Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Seasonal Depression and my Birthday

It has been an interesting month +. I have had little energy to do much more than exist and make it through each day. Then all of a sudden, a few days after my birthday, BAM! I have energy! It is weird how family issues can stay with you for so long. Here I am living a great life, but my son's birthday comes in November and my depression begins until my birthday in December is over. I just discovered this trend last year. I can see how it has been happening for most of my life but finally named it last year. It's name is George by the way;)

This year I gave myself permission to check out here and there when I knew I couldn't pretend any longer. I stayed home more and connected with people less. For me, being an extrovert and all, this was a good thing. If I struggled with depression on a regular basis I could see how isolating would be a bad thing, but for me, it is important to pull back at such an emotionally fragile period of time each year. I have a hard time being around people and often find it hard to be tactful in so many situations. It seems safer for my relationships if I am around less during this weird time. It is amazing how hard it is to explain this to people while it is happening. "I'm sorry, I can't be around you right now because I don't have it in me to be polite to you....." For some reason the "tact" goes right on out of my capeabilities.....

For many years I thought I was a big flake. I was always so energized for the beginning of the school year to start in September. I would get all involved in everything. I had the time, the enthusiasm and the energy to do it all too. Then a few months go by and we enter November and suddenly it is hard to make it to any of my commitments. Everything seems overwhelming and I begin to not care much about anything anymore. The pressure in November mounts until December comes. The three days before my birthday seem to be the biggest stress of all. Then my birthday.....which you think would be the worst day of all, but I guess I resign that it is happening and it does feel good to have people wish you a happy birthday all day, so the day turns out fine. Then a few days later BAM! energy back, problem is most of my commitments are now over because they usually involved programs or events that occured on or right around my birthday making everyone too busy to celebrate me much at all. They have to cut something out you know! (Yeah, I know, poor me! wah wah wah.) Christmas is exciting and New Years brings with it a whole new vitality. January, my favorite month of the year! A crazy cycle eh? It has only taken me 38 years to see it too!

This year was a little different. I decided to be aware of every little detail of this strange cycle. Only a week before my son's 13th birthday I felt the black cloud creep into my life. I don't know what the connection to my first born son's birthday is except that he represents my first child and as he gets older he gets closer and closer to leaving me. (Yes, this IS all about me). I think I mourn the loss of, "when he will move out", every year. I told my husband that I probably won't shed a tear the day he really moves out because I have cried about it every year already! Talk about gearing up! This is shear madness. There were a few days in there I thought,
" Maybe I'll need to get on some antidepressants", but then the black cloud drifted away and I began to find my rhythm again.

Along with this crazy cycle comes irrational and constant anger directed mostly at safe people ie; my husband and children. No one can do anything right and everything is wrong. I am certain that it is mainly because everything is wrong inside me, but my poor family suffers through it. And of course my children are powerless to stop it and by now my husband is afraid of me and just trying to make it through the day unscathed.

Seeing all this go on around me and being very aware that I am creating the insanity and damaging the relationships I long for with the ones I love, only feeds into my insecurity, intense feelings of being insignificant and self loathing. It reafirms, in my mind, that I truly don't deserve what I have. All this kaoss leaves me frazzelled and grasping for control. The result is masking it all with more anger. It is a viscious cycle that leaves me reelling out of control emotionally and grasping at anything to try and find some sort of grounding.

I wish I could say I chose to lay in the arms of Christ during this trying time, but I did the exact opposite and stayed under the covers longer and as often as possible throughout the day. I had been getting out of bed now for almost 2 years early in the morning to pray, but I had no energy, drive and definitely no desire. I decided to stop fighting it and cave in, knowing it would pass in a few weeks. God graciously allowed my children to get sick so I was forced to stay home with a few sick kids for about 2 weeks. I was almost sad to see the last of them recover and go back to school. Never before have I longed for a kid to be sick so I could have a reason not to go out and face the world. It is funny that I could not find it in me to give myself permission to stay home and take care of myself in such a way. I will make plans for next year I suppose. I will stop trying so hard to pretend I am okay. I will stop trying to make sure everyone else is okay and take some time out to let others take care of me for a change.

