Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On Depression

I've had a long internal debate over writing this post. Even now, beginning it, I'm not sure if it will be finished, or posted. But beginning is better than nothing.

There are a million blog posts and articles on the internet that you can read about depression. Why add to them?

But one thing struck me in all my Googlings of military wife depression and prenatal depression and that is that I didn't come up with many personal stories of depression from in the midst of being depressed. And I know that for many people, that's because depression is such a dark place that trying to form anything coherent about depression while they are depressed is impossible. I know. About two months ago I was in the same place.

But what about when depression isn't the black hole, but just the daily grey? When you feel like your life isn't terrible, and yet joy and happiness and hope seem like distant memories, or only come in occasional flashes, too soon gone? When people ask you how you are, and you say, "okay", not because you feel okay, but at least you're not suicidal, you're functioning at a basic level, and you're worried that if you talk about how you really are, people will just think you're whiny?

The impression I get is that it's become more socially acceptable to talk about experiencing depression– but only after the fact. We're still rather uncomfortable with depressed people– we'd rather they have recovered and can tell us where they were and how far they've come.

That's one reason I thought perhaps this would be a good post to write.

The other reason was because of something a friend of mine, who has also had depression, said. She asked if I'd written anything recently and I said I hadn't written in months, and she said that sounded like a depression. She said, writing is part of who you are, and depression can make you temporarily lose parts of yourself. And I thought, "Huh." It made sense, and it stuck with me. And so now I've thought maybe, just maybe if I can wrench back that part of myself out of the fog and the daily grey, then maybe it will be a step forward.

So yes– I'm depressed. It's not the first time I've had depression, but this definitely seems like the deepest and the longest it's ever lasted. It's had a few hours/days of downright hellishness, when the only thing that I could think of was going Home to Jesus and Livia and Lucy (and yet at the same time not being able to bear the idea of leaving Sean, or Nate, so I had several vague wishes of a nuclear holocaust so that we could all just be in Heaven together) but I think for the most part that may have been a combination of pregnancy nausea and nutritional deficiencies, since once my midwife ordered me to start taking extra Vitamin D, such morbid fantasies retreated. For the most part, it's not hell– it's just a daily sojourn through the gray, which sometimes is a light mist, and sometimes is a thick fog. Some days are better than others. Some days I feel able to engage with Sean in a way that is good for both of us, and I can stay on top of the household tasks, and I can at least imagine coming to feel at home here on this base in the middle of nowhere in this desert waste, or at least finding enough friends to make it a home. And I imagine things like baking and crafting again, and inviting other moms over to hang out and eat home baked scones while our kids play. And then other days I defeatedly turn on WALL-E to keep Sean occupied because I just cannot give him the attention he asks for, and just unloading the dishwasher feels like a monumental task, and I try numb the feeling of failing at life by playing a computer game or reading an article on a topic with next to no relevance to my life.

One thing I've learned about depression is that it makes small things seem absolutely gigantic. I remember one particularly bad day when I ended up sobbing to Nate that I'd spent the entire day knowing that I needed to wash my hair– this was in the still-nauseated phase when my hair lived in the same uncombed ponytail for days and days– and yet it just seemed so impossible that I didn't do it. What is the matter with me? Why can't I wash my freaking hair? The trusted family and friends I've consulted with agree that counseling would probably be a really good idea for me right now, and I have it written down to call a counselor who comes highly recommended and who might be willing to do counseling over Skype (since she's in Colorado Springs and I'm here.) I've had her number for nearly a week now. I agree with everyone that counseling would be good. And yet here I am. Just the idea of calling up a stranger on the phone and saying, Hi, I'm depressed, can you help me? just seems crazy.

Another thing about depression is that it's really kind of awful to be depressed when you've moved to a new place and are in desperate need of community. Depression is isolating say all the articles and experts but it's crucial to have support. Of course I have my people to whom I've already reached out for help and support and virtual shoulders to cry on, but none of them are here at Edwards. And for someone like me– an introvert who doesn't find making new friends easy anyway– depression just ratchets that up to crazy difficult. In this social climate, friendships rarely begin with vulnerability. People have to know and trust each other before sharing their messiness becomes safe. But for me, at this point, I feel I have nothing to offer but messiness. And being lonely becomes preferable to the chance of being rejected because new acquaintances would rather not know about my messiness. Thus social situations become times when I don my "fine" mask and do my best to pretend, for an hour or two, that I'm normal. Pretending is exhausting, and so the temptation is to isolate myself even more.

I wish I could think of some clever or interesting way of ending this post, but I'm tired. And maybe it's just as well. Depression isn't clever or interesting, and life with depression doesn't tie up in neat little bows and uplifting endings. At least not when you're in the middle of it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Shoulder-to-Shoulder Time

One of the ways in which Nate and I mesh well is that we have very similar ideas of how to spend a vacation. I am a low-energy person and Nate tends towards that as well, especially when he's jet-lagged and coming off a crazy few weeks at the squadron in Korea. He travelled for 24 hours straight to arrive in Colorado Springs half an hour before he left (yay time zones that turn us into time travelers!) and we've had a wonderful time being lazy during his eleven-day stay. I love having very few fixed engagements, doing whatever we feel like doing (as long as that works with Sean's needs.)

