the darkness with her? How do you remain positive through this challenge? When you are feeling down, what do you do to help yourself? How do you stay on top of things (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) when your wife is buried in anxiety and depression? What do you do for self-care?

Like I explained above, I am just naturally pretty steady emotionally, so I have little issue with getting down. I do need regular alone time just to let my thoughts unwind. Shantelle used to always try to ask probing questions to get me to vent my supposed pent up feelings. She was sure that I was just holding them all in and needed to talk about them. She has since learned that I’m not like that. I really don’t need to talk about most things, I just need some alone time to think about them and that’s it. I guess we are a perfect match. She floods me with her emotions, and I just let it all roll off. 

How do you know when to step in and when to let her have time to herself?

I don’t think there is a formula for this. You just have to take the time to get to know your spouse. Like I said when I was talking about making her cry, I sometimes can tell by the tone of her voice, but other times not so much. Asking questions helps and learning the right questions to ask. For example, “How are you?” gets me a “fine” or “good.” It can be better to ask, “How is your day going so far?” “How are you feeling right now?” “Do you want to talk?” “Do you just need some time alone?” Or to determine if you need to step in with meeting physical needs, “Have you eaten today?” “How much water have you drank today?” “Have you taken your medicine/vitamins?” Sometimes I step in when I shouldn’t, and sometimes I wait too long to step in. She has to be patient with me too. She knows I love her and am trying, just like I know she loves me and is trying. In our case, I find it’s better to error on the side of stepping in. If it is done lovingly, it will be appreciated, even when not needed. 

How do you talk to your kids about these challenges? 

I haven’t really talked to them much about it. Brooklyn is getting old enough to start understanding, so we will have to soon. I’m open to suggestions.

What fears do you have about your wife's struggle?

Probing Alert! Probing Alert! This question probes too deep into the inner feelings of a man. A macho-generated answer will be submitted.

  I am fearless.

2.16.2019

Misunderstood

Yesterday, I saw three comments on three separate posts that pierced my heart. They said:

Suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do.
People who say they have a mental illness just need to snap out of it.
Depression is for the weak.

After seeing the third comment, I immediately logged out of Facebook and told myself that I would never get on again. My whole body felt like it was crumbling. I couldn't believe that people still thought things like that. It hurt so terribly that this part of me that is already so hard to handle is also misunderstood in a way that makes it seem shameful to experience it. I felt vulnerably shattered that I have shared so much and I have probably been judged and criticized by people who simply don't understand. It stung and made my blood boil all at the same time.

And then I remembered all the times when people have commented or private messaged me saying that they felt all alone until they read what I wrote and realized that they weren't the only one or times when people have said that what I have written has helped them to understand or feel compassion instead of judgement.

People may not understand the deep pain of mental illness, but I don't need to let that stop me from sharing. I simply hope that those who experience this same pain will find the strength to recognize that these misunderstandings aren't true.

I've never had to fight with more strength than I have in the last several years. Mental illness is not something that can be controlled or wished away. It's real and needs so much love and understanding. I'm thankful for all the people who have loved and shown compassion to me, even when it doesn't make sense why some things are so hard.

2.12.2019

My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

This beautiful song has been on repeat at our house today, because it brings me so much peace!

After weeks of discouragement because of the deep darkness I was facing and my inability to get an appointment before April, a friend helped me get an appointment for yesterday, and I was able to start on an anti-depressant last Friday morning. This brought so much hope to my heart and lifted my spirits greatly feeling that maybe things will get better soon. Friday evening, I suddenly and randomly started to get this feeling of having a panic attack. It so closely resembled the strong feeling that used to cycle with the depression before getting pregnant with Garrett, but it had been a long time since I had experienced it. I disregarded it thinking that maybe I was anxious, because I was playing a musical number and helping with a discussion at church on Sunday. This feeling of anxiety continued to build, and I thought that maybe I would have to reschedule my musical number, because the fearful feeling was so strong! I went forward with the music and barely made it through the song. I hadn't felt something so powerful in such a long time.

