illustrations of depression (major trigger warning)

I’m using this post as a repository for images that resonate with me concerning depression, anxiety, fatigue, and so forth.

Who knows? There might even be happy stuff here on occasion.

But don’t expect it.

This is the darkness. Here there be dragons. And they’re not the cuddly kind.

_____________________________

For a long time now, this image has resonated with me the strongest. To varying degrees, this is exactly how I’ve felt for years.

_____________________________

Upon my counselor’s recommendation, I recently watched the movie INSIDE OUT for the first time. And then, a few days later, I watched it a second time. I’ll soon be watching it a third time, BECAUSE IT IS PERFECTION. It’s probably going to get its own full-length blogpost sometime soon. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s Sadness…who has her place and her vital purpose, and whom I’m slowly learning to love as my friend.

Sadness says, “Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.”

That’s a yes.

_____________________________

The 2014 film THE BABADOOK has come to mean different things to different people…but to me, it will always be The Spot-On Description of Depression (…and, now, of Grief).

The Babadook. Be careful clicking on this. It’ll give you nightmares.

From the movie:

I’ll wager with you,
I’ll make you a bet:
The more you deny,
The stronger I get.

You start to change
When I get in —
The Babadook growing
Right under your skin.

The more I deny…the more I don’t talk about depression…the less honest I am about it…the stronger it gets. And, as you can see, it’s horrific.

____________________________

This one speaks to my anxiety. I’m learning that a lot of my little habits lead back to this.

“Fear” by Alexandria Lomuntad

____________________________

More here, another time.

i am so tired and i’m not okay (trigger warning: depression, anxiety, anger)

“Hey, how are ya?”
“How’s it goin’?”
“How’s life?”
“Whatcha been up to?”
“How are you?”

These are all variations of the same question. They all mean the same thing. They’re all delivered in the same tone. They all expect the same style of answer.

Tone: bright, casual, cheery
Style: superficial

In reality, this “how are you” is not a question, in spite of the punctuating “?” at the end.

It is not a question but a greeting.

It requires, expects, and prefers no other response but an equally bright, casual, cheery, superficial “fine.”

“Fine!”
“Great!”
“Just as good as it can be!”
“I’m blessed!”
“Nothin’ much, how ’bout you?”

I’m so tired of receiving that “greeting.”
I’m so tired of giving that response.

I was probably a young adult when I first became consciously aware of this particular difference between the American culture I was born into and the German culture I was raised in:

In American culture: “How are you?” is a greeting that requires little content in a reply.

In German culture: “How are you?” is a genuine request for a run-down on everything going on in your life and how you feel about it. It’s a conversation-starter never offered in passing.

If you’re a member of either culture visiting the other, you’re going to have a very tough time interacting with people if you don’t understand this distinction.

I’ve understood it for a long time. I’ve adapted. I never ask a German how they are if I’m not available to listen to the answer. When I ask an American how they are, I make sure I emphasize that I really want to know. If I don’t want to know, I don’t ask.

Sometimes I do use “how are you” as a greeting — but only in American society, and only when the situation obviously calls for that style of interaction. It’s still not my preference, though.

And I’m tired of hearing that greeting.
I’m tired of giving the standard “I’m fine” response.

Because I’m not fine.
I’m not okay.

I.

am.

tired.

I’m tired of not sharing openly and honestly about my struggles.
I’m tired of not sharing frankly what’s going on in my life.
I’m tired of not saying bluntly how I feel about it.
I’m tired of feeling like it’s not safe for me to be honest.
I’m tired of feeling fear and anger and frustration and sorrow more than I feel joy.
I’m tired of getting out of bed in the morning when I don’t want to get out of bed.
I’m tired of having neither the mental space nor the emotional energy nor the hours in the day to engage in all the things that make me come alive.
I’m tired of watching tv every single night because it makes for effective anesthesia.
I’m tired of eating chocolate just because it makes me feel better.
I’m tired of how fat and lazy and old I feel.
I’m tired of feeling afraid to talk about my true beliefs on social media.
I’m tired of not being able to say, “I am grieving, damnit! I feel sad, I feel angry, I feel guilty, and I don’t need anybody to fix it or try to talk me out of it.” (It’s not your job.)
I’m tired of feeling like my words never come across the way I mean them.
I’m tired of my “everyday” as something I feel I have to slog through instead of live to the fullest.
I’m tired of not feeling as resilient as I used to.
I’m tired of always being the strong one.
I’m tired of always being the one who listens.
I’m tired of always being the one who understands.
I’m tired of always being the one who empathizes.
I’m tired of having my faith questioned by people who don’t see my life inside and out on a daily or weekly or even monthly basis.
I’m tired of being accused of complaining.
I’m tired of being accused of being negative. (Guess what? IT’S NOT ALL SUNSHINE LOLLIPOPS KITTENS RAINBOWS SPARKLIES.)
I’m tired of hearing all the voices in my life and in my head that say I need to have Joy instead of depression.
I’m tired of the “norm” that compares my life to others’ and says, “Look, they have it worse than you, so you should be thankful and grateful and happy for what you have.”
I’m tired of hearing people tell me I should enjoy XYZ when I’m unable to.
I’m tired of feeling like a failure as a woman, as a wife, as a mother, as a writer, as a human.
I’m tired of so rarely having a real, deep, meeting-of-the-spirits conversation with my husband.
I’m tired of feeling responsible for everyone and everything.
I’m tired of never getting enough sleep, even when I work hard to arrange my schedule for getting enough sleep.
I’m tired of worrying about, oh, pretty much every single person in my life.
I’m tired of the lying bastard named Depression, who is utterly beyond my control and is NOT a sign that I need more faith, thank you very sarding much.
I’m tired of feeding Depression by not acknowledging its very strong reality in my life.
I’m tired of my brain chemicals and neurons not functioning in an ideal manner.
I’m tired of the To-Do List.
I’m tired of worrying about money.
I’m tired of thinking, as I write this, that I’m going to get criticism in response and experience emotionally radioactive fallout as a result.

I’m…just…tired.

And I’m not okay.

_____________________________

It seems needful to add that in all of this, I do not feel suicidal. My “I am tired” is not a statement of “I want to end things.” It is a statement of this:

I am tired and not okay.

I’m getting mad over being so damn tired and not okay.

I want change.

I’m not asking for solutions, so please don’t give me advice because I don’t want it right now. (Again: It’s not your job. If you’d like to pray for me, that would be most welcome.)

I needed to continue my process by writing these things out and making them public. That is the purpose of this post.

I said what I needed to.

My hope is that it’ll help me feel less tired.

Time will tell.

a new hope (in the quiet, not in silence)

What a deceptive title.

One, because this post has nothing to do with Star Wars, at least not directly.
Two, because the hope I’m thinking of isn’t new in the conventional sense.

It’s more of a renewable hope. Or a continually-renewed hope.

