Friday, January 1, 2016

Depression is a Silent Beast

Some (not-so) breaking news

Some of you already know, and some of you probably suspect that I've been struggling with depression. The truth is a lot of people are. Trust me, a ton of your friends struggle with it. It's very common, and it's a quiet disease.

Depression: an overview

It may be quiet to you, but to us it is the constant or exceedingly frequent downpour of loud negative thoughts and feelings. There are varying degrees of depression, and if you asked any of your friends that deal with it they would tell you it can be a bit erratic. Sometimes you're managing fine, and sometimes you just want to cease to exist. Sometimes you want nothing else but to be alone, but other times it's so lonely. It's wanting people to understand, but not wanting anyone to know. 

When it's really bad, it is battling your own mind every waking moment. For me, when it is at its worst, it's an excruciating unhappiness/emptiness where I'm feeding myself an endless stream of harmful thoughts, sobbing so hard I can barely breathe and I feel like my lungs are going to collapse, and I find absolutely no solace in anythingnot friends, not family, not talking, not serving, not socializing, not watching movies, not reading scriptures. The only hope I have for any peace at that point is unconsciousness. Sleep is the only respiteif I can even fall asleep through the storm of negativity. And even when that episode is over, it was so hurtful and exhausting it takes days and/or a lot of coaxing to get back to "normal." Before or after an episode like this happens, I turn off all feeling so I can cope. It is lonely. It is debilitating.

And I hate it.

Depression and spite

I hate depression so much, sometimes I do things to spite it. For example, one night there was a party. I had agreed to go weeks earlier, but my day was flipped upside down by a little spat with Kyle, and I really didn't want to go. (My emotions can be flipped from alright to super bad at the drop of a dime.) But I was tired of feeling lonely, and I wanted to follow through with my plans. I refused to let depression control me. I wanted to go with Kyle originally, but I went alone instead. I lied about why he wasn't there. I lied about how I was doing. I smiled and laughed and I tricked a fraction of myself into thinking I was having fun. Me with a healthy mind would have had fun. I love those friends. I miss them.

Depression is isolating

My friends don't know that I miss them because I don't reach out. I don't reach out because I'd rather be alone. I'd rather be alone because I feel terrible, and I am uncomfortable sharing that fact, or I just don't want to. I don't like dwelling on my own misery. What does it help?? I have always felt like the Debbie Downer, and I really, REALLY don't want to be that person. But I also don't want to pretend I'm happy and fine when I'm absolutely not, so it's always easier to just stay away from people.

Sometimes I really worry that my friends will think I'm not interested in their friendship anymore by the way I act. I try not to stress too much about that.

Depression is irrational

Last winter was a very depressive time for me. Baking was one thing I found that gave me purpose and made me feel good. One day, I decided to make a pie. I started making the crust, which needs vinegar. I knew I had some but I couldn't find it anywhere. It wasn't where I had seen it the day before. I LOST IT. I folded onto the ground and sobbed my eyes out. By that point, I had finally learned I could trust Kyle, so I reached out to him and asked him to bring some over. He did, and he comforted me too. Is it normal or okay to have a meltdown over vinegar? No. Did I know that? Yes. Could I control it? No.

Recently, I've been emailing a couple of girls who also struggle with depression. I told one of them about this story, and she told me about a similar baking experience she had, and that now she makes sure to buy extra ingredients for anything, just in case. I do the same thing, whether for baking or anything else in my life. I always try to account for any possible surprises and hiccups. It's about keeping control. We grasp for the little control we have.

Depression is overwhelming

For me, it's been something I've been able to manage alone somewhat successfully for years, but I just have so much going on right now, I honestly cannot handle it. I'm lucky to still have a job. And the only reason I have a job is that I am extremely disciplined and I can, for the most part, put my emotions aside for work. I know if I lost my job, it would be catastrophic to my psyche, so I do my best to not put it in jeopardy. However, I won't lieI have cried at work more than once.




Depression is foggy/indecisive

We're just muddling through our days sometimes. Our brains get all foggy. It's hard to recall thingsthings that should be simple to remember. It makes it hard to think straight when we're asked a question. Sometimes it's almost impossible to make even the simplest decisions. 

