Moving forward

Most of the time, I write about what’s going on with me and depression.  I’m going to try and talk about something I really do not know much about – suicide.  Last year, two people in my life lost their sons.  One was a young adult, the other a tween.  Both of these guys had their entire lives ahead of them, but for their own reasons, felt that ending their life was the answer.  Neither of their moms, both equally incredible women, are in my inner circle.  One is a respected colleague and researcher and the other an equally dynamic and successful attorney and friend from college.  Somehow, that I wasn’t super close to them didn’t matter – the gut punch that accompanies news like this isn’t figurative, it was literal.  Immediately my thoughts were about the families – how do they move forward, what do they need, what can I do?  What has surprised me are the ongoing thoughts about the families that still happen more frequently than I would have thought they would.  My lingering questions of why? and how could this be the only answer for these two young men to chose? still stop me more frequently than I thought they would – and I’m on the outside, not living the day-to-day.  How their families and friends and  loved ones don’t stay rolled in a ball is beyond me. I’m amazed by what can only be defined as extreme strength that I see coming from these truly wonder(ful) women.

Just like depression, coping, survival and recovery manifest differently, it’s personal and non-linear in nature.  What works for one person may be the opposite of how another deals and moves forward.  There is no playbook, only suggestions of what might be helpful, I’m guessing.  Thinking ahead and about how this tragedy can be used to benefit others cannot be an easy decision and one, I would assume, that comes through careful, thoughtful consideration and only if/when they feel they are able to do so.

One of the families has decided this is the path they feel they want to embark upon.  They have created a foundation in their son’s/brother’s name to further support adolescent mental and behavioral health. It is a family and community affair.  Their first event is a 5k run/walk being held Saturday, October 7th in Southern California at Oso Park in Mission Viejo. Personally, I’m both impressed and excited that they’ve chosen an activity like this as their event, as exercise makes a big difference in my approach to managing my depression.   All proceeds raised during the 5k and pasta dinner fundraiser will benefit the Mission Hospital Foundation and will help to fund research and treatments related to adolescent mental health.  If you’re local to Southern California, please consider registering and attending.  Or if you’re not local or would just prefer to support financially there are direct links for donations in the two links I’ve shared above.

My heart is with these two families.  They are both exquisite examples of persistence and of character as they continue to move forward on their journeys.

 

 

 

Function(ing)

Lately, I’ve been reading about high-functioning depression, as this is the condition or experience I most relate to living with.  For me, I was ‘highly functioning” until I wasn’t.  It didn’t happen over night.  It took losing a job for me to recognize that many of my “signs” had taken root and were controlling me.

Screen Shot 2017-08-23 at 10.03.19 AM
Image is from the USC student health website. https://engemannshc.usc.edu/what-is-high-functioning-depression/

As I’ve read these blogs and articles about high-functioning depression (HFD for short), I see many similarities as I read along –  depression manifests differently in each of us who lives with it and that many of us live in silence, too embarrassed to show a perceived weakness, too ashamed due to mental illness stigmas or even too afraid to share or confide with co-workers.  I’ve seen these words before, in just about every non-scientific article that I’ve read, and I can totally relate.  Even when I would share with a co-worker, I would only go so far and I was always putting a positive spin on it (Hey, I’ve got it under control, thankfully) – even when I didn’t.

My depression almost always shows itself first with being tired or exhausted – the familiar I just cannot get out of bed, or get into bed soon enough and sleep is usually not restful.  This leads to being late or missing work completely.  And as you can imagine, this only goes unnoticed for so long before repercussions are seen.  When you combine this with my inability to complete tasks (focus is lost, I’m easily distracted, or I focus on the minutia instead of seeing the big picture) it’s sort of the perfect negative storm – I’m frankly surprised I wasn’t let go sooner.  Everyday, I wish I would have taken the first steps towards getting help sooner – the company I worked for had amazing resources for their employees.  But I didn’t.

The medications I’m sure are doing the lion share of the work in trying to keep me balanced, but I find that having a few close friends and family that I’ve let into my inner circle helps me more than I ever would have thought it would.  Having people who ask  how I’m doing and aren’t satisfied with a superficial response has been and is really special. I know how lucky I am.

But I also know that I’m not unique – I know that for those who are like in living with HFD, there are just as many people on your side, in your corner, on your team who will be there.  It’s so frigging hard to take that first step in reaching out – I was so nervous about being judged and seen as weak.  But it is so worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That one time, on Facebook…

“Facebook is a place of facades where you try to make your life appear better than it is, so you definitely don’t post pictures like this…I wish I could post them on Facebook to show people what mental illness really looks like.” a post from The Mighty (which is a great resource if you’re in need of one.)

This struck me, in a number of ways.

While I agree that a lot of the time, what we see on social media is the “better version” of life, I’ve come to truly appreciate those who do ‘put it out there’ for all to see.  I have friends who are on their own journeys – with weight loss, with other medical/health conditions or who are simply dealing with the ups and downs of life who have chosen to share authentic pieces of their crazy, dirty, messy, difficult puzzles.  I appreciate those glimpses because it makes me think about my life and what I’m dealing with on a daily basis.  This is not to say that I don’t love to see the celebrations and joyous occasions or the sharing of talented images or other talent – I do, they are just easier to digest and are more of a normal than the other.

The post also made me stop and examine what I put out there, am I being authentic or am I hiding behind my feed?  I don’t think twice about putting a controversial political post out for the world to see, but I get nervous about putting a post out there that says, “Damn, tired today – is this a sign that my meds aren’t working anymore?” or “I’m so freaking tired of having to take 3 pills every single day in order to function.”  I’ve accepted that mental health is no different than physical health, that it needs to be cared for and nurtured as our physical health does, but why don’t I act like it?  The truth, if it needs to be told, is because I’m still afraid of what ‘putting it out there’ would look like, and more truthfully, how others would react if one of those posts magically made it into my feed.  Would that be oversharing, TMI? Why is it ok for someone to post a picture of a sprained ankle or nasty scrape/bruise without thinking a second thought?  Would my authentic post be seen as not ok?

Maybe it’s also because I don’t dwell on my mental health – it doesn’t permeate every move I make or thought I have – at least it doesn’t anymore.  When I was in 2015/2016 it did.  Now they are more of a rarity – which I think is a good thing.  I’m able to be frustrated with my medication routine and be worried that a day of being abnormally tired is a signal, and instead of dwelling on them, for the most part these are passing thoughts.  Is this my ‘new normal’.  It might be.

As open as I try to be about this part of my life, I guess there are still things I’m not strong enough to share.  I think that’s ok, and maybe someday I will be able to write about this someplace other than here.  For now, this is it, but who knows, maybe tomorrow will be different.