Feb 162011
 


“It seems like everywhere I go, the more I see, the less I know. But I know, one thing, that I Love You.”


Since I find it impossible to understand what’s going on in my own head, I would never try to describe what goes on in yours. But Sarah’s post and the amazing comments that followed got me thinking about the difference between navigating the normal highs and lows of motherhood and real depression. Since, over time, I have suffered through the effects of both an extremely dramatic personality and true depression, I thought I should try to describe the difference between the two. For me.

I come from a long line of dramatic Irish personalities. We are an emotional bunch – my family. Our highs are high and our lows are low. We love easily, but we cry and yell easily, too. We are quick to hug and quick to anger. Now I know that you won’t believe me, because I am so sweet and calm on this here blog. But that is because no one in my house is awake yet. After people wake up, I tend to get dramatic. I often struggle through the day. Trudge through the day. I have to take a lot of deep breaths. I experience joy, too, everyday. But I am not the type to roll with things. I get very down – for reasons that I can never identify. I decide, thirty times a day, that no one in the history of the world has ever had a harder life than I do. When I say this to God and He brings homeless people to mind, I actually think, well – at least they don’t have to SWEEP.

I also worry. Worry, worry, worry. Obsess might actually be a better word. Not about the plight of the Sudanese…I TRY to worry about things like that, but I ACTUALLY worry about whether I chose the wrong throw pillow for my new couch. I snap at my kids for acting like kids. I resent them for getting hungry three times a day. And even though I don’t believe in mommy guilt, I feel guilty all the time. If I could choose a phrase to describe the polar opposite of my personality, it would be “easy-breezy.” As a matter of fact, I call Sister daily crying and whining and I CANT DO IT ANYMOR-ING and I always end the conversation with “Whatever. I’m easy-breezy, Sister.” And she says, “I know you are, Sister. I know you are. Me too.”

Sometimes I get so upset that I become debilitated…I’m talking crumble to the ground, tears, head in hands… the whole she-bang. My break downs appear to be brought on by one little thing… like a grocery bag breaking in the driveway - and so Craig will say, “It’s okay honey, it’s just a grocery bag,” and I’ll say: “IT”S NOT A GROCERY BAG! IT’S EVERYTHING! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE IT’S EVERYTHING???” And I don’t want anyone to try to fix it or fix me - I just want to be upset. I just need to be upset for awhile. Because life is upsetting, obviously.

I’m just A LOT to deal with on a daily basis. And I know this. I do not cruise through life. I sort of crash through life. But I also “WOW” through life, too. And so it’s okay. I’ll take the lows with the highs. Basically, I really like myself. And I think I’m an awesome mom. God chose ME for these kiddos and He knows me better than anyone, so I’m gonna be myself. My kids don’t need some fake idea of a perfect mom, they need me -Glennon, the real person. I get that.

But every once in awhile – something scary happens to me. A black, heavy, murky fog sets in over my heart and my head. When this happens, I do not alternate between super high and super low. During these awful times I alternate between super low and super numb. The fog is so thick that even when I get still and try to find my way home to myself – I can’t. During these times, none of my usual tricks….quiet time, sunshine, exercise, friends, prayer . . . none of them help me find my way through the fog. I can go through the motions of the day . . . I remember what to do – pack the lunches, smile at the kids, sweep the floor, hug my husband….repeat. I just can’t remember why any of these things matter. The love, the life that usually infuses each of these tasks with meaning is gone. I become like a robot. I have completely lost myself. Gone is the joy, the drama, even the suffering that makes me, me. This state of mind has nothing to do with my dramatic personality. It is more like a complete loss of my personality. I’ve suffered this loss three times in my life. Once when I was much younger and suffering from bulimia and alcoholism. Once after my second child was born, and again about a month ago. I have come to believe that this loss of myself is what is commonly accepted as depression.

This last month, when I realized that I had lost myself again, I called my doctor who told me it was time for some help. She prescribed a pill for me and I brought the bottle home and told Craig that I was going to start taking the pills immediately. His face lit up like a Christmas tree. I said, “Be patient though, husband. They take two weeks to kick in.” Craig’s face fell and he said frantically, “What? Well then maybe you could just take a whole bunch at once. Maybe that would work faster.” Clearly, the preceding months had been as hard on him as they were on me. He loves me. He loves his high and low wife. He wanted her back. He didn’t want to medicate me away. He wanted to medicate me back.