Where should we go for dinnerZupa's or Cafe Rio? *paralysis*

Lately I have been talking to so many doctors, and they are constantly asking me questions. When did ___ start? Do you ever feel ___? How about ___? How would you describe ___? How would you rate ___? What is ___? Does this hurt? How about this? Do you feel better? Sometimes I just want to yell, "Oh, for heaven's sake! I don't KNOW!" I spend so much time trying not to think about how I feel so I can survive that I honestly don't know the answer to many of these questions. Frankly, it freaks me out that I don't have the answers.


Depression breeds guilt

We feel guilty a lot of the time. We have so much to be grateful for, yet we're still unhappy. We know it's not right, so we feel guilty about it. We get the message at church that if we just had enough faithif we just prayedour problems would go away, but they often don't, so it must be our fault, so we feel guilty. We don't want to hang out with our friends, and we feel bad about that. We feel guilty for not performing as well at work as we know we are capable of. We get abnormally upset when things don't go the way we planned. Then we feel guilty for having lashed out. In relationships, we feel guilty for not reciprocating—for not loving like we should. Plus, we feel guilty for being an emotional black hole to those we love. We stop caring in general, and we feel bad about that. Perhaps we can't function in our calling and have to say "Will you please release me?" We then feel guilty for "quitting" instead of serving. For any single individual, the list could go on and on. And it never helps when on top of your own condemning judgments of yourself, others heap theirs as well. 


We want help

We want help, but we're terrified of being vulnerable because we already are always. And if we are rejected or ignored after asking for help, it's crushing. So deep down we hope someone will magically figure it out and help us. I am desperately seeking love, kindness, and help, but I shrug people off when they try. It's such a paradox. It could be because I don't believe they can help, I don't trust they have good intentions, I don't want to talk about it, I don't want to be patronized, I don't want to seem needy, I don't want to be a burden or have people say unkind things about me behind my back, etc. So I am really good at deceiving people and making people think I'm just fine.

We have happy facades

In order to survive, I have to trick myself into thinking I'm ok most of the time. In so doing, I trick others too, including Kyle. When I tease him more than usual, and reject any loving physical gestures, that's when I'm not feeling very good, and he's gotten better at recognizing it instead of taking it personally. It's not easy on either of us.

People romanticize death when they are actually suicidal

I recently came across a post on one of my favorite websites that harshly talked about how stupid it is to romanticize death and how selfish suicide is. I couldn't believe it. I had to respond! I had to speak up for the depressed. Here's what I said.
Can we think for a moment about how depression directly affects the person suffering from it? It controls your life. It keeps you from feeling happiness, and eventually anything at all. Your self esteem is gone. Your motivation too. You don't remember anything with fondness, and you have nothing to look forward to. Life is survival. And when you are forced to live in a world where it seems like everyone is happy except you, when you're painfully struggling to get through a normal day, expending the little energy you have on minute social interactions, forced to live a double life, trying not to cause any more harm or pain or sorrow to anyone else, then the idea of death doesn't seem so horrific. It seems like a place of relief.
You want to know why a symptom of depression is oversleeping? Because it's like death without the commitment. It's the only place a depressed person can escape their own poisoned mind. True, suicide is not the answer, but you have to understand how afflicted a person is to kill themself. Unconsciousness is the only rest of the severely depressed. Or at least, that's how they see it. I don't think depressive suicide is selfish. It is tragic.

It made me angry that someone would attack someone who is already being attacked by their own mind. How cruel! What people need is love and understanding, not condemnation. And the two girls I've been emailing agreed. That's how we came in contactthrough this post.

Things not to say

I have heard "Get over it!" and "It's not that big of a deal" and "It's all about your attitude" and "You need to pray" and the like for years. I can't tell you how much I hate these phrases. I know people have good intentions when they say these thingsthey want to give me hope and make me feel in control, but really, it just feels like a slap in the face. What I hear is "You have the ability to make the right choice and you're not." "It doesn't matter that you're facing Hell right now; things will get better sometime." "I don't have the emotional capital to deal with this pity party." "You don't want to be happy bad enough." "You're such a downer, and I don't want to be around you." "You're trying to be sad." "I have no idea how to handle this, so here's a dismissive platitude." "You aren't even trying!" "You just don't have enough faith." "This is all your fault."

As I was watching a show yesterday, this ad came up. I thought it was very powerful—I certainly identified with it.