I sit here in the final minutes of 2016 (it’s literally 5 minutes ’til midnight), typing on my laptop while the TV regales me with the blatherings of announcers, the poor enunciations of music artists, and the weird ramblings of a woman with green glitter lipstick worthy of Panem’s Capitol. I think of the illusory and foundationally meaningless construct of calendars and years’-ends. We humans get in such a tizzy at this time every year, never mind that flipping a calendar page from one month to the next or one year to the next has absolutely no connection to actual, tangible change.

I set my laptop aside to check windows for fireworks as 2017 A.D. rolls through the door.

The fireworks are audible from inside my living room, but I can’t see them from any of the windows. A quick call to my parents — one I make every year on January 1st at approximately 00:05am — sends love reverberating through the atmosphere. A good start to the new iteration of this particular human construct.

My husband went to bed at 22:35 (that’s 10:35pm); my four-year-old daughter trundled off to sleep at her usual time of 20:00. None of our friends were partying this year.

No one texts me.

This is probably the first time in 20 years that I’ve rung in the “new year” completely alone.

Shouldn’t this make me melancholy? I don’t know if it should (don’t should on me!), but it doesn’t. It’s kind of cozy, really. Until the timer turned them off a few minutes ago, the Christmas tree lights splashed a warm glow across my typing fingers; I’ve turned off the TV, so all is quiet, if not silence; I can hear my husband snoring, my clock ticking, my fridge chuckling. Sporadic fireworks still grace the night behind me, on the other side of the window.

I don’t type in silence, but I type in the quiet.

Ah. There’s the first ambulance siren of the year.

Peace. Peace for this year. Grace and mercy to those who aren’t starting 2017 in peace.

The clock is ticking.

The cat is sleeping under the darkened Christmas tree.

The year 2016 A.D. held so much grief.

Deaths of people I’ve long admired from great distances.
Death of confidence in the basic decency of humanity.
Death to idealism and optimism and other beneficent -isms — all of which are intimately connected with fellow humans-being.

I still like to think of myself as Eternal Optimist Woman, even though that belief has been sorely tried this year. I think the EOW has disintegrated into ash for the time being; I can only hope that, like the phoenix, she will rise from the ashes again.

She’s done it before.

And there’s that word again.

Hope.

I’ve pondered again and again whether or not I should wax political about the goings-on in the United States of America in 2016. And if I decided to wax that way, just what could or would or should (!) I say? But the emotional energy required take for such a blopgost (yes, blopgost) would be an expense I cannot afford.

The Babadook still lives in my basement*. He demands my intensive self-care, which includes not feeding my strength into something that won’t benefit anyone.

(*If this reference makes no sense to you, I recommend watching the movie The Babadook, which is basically a metaphor for depression.)

I will say this, since it relates to hope: I don’t hope for anything Good to come from the USA’s current president-elect. “I hope for no hope from him…poor clown,” as Amalthea told Molly Grue. (Although I know I’m doing Schmendrick an injustice; still, allow me my nerdy references, would you?) He has proven himself ridicule-worthy, dangerously unbalanced, selfish, self-absorbed, greedy, incapable of empathy, ableist, racist, misogynist, bigoted, prejudiced, childish, fiendish, and just plain gross.

If I were to put him into a novel, readers would mock me for writing such a parody of a villain. He’s so much Chaotic Evil as to be unbelievable. No one would read him.

(“He lied in every word, that hoary [emotional-]cripple with malicious eyes….”)

I cannot describe to you how much it cost me to write the preceding two paragraphs. I feel completely exhausted.

But.

The point is, I have no hope for the next year regarding the president-elect of the USA, his cabinet, his advisors, his family, his decisions, his intentions, his cronies, his sycophants. I have so little hope regarding any of those, it has passed zero and dropped squarely onto the negative side of the axis. And on the negative side, my hope moves ever more rapidly away from zero.

Thank God — literally — that the Reality which gives me hope is no human construct or human system.

When I was 19, my atheist friend said to me, “Courtney, I don’t care if you believe in God or not — but if you’re going to believe, you have to be able to tell me why.”

I had no answer for him then.

Nowadays, I have answers squooshing out of my ears, but that’s another tale and shall be told another time. šŸ˜‰

My thought tonight is that because of my faith and in spite of the Chaotic Evil that has created a safe place for so many other evils to reveal themselves, I still have hope.

A renewable hope.

A continually-renewed hope.

What if we humans had a leader who cared? Who empathized? Who accepted us all, every one? Who wanted to build something beautiful and glorious and beneficial, instead of promising dread and fear and harm? What if we had a leader who actually did represent us and count us in and protect us and serve us and live for us and die for us? What if we had a leader truly “for the people” and “by the people”?

What if we humans had a leader truly made of Love?

I know of so many people who profess to follow this man named Jesus of Nazareth, the Anointed One (that’s what mashiach–“Messiah” and “Christ” mean) — and yet, they are so terrified of someone misleading “their country,” they actually believe that a human construct could “close the doors” of their churches.

(Fellow believers, how could you vote Chaotic Evil when you claim to follow the Perfect Lawfree Good, which never restricts freedom?)

The Good News is that no matter what any man-made system decides or does, the house being built by this Jesus of Nazareth will never close.

After all, He is a carpenter. He knows how to build a house with uncloseable doors.

But it’s not about the closing of doors. It’s about the closing of minds, the closing of hearts, the tearing-down of the differently-opinioned, the shutting-down of empathy, the removal of “with” from compassion (which leaves only passion, and of an undirected, malignant sort).

(Compassion, in case you didn’t know, means “suffering-with”; to have compassion on someone means to enter into their suffering, to become part of it and to make it part of you.)

And this closing off and shutting down is coming from those who profess to own the One who personifie(d)s opening up, feeling with, suffering with, building up, welcoming in.

My so-called fellow Jesus-followers rejected his example and his indwelling Lifespirit.

That, in my very subjective view, is the real tragedy of 2016 A.D., for it leads to the suffering of humanity, most especially including the impoverished and the unbelieving.
In regard to so-called Jesus-followers, this felt more like 1016 A.D.

They have forgotten their hope.

They have forgotten that their hope can be “new every morning”

(great is thy faithfulness).

Jesus the Anointed One, Son of God Most High and Head of His Body (the collective of Different Ones [definition of “saints”] in this world) — He is building a house.

His house has nothing to do with physical buildings ornamented with made-up names and stained-glass windows.

His house encompasses the universe itself.

He will build that house with or without those followers of his who happen to name themselves “American” (for you can be sure that *he* didn’t name them that). He will build his house with the people on the street corners, the ones who actually hear his words and listen to them and respond (Matthew 22). He doesn’t care where these people came from; they listen, and they come to him, and he loves them and takes them in.

They take his Hope and they eat it. They chew it. They swallow it whole.

And his Hope has no relation whatsoever to the construct of human politics or calendars.

