The return of spring

ice-flowers-1985099_1280When I was pregnant with my son, I wanted to know what childbirth was going to feel like. Giving birth was no longer some event in the future but was close enough that I had an idea of when it would happen. Not before my due date, my mother had warned. Boys don’t want to move out. She could tell me he would be late but she couldn’t articulate what it would feel like. She wasn’t the only one who couldn’t tell me. I was told story after story of how each baby was born, but whether it was a problem with memory or not having the words, no one could really describe the pain.

My mom told me how when it would start again, the contractions would begin, and it would all come flooding back to her. She would think, oh this. I remember this. Not this again. Why did I put myself through this again?

You forget after they place the baby in your arms. If you remembered clearly what it was like after it happened, maybe a lot of women would not have more than one child.

When my sister was preparing to have her first baby and asked me what childbirth would be like, I joined the army of women who could not describe it. When it comes to pain, I too have a faulty memory.

In November, I was hit with depression. It was a direct hit, a low I hadn’t felt in a long time. For four months, I struggled. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Every day felt like wading through waist high water. I couldn’t get anywhere. I didn’t enjoy doing anything. It effected the type of mother and wife I was. Finally, I went to a therapist. I considered anti-depressants. I didn’t need to be blissfully happy all of the time. I just wanted to feel something other than numb, heavy and slow. I needed a boost out of bed that could stay with me all day. I wondered at times if I would ever be okay again.

Then March came, bringing with it a few days of warmth and in the evening an extra hour of sunlight. The depression that had been a constant companion for winter began to slip away. And now, as I’m returned back to a closer version of myself, I find I am unable to articulate what I had been feeling. Did I actually have a hard time getting out of bed? Did I ache from it, as if sadness was in my bones and radiated pain outward from it? Did I really find no joy in what I used to love doing? Who was I? After I had my son, I wondered if contractions were that painful or was I simply unable to deal with any pain at all. Now that the depression is fading, I wonder, was this seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or was I merely, lazy, tired and a touch melodramatic. My therapist assures me this isn’t the case.

I’m not sorry my sadness has faded once more. Of course I’m not. I don’t like feeling so dependent on the season but my therapist has recommended being prepared for next winter, whether with lights or with medication so I don’t have to spend four months in misery.

If and when SAD strikes again, I imagine it will be like remembering labor. I will think, Ah yes, I remember this pain. Not this again. And I hope I remember to do what I can to not put myself through that again.

Happy Spring.

A lack of focus

bokeh-336605_1280“It’s red.”

“It’s red.”

“The light is red.”

“Oh,” I said, slamming on the brakes.

“Did you not hear me tell you that the light was red?” my husband asked.

“I heard you. I just think my brain decided to process what you were saying later.”

We sort of laughed about it. The light had turned green before I had even come to a stop. There was a good chance that had I blown through the intersection, it would have been close enough to green so as to not be dangerous. Still, I was on a flat stretch where I could see the traffic light for a long time before I came up on it and it was a road that I was very familiar with. I both saw the traffic light and heard my husband mention it three times before I actually moved to stop the car.

The other day I went upstairs four separate times to brush my teeth. I kept finding myself downstairs having never brushed them. It seriously took all day for me to complete this small task and it only happened because the mossy buildup on my teeth exacerbated by the excessive amounts of sugar I’ve been eating was getting out of control.

I don’t know what is going on in my brain. I’m not doing a lot of thinking. That’s for sure. I find the days just slip by. What did I accomplish today? How did I accomplish so little?

It’s like when I used to have dreams/nightmares about waiting tables. I always dreamed that I had too many tables and too many customers who needed something and I just couldn’t seem to fill up the water glasses. The whole dream felt like I was walking through chest-high water with weights around my ankles.

Fortunately, I still have it together enough to make sure my kids are fed, hydrated, clothed and bathed, but I have to give a lot of credit to my husband who has had off of work the last week or so. And if my daughter went an entire day in her pajamas, what’s the harm? She was comfortable and we put clean ones on her before she went to bed.

I’m basically functioning at the survival level. That sounds dramatic, but I just want to be clear I’m not at the clean house level (shout out once more to my husband who is picking up the slack) nor am I at the all the laundry is clean and put away level (although, to be fair, is anyone at this level?). I’m not even close to being at the I write novels level or even the I paint pictures level. Going for groceries or planning meals for the week feels impossible. How was I able to accomplish this before? Did I have some sort of algorithm? I get to the end of the week and I’m close to making a meal out of cheerios, frozen peas and tofurkey slices.