Our lives are passing us by 

Above I mentioned the phrase, "Things will get better sometime." And to this point I want to say, that is perhaps true, but "sometime" is not fast enough when every day is torture. To my depressed friends, we have this culture that says it is honorable to try to overcome depression on your own. To a certain extent, sure, it is, but when it has become a chronic problem, it is more honorable to seek help in finding solutions to your legitimate (and depression is legitimate) problems. I guess I never thought that my happiness was worth enough or that my depression was out of control enough to do anything aggressive about it until Kyle insisted I get help. Sad, right? So here I am, a newlywed! And I have SO MUCH to be grateful for. So much. I should be happy, but instead I have been miserable. This is not right! You're only 20 and in college once. You're only 26 and a newlywed once. You're only 35 and a mother of three once. Each day, each month, each year is PRECIOUS. Don't live another day only trying to get by to the next. Seek help!

How to help a depressed friend

I can only speak for myself, but if you want to help, you first need to understand what depression is and how it feels. So a good start is reading this post or reading other stuff about it. 

Know the symptoms:
  1. Overeating/undereating
  2. Oversleeping/insomnia
  3. Disinterest in socializing
  4. Fatigue
  5. Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  6. Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
  7. Irritability/restlessness
  8. Loss of interest in activities
  9. Physical health problems
  10. Thoughts of suicide
I have experienced all of these symptoms except one. It's really difficult to have one of the above problems; just think how you would feel experiencing nine of them concurrently.

If you'd really like to help, do not wait for your depressed friend to reach out to you; you need to reach out.

If you sincerely want to help, ask your friend how they are doing—how they're REALLY doing. If they tell you they're fine, don't push it. They may not trust you deeply enough yet or feel comfortable sharing for whatever reason. Just keep being a good friend. If they do open up, ask them what you can do to help. Ask them how they're feeling or what's been going on—legitimate validation is therapeutic. Really pay attention to them. Do not—I REPEAT—do not try to fix it for them. Know that you cannot fix depression. It is very personal and can be very deep.

Do not try to "happy" depression out of a person. This will only make a depressed person close up around you as they will sense you do not understand or they will think you do not want to be bothered with their feelings. LISTEN for as long as the person needs you to. Depression should not be taken lightly. Do not give a depressed person platitudes or things they should try unless you're super close and have a strong impression that is the right thing to say. Chances are they've already thought through a lot of stuff and tried a lot of things.

Always feel free to invite them to do stuff, but be understanding if they say no. Keep inviting, but never put pressure on them. Don't make them feel guilty for not being social.

Pray for them. Let them know you're thinking of them. Text them. Bring them a thoughtful gift. Show them by your actions that you love them no matter what—that you accept their issues. Make them feel comfortable. As I said in a previous post, what depressed people need are people they don't need to wear masks around. People who are attentive, thoughtful, and kind, and who know, even when they're acting like they're fine, that they're not. It takes real empathy to support someone who is depressed.

We are tremendously brave

We, the depressed, tend to think we are weak. We are incapable. We are sad. But the truth is we are incredibly strong. Depression is like wearing a 50-pound invisible emotional weight on your shoulders every day, and your body never seems to adapt to it. It is a struggle every single day. And you keep hoping it will just go away, but the longer it stays, the more discouraged and tired you get. It is fighting with your mind every day to feel worthy, to feel lovable, to have faith, to feel okay. The fact that we get up and go to work, socialize, go grocery shopping, smile, go to church, or sometimes even just brush our teeth means we are strong. 



To a normal person, we look weak. To a healthy person, we may look like we're needy, attention-seeking, and irrational, but for us, even being around you in the first place is a victory. And I hope that you keep that in mind. When someone you know is being anti-social, irrational, emotional, or is putting on a smiling face when it doesn't seem quite real, these people are depressed, and they need love and support. They do not need pity. They need someone to know they're struggling and support and love them.

It really is true that everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle, and I can't tell you how many times I've been embarrassed by my own actions in handling certain situations. I pride myself in being logical and independent, so, oh, I hate it when I get irrational and feel like a burden. As much as I try to keep control of my situation and my emotions, I don't have much control. And sometimes I have to work hard to forgive myself for behaving a certain way, and I can only hope that others forgive me as well.