After the music and the discussion on Sunday, the tightening feeling in my chest and throat, my racing heart, the feeling that everything inside my body was moving at such a fast speed, my inability to sleep much at night, and my racing thoughts continued, despite not having anything to be anxious about. At my appointment yesterday, I told the doctor about this feeling. He said that this is a classic, textbook reaction to taking an anti-depressant if you have bipolar. He wants me to keep taking the medication for a few more weeks just to make sure that this isn't circumstantial anxiety, but as long as this feeling continues, he feels clear on the direction to move forward.

I don't like this feeling of constant panic. It's very uncomfortable and exhausting, but I feel so much hope that we are moving in the right direction and that my relief will come soon.


2.08.2019

We Can Do Hard Things

So many people have expressed concern after my blog post about some of the struggles I have had recently. I just wanted to update that I am doing better, and I am not struggling at that level right now. I have been blessed with such loving, helpful, kind people in my life who have bent over backward to help me through this experience, and by a wonderful miracle, I was able to start a medication today. I am hoping and praying that this one can help me. I finally feel hopeful again and thankful that things are looking up. It's not very often that I feel this way, so I have to document it when I do, but I am thankful for the experiences I have had that have allowed me to feel so much love and compassion for others and have given me the opportunity to help others through their darkness. I am blessed, and I will make it through this, especially with this good man by my side!

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2.06.2019

What to Say

Since my last post (and frequently at other times as well), many people have expressed a desire to help those who struggle with mental illness, but they say that they don't know what to say or don't know how to help, and they are afraid of doing the wrong thing.  I wanted to compile a list of some helpful things to say when someone says that they are struggling with mental illness.  As always, this is my only based on my experiences, but hopefully these could help others too.

Also, before I begin, I just want to clarify that it is very seldom that something someone says has the power to chase away my darkness or actually "make it better."  Rather, the words of comfort and encouragement that others have so often shared with me have given me the strength to hold on until the darkness goes away on its own later.  Don't feel that you have to "fix" the problem, as an easy fix is not often available.  Just being with me in the darkness and sharing genuine words of love mean the world to me when my heart is broken.

So with that being said, let's get started.  Things to say to someone struggling with mental illness:
  1. "I love you."  Don't we all need to know that someone loves us, regardless of our struggles?  A heartfelt expression of love has been such a lifeline for me at different times and never ceases to wrap my heart in warmth and comfort.  It reminds me that I need to hold on through the darkest of dark nights, because I am loved and needed by someone.  It also helps me fight the lies depression feeds my brain that I am unlovable or a burden to my family and friends.  Often times, even if someone has said that they love me 100 times before, I always wonder and worry that maybe that love has changed since the last time they said it, so it helps to hear it again and again, even if it seems that I should obviously know by now.
  2. "Your brain is broken."  This may not sound comforting to hear, but it really does help.  It helps me to remember that this is not me; it's this problem inside my brain that is beyond my control.  It also reminds me that however I feel in the moment is temporary, because broken things can be healed.
  3. "This will pass."  I'm pretty sure this one is self-explanatory, but in the moments of greatest pain, my brain cannot comprehend that the hurt will pass.  It seems like I have always felt and will forever feel that way.  Remembering that it will pass gives me strength to hold on, because it reminds me that the light will come again eventually.
  4. "I'm here for you."  It's so hard to reach out, especially in the moments when I am struggling the very most.  I worry that I've asked for help too many times before or that I'm going to push everyone away from me if they feel weighed down by my darkness.  Hearing these four words dispels some of the fears that my brain so often thinks are true.  And just like with expressions of love, even if this has been said before, sometimes I worry that it has changed, so don't be afraid to repeat it.  
  5. "Heavenly Father is pleased with you."  It is beyond heartbreaking to me that every time I am experiencing depression, I am convinced that Heavenly Father is so disappointed in me.  It feels like I must have done something terribly wrong and that I will never get things right in my life.  This has often led to feelings of hopelessness, as I've thought "why would I keep holding on if I'm already too far gone?"  I am not perfect by any means, but I'm also not the awful person that my depressed brain tries to tell me I am, so hearing that my life is not a complete failure means so much to me.
  6. "You did ____________ well recently."  I'm not trying to ask for compliments, but my depressed brain has this special super power that includes blocking out every good thing I've done and focusing on the one or two things I have not done right and then thinking that who I am is based on those one or two things.  For example, if I let my daughter watch more TV one day than I normally would, I suddenly feel like this failure of a mom, like all my daughter does is watch TV all day every day, and then my brain forgets about the moments when I played a game with her or colored with her or snuggled and read a book to her.  My husband has often been able to break my patterns of negative thinking or comparing myself to others by helping me recognize something good I have done.  It always catches me by surprise when he mentions these things, because my brain had wiped those clean from my memory in the moment.  It brings a sudden feeling of peace to my heart to know that I'm doing better than I think I am.
  7. "Do you want to talk about it?"  Sometimes I don't want to talk about what I am feeling, and if not, I just say that, but most often, talking about it allows my brain to make sense of some things.  It allows me to work through the problem rather than pushing it aside to deal with later.  
  8. Ask questions.  Why was it that that situation made you feel that way?  What makes you feel better?  What does it feel like when you are struggling?  Are certain events or times of day worse for you?  These are just some examples of questions to ask that allow me to process some of the thoughts swirling around in my brain.  They show me that the person I am talking to cares, and they also help me to figure out what is going on so that I can make progress in battling this brain sickness.
  9. Advise them to get professional help.  Sometimes the best thing you can do as a friend or a loved one is to make sure that the person is getting the help they need to get better.  You can be supportive and loving and helpful all day long, but ultimately, you can't make the problem better, and until a professional is involved, the progress is very limited.  You can even go a step further and help make phone calls, offer to go with the person to an appointment, or follow up to see how the appointments are going.
I know this is a pretty long list and may seem overwhelming.  Just know that your love and support is needed and appreciated.  I know for myself that I could NEVER do this without my husband and good friends who have loved me through the hardest times.  You can literally save a precious life by being the friend someone else needs.  