In the vastness of the universe and the multi-directional eternity of history, human politics are less than a footnote. I’m not sure they’re even mentioned between the covers of the entire book.

I have hope.

Because I’m a stone in a wall that’s going to last forever. I am a stone in Reality.

That Reality behooves and encourages and enables me to feel-with and suffer-with those who feel deeply and suffer. And it’s the kind of suffering-with that leads to action. Compassion leads to getting my hands “dirty.”

I’m okay with that.

His hands were “dirtier” than mine ever can be.

I didn’t intend for this blopgost to turn into such a revelation about my beliefs. I wanted to keep it simple, really. But it just seemed like the words wanted to come out exactly as they did.

There goes the second set of sirens of the New Year.

No one wants to read a sermon first thing on January 1st (at least, I don’t know of anyone who does.)

Also, I’m tired and starting to fade toward sleep. And starting to type in my sleep; I’ve already had to delete two sentences because they made no sense. šŸ˜‰ So I’ll wrap this up. There really should be some more thoughts here, but I don’t have any.

I’m too tired.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, everypony!

Peace.

social media away message

I posted a version of this on Facebook this morning.

CLARIFICATION

I don’t hate any one person.
I don’t hate any group of people.
I don’t hate any demographic.
I don’t hate.

I feel angry.
I feel hurt.
I feel concerned — not for myself, not for any religious institution, not for so-called “religious freedom,” but for non-white, non-gender-binary, non-straight, non-legally-protected –> READ: non-*privileged* people, a majority of whom went to bed last night and woke up this morning utterly terrified.

In accordance with my daily-challenged faith, I will state my belief that Jesus isĀ Lord of all, even this whole debacle.
But I willĀ not forget that He was also LordĀ during the Dark Ages, the Spanish Inquisition, the Trail of Tears, the Holocaust, ETC. His being in control does not mean we humans don’t find a host of absolutely horrific things to perpetrate against one another.

His being in control does not excuse any of us — especially those of us who claim to follow Him — from doing everything we possibly can to prevent those horrific things. Including keeping other humans out of power who perpetuate those horrific things.

I feel sad.
I feel love.

I live out Love.

RELATIONSHIPS

Some of you are aware of my heavy heart after a former long-time friend unfriended me a few days ago over this whole debacle.
Some of you will call me a hypocrite because I unfriended someone over this whole debacle.

This difference is that I didn’t attack or question the faith of the one who unfriended me.
The one I unfriended was never more than an acquaintance, and he attacked me and questioned my faith.

I don’t need that kind of unhealthy connection in my life.

I want to retain connections in which I exchange life (Life) with others.

I’m not sure that’s a sustainable thing via Facebook.

There’s more to all this. But I don’t have the words right now. If I find them, I’ll holler.

VACATION

I am taking a social media vacation. It will last at least untilĀ the New Year.

I will pop onto FB to manage my author page (facebook.com/courtcanwrite/). But I don’t plan to interact there on my personal account.

I won’t be checking private FB messages. If you want to contact me, please email if you have my email address, text if you have my phone number, comment on my author page, or comment on my blog.

Until further notice, I’ll be interacting on Twitter (@courtcan) only to promote my books and talk about writing.

My main reasons for this vacation (from Facebook) are that I’m tired of being personally attacked, I’m tired of having my faith questioned by people who know little to nothing about my daily life or my beliefs, and I’m tired of providing a space where people I love and respect bicker with, yell at, and aim “friendly fire” at each other (necessitating my intervention).

I’m just weary. And this isn’t helping the depression I’m still in treatment for.

I love you all.

Facebook ya in January. Maybe.

 

In the meantime though, I’ll for sure be blogging here. Stay tuned!

i write because mirrors have voices

Hile, inkslingers, ne’er-do-wells, and sundry,

I’ve been neglecting the blog again of late. But I have good reason. A depression low-point struck, and I’ve been self-medicating with Netflix. Also, I was sick with another of my lovely sinus infections, so it’s taken me a bit to bounce back from that.

But I’m trying to get back to bouncy-trouncy-flouncy-pouncy-fun-fun-fun-fun-fun, hence my choice not to indulge in ST:Voyager tonight but wet my writing whistle, instead. (Ooh la la.)

“Here, drink this,” he says.

Last month, Herr Chuck the Wendigo (as I like to call him [read: I just made that up]) issued one of his weekly writing challenges: 1,000 words on why we write. Since I tend to drink up whatever the Wendigo hands me (and yes, this maybe should frighten all of us), I am taking that challenge and frolicking with it.

(Ooh la la.)

Why I Write

I write because mirrors have voices.

You can walk past a mirror and not even notice it. From the corner of your eye, you might catch a glimpse of movement, but it’s not enough to give you pause. You keep going, focused on wherever you need to be, whatever you want to do, whomever you intend to see. The mirror stays behind, hanging forgotten on the wall or sitting blind-once-more on the shelf or waiting silently in the windowframe.

(Windows and eyes can be mirrors, and we sometimes forget this to our peril. But that is another story and shall be told another time.)

You can walk past a mirror and barely register your own reflection.

But I write because mirrors have voices.

I walk past a mirror, and it screams at me.

LOOK.

Stop, writer, and LOOK.

See yourself. Stare into your own soul, and pull something out of there that you would prefer not to see. Turn that thing over in your hands. Feel it. Touch it the way you’ve never touched anything else. Dig your fingertips into it and feel the pain…

…because, oh yes, you might pull that thing out of yourself, but it remains connected to you as though by vital umbilical cord. That thing in your soul sends and receives, and so do you. You press that thing between your palms, and you set off an agonizing resonance. The thing in your soul that you don’t want to see, that thing is pain. But your job is to fiddle with it and poke it and prod it and see what makes it squeal.

You don’t want others to see that thing, either.

But your job is to show them, writer.

Take that resonating pain and make them feel it, too.

They might not perceive it as pain, but it’s still your job to show it to them.

That’s the only way you’ll ever write something real.

That’s the only way you will ever be real.

I write because mirrors have voices, and they tell me to pull out the parts of my soul I would rather keep hidden and bare them to the world.

Everything I write is, in some way, a reflection of myself.

Every character I write carries around a little part of me. (This maybe should frighten all of us.)

(Sometimes the voices of the mirrors sound suspiciously like the voices of my characters.)

I write because mirrors have voices, and they tell me to dig deep and unearth what makes me real and use it to craft something real for someone else.

I write because mirrors have voices, and they insist that I Make Things.

* * *

When I ignore the mirrors…when I walk past them and stare anywhere else and refuse the glimpse of my reflected movement…bad things happen.

That thing in my soul? It turns surly when I ignore the mirrors. If I’m not writing, that thing in my soul goes dark and sucks in light. It sucks away joy and interest in life. It saps motivation. It leaches me of any desire to interact with other people.

When I ignore the voices of the mirrors, what happens to me looks an awful lot like depression.

