Remembering Sadness: A Christmas Party

I was telling my therapist yesterday that I want to go back and read my old journals, written over the past 9 years, covering the times where I’ve been in and out of depression. But after I blogged about my stay in the hospital psych ward, I read about a work Christmas party that happened shortly after my release, and found myself crying. Sometimes, the stories are sad.

Typically on Holiday Party day,  I would work longer into the afternoon, and we would help Leanne in getting ready for the evening. She would have planned every detail of this party for weeks. She’s incredibly creative and clever, and she chooses the menu and theme and creates the fun game time for the annual event. We’d get tables set up and decorated, gather and set out supplies for coffee (the meal is catered), fluff the Christmas tree and check its lights, set up the sound system, move the piano out, and do whatever else we could to help her with preparations. The party is for Board members present and past, and the staff is invited to attend. I liked going, and my husband and I often served beverages before the meal. I had discovered this as my favorite way to meet and thank Board members without making tons of small talk! I don’t think I fulfilled this service in December 2009, and I’m sure that’s a good thing.

Looking back, I had no business being there that evening, not with my mental health fragility and the physical exhaustion I was experiencing as I was recovering from the serotonin toxicity. I wish someone had told me I couldn’t go. But I’d always attended before, and felt like I needed to this year, too. I think I just wanted to prove to myself that I was back to normal, even though that was far from true. My husband agreed to meet me there when he got off work.

I honestly don’t remember many details, but I do remember catching my reflection on the way to the bathroom. What I saw shocked me.

There was a short round woman, hunched over a little, her body being pushed hard toward the floor by gravity, her feet splayed for balance. Her hair was messy, but not cute-messy, and her face was drawn and tight. Her eyes were flat, and her lips turned downward. She looked horrible. And then I realized it was me.

I don’t think we stayed longer – I wanted to get out of there before anyone else saw me. I cried as we drove home – so sad for the woman I used to be. I didn’t think about how I would be her again someday – standing taller with confidence, attractively dressed, smiling with eyes sparkling. I could only be sad that at that moment she was gone, and in her place was this woman who had been beaten down and showed it.

Healing from the serotonin toxicity took way longer than I expected – months of me not feeling back to myself. My psychiatrist kept urging patience, reminding me that I had been through a major traumatic event. Everyone but me seemed to understand that I wasn’t weak, just healing, and it was going to take lots of time and rest for full recovery.

I cried a little as I retold this story yesterday to my therapist. And I realized that even though I really want to re-read all of my journals, it will not be easy. I am inviting myself back into sadness and sad memories, and I will mostly likely cry. She encouraged me to take my time – I don’t have to hurry – and I can stop at any point. She even offered that I could bring the journals to our appointments, if I feel that I don’t want to handle the emotions by myself.

At least I know what to expect. Some tears, definitely. But I’m also eager to read the evidences of God’s faithfulness, about the tools my previous therapist gave me, of verses of Scripture that sustained me. I will read expectantly, with my heart soft and ready to absorb the written emotions again, yet reading the journals with strength, knowing that I have come through difficult times and am the person I am today because of them. And I will cry.

Calling for Help

TRIGGER WARNING: a statement at the start of a piece of writing, video, etc., alerting the reader or viewer to the fact that it contains potentially distressing material (often used to introduce a description of such content).

TRIGGER WARNING: suicidal ideation

I was recently having breakfast with a wonderful friend whom I’ve known a long time. She is the supervising manager (or some title like that) for a service offered in my old town. People can call with questions for anything – from needing to know which bus line picks up at the mall in the afternoon to whom to call with questions about public housing to someone to talk to when in a personal crisis – an information and referral hotline. I was telling her about the time in 2009 when I called.

I had just been diagnosed with serotonin toxicity, and my new psych doc had taken me off all of my medications to clear out the brain chemicals. He had prescribed mood stabilizers to help me function and my husband was in charge of distributing them. That had happened on Monday, this was now 12 days later – very blurry days. My doctor had told me that he would be on rotation in the psych ward starting Sunday for the next two weeks, and I shouldn’t hesitate to come to the emergency room if I needed help. He made me promise not to hurt myself. The serotonin toxicity had caused some suicidal ideation (thoughts about death and dying but not acting on them).

I remember lying on our bed, wrapped in my blanket which I was hauling around with me like a child. I dialed Great Rivers 2-1-1 and a lovely voice answered. I remember thinking that my voice sounded shaky.

She asked why I had called, and I told her that I wanted to know how to know if I should go to the hospital to admit myself to the psych ward. She asked if I was planning to hurt myself. (TRIGGER WARNING:) I said no, I couldn’t, since my husband had all my medications. I went on to explain that I was under Dr. Larson’s care, and he had said I could come in if I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t have any option but to be safe – my only suicidal thoughts (again, suicidal ideation, not action) were thwarted since my meds were in our safe and the key in Chris’ pocket. But still, I didn’t feel like myself, was very out of sorts. Of course, I was too tired and too weak to hurt myself – that takes energy and planning, and I didn’t have any of those. And like I said, these thoughts were not my own – they were caused by the over-saturation of serotonin on my brain. They sure felt like my thoughts, though – they were in my head.

