The worst swear word ever is the D word.

For some reason lately I have been really feeling the need to write about an intensely personal topic that I really haven’t written much about, anywhere. And then today I read this blog post and that need just increased.

http://www.designmom.com/2014/03/mental-health-update/#more-45245

I have had family members suffer with various mental health issues before and I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of it. I knew that depression wasn’t about mood. It wasn’t about “trying to be happy” I thought that I understood enough that I wouldn’t feel shame associated with a physical disease no different from Diabetes.

c7_pet_depression

But in the last couple of weeks as I have contemplated sharing my story I have felt all kinds of shame. I have wondered about who might possibly read it if I wrote about my experience and what they might think of me. I thought maybe if only strangers read it I would be ok with that. Or other times maybe if only family read it I would be ok with that, perhaps they would judge me less.

In the end I realized that I still feel shame in it. Which means that I still don’t fully “get” the significance of the illness that I suffered from.

Looking back I can see that I was depressed a good portion of my life. As I kid I thought about dying quite a lot. I thought about what a relief it would be to finish this life, I thought about lots of different way to die, to kill myself, and yes let’s be honest even on occasion killing others. Not that I ever wanted to but I thought about it more than is “normal.” I thought about how one might go about killing someone, or where you would hide the body etc.

About the time I was 15 something changed, the fog lifted and I felt differently. I felt alive.

Later when I was enrolling at UVU an instructor gave me a survey to fill out. One of the questions was how often do you think about suicide, sometimes, often or never. I chose sometimes. The instructor was shocked, she took me aside and explained that, that is not an ok answer. I thought it was normal. I told her that I hadn’t thought about it recently but that I had quite a lot as a kid. She made me promise that if I ever found myself thinking that way again that I would contact her.

Then in 2008 it came back. It started slowly at first. Little things like just feeling anxious and foggy. Then I started to feel like it would be a really nice feeling to die. Then one day I was at work, I was playing around with a razor blade and remembered that old lotion commercial from the 80’s where the woman writes the word dry on her arm with her fingernail.

I wrote it with the tip of the blade, thinking I was just lightly scratching, the same as I would if it was my finger nail. Then I went back to work and had the most peaceful productive couple of hours I had experienced in a long time. I was focused and driven, calm and my head seemed quiet. It wasn’t until several hours into it that I noticed something sticky on my arms and hands. It was blood. I didn’t even know that I had cut myself deep enough to bleed.

About a week later I was running across a parking lot in the rain. I slipped and fell and scratched my knee. It started to bleed. I was surprised that instead of feeling pain I felt an intense desire to see it continue to bleed, I wanted to keep bleeding until all the blood was drained from my body. I felt sad when it clotted and the bleeding stopped.

Thats when I discovered that one little slice, anywhere on my body would make the internal pain go away. I knew it was crazy. I was a psychology major! Just the last semester I had taken abnormal psychology and I knew what I was doing. And yet somehow it seemed different. The fact that it physically made me feel better somehow made it seem ok and even rational to me.

The cuts mostly stayed little and just deep enough to bleed enough to calm my head. I always cut where it wouldn’t show. But each cut helped less than the one before and soon I found myself crying hysterically each time I cut because I couldn’t get the same quick fix.

Then one day I was home alone. All my room mates were gone. I was eating an orange and I choked on it. Really truly choked where I couldn’t breathe at all. At one point I thought, this is it, this is how I am going to die. My reaction to that thought was relief and a little excitement. Then I suddenly coughed it up. I was so disappointed I tried not to let it happen but my body was fighting to breathe.

When I realized I wasn’t going to die I decided that if the disappointment that I felt was so deep and if it wouldn’t have been evil or wrong for me to die from choking and being happy about that would it be so wrong for me to make something happen that would cause me to die? At the time I couldn’t see the difference. And I thought even if it’s wrong I don’t think Heavenly Father would really punish me for wanting to stop feeling the way I was feeling. That night I tried to cut deep and in ways and places that I knew would end my life. But nothing seemed able to penetrate my skin that night.

