By my side

As nice as it is taking time to be thankful on this particular day, I feel it’s important to be grateful every day for all of the little things that sometimes go unnoticed:

The moments in between dark times…where I can breathe freely with none of the static in my mind and chest; 

My husband that listens without trying to fix things and knows I need to just be;

My sister that allows me the opportunity to share things I’ve learned, and to learn more;

My few but close friends that are precious gems in my life…bringing their own facets of light;

My furbaby Kona, that has given me the best therapy a life could offer.

All of these things I know I have taken for granted on many occasions but without one, I’d most surely fall apart.

Every day, I need you guys. 

And for every day, I am grateful. 

Dandelions 

I’ve been very diligent in taking my medications over this past weekend. My depression is held at bay, yet the anxiety worms through the cracks like stubborn weeds. 

I spent the weekend at Disneyland with my sister celebrating her birthday. It was so nice to get away and be in a new place. During our time, we had a lot of heartfelt conversations…we dived deep into emotions and thoughts of the past and present…and hopes about our futures. We have such similar emotional responses to things. It’s comforting that there’s someone like me but also worrisome: I don’t want her going through the things I have. 

I know I have zero control over how my sister feels and reacts to things…I just hope that I can be a resource she knows she has within her reach. 


So thankful for the good times. 

Pale horse 

I have forgotten my medication for the past 2 days and lately the effects are a lot less forgiving than before. 

The nightmares have me waking up in a cold sweat full of fear. The days drag on and in them comes anxiety that grips my insides…moments that have me frozen in a state of insurmountable panic. I stare off in a daze until it passes. 

I’ve somehow managed to drive home completely unaware of how I did it. 

But…I can only blame myself for forgetting something I can’t live normally without. 

What I wanted, frankly, was someone who would argue me out of the things that I was thinking. -Agatha Christie, The Pale Horse 

 …As I take this pill I also take with it the fear that my life is inextricably tied to it. 

It’s as much a part of my life as anything could be and I’m bitterly grateful. 

Cheers…

Friday Feature: Episode 1

I got the privilege to interview a very close friend of mine. Sometimes you meet someone and you just click; as if your own life story was on their bookshelf and they understand you. That’s what Coral has been to me. Many thanks to her for this opportunity…

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How would you describe your association with mental health?

When you grow up poor mental health is viewed as a luxury – when your family is struggling to meet basic human needs mental health becomes an ailment for the privileged and wealthy. Not only growing up poor but also Catholic, mental health is not only seen as a ‘luxury’ but shameful and something viewed as a ‘dirty’ family secret. Since I can recall I have experienced this internal battle between my own depression and the negative perception of mental health implemented on me as a child. Now in my mid 20’s with beliefs completely contradictory to those I was raised in, I still find a piece of myself interpreting my depression as a shameful burden to burry within which is completely contradictory to my education.

 Have you ever tried to attribute your thoughts and feelings to reasons other than mental health issues? If so, why?

Most definitely! I think a woman’s experience with depression is much different than a man’s – primarily because of the gender stereotypes and characteristics society identifies as ‘female’. Women are inflicted with this intense pressure to always appear cheerful and welcoming, forever donning the perfect smile. A woman experiencing depression will obviously not abide by those guidelines so we are not only carrying the burden of our mental health, in my case depression, but we are carrying society’s standards as well. Prior to accepting my depression I would attribute my ‘episodes’ (as described by my family) as being overly exhausted or not eating enough or healthy enough or being ‘moody’ all of which I have come to learn are symptoms of depression. I think I would create these excuses because of the shame associated with mental health and because people expect certain behavior and characteristics from not only women but from Coral (me!).  

 How long have you dealt with issues of mental health, whether yourself or others?

I honestly believe I have been experiencing depression since my preteen years but due to the lack of conversation within my family I didn’t have the proper vocabulary to identify what I was experiencing. Now in my adult life I have found solace with my sister who also experiences depression.

 What are some things people have said to you that helped you, and what were some things that were not helpful at all? 

The two women closest to me, with the exception of my mother who doesn’t view mental health the same way as I do, have undoubtedly helped me. Their help isn’t from the things they say but more so the unwavering support and understanding. When I am experiencing depression I don’t need uplifting words – the power of having women in my life that understand what I am experiencing is invaluable.

 

“You have the power to get yourself out of your funk”

“You’re choosing to be like this, snap out of it”

“You just want an excuse to be down”

Those are some things I’ve been told that obviously do not help when you’re depressed and are said by people ignorant to mental health.

 What would you like to say to your younger self if you had the chance?

Pull the power you have deeply stored within your being – and remember there is an essence to being a woman that cannot be snuffed, especially a woman with experiences both good and bad. You got this bitch.

Gray Matter

Occasionally I’ll visit medical websites and read up on new studies and advances in the area of mental health. 

I’m so happy with the many studies being done with a serious approach to depression, anxiety and other illnesses. 

One in particular I read just this morning involves developing new techniques for studying changes in the brain of patients with mood disorders.

 Researchers believe that depression and anxiety disorders may cause structural and functional changes in the brain

To me this is such good news. 

If we can better understand how mood disorders work, we can better treat these patients. 

Yay for science 🙂 

*Update*

I’m so excited to share something I have  in the works. 

I’ll be interviewing some friends, family and others and those interviews will be featured on Fridays (not every Friday because, you know, life). 

The interviews will be Friday Features and I can’t wait to share with you their thoughts, feelings and stories. 

Standby for some awesomeness. 

-Jenn Black Lake, Ilwaco, WA. 

Paper-thin 

This past week has been a battle of will and inner strength. I felt at times my strength was as useless as tissue paper…frail and so ready to tear at the slightest bit of pressure. 

The days seemed to prolong itself and I lived in this state of a perpetual rewinding of my fears and playing them back to myself again. 

I managed to push them back far enough to laugh and engage with others, but like oil I’d watch it ooze back and surround me in its suffocating grip.

I haven’t been willing to exercise or been able to keep an appetite, which are the things you WANT to maintain in times of dark depression. Things just seem to slip away from me. 

This weight is so unbelievably heavy…I feel for those that carry things too…because there is no one else who can. 

Today, as I write this, I have Kona asleep on my lap. Listening to her sleepy breathing and watching her side rise and fall in a calming rhythm, I am almost transported to a place of future promise of peace. There is peace for me beyond this past week. 

Maybe not next week, or the next…but soon. 

Listening to Crystals by Of Monsters and Men…