Why I'm speaking out

It's honestly absurd how many people struggle with depression and it's also absurd how many people don't understand it despite that factincluding some of the people dealing with it! In order to face depression, you have to understand how it affects you so you can fight it. You also have to understand how it works so you don't feel guilty for some of the things you do that are perfectly normal. Of course, we should always be trying our best to be our best, but when your best doesn't measure up to someone else's best, it's not your fault. When you are depressed, you are carrying a heavy load.

Let's open our eyes. Let's learn about this very common and debilitating illness. Let's validate others. Let's help.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thankful for brothers

Now that it's November, it's the season of gratitude, and I just want to mention my brothers here. I don't get to see them too often, but I love and appreciate them, and here are a few reasons why.

Kyle has a quick and sarcastic wit. I really appreciate his humor. Plus, he's much more sensitive and sweet than he sometimes lets on. (And I love the quotes he sends me from his kids.)

Alan is pretty quiet, but when he chooses to speak, he often has something very thoughtful to say. He is not quick to judge, but he is quick to forgive and move on. Plus, he has the funniest giggle.

Ben has a kind heart, and he calls me just to chat. He also loves to discuss and debate, which I love too. He's always been a charmer and a sweetheart.


Sometimes I wish I had had a sister, but there's something special about only having brothers, and besides, they've all married wonderful women who have brought something fresh and delightful to our family as well.

Shawna is kind and understanding, an exemplary momma, and super dependable. She's also easy to talk to, and she checks up on me occasionally.

Valerie is bold and fun, a great momma too, and always willing to try new things and jump in (and include others too). She definitely brings something different and good to our family!

Bonni is a tender-hearted woman who has quietly shown her love and support for my brother and for me. (And I appreciate when she sends me photos of her adorable cat!)


I'm grateful for my siblings.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

So you want to help prevent suicide....

Not too long ago it was suicide prevention week I guess, because people kept posting about it on social media. I kept noticing something.

I think it's funny how we always tell depressed/suicidal people to reach out and create a strong network of support when that is one of the things that their condition stops them from doing. Depression is a condition that folds in on itself. Depression starts out small and over time turns into persistent lack of happiness, then lack of all feeling, then isolation, then loneliness, hopelessness, and despair. Saying a broad "You are loved" on social media doesn't make a dent.

You want to REALLY help someone suffering from depression (you know, the people who kill themselves)? Pay attention. Listen. Read about it. Learn about it. Figure out how to talk to the people in your life who are struggling. And learn how to spot signs of a hurting person because they are often good actors. Don't say, "Snap out of it." "Get over it." "Just think positively." "Things will get better!" "A lot of other people have it worse." Or walk away out of fear or pride. What those afflicted with depression need are people they aren't forced to wear masks around. People who calmly, without expectations, without trying to smile them into feeling better, reach out and say, "I notice. You matter. I'm here. And I know you don't feel it, but you're hella strong."

Here's a brief crash course brought to you by Pinterest.








Marriage

I have a good excuse for not posting in a while. I got married in August.

It's been absolutely crazy on my end. Since about my birthday (mid July) I've been busy busy busy trying to get everything taken care of for the wedding. On top of that, I was going to the chiropractor to try to fix my increasingly painful back problems, trying to not go crazy from taking birth control, still trying to settle in from moving a month and a half earlier, and several other things.

I'm going to be honest: some of the wedding shenanigans sucked. Big time.

By the week of the wedding, I was thinking maybe we should have just done something extremely simple or eloped. It was causing me so much anxiety and stress! But in the end, I'm really glad we did what we did.

My grandfather sealed us for time and all eternity in the House of the Lord. That's really all that mattered! (I was so relieved to just have that part DONE!!! Finally legitimately married instead of just thinking about it all the time!)

But it was really nice to have all the other stuff too. I loved our family dinner the night before, my beautiful dress, the lovely flowers, our reception at the Proctor house, my family coming in for the weekend, and all the delightful photos I now have to remember the day by. There's only one time where you can dress up like that and have flowers and a cake and a big party with all your friends. I wanted to take advantage of it.

And I recently got all the photos back. I have hundreds. And they're all spectacular. But I'll condense them and share some of my favorites with you!
















Seriously, these photos make me SO HAPPY!

And here are photos from the reception.


















Sunday, July 26, 2015

One Introvert's Story

 
My name is Holly, and I'm an introvert. I like peace and quiet. I enjoy being alone. In fact, I need to be alone sometimes. I prefer small groups over big crowds. I feel uncomfortable and overstimulated at dances and parties. You've probably never heard me shout. I get stressed out by noise and contention. I pay attention to everything: words, actions, movements, etc. I notice things most people never register. I sense everything that is going on around me.