Last year I was having a hard time dealing with my usual anxiety about life and love. I emailed my friend Josie and said, “I can’t take the intensity in my head anymore. I need to relax. I’m gonna medicate myself. What do you think?” I hadn’t talked to Josie for years, so I don’t know why I emailed her. I guess if you listen hard enough, God will always point you towards the right person. Josie wrote back and said, “A friend once told me that if medicine allows you to be more yourself, take it. If it doesn’t, don’t.” I really liked that. And that advice helped me decide NOT to take medicine back then. Because the truth is that myself is dramatic and anxious and obsessive and ridiculously intense and you know, a little WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

But myself is not numb. When I get numb, I take my own hand and help myself find my way of the fog, back home. And medicine helped me this time around. I’m grateful.

I’m also hesitant about taking medicine. Not for the reasons that many others are. I’m not embarrassed. Ever, really. It’s a gift, my shamelessness. I know that I’m only gonna get one go ‘round on this beautiful Earth and I want it to be a good ride. I figured out a while back that there is no award for she who suffers most. No way, Jose. Not my bag. I think it’s a strong and brave and inspiring thing to find out who you are and then find a way to be it.

No, I’m hesitant to medicate away my depression because I worry that my depression fuels my writing. What medicine does for me is help me to relax into life a bit. Craig’s perspective is that when I’m on it, I am the same Glennon, I just “struggle a little less.” I agree. I struggle a little less. And I also lose the feeling that if I don’t write I will die. This is how I feel when I’m depressed. Since I lose my joy and meaning, I come to the blank page to create meaning and joy, to get it back. Because I become desperate to make sense of things. And that desperation, I’m afraid, is what makes my writing good. So it scares me, I guess, not to be depressed. A lot of really good writers are depressed. But, as Craig says . . .“Honey, don’t a lot of good writers also kill themselves?”

True, dat.

Anyway, even if my medicine dulls my creativity a little, I think that at this point in my life, I’m willing to risk it. I think I’d rather be a good friend to myself and Craig than a good writer. Yep, I would. How nice of me. I really do like myself.

Love You,

GDo





Feb 142011
 


“Even if your hands are shaking . . . and your faith is broken. Even as the eyes are closing . . . do it with a heart wide open. Say What You Need to Say…”


Thank you, Sarah…for being brave enough to Say What You Need to Say.




************



Hi, my name is Sarah and I have post-partum depression.

Thanks to Glennon, who has cured me of the need to measure up to her blogging standards, and after much agonizing, procrastinating and rewriting, it finally dawned on me that I don’t need to tell you all my story and teach you something about post-partum depression (PPD).

Instead, I just want to have a conversation. And maybe while we’re talking, you might have a “me too” or “aha” moment. Because I believe that it’s not PPD that kills mothers, it’s the silence that surrounds it. It’s how much like an untouchable you feel while experiencing it; an outcast. Even among your closest, most supportive friends, spouses, sisters, mothers. At least that’s how it felt to me. By admitting I had PPD, I felt I was breaking the universal law decreeing that women are born to be warm, natural, stable mothers. Like I was breaking up the band

Things are much better now, but I still don’t really feel like a true success story–my oldest son turned 4 years old in November, his little brother turns 2 in March. I’m still dealing with PPD, but in ever-changing ways. Just when you feel like you’ve really gotten one over on it, it bites you in the ass. That has been the hardest lesson for me, that I have to be ever vigilant in order to maintain the balance I’ve clawed may way back to. Frankly, it tires me to be that vigilant. But on most days, I’d tell you—joyfully–that I love my children, my husband, my life as a mother.

I’ll start things off by laying it out there and doing what Brené Brown, a wonderful researcher, teacher and writer, calls “speaking shame:”

I suffered from PPD with both of my kids, but didn’t get help until the second one. Yes, I went to therapy weekly once I got help, for over a year. Yes, I just saw my therapist again a few weeks ago for the first time in almost 6 months. No, I’m not taking medication. But I think almost weekly about trying it just to see whether I’ll feel better more consistently. Yes, my husband is supportive and wants me to get better. But no, he doesn’t really understand it and might never do so.

Yes, my oldest son would tell his Daddy that he didn’t want to be alone with me because I “yelled at him and cried all the time.” No, I didn’t think I was suicidal, but then had thoughts about how much better off my family would be without me. Running away was another possibility.

