I grew up in the central valley of California in a rural area. There we had what we called "tooley fog." It was this low-to-the ground fog that would roll in off the fields (the tooleys). If you were driving on a country road, all of sudden you might lose complete vision of what was ahead. Growing up, we also had major foggy days. There would be days that the fog would be socked in so dense that you could barely see the house across the street.
This is what depression was for me: FOG. It seemed to roll in slowly, deceptively, mysteriously over a few weeks and then all of a sudden I found myself socked in--surrounded and blinded by it.
The day right after my garden parties, I was stuck smach in the middle of a dense Fog. It was sunny and warm and beautiful out but everything in my being was dimmed, sad.
I did all the things you are supposed to do: eating right, exercising, getting out in the sun. I was still taking a low dosage of Zoloft from my post-partum depression. Nothing worked.
Now everyone who experiences depression has different symptoms. For me, the major one was not being able to get off the couch. If you have read this blog for long or know me, you know that normally I am a pretty joyful, energetic and motivated person. I could not even motivate myself to unload the dishwasher. It was all I could do to make sandwiches for kids and get dinner on the table. I would wake up in the morning, get Anne off to school and then return to my bed or the couch, with Jack and Beth cuddled next to me. While I slumbered in and out of sleep, we would watch 6 episodes of Mr. Rodgers in a row.
I knew I wasn't being the mom I wanted to be, but I at least had enough clarity to keep them cuddled in my presence (even if I wasn't there mentally and emotionally).
I remember thinking if I can just get enough sleep, I will feel better. But no amount of sleep could restore my energy.
I had no joy. I wasn't motivated to do even the things I normally really enjoy. I was exhausted all the time--I wanted to sleep, escape. Those were the three huge signs for me: no joy, no motivation and extreme fatigue.
Then emotions took over. I would just sit and weep. In my head I would be telling myself, "Just snap out of it! Just go take a shower and get moving." But I simply couldn't.
I think this is the hardest part to describe to people who have not experienced depression. They don't get that no matter how much you tell yourself, "You need to get up" or "snap out of it" you just can't. It's quite paralyzing. It feels hopeless.
Now, one of the thing that psychiatrists and counselors always ask is "were there any triggers?" Now 18-24 months previously, yes there were definitely some triggers. I mean we all have them, right? Babies, remodeling homes, selling, moving, renting, major illnesses (Kidney infection), family stuff... However, it seemed like everything had smoothed out. No pressing house projects, no major events/incidents. My life was in a good, healthy routine. And yet internally, I felt out of control. Maybe it was when things finally settled, that the inner turmoil felt like it could come out.
Looking back, I can now answer these questions with clarity (although I couldn't in the midst of the Fog):
Was it genetic? Yes, it runs in my family.
Was if physical? Yes, I think my body was quite depleted after 3 babies.
Was it spiritual? Yes, I think Satan uses whatever weakness we have in an attempt to disable us. There is a reason people use "darkness" to describe depression and Satan.
Was it mental? Yes. I believe there is definitely chemistry in the brain and some things were out of balance.
It was the perfect storm.
Looking at the calendar now....I was really bad for about 2 weeks. (Although symptoms had been creeping in for several more.) But in the midst of it, it felt like an eternity. Matt would come home from work and ask me how my day was and I would just start sobbing. Blubbering over my simmering supper, I would tell myself, "Get over yourself! Pull it together."
I couldn't even seem to find the words to pray. Sometimes I would just turn on praise music and cry while listening to the lyrics, willing the words to reach God's ears.
Lord God, I cry out to you, my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. (Ps. 143:4)
I began to be very forgetful (normally I am all about the details). My thoughts were "murky," and it seemed like my thoughts weren't firing as quickly as normal. Everything was slowed--my thoughts and my body.
I thank God that I never had suicidal thoughts. I know that many do. I never once had a thought about harming myself or my children. To me, cuddling my children was one consoling joy.
Although I can't remember a one big conversation, I know Matt was expressing concern for me. He had told me he was worried. I kept reasoning that I just needed to catch up on sleep and get recharged. But the truth was I was socked in by the Fog and couldn't see two feet in front of my face.
My Psalm 71 Journey is a blog series that journals my struggle with depression. By honestly sharing my story, I will describe the highs and lows, the encouragement, my treatment decisions and how God has met my needs--bringing His glory to my unglorious situation of depression. Part One.