I have always been this way.

The problem with introversion is people don’t understand it. It seems to me that most extroverts truly believe that introverts are handicapped people who just need to "let go" and "lighten up" and "stop being lame." And it boggles my mind that in the year 2015, half of our population still doesn't understand the other half; they don't even care to try.

I was a pretty happy kid. When I was young I had lots of friends, but about the time I started becoming self conscious, my family moved. I became a loner, and in a way, I rather liked it. As a teenager, I had some friends, but honestly, not that many. I knew I was different—that I didn't fit in. The words "come out of your shell" and "lame" and "boring" cropped up increasingly, and I tried so hard to make them go away. I tried to be "fun" and likeable. I wanted to be that person so badly, but no matter how hard I tried, I never was, and I only exhausted myself trying; I usually ended up in tears. (EFY was absolute torture.)

After years of trying to be something I wasn't, I finally learned that being who I was was so much better. You see, there are things I can do that most people can't. I can talk people through their struggles. I can listen to someone who needs someone to care. I can give advice to someone who is lost. I can comfort those who are in pain. I can connect with people through writing. I can understand my own emotions. I can usually analyze and think my way through any problem I'm having. These are nearly invisible qualities, but they are important. So, no, I may not be the life of the party. I may not be wild and crazy. I may have a hard time "letting go," but what I can do is so much more.

Even so, I've been burdened with self esteem problems since puberty. Why? Because I never fit the mold. It's not cool to like reading and learning. It's not cool to be smart and get good grades. It's not cool to prefer listening to news radio over music. It's not cool to stay home when you could go out. I can't tell you how many times I've heard that the things I like are "boring" or "lame." Even at age 26, I still hear it! And every time I do, I can't believe that the people I'm hanging out with haven't moved past their tiny mindset from their teen years, where they see themselves on top of the social pyramid, keeping others like me down. I just don't buy into it anymore. And it only makes me want to stay home all the more to avoid the judgment and the pain of being misunderstood and unappreciated.

So please, stop judging introverts. Stop telling us how uncool we are. Instead, why don't you try to understand us? It would go a long way.




Note: It would be wrong to say that ALL extroverts are this way. They're not. I'm marrying one, and he's been incredibly understanding and accepting of who I am. There have been many other extroverts along the way who have been loving and kind. I appreciate them all. (And I love our differences!) :-)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Stop Being Agreeable and Speak Your Mind!

I just want to throw something out there: your thoughts matter and feedback is really important.

I just sent an email to someone close to me trying to persuade them to make a change for the better. I noticed something, I thought a long time about it, and I realized that it actually shows great care to bring hard things up.

But it's not just for big things. When the waiter asks you how your food was, be honest! Don't just say "great!" and grimace as he turns away. The poor restaurant owner will be forced to close his establishment and he'll never know why.

Don't post on social media about how terrible a place is without contacting them first; they're in that business for a reason—they think they can provide something that people want. Give them a chance to make it right. I've found that most places will make it right because they appreciate feedback and want to provide the best products and services they can.

Positive feedback is the most powerful, and that's why I sent my dermatologist a thank you note for his awesome service recently. How often do you think places receive thank you notes? Not often. It'll make their day.

Positive and negative feedback help people improve, and you're actually doing people a disservice when you're not open and honest with them. There is never a need to be mean or hateful; just be honest.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Youngest

It seems like I'm constantly seeing some post or article describing children who are the youngest in their family. Risk-taker? Limelight-lover? Spoiled? HA!! I think you have it all wrong. First of all, I am the opposite of all of those things.

Youngests are used to taking a backseat to everyone elseliterally and figuratively. They're used to being ignored. Now, I don't like to be ignored for real, but there are many times when I wish I could go unnoticed, or I'd rather watch than participate because that's what I grew up doing.

Youngests are used to hand-me-downs. (Me not as much as others because all my siblings are boys, but I still enjoyed my siblings' old video games and t-shirts.)

They're observant and learn from others' mistakes. Very observant.

They also know how to be alone and connect with people older than them because they're the ones who are left behind with mom and dad in their teen years.

And this one is key: they have to at some point assert their independence because if they don't, everyone will always treat them as "the baby."

That's MY experience anyway.