Finally I gave up took a couple of sleeping pills and went to bed.

In the morning, I had a moment of clarity where I realized that it wasn’t normal or ok the way I was feeling and that I needed help. I remembered the promise I had made to my instructor. That day I tracked her down, told her what I was experiencing and she went with me that day to see a doctor.

The doctor started me on Lexepro and told me to expect at least two weeks before I noticed a difference. About a week later I noticed that I seemed calmer and that the noise in my head was quieting. Within another week the thoughts and desires for death were gone. I couldn’t believe that one little pill could change my thoughts completely. I started living again, paying bills, working, doing homework, all the things that I had let go.

Three glorious months went by before I crashed hard. This time the symptoms were far more intense, much more difficult to hide. I lost my job, and my family and many of my friends found out what I was going through. I went back to the doctor and she upped my dosage and added Abilify.

After that things went from bad to worse. The noise in my head went from utter chaos to loud distinguishable voices and personalities. My own voice, thoughts and opinions became almost non existant. I couldn’t even carry on a conversation because I didn’t know what I thought about what the other person was saying. All I wanted to do was sleep and I hoped that if I slept long enough I would sink down and just become a part of the mattress.

depression

When I started having seizuresĀ from the medication my mom got involved and she helped me get off all the medication. I moved to a quiet vacation home that my parents had, and spent my time doing yard work and painting and decorating the house. We focused on eating properly, drinking water, and getting the best nutritional supplements we could find.

Things started to get better. I started to feel more like myself. I still had panic attacks that felt like heart attacks occasionally. I still felt the need to cut, although I could distinguish between good ideas and bad ones now and resisted the urges.

One day out of no where I got a distinct impression. Just a thought really that came so clearly into my head that I knew I had to follow it. It said to revisit a cleansing diet that I had done for 6 weeks when I was 14 years old. I followed that impression within the week and was religious about my diet for six weeks. At the end of the six weeks I felt like I had climbed up out of a deep dark hole.

As time went on I felt more and more distance between me and that hole and every year I take six weeks out of the year and do my special diet. It just sort of jump-startĀ for my body. It’s been a good three years, since I have even felt frightened by that black hole. Every so often I feel myself approach it, and I know that I need to eliminate some stress and do whatever it takes to move away from it again.

I feel so blessed that I found something that worked for me. It’s a struggle that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy and yet, in spite of the struggle that I know that it is, in spite of the fact that I certainly did not choose to experience that, I still feel shame, deep humiliating shame that tells me that there must be something “wrong” with me and if people only knew they would shut me up like a “crazy person.”

Medication works for some. It didn’t for me. But I found something that did and that’s what is important. Everyone needs a solution. Ignoring this problem won’t make it go away. So I would love to know…

What was your solution?

 

 

God and Grief

the-five-stages-of-griefI was walking tonight down the streets of Los Angeles and I felt something I haven’t felt in a while. The wind was blowing and it was dark and the air was crisp. I was crossing the street and I suddenly felt a little bit of a skip to my step. I felt myself smelling the coolness of the air and I started questioning what this feeling was. Then it came to me…I think its hope. I think its hope that there is still a future out there for me that I can be happy with. I think there is still joy to be had and I think I am on my way back to feeling it.

I’ve always had this idea of heaven, that it was a place where you would feel no sadness, no grief, no disappointment. And I’ve wondered, if that is the case than it would have to follow that God doesn’t feel those things either.

So, if God doesn’t feel sadness, what does he feel when he looks at the sorry situation that so many of his children are in. How does he feel when he sees a gunman shoot down children in a school in Connecticut. If he doesn’t feel disappointment what does he feel when he sees his children making poor choices. How does he feel when he sees us throw away the talents he gave us. If he doesn’t feel grief, what did he feel when he watched his son die on the cross for each of us.

I was over thinking this today and I think I came up with an answer.