Sean is delighted that Daddy is home– he couldn't wait to show Nate everything at Grammy and Grandpa's house, from all his toys, to the electronic piano, to the refrigerator, which is special because that's where the current love of his life– cheese– lives. The day after Nate returned we moved into an Airbnb in Colorado Springs so that we could have our own space for Nate's visit– and I have had a week and a half of living my fantasy of the three of us living in my hometown.

We're belatedly celebrating our fifth anniversary, and though I have lots of different marriage thoughts floating around in my head, the marriage practice upon which I wish to dwell for a moment is the comfortable companionableness that Nate and I have dubbed "shoulder-to-shoulder-time." I can't remember if we got the name from a book or made it up ourselves, but it is a practice which, though I remember resisting when we were first married, I've now grown to love very much.

Shoulder-to-shoulder time is simply being together without necessarily interacting– such as lying at opposite ends of the couch, each reading a book, or watching a movie together, or being in the same room while Nate plays guitar and I write. I initially disliked shoulder-to-shoulder time at the beginning of our marriage because I had the weird idea that if we weren't directly interacting in conversation or doing a specific activity together, then the time together wasn't really valuable. I have since changed my mind. Nate and I are both introverts, and conversation isn't always necessary for us to enjoy each other's presence.

That's really what shoulder-to-shoulder time is about– presence. It is a recognition of the mystery of us being separate people with our own identities, and yet simultaneously being made one by marriage. It is a kind of intimacy different from conversation, or making love, but in my mind the quality of intimacy is simply different, not lesser. I enjoy the quiet affection, the comfortable companionship that makes up so much of day-to-day life. I like having a love that is "broken-in," to quote John Mayer. In The Four Loves C.S. Lewis talks about how exhausting it would be if lovers were constantly in the throes of the kind of love we generally experience at the onset of a relationship– all fireworks and tension and a hurricane of up-and-down emotions. Perhaps it is shoulder-to-shoulder time that helps to mature married couples into being friends and companions, as well as lovers– the kind of partnership in which making love and making dinner are both held in high esteem, where you feel that no matter what may be happening, you belong together.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sean Christmas Card Photos– Outtakes

Christmas in Colorado

In spite of not being on Facebook, I still want to share some pictures and things about our family here and there. So here's a picture post (with helpful captions) of some of our holidays here in Colorado!

Sean and his bucking bronco– a present from Gran and Grandaddy McCaskey. Of course he wanted to sit on it while he ate his Cheerios!

The little woodland tree in Sean's and my room– courtesy of my older sister's family, who cuts down their Christmas trees in the mountains every year. I made the paper chains and put all my homemade ornaments on it for a rustic look.

Mom and Dad with the presents I wrapped so beautifully for them! :-)

Growing up, we always had a sibling picture on this old couch before we opened our stockings. My brother Jeremy came to spend Christmas, so we could still have a couch picture with two of the five siblings (and Sean, of course.) 

I brought our Nativity set when we moved here in March.

Sean got his very own set of car keys in his stocking (from Father Christmas!). The makers were brilliant enough to really make the key parts out of metal– which of course is what fascinates every toddler!

Aunt Emily knitted Sean a viking hat for Christmas!

And since Sean didn't really want to wear it very long, it fit perfectly on my bun! :-)

We had a party for New Year's Eve, and a party at my parents' house means lots and lots of amazing food. Including mango-vanilla panna cotta made by my father!

Emily and I having a cream puff orgy, while my nephew Spencer is simply goofy. :-)

Moments not captured on camera– Nate called on Facetime on Christmas Eve night, and I read our traditional Christmas storybook, A Worker In Sandalwood, aloud to him and Sean before Sean went to sleep.

Jeremy spent Christmas Eve night at my parents' house. Since it's tradition for SOMEBODY in the family to be roused on Christmas morning by Christmas music, I used my boombox (aren't I a groovy kid?!) to wake Jeremy with a raucous chorus ("Merry Christmas, Merry merry Christmas!!") from a Trans-Siberian Orchestra album. 

Once Sean figured out that fun things were coming out of his stocking (a Koosh ball, his own pack of Kleenex, an old flip phone, and a Slinky, as well as the keys!) he became very eager to pull things out– and rather disappointed once it was empty. He continued to reach down his arm into his stocking for several minutes, making enquiring "hmmm?" noises at me.

On New Year's Eve, at about 5 minutes till midnight, Nate Facetimed in again, so that when the New Year arrived I could kiss him on my phone screen. Hey, I'll take whatever I can get– thank the Lord for technology!

Happy New Year!!