Yes, there were a few times when I was afraid I might hurt my second son. No, I did not tell that to my therapist. Yes, I put him in his crib, crying (both of us), and walked away when I felt that way. No, I never hurt him. Yes, it ripped a hole in my heart, and continues to, when I think about it. Yes, I’m caught off guard many days with waves of nausea-inducing shame for aiming that much anger toward a small, helpless baby. Yes, I have a normal, loving bond now with both of my boys.

Yes, walking, fresh air and time alone helped. Yes, yoga helped. No, bubble baths and wine did not help. Yes, getting four consecutive hours of sleep for several nights in a row helped, a lot. Yes, I seethed with hate for my husband for a long time, for no clearly apparent reason. Yes, our relationship suffered. No, we never went to couples counseling. Yes, I wish we had. Yes, I had to hire a babysitter to stay with me and my sons when my husband played golf every Monday night during the summer my second was born. Yes, I called him on the phone, hysterical, the first time he tried to leave me alone with my two boys to play golf. Yes, I was working full time when I was in therapy, still fighting PPD. Yes, it sucked. Yes, I did tell a few colleagues.

No, I don’t plan to have any more children. Yes, I’m happy with that decision. No, I didn’t have complicated pregnancies or deliveries. Yes, I needed and enjoyed therapy.

Of course, there is much more, but I think this is enough for now.




Feb 062011
 

“Home is where you are.” – ED

It’s five am on Sunday morning. The kitchen is quiet and cold, but I have my monkee hoodie, my mug of coffee, and inspiration to keep me warm. It’ll be one of those days when mommy’s tired and cranky by three – it always is when I get up so early to write. But to me, this precious writing time is worth any price my husband and children have to pay for it.

I know I haven’t written to you about my personal life lately, and that’s a conscious decision. My vision for Momastery is that it’s about Life, not just my little life. I have learned that there is a difference. This might be one of the most important things I’ve ever learned.

Writing about Life instead of my life is a spiritual discipline for me. Remembering and exploring the difference between the two . . . stepping outside of my personal circumstances each morning and writing to and about all of us helps me maintain perspective about the ups and downs in my little life. It reminds me that Life is much too important to take my little life too seriously. It helps me remember that even when my world has stopped spinning, the world hasn’t. It reminds me – G, even when your little life is on hold, Life goes on. Join in.

I do this every morning because when my life here is done, I don’t want to discover that I was so concerned about dropping a stitch in my little square, I never stepped back to soak in the beauty of the entire quilt.

Even so - I know that you’d like an update on our little family. Here goes.

Last April we sold our home, abandoned our suburban lives, and moved to a teeny town on the Chesapeake Bay. I was feeling overwhelmed by the pace required to keep up with our lives. I dreamt of fewer school and social obligations and more family time and slower days, wide open spaces and sunsets on the water. So we sold our home and rented a beautiful old Victorian house on Main Street in a gorgeous old fishing town. It was glorious. We decided to stay there forever and raise our kids on the water. I love the water.

Here is what I learned.

The bay is beautiful, but not as lovely as Manal. The morning sound of the birds on the bay comfort me, but Adrianne’s ridiculous laugh comforts me even more. Watching my kids splash in the bay is wonderful, but not nearly as wonderful as watching them play with their Aunt Christy. There is no substitute for girlfriends. God made some beautiful things – and the Chesapeake Bay is one of them – but I’m pretty sure women were His best work. I was lonely without mine.

I have always been confused about friendship. I have never felt good at it. All of its keeping in touch and actually answering the phone and navigating group dynamics and remembering birthdays and showing up at things and returning emails seemed like overwhelming pressure. I have a reclusive side, which makes it challenging to maintain friendships.

Even so, I have managed to keep a small group of “best friends” from college. They take such incredible care of each other. They make friendship look so natural, so effortless. And I always felt loved by them but also a few steps removed. I couldn’t do it the way they did it. Couldn’t be all in like they are with each other. I always kept one foot out. Partly because I have a very hard time feeling part of any group. Groups are so hard. But also because everything they relied on from each other…advice, help, a shoulder to cry on, shopping partners . . . I get from my Sister. I am ashamed to say it, but I never really thought I needed them. But after a few months in my new town it became clear that it was going to be very, very hard to make friends. And impossible to replace the ones I already had. Marriage and parenting become extra hard without friends with whom to discuss how wonderful and hard they are.

