December 20, 2011

The "G" Word Meets Depression


                I debated whether or not to even write this post, because it involves the “G” word.  God.  My blog is just floating out there somewhere in the vastness that is the internet.  I could be anyone and say anything.  But I finally decided that if this was going to be a blog about my experiences, my trials, and my triumphs, it would be a lie if I didn’t include God.  You see, if it weren’t for God, I wouldn’t be sitting here today.  Not just in the “God created everything” sense, but in a more recently applicable sense, too.  If it weren’t for my knowledge of the existence and love of God, and my understanding that death isn’t the end, I would have killed myself a long time ago.  Or last week if I had never gotten around to it before that.  So since I am here to write this blog, I am going to write about God.  Take it or leave it.
                Over the years, I have gotten better and better at praying.  You’d think that was an easy thing.  After all, it’s mostly just a list of ‘gimme’s coupled with a list of ‘thanks for’s.  But I’ve learned to see it as a conversation with God.  And the more consistently I see it that way, the more consistently I actually develop a closer relationship with Him through my prayers.  You see, I can actually feel Him there.  And I can receive answers from Him.  Most of the time.  But sometimes something blocks my signal. 
                I think I’ll use the tunnel analogy again, because I think it’s especially applicable here.  When you start into a tunnel while on a cell phone, reception becomes spotty and is quickly lost.  That’s what it’s like when you start into a depression tunnel.  And for me, I never know if it’s going to be a tunnel with a sunshiney end or one with a dead end that I’ll have to crawl back out of.  Both kinds of tunnels block your signal every bit as effectively as a granite mountain kind of tunnel blocks a cell phone signal.  Except God can still hear you.  You just can’t always hear Him. 
                When you’ve gotten used to having Him around, it’s a pretty horrible feeling to suddenly be cut off from Him.  Especially when you didn’t do anything to intentionally block the signal.  And the signal gets blocked right when you need Him the most.  It’s awful.  But that also happens to be the way it is.  It’s like being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cool day.  You’re just right.  Then when the sun goes down and the temperatures drop to below freezing, and you really need it most, the blanket is snatched away.   And you’re like, “What the…  WHERE IS MY BLANKET!!!!??!?!  BLANKET I NEED YOU!!!”  But it doesn’t come back.
Now there is something really important that you need to know about these signal blocked, blanketless times when you’re praying and praying and not getting any answers.   He is still there!  He still cares!  In fact, it may be that He is closer to you during those hard times than any others.  It just doesn’t feel like it.  Weird, I know.  But keep praying.  If you look and listen really, really closely, you still probably won’t see or hear anything.  But occasionally you can catch a glimpse of an answer to a prayer here and there.  He’s often answering your prayers and you’re just missing it.  But whichever kind of tunnel it is, you’ll eventually come back out.
In my current tunnel, I seem to be starting to get signal again.  But it’s funny, it seems like that subzero night, desperate need of blanket and signal has mostly passed.  I don’t know if losing the signal starts the depression or if the depression starts and then I lose the signal.  And I don’t know if I feel better because I have signal again or if I have signal again because I feel better.  I could chicken and egg this forever, but what I do know is that I feel better when I can see and hear God working in my life.  What I don’t know is why He seems to go away.
To get some insight, I started looking on lds.org for articles on depression.  There are plenty.  But every one I’ve read so far recommends smiling a lot and liking yourself more.  “I’m in a tunnel with no end in sight.  Do you really think SMILING is going to help?!”  That’s how I feel about those articles.  I think articles on depression should acknowledge the suckiness that is life when you’re stuck in it!   I think that they should validate the suck!  Because otherwise, they don’t feel applicable.  And if they don’t feel applicable, they don’t help.  I really and truly think that when you’re stuck in the suck, you need to try to remember that life wasn’t always like this.  Because then you might be able to convince at least a tiny part of yourself that life won’t be like this for the rest of forever.  But that’s usually about all the self-help I can handle.  Once you get out of the suck, then you can read happy pretty articles about learning to like yourself.  You might even learn to apply them.
I wish I had an answer to the “Why does God sometimes seem to go away?” question.  But I don’t.  I intend to ask Him when I get back up there if I haven’t figured it out by then.  My guess is that it’s something like cancer.  There is no super-specific-meaningful-beautiful-rainbowey answer.  It’s just a part of your individual journey and something you had to experience to be you.  To see how you would react.  It’s like Abraham.  God knew all along that Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac.  He knew Abraham’s heart.  But Abraham had to prove his loyalty to himself.  God knows us so deeply and individually that He knows how we are likely to react.  He’s just giving us a chance to prove it to ourselves.  And don’t worry.  If you don’t get it right the first time you head down a depression tunnel, odds are you’ll get another tunnel to try it out on.

December 9, 2011

Who would want to hug this?