* * *

During the times in my adult life when I wasn’t writing, I didn’t like myself very much.

* * *

I write to soothe the thing in my soul.

I write to Make Something Real in fiction, in the hope of touching people I would never be able to touch otherwise.

I write to like myself.

I write to be who and what I am created to be.

I write to quiet the characters who demand I tell their stories.

I write because mirrors have voices.

 

iheartwords

________________

Why do *you* write?

Here is my depression. Let me show you it.

“Wear a smile on my face, but there’s a demon inside.”

–from “Jekyll and Hyde” by Five Finger Death Punch

Don’t Google or YouTube that. (No, seriously. Don’t.)

I don’t for a moment think it’s a literal demon. Let’s just get that out of the way right from the start. I haven’t invited anything in, I haven’t been messing around with Ouja boards, I haven’t opened any metaphysical doors I can’t close. When I talk about having a demon, I’m not talking about being possessed. Because I’m not.

The “demon” is a metaphor.

So is the dark cave. So are: the quicksand, the black dog, the She-Hulk, the dark cloud of doom, the shadows closing in, the sludgy ocean. All of these are metaphors for the thing I’ve been dealing with that’s called depression.

This has been a long time coming

(and the cards are stacked…).

I’ve been disgnosed with depression, and I am now ready to talk about it.

Depressive Tendencies

As a teenager, I suffered depressive episodes during which I just wanted to curl up and stop everything. There was a lot of crying in the bathroom. I chalked it up to academic difficulties in school, relationship difficulties with friends, relationship difficulties with parents. Hormones. When I was 14, a psychiatrist told my parents I was “well-adjusted.” I took that to mean I could rest on my psychological laurels. Turns out I was just a good enough actress to fool a therapist.

In my 20s, I struggled through a long depressive bout that (I believe) resulted from my inability to say “no” and give myself the alone time I needed to recharge and recenter myself. Self-care has never come naturally to me; it’s always been Put Others’ Needs First, Second, and Third. Things improved when I learned to respect my need for solitude — and when I learned to require others to respect my need, too. Peace entered in when I listened to my spirit saying gently, “It’s okay to say no. It’s okay to take care of you. It’s okay. They’ll be just fine without you. Go do you for a while.”

I got better. I made the life choices I needed to make when I needed to make them. I became a full-time writer. I changed my eating habits and turned myself into a runner. It’s amazing what writing and exercise do for my spirit. There’s really no comparison.

Family History: Depression’s Descendant?

I won’t overshare here, because some things are not mine to share in public. Suffice it to say that there’s a family history of depression and anxiety. Nature or nurture? I believe it’s both, and that both get passed down through the generations. I have a great-great-grandmother who tried twice to stab her husband to death. Her daughter beat my grandfather. And so on and so forth.

Whatever it is, it goes back at least a hundred years. It gets diluted with each successive generation…like a poison poured into a glass of water, poured into the next generation’s glass, and the next, and the next. It’s diluted — I’d venture to say we can’t quite taste it anymore — but it still sickens us ever so slightly.

I fear for my daughter. I want her glass of water to run clear and fresh and pure. I know I can’t protect her fully. And yet, I refuse to give in to fear. “There is still hope,” as the elf-saying goes. I haven’t lost that.

Or rather, I lost hope for a while, but I’ve regained it.

The Demon Called Depression

On Death

I’ve never been suicidal.

Oh, there have been times when I wanted to be dead. The pain was great, and I wanted it to stop. I didn’t want to kill myself, never even pondered methods. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to be dead because I wanted the pain to stop. And because I’m a Jesus-follower, I knew that part of what Jesus promises is “no tears” after this life. I desperately yearned for the “no tears” part. The “no pain” promise was for me, and if ever someone wanted it, I did.

So I prayed for God to take me — in a painless way, preferably while I slept, so I wouldn’t have a clue what was happening. I prayed he would comfort my family and friends after I was gone but reassure them they’d see me again. In the meantime, I would enjoy the lack of pain and sorrow.

But never once did I consider ending my own life. Was I still suicidal, since I was asking God to end it? I don’t know what the professionals would say, but I don’t think I was a danger to myself. I thought of myself in the light of the apostle Paul, who said, “If I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really donā€™t know which is better. Iā€™m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (Philippians 1:22-23).

If Paul could talk about wanting to rest with Christ, why couldn’t I?

Downward Spiral

From 2012-2015, I plodded on through a rough pregnancy, delivery, and post-partum recovery:

  • Mentally and emotionally, I was a mess because I spent most of the 9 months terrified I would miscarry. (I suffered a miscarriage in 2006; looking back, I have no doubt that a major depressive episode followed, possibly outright depression.)
  • During my first trimester one of our cats died unexpectedly and in a shocking way. (A botched spaying basically led to internal bleed-out and heart stopping). I grieved her loss as only a terrified, exhausted pregnant woman can. I haven’t really gotten over it yet.
  • I only threw up once the whole pregnancy, but from 10 weeks on I spent every moment feeling nauseated. Eating and drinking were anathema (unless I felt ravenous). Somehow, I managed not to get dehydrated.
  • During labor and delivery in September 2012, my tailbone broke. Thankfully, I had an epidural, so I didn’t feel it. But I heard it. And after the epidural wore off, I felt it. I felt it until, oh, April 2015 or thereabouts.
  • Four days after delivery, I visited the ER for ultrasounds on both legs to make sure I didn’t have blood clots. (I didn’t.)
  • Six days after delivery, I visited the ER again for an impacted bowel. I swear, you haven’t lived until you’ve had a cute little 20-something girl pump soapsuds up your–
  • Well, you get the picture.
  • Somewhere in there was a UTI.
  • Two months after delivery, I discovered that my toenails had died and gotten infected. Apparently this can happen as a result of physical trauma, because the body pulls resources from non-essential systems. They took a year to grow back normal.
  • Hair loss.
  • Baby weight that still hasn’t come off.
  • (Percocet for broken tailbone post-partum) + (sleep deprivation while caring for newborn) = hallucinations
  • Re-injury of back (torqued sacrum, to be specific) in June 2014.
  • 11 months total of physical therapy for spine injuries.
  • All the stress, frustration, worry, and guilt that go along with being a (new) mother.

And the stress, frustration, worry, and guilt refused to let up. Instead of decreasing, they increased. They turned into anxiety and anger. By January/February 2015, I was pretty sure something was seriously wrong.

Duh, you might say.

But have you ever been so close to a situation that you couldn’t see the truth of it? That’s a rhetorical question, because I know the answer is “yes”; not seeing the forest for the trees is pretty much a constant of the human condition. With everything I dealt with from 2012-2014, maybe it should’ve been a logical conclusion that I’d spiral into a major depression. But you know what? Maybe not. Maybe it wasn’t so obvious.

Maybe I’m just a good enough actress to fool myself in addition to fooling a lot of people around me.