I was thinking about the five stages of grief. Which I believe are inappropriately labeled. I think that they are not stages so much as a cycle. Everyone who experiences grief knows that you often experience each “stage” several times. Since Ryan and I broke up i have watched myself repeatedly go through these steps.

The first is denial. This one is suddenly no longer a problem for me. Since he got married there is no way to convince myself that there is any hope for us anymore. Not that I really believed there was, but in moments of weakness I wondered. I imagined him coming back to me on bended knee telling me he had made the biggest mistake of his life. I had to stop there since I couldn’t see us actually getting back together but that’s beside the point. There is no way to hide my feelings behind the shock and helplessness that I felt. Its staring me right in the face. And it’s ok. Denial served its purpose, which was to help me pace my grief in a way that I could deal with it.

The second stage is anger. This has been an interesting one for me. When Ryan and I first started getting serious we had a talk one day about how we handle difficult things. I told him as an example that if we ever broke up I would hate him and that hate would help me move on. He seemed upset by that and told me that he just couldn’t stand the thought of me hating him. He asked me to promise him that if we ever broke up I wouldn’t hate him. The odd thing is that in all of the times that I have cycled through the various stages I have pretty consistently skipped this one. I can’t be mad at him. I have felt a little frustration at isolated incidents or little things that he did or did not do. I have felt an intense sadness at times that he just couldn’t love me enough. But through it all I have never been angry with him. I have always wanted his happiness, remembered his soul the way I saw it in tender moments when he let me in to have a look and I just can’t feel anger towards him.

The third stage is bargaining. This one has also stopped since he got married. I used to find myself thinking, “If I could just find the right thing to say to him to fix this…If I could just be in the right place at the right time…” somehow I was always searching for a way around the situation instead of through it. Until recently. His getting married had a lot to do with it but that wasn’t all. Even before he got engaged I found myself countering those things by other realities of how and way I don’t really want that to happen.

The fourth stage is depression. This one has gotten me the worst. Except it doesn’t really seem fair to call it depression to me. I have dealt with depression. True, deep, clinical depression and this wasn’t it. This was hurt, loss, hopelessness, lack of energy or enthusiasm, and a desire to do nothing but sleep and cry. But it wasn’t the same as depression. At least not for me. This stage is the one I still struggle with the most. It’s the one that wakes me in the night to stare me in the face, it’s the one that makes it hard to swallow sometimes, and its the one that can make me cry for absolutely no reason while I am stuck in traffic in the middle of the afternoon.

The final stage is acceptance. Each time I cycle through all the stages there is a deeper and deeper acceptance of what is. This is the stage where I believe the most healing takes place. It’s the stage that allows a little rest.

As I was thinking about these stages and about my reactions to them I realized that whenever I have a true, deep and I would even say perfect understanding of an issue related to one of these stages I get to skip that stage.

For example, I had a dear friend who died years ago. She was old, she wanted to go, she had lived a good life, and she had many people on the other side she was looking forward to seeing. I experienced grief when she died but only a couple of steps. I experienced Depression and Acceptance. I did not experience, denial, anger, or bargaining. I believe that the reason why was because I knew it was time, I knew it needed to happen, I could see it coming, I knew she wanted it. I knew it was the way it should be. I knew it was perfectly right. And because of that there was no need to experience anger, denial or bargaining.

That’s what led to my epiphany. As I grow through each situation and gain a deeper understanding my experience with grief is different. It doesn’t change the situation. It changes me so that my response to the situation is different. And I thought about God. I thought about his all-knowing, perfect understanding and perfect love of us, of the world, of eternity and I thought He is our father, his heart functions in much the same way that ours does only his is perfect and with that perfection comes answers that we just don’t have.

So I think when God watched his son die for us, or watched suffering throughout the world, when he saw my dear friend lose several children, when he saw grief beyond what we can comprehend I think it is not that he doesn’t feel those things but that he feels them perfectly and with that perfect understanding each of those stages dissolves leaving only absolute truth behind.