I cried and told her I was scared, and tired, and didn’t want to fight anymore. She asked where Chris was, and I told her he was working outside in the yard. I recall it was a sunny day, maybe a slight breeze – very nice for late November.

I talked to her for awhile – I don’t remember about what. I probably told her that I had depression and my doctor was doing to be at the hospital on rotation tomorrow, and so maybe I would go in then. She thought that was a good idea. She asked if she could call back in a half hour and talk to my husband, just to tell him that we had talked. I told her, “Sure.” She made me promise to call her back if I needed to, and said she would call in 30 minutes. I hung up and told my husband, so he could wrap up what he was working on (raking leaves?) and come in.

She called back, and talked to him about how to take care of me. Not that he had to sit with me every moment that I was awake. He needed to know what I was doing, but not to hover, and he didn’t have to worry about leaving me unattended. She told him that we had talked, and that if I still wanted to go to the hospital the next day, he should take me in.

I don’t have lots of details of memory from those days – the hours kind of run together – I did a lot of sleeping. And I don’t remember her name. But I remember her kind voice, and her care – enough that she wanted to make sure my hubby was ok, too. I know that when we talked on the phone, I didn’t feel alone. She didn’t sound alarmed at my call, or even worried. She spoke in a soft gentle voice – very calming. I was glad I had called for help. Just hearing the voice of someone who cared got me through the rest of the day. I wish I knew her name so I could thank her.

I went into the hospital the next day.

Anhedonia, among other things

Def:  the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions. While earlier definitions of anhedonia emphasized pleasurable experience, more recent models have highlighted the need to consider different aspects of enjoyable behavior, such as motivation or desire to engage in an activity.


Everything feels like a chore. Things I should do – why don’t I want to? Why am I wasting all of this time on my iPad, playing spider solitaire or candy crush? Or reading too much Facebook, even if they are interesting articles? I just want to sit here, on my corner of the couch, and, well, sit here. I’ll listen to music, or watch reruns on TV. Not even looking up movies from my Netflix list.

One of the ways I knew depression was coming back was my loss of interest in things like going to church, visiting friends (that’s hard anyway, since I don’t really have any here), drawing, knitting, swimming, beach walking. My out-of-the-house activities are pretty limited – appointments with my therapist or psych doc or chiropractor, sometimes including a massage. Once a month, I get my hair cut. I’ve stopped in several times for a pedicure. I know all of their names, but they’re not friends.

I do most of the grocery shopping. I run any necessary errands. And I do have a husband-wife couple with whom I’m friends, and who I enjoy visiting. But I didn’t have the energy today.

I’ve been out to lunch a couple of times with a couple of different ladies, the closest to “friends” I have. I know I could call them to get together, but see, I don’t really want to.

Not only is it that I don’t want to do things I used to do, I have no motivation or desire to do anything – I’m happiest on this left-side cushion of my couch.

I’m going on a boat tour tomorrow. I so badly want to back out, but a) I was really excited about it when I signed up, and b) I’ve already paid for it. This will be something I push myself to do. Hopefully doing nothing today will give me enough energy for tomorrow. And it’s a push against depression to do something I wanted to do – fake it ’til I make it?

Dear readers, please remember that I am trying to write about depression from the inside. I don’t want to sound like a complainer, yet I fear that’s how these latest posts are read. Instead, I want to give real examples about what it’s like to live with depression.

At the same time, thank you for your encouragement and reminders that I am not alone. Your expressions of support are invaluable! God promises He will never leave me, and I know He is with me this time. And you are too. Thanks.


In the midst

This entry was inspired by words from my massage therapist today (thanks, Stephanie). I told her about my struggle in the middle of depression, and that I blogged about it yesterday. She told me that she liked that – writing in the midst of it, instead of just recalling it later.

So with that in mind, I’m going to try and write about my depression journey as it is happening. My experience is unique to me – no two folks struggling with this illness manifest it in quite the same way. So these are my experiences, and I wouldn’t presume that they apply to others, although depression does have some common characteristics but with different expressions.

The past few days have been punctuated with sudden tears – I’m crying out of the blue. And then I’m sobbing. Cried in therapy on Monday, and in psych doc’s yesterday. Deep sobs, as well as tears rolling down my checks – not bothering to wipe them away unless they interfere with my vision. That’s why it’s easier to sob at home – no reason to hold back. Finding it very hard to express the sadness out loud – saying the words makes me cry. Writing is a bit easier – I can pause writing to sob if I need to, and you the reader will never know.

The doc asked me yesterday if I feel hopeless. I said yes, but then qualified it to say that I feel more resigned/stuck/helpless than hopeless. Like “Here I go again, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’m already in the depression.”