Maybe my smile looked genuine enough in the mirror to fool even me into believing thatĀ a demon hadn’t taken up residence inside me.

Decision

About six months ago, I realized I felt angry pretty much all the time. I also cried a lot. I had no desire whatsoever to be around people. I didn’t want to leave the house for anything. I couldn’t get to sleep. I couldn’t stay asleep. I couldn’t wake up in the morning.

My thoughts were not normal for me:

“I can’t do this (read: anything, really).”

“I didn’t sign up for this kind of life.”

And, most telling:

“My daughter deserves a better mother than this pathetic one she has. I can’t do anything right by her.”

“God made a mistake when he made *me* a mother.”

Without getting deeply into theology, I’ll tell you this: the idea that “God Commits Errors” is not part of my belief system. If God chose to make me a mother (which I believe he did), then his choice was not an error. Intellectually, I was confident in this as Truth.

Emotionally, I railed at him for inflicting me upon this beautiful, innocent child.

My anger increased. And, to make a long story short (too late), most of that anger was nonsensically turning in the direction of that beautiful, innocent child.

That, my dear friends and neighbors, is unacceptable.

For her sake, if not for my own or my longsuffering husband’s, I had to change.

In May 2015, I saw my general practitioner, who agreed with my self-diagnosis of depression and prescribed Zoloft.

Defining Depression

Depression is sitting in a dark cave, curled with with your knees to your chest and your arms wrapped around your legs. You’re terrified to move, because if you move, Things Will Get Worse. You don’t know how or why, you just know that they will. You’re curled up in this dark, dank, miserable place, and you cannot see an exit. Your eyes are wild and wide, but you cannot see even the faintest hint of light. You are incapable of movement. You are incapable of reaching out or calling out for help. Somewhere deep inside, you hope that someone will reach in and wrap their fingers around yours and tug gently. If that happened, maybe you could follow that gentle encouragement back to its source, back to the light and the warmth and the real. But very few people know how to reach in like that. And even if they do, you find that all you can do is twitch in response. You can’t actually move enough to follow them anywhere.

Depression is a dark cloud of doom that hangs slightly behind you and overhead, always just out of sight no matter how quickly you turn to confront it. It never goes away. It follows you everywhere. It blocks out warmth and light. It is an invisible, intangible jailer, and it mocks you.

Depression is like you’re trying to use one potato to peel another potato. *If* someone offers help and you accept, you find that they’ve handed you another potato.

Depression is Sisyphus.

Depression is running through a dark, foggy forest full of pitfalls and sharp rocks and trees that reach out to grab you. A black dog with blood in his teeth is chasing you. You can’t outrun him. You can’t outsmart him. You can’t hide from him. Every time you throw a terrified glance over your shoulder, HE IS RIGHT THERE, tearing at your heels. You scream, and he howls in triumph. You can feel his damp breath and smell the rot that follows him everywhere. And no one can keep him off you.

Depression is a sweet voice pulling you further into the darkness with seductive whispers.

Depression is a rough, gravelly voice that beats you down with the “truth” that you’re not good enough, you’re a terrible person, if people really knew you, they would hate you, you’re worthless.

Depression is the She-Hulk, a rage always boilling beneath the surface, and once she breaks her bonds, you can do nothing to stop her. She takes over, grows to insane proportions, and destroys whatever is in her path.

Depression is quicksand grabbing you around the knees and pulling you into its suffocating embrace, and you can’t apply the anecdotal “fix” of stretching out flat on top of it and “swimming” to safety.

Depression is a vast, sludgy ocean that sucks you down and contains no life, and you can’t see a shore or lifeline anywhere.

Depression is dark shadows overlaying everything you see. (For some people, this is literal.)

Depression is a demon that lives inside you, an invisible disease of your will and emotions. The demon makes you smile when you don’t feel like it. The demon makes you participate in activities you don’t want any part of. The demon uses your body and your face like a meatsuit, playing at human life with the goal of keeping up appearances. The demon doesn’t want anyone else to know it’s inside you. The demon acts human so that no one will find out that it’s devouring your internal organs, eating you from the inside out. Only sometimes does the demon show its true face — and then only when it knows that the witnesses can’t (or won’t) do anything to cast the demon out.

“Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn’t worth living.

“More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply ‘snap out’ of.

“A variety of factors may be involved, such as: biological differences, brain chemistry (neurotransmitters), hormones, thyroid problems, inherited traits, [and] life events.”

–Mayo Clinic

Dealing with the Demon

The day I got the prescription, I started taking Zoloft. My doctor warned that it would be weeks before I felt a difference, if I felt one at all. It could be months.

Maybe wishful thinking or psychosoma took over, but I swear I felt an effect within two-and-a-half weeks. There came a weekend where I looked back on the foregoing week and realized that I hadn’t cried or even felt like crying. Another week, and I found myself putting on real clothes and washing my hair and taking the toddler to playgrounds. By June, I wanted to be around people. In July, I found myself more active in our house church, and the sudden influx of family for a reunion didn’t send me into the fetal position.

Best of all, I was exercising patience with my child.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors “increase the extracellular level of the neurotransmitter serotonin by limiting its reabsorption into the presynaptic cell, increasing the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft available to bind to the postsynaptic receptor.”

–Wikipedia

Zoloft is an SSRI: Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor.

I remember learning about those in college psych classes. On exams, I never had trouble recalling anything I’d learned about them — because they sounded so poetic. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The words flow off the tongue in perfect sibilants and labials, consonants forming a lovely rhythm. The “reup-” diphthong encourages a perky, upward motion of the head as you speak, as though the word itself on your lips is part of the treatment. The entire phrase is a poem of the soul, designed to move forward, move along, move on, get past this, leave behind all the dullness and lack of melody.

These drugs I’m now taking, I used to think they were poetry.

I’m not a professional counselor, but I’ve had counseling training, and I’ve been in a position (by necessity) in which I’ve counseled others. Some of those others have suffered from depression. I took care not to offer anything in the way of “professional” advice; I always pointed those individuals toward the fully trained, the licensed, the practiced.

Still, I sat only on one side of the “desk.” I settled myself in the “chair” instead of on the “couch.” I functioned as counselor, not client. I was the listening ear and the shoulder to cry on — not the one to speak or to weep.

Now, suddenly, *I* am the one with the disease.

It is a weird and humbling experience, and I don’t like it.

It isn’t poetic or perky at all.

Suffering from depression represents yet one more fracture in my illusion of control. (All sense of control is an illusion; if you don’t believe this, you’re still in illusion’s grip. I recommend the red pill.) Maybe I didn’t offer advice…but as long as I sat in the chair instead of lying on the couch, I could at least fool myself into believing I was master of my situation. That belief, though ever tenuous, has now crumbled. I’m not adrift, as I remain in possession of my firm foundation, but I’m still at a loss to reconcile Who I Think I Am with this ill person who requires anti-depressants in order to function.