My birthday was on Monday this year, so the Friday before it I decided to send the kids to school, see Garrett off to work and stay home alone. While no one was around I was very productive. I got laundry folded, made a crockpot dinner and tried my hand at homemade bread (which turned our great). Then as soon as everyone got home I escaped to the safe haven of my room and ducked under the bed covers. When Garrett came in and layed next to me I began to cry. I just cried and cried and cried. I knew this was coming and thought I would have done this all morning, but I guess I needed my man by my side to be sweet and understanding. He was:) and so I was safe. He held me in his arms and I felt the gloom lifting as the tears flowed out. What a great thing God did when he gave us the ability to cry. I have determined to cry whenever I feel the need and not apologize for it ever again! It was a sweet release. A much needed cleansing. I could breath a breath of fresh air for the first time in a month when I was done. The mourning and loss were over...............the cloud was lifting.

I don't know what the point of all this is. I do know that I do not plan on living this way for the rest of my life. I know next year will be tough again, but I am determined that this is not going to rule my life. I will not give in to that. I can take the time right now to reflect on what helped and what did not and make those necessary changes for next year when I begin to see it coming again.

What helped? I got many personal letters about how our friendship matters. When you are fighting overwhelming feelings of insignificance it really helps to get notes and letters from friends telling me what I mean to them. It is especially important to get these from my family members who I care so much about. I can't tell you how often I began to cry over the simplest statements made by a sister or cousin during this time when they said they were proud of me and admired my decision to move overseas. All the rest of the year I know these things, but during this bad time I can't seem to recall it. The silence becomes deafening.

It also helped to limit my time away from the home. This year especially I was able to minimize my involvement in extra activities. I noticed when I was home for 2 weeks with a few sick kids at a time my anxiety level went down and I was much more comfortable in my skin. When I would go out and do activity after activity (which is customary around this time a year and often expected) I would begin to not be able to cope with the simplest of issues. The whining tired child who needed kind words and a loving touch would receive a threat of consequences instead. At home I am needed and I am significant and I can also rest. Also, someone else planning my birthday party was helpful. I know it is hard to plan for "the planner", but it was so nice to have a small celebration that I did not plan. It made me feel significant and special (thanks Sanna).

What didn't help? Asking friends to keep in touch extra through the month of November and not having them do it. It is really hard to put myself out there and ask for help because if I ask for help and expose the area of my weakness and then the need still goes unmet it just feeds right into my deep feelings of insignificance. If I don't ask and no one knows then at least I know why. The other thing that really rubs me raw are all the reasons why you "can't come" or "couldn't remember" around this time. I have heard them all, over the past 38 years, as to why this season is too busy for me to be remembered, but all I hear in there is that I wasn't important enough to be remembered. After all we do what we really want to do and we remember what we really want to remember (that is what repeats in my head). I guess some examples would be,"Sorry I forgot your birthday, I was so busy with such-n-such....." or 2 paragraphs detailing all the reasons why you were too busy these past weeks and couldn't possibly have found a way to send an email in this wired world we live in. I don't need an "oooops I forgot" birthday wish. You don't need to tell me you forgot, I already know that. It doesn't matter that it is 3 or 6 or 15 days late when you remember. A Happy Birthday is a Happy Birthday whenever it is remembered and no apology is necessary when you do remember after all! (there is no anger intended in this last paragraph, just raw facts and how they effect me during this time, sorry if the truth touches a nerve or two, I don't hold on to any of it after my birthday is over.....weird huh?)

Boy, am I glad this season is over for me. I hope to be better prepared next year so that it is not such a tough season to get through. Thanks to all those who prayed me through this season and for so many of you who sent emails. It meant the world to me!


scarlet said...

welcome back to the land of the living! it's nice to have you back.

Susie said...

I love you so much Sophi!!! I really appreciate all you do for us and everyone around you, and I mean EVERYONE that you touch (that is ALOT of people). I know this time is hard for you, but you WILL get through it as you always do. I love reading all your blogs and the time you put into them, while keeping us informed of your lives. I know I am bad at writing you guys and I am sorry, but know that you are loved and always prayed for. Happy Birthday :) and Merry Christmas!!! I love you all and you mostly SOPHI :)
God Bless,

Debbie Vinall said...

thanks for sharing all that... i admire the strength of your honesty and can definately relate

so, when exactly IS your birthday? I know its early December... but i need to put it on my calendar!

Scarlet said...

now that i've read down farther, i have to say that i remember the song 'abba father' and totally love it. i didn't know how it came about though. that makes it even cooler.

Diane said...

I am crying reading this. You are such a gem. We all do need to know we're loved, don't we?
You are so loved,