I’m grateful to friends who remind me that God is with me in this, because I feel so isolated and alone. Even though I know people care and they tell me so, depression makes it easy to dismiss those sentiments as, “Yeah, thanks. But I don’t see God anywhere.” Of course, truth says otherwise – I can’t trust what my feelings tell me, because depression lies.

I had a hard time going to bed last night – why bother, since it’s just going to bring another sad day. But I woke up early – eager for my massage. So that’s good, because depression doesn’t motivate me to do anything, and it steals the things I used to like to do. So being eager to get a massage is a positive – looking forward to something instead of dreading it. There must have been a little dread, though, since I got really anxious before I left the house, had to take a pill to calm my nerves and flip-flop stomach.

I have no desire to talk to anyone, and chit-chat is a chore. It’s easier if I can get the other person talking, so I can listen but not have to contribute much.

I can put on a smile, even laugh – I can have moments where I’m not in total darkness. But those moments are short-lived. And they make me tired.

I feel lazy, which makes me feel guilty. But I’m not lazy, I’m tired. Through and through. I feel like no one understands, but that’s not true. I’m glad people understand, but at the same time, I really don’t care if they do.  That makes me judge myself as ungrateful, which also makes me feel guilty.

I’m often way down the trail of negative or sad thoughts before I realize it. I try to stop it by bringing myself back to now. But then I judge myself again for letting my spiraling thoughts get the best of me, not taking every thought captive to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

I’m a very harsh self-critic. I’m trying to replace those thoughts with how God sees me – His love and compassion and patience and grief for my grief. It takes lots of discipline – some moments I do it well. Other moments, I’m sobbing again.

Now trying to decide between food and nap. My stomach is growling but my eyes feel heavy. Decision making – even something as simple as this – which should I do first? – is very hard with depression. I’m probably better off if someone just gently tells me what to do, so I don’t have to decide. Except I want the right to decide. Not that I would – I have no will, am being bounced around by my circumstances, am not expressing my choice. Because that’s too hard to do.

I think I’ll go take a nap.


I promised to be honest in my posts. I guess that means in the hard stuff too.  And today is incredibly hard. 

I was gone last week – my husband and I flew to MN for our annual camping trip with a dear family. My son took the week off from work to join us, and my daughter and friend were able to come for 1.5 days. It was a good time, relaxing in the outdoors with family and friends who have been like family for years, even if we only see each other once or twice a year now. This was our 25th year of camping together!

Hubby and I returned home on Sunday. Had an appointment with my therapist yesterday – cried through more than half of the time; she’s the only person here with whom I can cry full-on. Missing my kids, returning to a place where I have no friends. She asked if my depression had gotten worse – I told her I didn’t think so. 

I was wrong. Today has been the hardest saddest day in a very long time.  Didn’t get out of bed until 10:45 – why bother? But I did, because I’m ashamed to stay there. 

Made breakfast, puttered with a couple of small tasks. But I’ve been mostly sitting on the couch – having a very hard time overcoming the inertia that’s keeping me here. Again, only shame is getting me moving – I’m better than this slug of me stuck in bed or on the couch. Even though I have zero desire to move. 

Probably only got out of bed because of my appointment with my psych doc. Going to the meeting, then returning home to this couch. 

The beginning part of Newton’s First Law of Motion says that an object that is at rest will stay at rest unless an external force acts upon it. But depression seems to have me stuck; I can’t get moving. No external force, except maybe shame.

I know the things I’m supposed to do to fight it. Move anyway. “Shame” is a word from depression talking, not me. Reflect on amazing blessings from God. Remind myself that I “will get through this” (from my therapist’s email response). Remember that some days are harder than others (who knows why). Unable to do any of those things today.


Saw my psych doc, and he shed some light on my current depressed mood. 

He told me that folks who live with major depressive disorder are already living with reduced adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin. Before I left for camping, I was experiencing a mild depression. When I went camping with family and friends, my adrenaline increased and pushed me through – good times were good. But when I got home, those circumstances changed. And my adrenaline is dry, as are those other brain chemicals. So the crash is very deep and hard. He likened it to a coke-head when the high wears off! 

He slightly increased one of my meds – just to get me through this hard part. He told me to be gentle with myself (I’ve heard that before). If I usually get up at 8am, but can’t get out of bed until 11am, that’s ok. If I am stuck to the couch, that’s ok, but I should try to do some simple movement – a walk on the beach, take in a museum, maybe one thing new.  And leave out the guilt – feeling like I should be doing something productive. This is illness. If someone has a heart attack, do we expect them to be doing all their regular stuff at full strength? No! And this is illness. It’s just harder to see.

So I’m going to try to re-enter more slowly, and expect less of myself right now. Not feeling guilty will be hard – shame was my motivator today.  But I’ll try. And I pray that this is short-lived – all this crying is exhausting.

Just being honest.