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2.03.2019

Breaking the Silence

The other day, I saw this headline, and it hit me so hard: "Cancer brings casseroles, suicide brings silence."  As it sunk in more and more, I felt so much sorrow about this simple statement, how suicide is such an uncomfortable, unspoken subject, and yet it plagues the lives of so many individuals and their families every single day.  I never thought I would be in the position I am in, someone who knows all too well the depth of sadness that causes persistent, unrelenting thoughts of dying.  It isn't me.  I know that.  And I pray inside my heart that everyone else knows that too.  But either way, it's so very very real... and scary... and shameful... and that leads to silence.

Part of the silence is because it's not something I can just tell people.  When someone asks, "How are you?" I can't reply with, "Well, I actually want to die right now, and I'm scared, and my heart hurts, and I feel all alone, please help me," so instead I say, "Good," and everyone continues on with their day.  They aren't easy words to speak, let alone easy words for someone to know how to respond to, so they stay inside, and only those who have, for one reason or another, been marked as "safe" get to know those most painful parts of my heart.

At this point, I can't count the number of times I have prayed, begged, pleaded that I wouldn't wake up the next morning.  It has probably reached into the hundreds, if not the thousands by now.  I've even asked my husband to pray for it as well, assuming in those moments, that he must want the same thing for me.  I can't count all the times I have been sure that my husband and kids deserve someone better, or the times I have thought day and night about what it would be like to be gone, or the even scarier times when I have thought about how I could make sure that I was gone forever.  Those must be into the thousands as well.  But I can count the very scariest moments, when the shadow of hopelessness has fallen over me, and I have truly thought that it would overcome me.

Until we moved here, those darkest times could all be counted on one hand-- five desperate, terrifying moments that are seared into my brain for the rest of my life.  Each time, there were such beautiful, timely tender mercies that literally saved me from the darkness that threatened to consume me, and at some point later, I was so thankful that my heart had found enough strength to hold on and keep fighting.

But since moving, that number has increased to eight.  There have been three lonely, unspeakably difficult nights, when I was sure that the light would never shine in my life again, as the sickness in my brain continually fed the darkness.  I've contemplated sharing some of my more recent thoughts about suicide, given how real and terrifying these last couple of months have been, but this is how it has gone in my mind:

No one wants to hear about that.
You've been struggling for too long now.  It's time to pull yourself together and finally be okay.
People will judge you.  This isn't something anyone shares.
It will come across as negative and attention-seeking.
You'll just make everyone feel uncomfortable.