Like I said. It’s humbling.

Which isn’t a bad thing. Humility is never a bad thing. And through this whole experience, I am learning greater sympathy and empathy toward others who experience depression. That’s not a bad thing, either.

It’s just such a strange thing to acknowledge consciously and intentionally that I have a mental illness.

I have a mental illness.

I have a mental illness.

Decision

I do not say that I’m mentally ill.

Mental illness is not something I am, it’s something I *have*.

Just like I *have* neurocardiogenic syncope, premature ventricular contractions, a milk allergy, arthritis, scoliosis, hypermobility, and chronic sinusitis.

I am not these (mostly invisible) diseases and conditions. I have them, but they do not define who I am. I must deal with them on a daily basis, but they do not determine the nature of my person. And they certainly do not decide what direction my life goes.

(Speaking of those other conditions, though, I’ve noticed a pleasant “side effect” to the anti-depressants: I haven’t been experiencing nearly as many premature ventricular contrations since I started taking Zoloft. Instead of three per day, I’ve been feeling maybe three per week. This lovely development has led my cardiologist and me to cut my beta-blocker in half, with the goal of eliminating it altogether within the next few months. Since beta-blockers have some fairly onerous side effects, I am all in on getting rid of them.)

So. I’m not mentally ill. I have a mentall illness. It’s more than just a semantic difference to me. It represents my acceptance of this but also my determination not to let it rule me. I am not subject to depression. I do not belong to depression.

The demon does not own me.

Direction

I am aimed at and headed toward healthy.

When my doctor gave me the Zoloft prescription, she said, “We do not call these your ‘happy pills.’ If anything, we call these your ‘normal pills’ — because we’re trying to get you back to what’s normal for you.”

With her help, I came to realize that I’ve dealt with depression for at least three years, likely longer. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I haven’t had some form of depression since the miscarriage in 2006.

When you’re just just trying to live your life from one day to the next, it’s difficult to step back and see the big picture (see: Forest for the Trees Syndrome again). It’s even easier to tell yourself this is just a temporary setback, I’ll get past this, it’ll be fine, tomorrow is another day, ad infinitum. But finally, I am seeing more of that picture and realizing that I’ve been treading water, close to drowning, for a lot longer than I’d realized.

The good news is, the dark cloud no longer hangs over my head.

The black dog no longer nips at my heels.

I have a potato peeler.

My organs are regenerating, and the demon’s presence has weakened.

I still have bad moments, bad days. In fact, as I write this, I am coming out of a particularly bad week. I missed some exercise days, and that has contributed to the lows. I also just published a novel 20 years in the making, and it took a lot of extra oomph I really didn’t have. But I gave it anyway, and then I crashed*.

The dark cloud no longer hangs over me, but I know it lurks beyond the horizon.

The black dog no longer nips at my heels, but sometimes I can still hear his howl.

My potato peeler isn’t always sharp.

The demon has weakened, but it’s still there.

I can hear it waiting.

And so, I do what I must to take care of myself.

I take time for me. Alone time. Writing time. Workout time. Friends time. These are all separate times, and I take them. It means being away from my family. So be it. I am a better mother and wife when I take time away from them.

I take my exercise. I run. I zumba. I don’t yoga as much as I’d like, but I’m working back up to it.

I take my meds. I’ve always had an aversion to taking pills. But I don’t mind taking these little blue ones at all. They make me feel that much better.

I take a step back. When emotions start to get the better of me, I take a step back and ask myself what I’m doing and whether I need to step out of the room. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Either way is okay.

I take these healthful resources because I need them.

This is where I am. No guilt.

I’ll stay here for as long as I need to.

PicsArt_1436986271278

*Vegging in front of the TV, watching “my boys“. They’re great therapy.
; )

P.S. I will see a therapist at some point, but I’m not quite there, yet. In time.

it’s time to paint a tiger

it’s time to paint a tiger
by Courtney Cantrell

it’s time to paint a tiger
and i am not ready

the wildness is what gets me
i guess
sharp gleam of jade eye
power of muscle and mercurial spirit
contained in a casing of banded skin
tiger tiger burning bright
greed would turn you into a rug
your greed would break my neck drag me off
devour me

but all i want is to paint you
and i am not ready

     how do i capture this in words
     elusive feelings so resistant to the bars
     of serif font in black-and-white
     how do i chronicle a slow descent into
     sad unhappy gloomy
     life as a darkening mass above my head
     wretched forlorn forgotten

     angry

     how do i catalog despair?

the wildness is what gets me
i know
pupils dilate, track my every shudder
those powerful muscles coil
the creature waits motionless
ready to leap the moment i look away
tiger tiger burning dull
lulling me into a false sense of safety
tricking me into a belief that
i have a handle on this situation

i do not

we stare each other down, the tiger and i
my canvas screams for paint
my fingers itch to slather this blank space in wet color
but i can’t paint unless i look away from what hunts me
the tiger and i stare each other down
and the hair stands up on the back of my neck as i realize
all my paints are the color of crimson

     i stand already eviscerated
     my heart caught in the creature’s claws
     i didn’t even see it move

     my world is spattered with gore
     there’s blood everywhere

except for that damned white canvas

the creature refuses captivity

     i can only stand here
     and stare
     and bleed

it’s time to paint a tiger
and i am not ready

May 2, 2015

That’s not a corset, mate. THIS is a corset.

Gone with the Wind

When I was a kid and teenager, I watched Gone with the Wind at least a couple of times a year. (I read the book for the first time at age 14 or 15.) And every time, I viewed it with an odd mixture of enjoyment, disgust, fascination, and horror.

This isn’t a post about slavery or bigotry or racism or women’s equality or war or politics, though Gone with the Wind contains plenty of fodder for each. (Not to mention a kaboodle of interesting stuff relating to the psychology of Scarlett O’Hara herself; man, did I ever get a doozy of a shock concerning her when I finally rewatched the movie as an adult! Also: Vivien Leigh? Brilliant.)

No, I’m not delving into any of that today. What I am going to talk about, though, is corsets.

scarlettmammycorset

As a kid and a teen, I watched the corset-lacing scenes with horror. How could any woman do that to herself? How could she breathe? No wonder she couldn’t eat. No wonder there was fainting all over the place. These women had to be crazy to think fashion and other people’s opinions were worth putting themselves through this kind of torture — putting themselves into this kind of torture device.

Corset. Torture device. Every bit as effective as the iron maiden, thumbscrews, and the rack, I had no doubt.

Oh, and then there was this:

Mammy (referring to Scarlett’s waist measurement): Twenty inches.

Scarlett: I’ve grown as big as Aunt Pitty! You’ve simply got to make it eighteen-and-a-half again!

Mammy: You done had a baby, Miss Scarlett, an’ you ain’ never goin’ to be no eighteen-an’-a-half inches again — never. An’ there ain’ nothin’ to do about it.