I hold my razor like a pen and use it to write the stories of my pain.  But through the pain, I am beginning to understand who I am.  Why I’m nuts.  Why I hurt.  Every so often, I get flashes of insight.  Tonight was one of those nights.  As I held my freshly bandaged arm and quietly cried (quietly so my roommates wouldn't worry and come in and see the band-aid wrappers and blood-soaked kleenex littering my bed), I re-realized how much I wish I had someone to take care of me.  Someone to hold me when I wanted to slice my arm to ribbons.  So I wouldn’t have to.  It probably wouldn’t truly make it all better.  But it might help. And I think it's too late in life for that someone to be a parent.
Maybe I wasn’t held enough as a child.  Thinking about it, though, I don’t think that’s possible.  I know how much my parents love and adore my ten year old brother.  He’s fifteen years younger than me, so I get the chance to watch him grow up.  And he is loved.  He wants for nothing.  And he was held tightly and lovingly as a child.  As I’m sure I was.
                Maybe it’s just that I wasn’t understood.  I have spent a lifetime wishing I had someone to share me with.  Sometimes I feel like I have something to offer.  But I've never been able to really share myself with anyone.  I've never felt understood.  I’m still not.  But I can’t expect anyone to understand me when sometimes I don’t understand myself.  When I hug myself, I try to tell myself it will be ok; someday someone will be there to understand me.  And I guess I would know, since I am myself.  I just want someone to understand me now. It's nice that I can hug myself and be nice to myself, but it's not enough.
                I guess I need to clarify.  Deep down, I am afraid that if anyone ever fully understood me, they’d walk away shaking their head, wishing they had never peered into the depths of that darkness and absurdity.  Sometimes I wish I could walk away shaking my head.  But I can't.  So Santa, I’d like to ask for someone to understand me and love me in spite of it all.  I’m asking Santa, because it seems like it would take some sort of elven magic to pull it off.  Then again, if I ever really loved someone, I wouldn't want them to see the darkness.  Catch 22.  Darned if I do, darned if I don't.  I’m sure I’ll explore this more later.  For now, I need a hug.

December 1, 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel and Unicorns

                Depression is crippling.  Nobody gets that.  I have been diagnosed with depression for over ten years, and sometimes I forget that.  Right now, I get it.  Depression is not just being sad.  It’s not even just being really sad for a really long time without a real reason.  Depression eats your soul. 
                Depression is paralyzing.  In addition to eating your soul, it destroys your future.  Or at least, it destroys your ability to perceive a future that is worth pursuing.  For yourself.  You see, I’m not so worried about the world.  I think in the long run, the world will be ok.  Christ will come again.  There will be flowers and rainbows and sunshine and unicorns.  But for one reason or another, these things will not exist for me.  See, that’s not exactly logical.  But it’s there.  I wonder if maybe they won’t exist for me because I won’t make it that far.  None of those things will happen overnight.  And I’m not so sure I can make it through next Tuesday.  
Here exists within my soul a profound paradox.  Perhaps it has something to do with my soul having been eaten and currently residing in the dark, sticky, acidic bowels of depression, but I digress.  The paradox is this: I know that God loves me and wants me to make it to unicorns.   I also “know” that I will never amount to anything and I will always be trapped inside the hell that is my mind.  These two things would appear to be mutually exclusive.  And yet they both exist in equal parts within my partially digested soul.
                Sometimes I can only really feel the hell reality, even though I know if I think about it, the God reality is still there.  It feels like there is no hope for today, much less tomorrow.  And forget about next year.  Things that I know to exist from past experience --such as hope, kindness, and laughter-- are gone.  Also, happiness.  Happiness does not exist in the present or future tenses.  For me.  Remember, there are happy people alive right now, and there will be plenty of sunshiney rainbow people riding unicorns in the future tense.  I am just not those people. 
                When I get to thinking like this, I wonder how it is that the light at the end of the tunnel can be so completely gone.  Sometimes I think I see the faint flicker of a tiny, naked incandescent bulb farther down the tunnel.  There must be an electrical short, because it’s out more often than not.  Back to the tunnel though, I need to share with you a worry that has been troubling me for awhile now: 
What if my tunnel isn’t the kind with an end from which you can emerge blinking in the rainbowey sunshine to mount your unicorn and ride off into happily ever after?  What if my tunnel just ends deep within the bowels of some unforgiving granite mountain?  That would be a good explanation for my inability to see the light at the end of said tunnel.  If this happens to be the case, I wonder; will I have the strength to turn around and claw my way back to sunshine?  I don’t know that there is an answer.
This, my friends, is the reality of depression.  It is the ability to perceive unicorns coupled with the inability ever to ride them. 