But as this internal battle about sharing weighed on my mind one night, I felt this pull to look at the number of people who have read each post on this blog.  As I was scrolling down and looking at the numbers, I was amazed to see that my #1 most-read blog post is THIS ONE, the very most vulnerable post I've ever written, and yet, it must need to be heard if so many people have taken the time to read it.

So here I am, once again sharing the pieces of my heart that need to be heard, and yet are so very difficult to articulate and then give away.  I won't go into all the details, because that's not why I'm writing this, but I do want to paint an honest picture of what took place and why I'm still holding on now.

First, it was an evening after an incredibly difficult week.  I had just attended a meeting for my new church calling, and I was terrified.  The monster inside my brain would not give up on the unrelenting thought that I would NEVER be good enough at this, and I was beyond overwhelmed.  As I left the meeting, some snow had just started falling, and I thought, I could get in an accident on the way home, and no one would know what happened.  It could all be over right now.  But instead, I gripped onto the steering wheel as tight as I could and prayed with all the strength I had inside my heart that I could somehow endure the pain and make it home.  I got home safely and slowly trudged up the steps to my apartment.  Every second there was a new thought about how I should give up, but I used all my strength to push those dark thoughts away.  I walked inside to find that our kitchen was flooded.  This was such a tender mercy, because it forced me to focus on something else for the next couple of hours until it was a more reasonable time to go to bed.  As soon as I could though, I got into bed and pulled the covers over my head as my whole body began to shake in terror.  I didn't know how I would ever overcome this storm, especially on my own, so I texted two people and asked them to pray for me.  Sending a text to some people you've just met and desperately asking them for prayers is terribly uncomfortable, but I felt it was my only choice if I wanted to find even a sliver of comfort for my broken heart.  One of these people texted me for the next hour, and I held on, second by second.

The next morning, I didn't feel better, but I continued to hold on.  There were a few things that I needed to do for our kitchen flood problem, so I tried to stay busy with those as I continually prayed that this pervasive and painful cloud of darkness would pass.  When my husband got home from work, I gave him the baby and took a shower.  I closed my eyes as the burdens on my mind were too heavy for me to bear.  I went to my room and prayed, "Heavenly Father, I can't take even one more step.  I have to give in..."  I didn't even cry.  I just sat there in numb silence, never finishing that urgent prayer.  At this time, I was sure that I would lay down and never be able to find the physical strength to get up again, until I heard someone talking to my husband in our living room.  I came out of my room to find two of our new friends standing in our doorway.  I must have looked confused as I asked what they were doing there, to which they replied that they were there to babysit our kids so that my husband and I could go on a date.  Suddenly, my heart felt wrapped in love.  The darkness did not lift, and my burdens were not relieved, but I felt love, and the tiniest spark of hope ignited in my heart, as I knew that I could hold on just a little longer.

When we got home from our date that evening, I learned about a sweet, beautiful woman who had committed suicide.  I remember laying there after finding out this news and feeling a complex mix of sadness for her to have been feeling so much pain, sadness for her family for the devastation they must have been experiencing, and an odd feeling of almost jealousy that I was still here with my heart in deep pain.  I tried to get it out of my head, but I couldn't stop thinking about this woman.

A few days later, I had another meeting for my new calling, and once again, I came home in heartbreaking tears.  My broken brain could not get past these thoughts of impending failure, and I felt myself crumbling, both physically and emotionally.  As the situation continued to get more and more serious and as my mind felt completely focused on escaping this darkness, I asked my husband if he loved me.  I was positive that he would say that he didn't, and then I would have nothing to hold onto, so I would give up.  To my surprise (I was actually surprised to hear this in that moment), he said that he loves me so much as he wrapped his warm, loving arms around my whole body.  I burst into tears as I knew that I had to hold on, because my husband still loved me, and I couldn't bear to hurt him.  A few minutes later, it seemed in my mind like maybe his love had changed, so I asked him again.  He squeezed me tighter and repeated to me that he loves me.  I continued crying as I wanted so badly to escape, but I had to stay.  I had never felt so much threatening darkness before, but if he could love me, then I could hold on somehow.

