I have so many partial blog post ideas on this topic rattling around in my brain. There's the ones about the myriad reasons I hesitated to take medication for depression; spiritual implications during depression; theories about how and why I slid my erstwhile slide into the abyss; my fears and trepidation for the future; and how I think things are going right now. But it's hard to want to be always talking about myself. I mean, am I really that interesting?
And yet, as a stay at home mother of many, with a set of strong Confessional Lutheran principles, former homeschool mom, etc, I realize that there are others out there who go through similar things. I know it's helpful to find resources that, if nothing else, comfort by showing that there are others who struggle in the same way. I suspect that many of my blog readers probably fall loosely into the above description. I have heard from many of you who have thanked me for my candor. And it's with the goal of offering some kind of peace or comfort to others in need that I bring up this topic so often during this strange and powerful journey.
Today I'm going to try to focus long enough to write a little summary of where I've been and where I am now.
Focus and Fragility
Does that sound like a strange pairing? It does to me. In my practical brainy side. But my heart knows that ways of the heart and mind in this sinful world are rarely easily categorized. Our broken nature does not follow set rules.
Yes, I am going to use words like broken and sinful in these writings. Because this is a sinful and broken world. When talking of depression, there is overt sin, actions against God's laws. When we are wallowing in the darkness of depression, we fail to love as we should, we neglect our responsibilities, and while not exactly self-absorbed, we are certainly not focused on the needs of others.
But also, simply, this world is broken. Things in this world don't work right. Our bodies, our minds, nature, physics, biology. All these things, all of nature, groan with the brokenness of sin. (See Romans 8.) Sin effects everything whether the overt and quantifiable sins of omission and commission; or whether simply the way the sinful brokenness of this life effects our hearts, minds, and bodies.
Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ His Son, that we are healed from all these different aspects of sin. When God looks at us, He sees Jesus' righteousness, not all the muck through which we're wallowing. Even in the darkest hours we know, deep down inside, that this world is not the end. We are God's children and our name is written in heaven through faith in Jesus' righteousness. We know that even in the depths of despair and emptiness, our Heavenly Father will never leave us. No matter how alone and forsaken our sinful nature feels, we can depend upon the promises of God. And finally, we know that in spite of our weaknesses and failings, God will make everything turn out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We can't "wreck" our family so badly that God can't fix it. I don't mean we ought to be cavalier and stop trying, of course. I just find it a great comfort to know that He can compensate for all the ways we fail our families.
When I started healing from depression, the first thing I noticed was a feeling of once again being alive. That, for me, was the first healing. And it was a biggy. Huge! It was a glorious sensation of feeling once again. Living. Breathing. Being. All those things that had gotten lost somewhere. In little snippets, little moments, I could feel again. "I am alive!" I had forgotten what it was like.
Gradually I also got my energy back. I could keep moving, at least a little bit. For short times, I could stay motivated on household tasks. This energy was slower to come. I almost despaired at times. But when I considered that first part of healing, the feeling, I was able to hang onto hope that progress was being made, even if it was not obvious in any energy for household responsibilities. And it did eventually come. It's not 100%, even yet now. But it is so much better than it had been.
I can remember how I felt when this aspect of my recovery first started to become apparent. I did several loads of wash a day, folded and put away, up and down the stairs several times a day. It was astounding to me. Really! I was amazed at how easy those trips up and down the stairs felt. Sometimes it was almost a sensation of flying. I could remember how hard it had been, just a short time before, to make my feet take a trip up and down the stairs. I'd maybe manage it only once or twice a week! It had been nearly impossible many times. And finally, now, here I was seeming to fly up and down all day long. It was so freeing to not have to force myself to move.
Another aspect of healing that I noticed was in ability to focus. This probably was the longest to come, and is the most tenuous. I have always had trouble focusing, staying on task, keeping my mind to one thing at a time. And in a family this size and household this busy, there are always plenty of things to distract me. But even in this aspect, I notice gradual change. I can read a book again. For many months I could not. I can plan and follow a schedule many days. Progress is being made. And I'm confident it will continue to improve. I don't expect perfection. I know my limits in this regard. But I am hopeful I will eventually get back to what is normal for me.
But the fragile part. This is an aspect that is still coming. This is a strange thing that I will try to quantify for you. Although I notice all these aspects of healing, these great and amazing improvements, they are all still tenuous. Illusive. My emotional strength does not have the staying power it ought to have. Any little bit of overly busy-ness, or things that are emotionally more taxing. Anything like this will set me back in all the other aspects of healing. Not all the way back, mind you. But I find I have to baby myself for a few days after any bigger emotional or physical draws.
Or maybe I should say withdrawals. It's as though I have a bank account of wellness. And in times past, I could withdraw from that reserve, in terms of physical, mental, or emotional exertion. In times past, the reserves could easily be built back up by my natural faculties. But that building up of the reserves is not as quick for me now. It takes a couple of days where maybe it used to only take an hour. Where it used to take a couple of days, it's now a week or more.
It's good for me to know that. To be aware of my limits. I can tailor my days to cater to those withdrawals. I can schedule things so that I allow easier days after the more taxing times.
But this weakness is very frustrating. I don't want to be fragile. I don't want to have to be so focused on my own ease and health.
That fragility worries me a little bit, too. Especially with the shorter winter days coming. My doctor explained that a normal course of medication for this type of depression is a six month stint. But he also said he never recommends going off antidepressants in the fall or winter. Since I started in the spring, I would, therefore, be using the medication for a whole year. At the time, this bothered me. But now that I've seen and felt real healing, I understand better. And as of this writing, I would certainly not consider changing anything right now.
I had felt well enough a month ago that I started wondering about going off my meds. But I have had several very taxing weeks. Many, many withdrawals, in the physical exertions of some very busy days, the mental exertions of keeping track of many things, and several big emotional draws.
I feel totally depleted today. I still feel alive, mind you. I'm not nearly back to where I was when I started my course of medication. Not back that far, nor that depleted. But I do feel as though I am back to the stage at which I am just barely hanging on to any energy. And no focus whatsoever. None. My brain is a big confused fog.
I know in a few days I will be rejuvenated once again. I'm going to baby myself for a couple of days. But I get tired of this babying.
I pray that by the time spring comes again, I can be independent of the medication. I pray that my healing is complete, in the sense that my stamina is back to normal for me. I've never been a high energy person in the sense of being able to go, go, go. I've always had to limit my activities to accommodate my personality. But those limits did not feel debilitating, as they do now. I still felt competent to handle the responsibilities God had given me.
At this time, I thank God for my very patient husband, who must be so entirely sick of this whole thing. I love you, Joe. I am sorry this happened. I am sorry you have to pick up so much of the slack. I thank you for loving me in spite of this dreary path over which I am currently traveling.
I thank God for the healing I have experienced. I thank Him for the righteousness that I have, in spite of my sin and brokenness. I praise Him for His eternal presence and providential care.
And I pray for rejuvenation after this recent taxing time, and for continued healing throughout the dark winter.