November 19, 2011

First night at the hospital- starting at 4:00 AM

                I missed a week of school.  I was dizzy.  Everything spun.  Inner ear infection.  It didn’t seem like a good idea to go to campus.  So I didn’t.  As each day passed, I freaked out a little more.  By Monday, I was feeling less spinny, but I was so freaked out I couldn’t go to class.  I can’t remember exactly when I started cutting again.  I just used my scissors.  They weren’t very sharp, so no matter what I did, there wasn’t much damage.  I don’t know if that was good or bad.  Over the course of a couple of days –and nights—I did a fair amount of carving.  I want to say there were over three hundred cuts nearly covering my left forearm.  Only one or two were even remotely deep.  I put Neosporin on them and wrapped them in gauze.  But I still felt like killing myself. 
Since I know there is such a thing as life after death, suicide would be pointless.  The idea of suicide is to escape.  If you know you’re going to go on living in some form or another with your current personality and set of issues, death is just less appealing than if it were a viable means to an ultimate end.  So I couldn’t kill myself.  But the cutting wasn’t taking away the pain like it was supposed to.  I was stuck.  Unable to live, unwilling to die.
So over the course of several hours and a good long texted conversation with a trusted friend, I talked myself into going to the hospital to get help.  I don’t know where the idea came from (God), but I somehow knew it was about my only viable option.  So I turned off Netflix and drove myself right down to the ER.  At four in the morning.
The kid at the desk was really kind.  He asked what I needed and I said I wanted and didn’t want to kill myself.  So he took my insurance card and ID and made me a hospital bracelet.  The machine that made it sounded like the MRI I once had.  Once he put the bracelet on me, it was all real.  Then he turned me over to another male nurse (no jokes please-- they were both great) who asked me questions and took a look at my arm.  I was wearing a white long sleeved shirt under a bright yellow t-shirt that loudly “I <3 my crazy friends.”  After I unwrapped my arm for him, one of the cuts bled a tiny bead of blood onto my white shirt.  I am not accustomed to showing off my battle wounds, so I had pulled the sleeve back down.  I had heard that saliva gets rid of blood stains if you get it fast enough.  I awkwardly sucked on my shirt.  The stain is still visible as a minor discoloration.
Then we went through the door.  The one from which there would be no return.  I was put in a room and met with a doctor.  Since I had no pressing physical complaints, it was a brief meeting.  If I ran into him on the street today, I wouldn’t know him.  He said he’d send in a nurse to re-wrap my arm.  Then the social worker came in.  He asked questions.  I answered.  The last question he asked I didn’t get.  I don’t remember what it was.  I just remember he was trying to figure out if I’d cut or not if I left.  I told him of course I would; that’s why I was there.  That was the right answer to get me admitted.
I was up all night before I went to the hospital.  At 4:00 am.  But the social worker came back and said he wasn’t sure if they worked with my insurance company.  I panicked.  He said they’d have to call the insurance company, but they didn’t open until 7:00 am.  So I waited.  A nurse came in to check my vitals.  He also wrapped my arm.  The poor kid didn’t know what to do with himself.  I was decidedly abnormal.  Also, I brought my laptop and my recently acquired Stargate SG-1 DVD’s.  So I avoided eye contact and watched special features while my 300+ cuts were tended to. 
7:00 came and went.  My door was mostly closed.  I didn’t think this was a good idea.  I was not currently a danger to myself, but others in my position could have been.  I think the morning shift change is what threw them off.  A new social worker eventually came to talk to me.  He had left a message but hadn’t heard back.  So I waited.  Breakfast came.  A huge blueberry muffin.  Oatmeal.  Yogurt.  It hit the spot.  I was so tired.  But sleeping in the ER is not really an option.
Moans and death rattles came and went from nearby rooms.  I think I may have heard someone die.  It sounded like it.  I was a little freaked out.  But I also envied them.  Even though I knew it wasn’t “over” over.  I peeked out into the ER.  You see, perhaps in order to give me privacy, I had been placed in a room with four walls and a door.  Others had to live with curtains surrounding their beds.  Quarantine the freak.  I stood at the door and minutes ticked by.  Nobody paused to see what I needed.  Finally I left my doorway and found the social worker.  Still no word.  When would we hear?  Who knows. 
It’s 9:00 am before I hear anything.  Still haven’t slept.  I’m so agitated not even Stargate holds my attention.  Word on the street is insurance will cover it.  I’m being transferred upstairs.  I have to go by wheelchair.  With two armed guards.  If they make the arrangements by 10:00, I get to go up.  If they miss it even by a few minutes, I have to wait until 11:00.  Remember, I got there at 4:00.  They made it.  I got to sit in my wheelchair with my escort. 
As we rolled into the unit (through several locked doors), I noticed clich├ęs and inspirational quotes all over the walls.  And each bedroom was labeled with a word like “hope” or “love.”  I thought to myself, “What is this place, a psych ward?”  Immediately I remembered that yes, this was a psyche ward.  And I was about to be admitted.  I’ll never forget that moment. 
Thank you for coming. I hope you get something out of this. I hope you learn about yourself. I hope you get help if you need it or give it if you can.