The next morning, after very little sleep and hours of crying through the night, I felt no better.  I was so weary and emotionally exhausted, but there was still no peace to be found.  My husband urged me to call someone, anyone, and open up to them and spend time with them that day so that I could be okay.  As uncomfortable as I knew this would be, I also knew that he was right.  I had to open up to someone, because I needed to make it through that day.  I called someone I felt I could trust, and I was immediately invited into her home.  We spent a good portion of the day there, until I knew that I would be safe to go home.  I had made it through another very threatening storm, and I prayed that I would never have to go through something so painful again.

But only a week later, I was back in the same place.  I was getting ready to go to the temple with my husband, when the fear and panic associated with this seemed to overcome me.  I still went as planned, but the anxiety and sorrow did not go away, even hours after we came home.  The gripping pain in my heart seemed to get worse by the hour, and I couldn't find any comfort for the brokenness that I was experiencing.  The next day, we celebrated my husband's birthday.  I let him choose his birthday dinner and dessert, both of which took more extensive preparation than I would normally do for the average dinner or dessert.  I wanted to do this for him.  I wanted to show him all the love that he deserves, but my heart was in so much pain that it seemed impossible.  I prayed with every ingredient that I measured or chopped or stirred in that I would have enough strength to do this.  I was literally only able to comprehend doing one thing at a time, so I tried to focus on just the next step of the recipes as to not get overwhelmed and stop doing it.  I made it through that evening of celebration, and I used all the effort I had in me to hide the terror that was penetrating my heart every moment.

The next day, the storm raging inside of me intensified, and I made a decision that reflected just how much I was hurting.  I decided to stop drinking water.  In my mind, I figured that it would only take a few days to get dehydrated, and then I could be free from this darkness.  Finally free.  It didn't seem like there was anything wrong with that at the time, and I wanted an escape, so I continued to not drink any water for two days.  Two long days that seemed like this was the only option.

The next morning, I did something that I NEVER have done or would have done before, and I'm still not sure why I did it.  I opened up to a friend in my "safety circle" and told her that I was not sure it was worth it to live anymore.  She didn't know at the time the details of what was happening, but she sensed the desperation in my voice, and invited me to come over, so we could talk.  I went to her house, and we talked for a while before she suggested that I really needed to get into the doctor again to get help.  I had been putting this off, because the process of trying to get help can be so long and discouraging and frustrating and sometimes more painful than the original darkness, but when she said that, I agreed.  She helped me find some doctors, and we made some phone calls together in her front room.  For the first time in a very long time, I felt a spark of hope.  I remembered this awfulness wouldn't be there forever if I could just get help.  I didn't need to escape; I could heal.  I went home and drank some water.  I had something to hold onto again.  I didn't tangibly feel that it was worth it yet, but I had the hope that it would feel worth it again soon.

The day after that, I opened up to my husband.  I hadn't told him anything in a long time, because I knew that moving was just as hard and stressful on him at first as it was for me, but I needed him to know.  I will never forget how it felt to be wrapped in his arms as he hugged me the tightest he had ever hugged me before and as he expressed his love.  I was so thankful in that moment that I was still there, that I hadn't let the monster of depression consume me.  Immediately, so much light filled my heart, and I knew that we were going to get through this together.  I didn't have to fight alone.

We are still in the process of trying to get help.  I wish it wasn't so difficult and time-consuming and frustrating.  But I am okay for now.  I feel peace.  My depression hasn't gone away by any means, but it is manageable right now, and for that, I am very thankful.

So why am I writing this?  I don't know honestly.  Maybe someone is battling through this same thing right now and needs to know that it will be okay eventually, that they are not alone, and that someday they will be glad they held on.  Maybe there is someone who loves someone with depression and needs to know what they can do to help.  Maybe we all need the reminder to have compassion, love, kindness, understanding, and grace for each other.  But regardless of the reason, I want to break the silence of depression and suicide.  I won't let these experiences be wasted on me.

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