Eighteen-and-a-half inches. You know what that is? That’s the circumference of…of…well, of I don’t know what. Something very small. Like maybe the head of a small child. Or my cat. (The whole cat, not the head.) Definitely not the waist of an average-height, adult, human female.

Corsets, thought I, shaking my head in amazed disgust. Those are for crazy people. NO DOUBT.

Down with the Corset!

Now. By which I mean, give heed, dear inklings, to meanderings mine as well as in the context of this narrative, we find ourselves in present day. If you recall, I recently gave you a candid look, both in description and in photographic evidence, of my post-pregnancy body. If you recall, in that post I jokingly used the word “corset” to describe the bodysuit thingamajig my physical therapist wanted me to wear in order to help heal my separated abdominal muscles (diastasis recti).

That bodysuit corset thingamajig is this:

Ooh la la. #no #notreally

Ooh la la. #no #notreally

I didn’t like it. It pulled on my shoulders, making them sore and straining my upper back. It slid down. It rode up. Sure, it slimmed down some of the fat pockets on my back and sides, but was a slightly (SLIGHTLY) streamlined silhouette really worth the discomfort? Nay, said the horse. Not to mention the part where I have to unhook it when I want to pee, which makes me feel like I’m wearing a superlarge version of my toddler’s onesies. Great, not only am I out of shape and in pain, I’m also reduced to wearing gigantic baby clothes. I CAN’T WIN.

I wouldn’t wear this thing if I didn’t have to. But if I ever want to heal my abs, get my back into shape again, and return to exercising with any semblance of gusto, wear this gigantic toddler onesie wedgie corset-thing I must.

I had no idea what was coming next.

gwtw-intermission

Physical therapy was still progressing, at least as far as my mobility was concerned. But the pain had plateaued, meaning that it wasn’t getting worse (most days), but it certainly wasn’t improving. My physical therapist suggested placing a sheet of plywood under my mattress. The husband installed it. I also started wearing my mouthguard at night so that I wouldn’t clench/grind my teeth. (Bruxism can contribute to back pain.)

Plywood and mouthguard helped a little; the pain dropped a notch. Then it plateaued again. My therapist was at a loss. My frustration level went up. The toddler kept doing this weird thing called getting bigger, which also meant getting heavier. Soon, every morning began with numb spots on the bottoms of my feet. I couldn’t turn my head.

My mother, wise woman that she is, suggested X-rays. My general practitioner, all-around awesome that she is, agreed. The X-rays showed something that shouldn’t have surprised me but was still fairly depressing:

Mild arthritis in my neck.

Mild scoliosis in my back.

Arthritis. At 36. I know it’s not unheard-of for someone my age or even younger to be diagnosed with this, but still. I figured out a long time ago that, powerful genes considered, I’d probably develop arthritis just the way my mother and grandmother did. But I thought that would be distant future, not imminent. I mean, seriously. Arthritis? Wasn’t I supposed to be at least 55 before this party started?

And scoliosis. Is this a new thing? Did this just develop during pregnancy? Can pregnancy cause it? Or have I always had it, and nobody ever realized? Isn’t this something that crops up in childhood? With all the bajillion doctors I’ve seen during the course of my too-short-for-arthritis life, if I’ve had scoliosis the whole time, how is it possible that nobody ever noticed?

It’s been a few days since the diagnoses, and I’m very definitely still *SIGH*ing over this. And feeling way older than any of this merits.

Done with the Corset; Or: That’s not a corset, mate. THIS is a corset.

My doctor says that if I have better back support, the pain of both conditions should/will decrease and go away. In order to gain better back support, I need core strength and stability — of which I’m clearly not getting enough via my onesie-corset-bodysuit. Those separated abs are THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. To heal the abs and reestablish core strength, the doc wants me to wear a thing. It’s called a “Belly Bandit.”

bellybandit

The Belly Bandit is supposed to be THE BEST for getting one’s stretched, now oddly-proportioned, post-pregnancy belly back into shape. It flattens and compresses. It squeezes separated abs back together so they can heal. It produces whangdoodles and zippetybobs, and it will most definitely endow one with those ever-elusive vorpal unicorn morphing powers. I guess it’s called a “bandit” because it steals away one’s oversized post-pregnancy belly. I guess.

I buy one. I haul it home and pull it out of the package. It’s a ca. 3-foot-long, 1-foot-wide piece of cloth-covered elastic with front panels of what feels like industrial-strength Velcro. I suck in the belly, flex what’s left of the abs, and wrap my new belly-thieving friend around my waist. I secure the Velcro that would make the Acme Corporation proud. I relax and immediately notice two things:

1. I suddenly feel like my top half and bottom half are finally connected again.

2. Gasp and egad, I AM IN A CORSET.

PRETTY.

PRETTY.

I can’t breathe. Did I get it too tight? I can’t sit down. Oh dear, it’s bunching up in the small of my back. But the package insert says it’s supposed to do this. I can’t breathe. And later, I will pull a Scarlett and eat like a bird because my stomach is too smooshed for more than half a meal to fit into my abdomen.

I remind myself that this is a good thing. I use all the force of my fingers, hands, and arms to pull the Velcro apart and strap the thing back on a little looser. Breathing recommences. A little. I pick up the baby, and my back doesn’t scream at me. Okay, Ms. Bandit, maybe we can be friends after all.

After a lifetime of looking down my nose at those frivolous, 19th-century Southern belles, I now am not walking around in their shoes, but in their underwear. The Belly Bandit slims my waist. I ain’t never goin’ be no 18 inches (never was in the first place; nor 20, nor 25…ET CETERA), but at least the waistband of my jeans now rests comfortably on my hips instead of pinching my flesh. Sure, sitting isn’t comfortable, but the moment I strap on my torture device, I feel my posture improve and my whole body stabilize. For the first time in over a year, I don’t feel like my top half is gonna slide all janky to the right when my feet are leading my legs and hips to the left.

The best and weirdest part is that I can actually feel my abs touching under my skin. I mean, what a testament to how messed up my body is. You’re not supposed to be able to feel your abs touching. What manner of crazy is this? And yet, I do feel it, and in addition to bizarre, it also feels like hope.

Maybe I can feel normal again. Maybe I can live without pain again (because, yes, after a week of wearing the Belly Bandit, I definitely have less pain, and my next pt appointment isn’t until the end of the week). Maybe I can get my abs back.

Maybe, just maybe, I can get my body back.

A Candid Look at My Post-Pregnancy Body

A mad scientist kidnapped me and dumped my consciousness into someone else’s body.

That’s the only thing I can figure.

This new body of mine moves funny. It’s looser in the hips, as though my top half and my bottom half aren’t hinged together right. I feel it when I walk: Sometimes, I have to pay conscious attention to which direction I’m aiming each leg. If I don’t, my janky hips might just send one leg diagonal left, the other diagonal right, and I’ll look like a puppet that’s had a couple of strings cut. Right before I sprawl flat on my face.