I don’t like talking about this. I want you to think that my life is just one beautiful, sparkling Pinterest board. I want you to picture me at home with my precocious children, making crafts and baking cookies. Not wandering the house like someone who has just survived a tornado. Not looking at my kids and husband as if I can’t even comprehend the words coming out of their mouths.

I also don’t want you to think that this is what my blog is going to be about. Post after post after post of Amanda wallowing in her own self-pity and doing nothing to fix it. I didn’t want to share the first post about being depressed and I don’t want to share this. I know that this loss in concentration is part of the depression I’m feeling. I’m sharing it because I want anyone else out there who is reading this and feels the same way to know that at least you aren’t alone. Maybe I’ll figure out how to get through this and I can share it with you. Maybe you have some ideas to toss my way. Maybe we pull each other up out of this mental haze.

This is what I’m going to try: I’m going to give myself until the new year. Then, I’m going to start making goals again. I think I might create a bare minimum that I want to accomplish in the next few months and just try my best to do that. I also think I might try to be a little more disciplined about when I go to sleep and when I wake up and what I eat. I think I may also start creating lists and keeping track of what I accomplish and what I don’t. Eww. This is beginning to sound like New Year’s Resolutions and I try my best not to ever do those. Just trust me when I say that I’m going to keep trying to find a way to get my focus back and if I find the answer, I promise, I will share it.

Finally, to the people who urged me to seek help for my depression, thank you for caring. Thank you for encouraging and even pushing. I am doing something about it.

Until then, if you see me wandering around the streets with a vacant look on my face, could you please point me back home?

The little engine that sometimes can’t

sadI hate the word depression. I would rather use any other word than depression. I usually say that I am blue. Sometimes, I say that I’m sad.

I’m blue right now. God, I hate admitting that. It feels like a terrible weakness, a part of me that I don’t have any control over and that I can’t just fight through. I can’t make myself feel happy. In fact, I’m having a difficult time making myself feel anything at all.

It’s something that happens this time of year. Usually, it occurs in January and February. This year it has arrived a little earlier. It always coincides with the short days and the long, dark nights of winter. I’ve never been diagnosed with depression but if I was going to self-diagnose I would guess that I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

SAD is characterized by a change in mood that occurs with the changing of the season. It’s characterized by irritability, and low energy. It’s tied to melatonin and serotonin levels and if I had the energy I would look up what that is, what it does and what it means. But I don’t. You have the internet. You look it up.

At any rate, it’s a miserable feeling.

It happens to some degree every year and yet every time it happens, I am surprised. You think I would remember. You think I would recognize the signs. I fight it as long as I can. I think to myself that I just need to soldier through it. I just have to keep working. I’m a big believer in the most important part of getting good at something is showing up and doing it. But, when I sit at the kitchen table, it’s so much harder to find the words. I can sit for hours and not get anywhere. It would have been better if I had just sat on the couch and binged on some Netflix.

Maybe I’m just paying for my frenetic, nearly manic productivity of the summer. It’s the summer when I am busy every moment of the day. I work in the garden. I take my kids places. I pick baskets of fruit in sweltering orchards and take them home to preserve them. I write thousands of words every week. I paint. I feel invincible. I feel powerful, even limitless. I marvel to myself at my work ethic, at my drive, at my ability to accomplish everything I set out to do.

Basically, I’m the little engine that could. All summer I coast down the hills, happily zipping along. Then fall hits, and I have to start chugging up the next hill and by winter I’m basically ready to give out. What was once a feeling of being able to do anything becomes a feeble, “I think I can.” And sometimes it just becomes a sad, little, “I can’t.”

It happened last year, towards the end of December. The book I was working on completely fell apart and by January I had trashed it. The book I’m working on now is a mess. I don’t think I’ll trash it, but I have a strong desire to put it away unfinished for a while.

I don’t know what’s worse about this inevitable slowdown. Is it the sharp decline of productivity or is it the terrible feeling that it’s never going to rise again? All of the habits that I formed will just erode away until I am once more weeks away from the last time I wrote anything or painted anything. This past year, I eventually found my way again but what if next time I don’t?

So, this year, I’m going to do my best not to give out, to keep that creative engine going. It doesn’t matter if I’m not producing the same quantity or even quality as I was before. The important thing is to continue moving forward. I’m adjusting my goals, giving myself a little more downtime. I’m allowing for an afternoon nap now and then, an early bedtime, a ridiculous novel read only for the escapism it provides. I may write less and paint more. I may go for walks or just listen to music. Maybe, I’ll bake bread. On days when I feel more like myself, I’ll work harder. I’ll keep moving.

When the sun is brighter and warmer and the manic productivity of summer returns, I hope I’ll be ready.