So Craig and I started talking about what this all meant for us. It’s a journey, our marriage. We try one thing, then try another. We see what works and what doesn’t. We get to know each other better with each new try, and then we fix things for each other and try not to lose our patience. We try to be tireless with each others’ hearts. Craig is an expert at these things. I am learning.

In the end, we decided to move back. Back to Northern Virginia. Back to the burbs. Back to our friends. Mostly because it became clear that I needed to. As a recovering alcoholic and bulimic, true loneliness is dangerous territory for me. I don’t know how it works, but being plugged in to others is one of the keys to my sobriety. And there was one lonely night in our teeny little town when I glanced at the wine bottle on top of the fridge – just for a couple seconds too long. That scared the bejesus out of me. And sweet Craig knows…if I go down…the whole fam damily goes down. So listen, here is what we did.

We bought a house in one of those planned communities in which I swore I’d never live. Where the HOA spray paints the grass green and the backyards and closets are about the same size. I know. Big change. But listen.

I live within a mile of Gena, Casey, Manal, and Megan. We can walk to each other’s houses and our little ones are all in school together. And when Craig calls and says he’s going to be late, I call my girls and say come over right away. And our million collective littles run around my house and we mamas talk and drink Diet Coke out of wine glasses because Manal’s mom told her it tastes better that way. It really does. And we make nine frozen pizzas and I burn most of them and Gena looks at me in the middle of the chaos and says, I can’t believe this. I can’t believe how lucky we are. 15 years. We’re mamas together.

And I look at Gena - and all of these Genas flash before me.

I see her in a sparkly gown that she wore to a dance her freshman year in college. And then I see her in a black graduation gown, holding her diploma. And then I see her walking down the aisle in a gorgeous wedding gown. And finally I see her in the blue hospital gown she wore when she had her first child, Tyler.

And I think, we are growing up together . . . kind of like sisters do. We’re friends. And I know we’re friends because I need you. I don’t understand why. I’m just grateful that I do.

And I turn to watch Gena’s little girls chasing mine through our house in their Snow White dresses and I think….Yep. I found my Water. I found my Small Town. My water and my small town are my friends. And I’m all in. It’s like The Alchemist. Sometimes you have to go away to discover that you left everything you needed Back Home. But the journey was necessary.

And is our new (old) life here perfect?

Hells no.

But here’s what I’ve learned, finally. I am not going to be perfectly happy anywhere.

If I live by the water, I will miss the burbs. If I live in the mountains, I will miss the water. If I live in the burbs, I will miss the mountains. If I watch House Hunters International, I will miss Costa Rica. And I’ve never even been to Costa Rica.

The point is that I have done the experiment, I have moved six times in eight years, to very different places…chasing peace and joy. And I stiiiiiill haven’t fooooound what I’m looking fooooor. I am a slow learner. But I do eventually learn. So listen- I am finally ready to accept that there is no geographic location that offers perfect joy and peace. Because, like Bubba says: Wherever you go, There you are. That’s the problem. Not where you are, but that you are. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me seven times…..

There is a scripture that says “quit wearing out your shoes.” And I think I finally know what that means. One of the keys to happiness is accepting that this side of Life, I’m never going to be perfectly happy where I am. So I might as well get busy loving the people around me. I’m going to quit deciding whether they are the right people for me and I’m just gonna take a deep breath and start loving my neighbors. I’m going to take care of my friends. I’m going to find peace in the ‘burbs. I’m going to quit chasing happiness and sit still long enough to see it right in front of me.

Now here’s the important part of all of this. I’ve been thinking a lot about what these discoveries in my little life mean about Life. What does do my discoveries about friendship mean for all of us?

Because I am starting to know you Lovies pretty well. So I know that some of you are reading and nodding and thinking about your own close girlfriends and feeling grateful for them. But I also know that there are many, many others reading and feeling sad because they don’t have close girlfriends. Because they’ve been hurt or ignored or left out by women. I have been, too. I know how that feels.

I’m reading a book right now called The Twisted Sisterhood about all the ways that females hurt each other. It’s making me sad and frustrated and inspired. I want us to all take better care of each other. We ladies need to learn how to love each other better through this tough life. And I’d like to talk about how. What better use of our time here than to explore ways to make more women feel welcome and loved and safe?

How do you feel about female relationships? Do you have them? Do you want them? Are they satisfying? Are you afraid of them because you’ve been hurt? All of the above?


Love You. Take Care of Each Other.
G