This new body aches in places that have never ached before. Muscles pull tight and strain not because they’re working hard, but because they’re working wrong. They’re compensating and overcompensating, trying to do work that my joints and ligaments used to do. But the joints are too loose now, and the ligaments are too stretched. So other parts of my body are trying to take up the slack. But they weren’t designed for the jobs they’re doing, and their extra effort leaves me more exhausted than I should be.

This new body of mine is softer and rounder in certain places. I wouldn’t mind that so much, except that those softnesses and roundnesses don’t fit into my old body’s clothes. It’s as though someone took all of my old clothes and replaced them with clothing that looks the same, but it’s all a size or two small and cut funny. A woman in my former yoga class once saw my side plank pose and said I looked like a chiseled work of art. Nobody would say that about this new body of mine, even if it did fit into the jeans that used to ride low on my hips.

This new body of mine is ruthless, vicious, vindictive. It reacts differently to my former favorite foods: taste, metabolism, where it chooses to store fat, all is changed. This body’s abdominal connective tissue is stretched and thin, so it can’t hold my organs in place where they should be. Over time and with certain exercises, this is improving — but the going is slow, and this new body mocks me every step of the way.

Related to this, the new body requires clothing I never thought I’d wear. The garment is something like a corset, made to pull my abs together so they can heal. I wear T-shirts over it and men’s dress shirts so that no one will catch a glimpse of the “corset” straps. More and more, I feel like the teenager I once was, hiding inside bulky clothes and hoping no one will look at me. I look forward to cold weather so that I can cover up the straps and my now chubby arms without baking in the Oklahoma heat.

This is how I have to tape my stomach if I want to exercise at all. Even just for walking.

This is how I have to tape my stomach if I want to exercise at all. Even just for walking.

This new body also enjoys waking me in the middle of the night to tell me how uncomfortable it is in the bed my old body luxuriated in. This new body doesn’t like the soft pillow-top mattress; it demands something firmer. But I can’t provide it with a better mattress, so the new body wakes me to whisper complain scream at me via my back and my right side. There’s no position that will alleviate the pain, so I get out of bed and start my day already weary. I hope that in the evening, I’ll have time to soak in a hot tub.

I am trying to acquaint myself with this new body. I am trying to make friends with it. With her. I remind myself that she did something momentous, creating and carrying a tiny and precious life inside of her for the better part of a year. It’s no wonder she’s marked, it’s no wonder that I’ve had to trade my old body for hers. It was inevitable, and in spite of all the headache and backache and heartache, I don’t regret a moment of this transformation.

Still….

A friend once told me I seemed unusually comfortable in my own skin, as though my (old) body was but a familiar and welcome extension of who I am on the inside. And I felt those things, and I was glad that others could see so clearly my comfortableness (hard-won after years of teenage and young adult self-deprecation).

But that comfortable, extension-of-me feeling is gone. Now, no matter how I try to make friends with this new body, this other woman’s body that even after a year doesn’t feel like mine yet, ours is a grudging relationship. There’s only so much I can do when she makes it so very clear that she doesn’t like me.

Well, the feeling is mutual. I don’t like her, either. And I want my old body back.

Depression and Creativity

The Depression Part

I’ve felt depressed lately.

Sad. Lethargic. Numb. Angry. Frustrated. Disinterested. Dark view of life. No hope. Blech.

I’ve blogged about depression before. And I’ve blogged about one of the main triggers of depression for me: not exercising my creativity.

When I realized that I was depressed, I said to several people who love me, “Hey, I’m depressed.” NOTE: Telling loving people that you’re depressed is helpful in starting the process of getting out of the depression.

Those several people who love me replied, “Hey, we’re not thrilled about this. Do you know why you’re depressed and/or how we can help?”

This was an excellent response for two reasons.

One, it let me know I’m not alone in this.

Two, it helped me figure out how to handle this.

You see, I had to answer them as follows: “There’s nothing that you can do, really. I have a baby whom I love dearly and deeply. I don’t resent her or begrudge her the time I spend with her. But the fact remains that when I’m taking care of her, I’m not writing. And when I do have time to write, I’m so exhausted that I fall asleep at the computer. There’s nothing anyone can do, really, to ‘fix’ this situation (which isn’t actually broken).

“However, having this conversation with you makes me focus on ways I can exercise my creativity in writing without sacrificing my daughter’s needs. So thank you for talking with me about this. That helped.”

The Creative Part, Pt. 1

And then I went and wrote a blog post, and I felt better. And then I invented a recipe for almond chicken, and while cooking doesn’t do a lot for me, it’s still a creative task, so I felt better after completing that, too. And then I reorganized two rooms and a closet, and the exercise in creativity required for that gargantuan task was a humdinger of a creative exercise, lemme tell ya. And then I made up a song about giraffes for my daughter and videoed myself singing it. After that, I was practically glowing.

So. I’ve felt depressed lately. But I’m on my way back up.

I still feel a ton of frustration that I nod off every time I sit down to continue my WIP (Elevator People). But at least I’m doing little creative things here and there. I think I just needed a reminder not to neglect that part of myself — and not to let exhaustion fool me into thinking I don’t have time for that part of myself.

After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create.

The Creative Part, Pt. 2

And then, my friend J.T. posted the following on his Facebook status, and I thought it was utterly brilliant:

“Art is not about talent or skill. Art is about you. Spending time with you, getting to know you. Seeing parts of yourself that you love, some that you hate, but mostly parts that scare the very breath from your lungs. Art is not about technique or style. Art is learning who you are, and being brave enough to show the world. You can’t be bad at art, unless you are simply afraid to try. Art is a terrifying pursuit, because there is nothing more frightening than our own selves.”

~J.T. Hackett, artist

I’ll be blogging about J.T.’s ideas more in the near future. But for now, here’s how I’m relating his words to my depression:

I need to know who I am.

When I don’t know who I am, I get depressed.

When I am not creating, I am not spending time with me, not getting to know me.

When I am not creating, I am not seeing myself fully.

When I am not creating, I forget who I am.

When I forget who I am, I get depressed.

I could flesh this out a bit more, but I think it suffices for my current purposes. More than ever, I see the truth in my belief that I am created to create. To dig more deeply: I am created to get to know exactly who I am. If I am not doing art, I am not getting to know who I am.

If I am not doing art, I am neglecting a main purpose for which I was created.

No wonder that sets me adrift.

I am finding my anchor again.

Cures from the Past

"Castle in Her Coils" by Courtney Cantrell

“Castle in Her Coils” by Courtney Cantrell

"No More Room in Hell" by Courtney Cantrell

“No More Room in Hell” by Courtney Cantrell

"Sea Creature" by Courtney Cantrell

“Sea Creature” by Courtney Cantrell

"Redemption" by Courtney Cantrell

“Redemption” by Courtney Cantrell