Even as I look outside and see the sun shining, it is hard to see it as clear – it all feels hazy.
Do you ever go through those phases of life – the hazy ones? I haven’t written, haven’t painted, haven’t been creative (other than some moments at work), haven’t been motivated, and haven’t really felt that feeling of excitement for a while.
I’ve weathered the storm, fought my way through the fog, and now sit in haze. I suppose those are signs that things are getting clearer? In the haze and through the fog the thunder clouds still clap and the lightning still strikes and the rain still falls – sometimes in drips, sometimes in drops, sometimes in a torrential sheet. Guess that is the rhythm of life, of grief, of loss.
I didn’t want to return to writing to, once again, berate this life process that I, we, our family, is on – but, I think I need to express it somehow. Otherwise, it feels like my words that are bottled up on the inside will slowly consume me and then, I am afraid, that the words might be lost and I won’t be able to speak them. Rephrase – write them. Speaking them – that is a whole additional level. (Here is a funny aside… I was typing in that is a whole ________ level and in my head I was thinking, a whole nuther level – well, nuther is not a word – WORD is furiously underlining it in red – but don’t we say that? “That’s a whole nuther thing?” … oh wait, the haze is clearing – its OTHER level – not nuther!! Haha, I have a typing accent!)
So, let me get serious for a moment, then, in the subsequent blog, I will share my flood of ’97 memories. I have been spurred on by my son, Judson's, stories that he has published at CHVN 95.1 FM about the flood.
It seems that almost on a daily basis I hear about another young person battling depression. I hear about adults who are working through depression. I hurt for all the hurt that our broken world is experiencing. Here, we have it all – or more than most – and yet we are sad. Over there (point in any direction you want), there is little or none and there is sadness and brokenness.
It almost feels redundant to add to the zillions of folks who experience depression by throwing my name in the mix. I ask myself then, is my diagnosis legitimate? Do I really fall into this category or…? I don’t even know what the ‘or’ is. It has been many, many years since my doctor suggested to me that I go on anti-depressants. My deep blue period – not just sad, not just feeling down – came on the heels of my last surgery, on the heels of years of fighting ulcerative colitis only to finally cave in and undergo large bowel resection surgery. Then riding that bowel-less horse for a very bumpy journey for way too many years. Complications from surgeries and such made things, ummm, let’s say interesting. So, by the time I made it into my doctor’s office with the push of my husband, I had reached my mental capacity in regards to self-worth.
It was explained to me that this deep blue depression is a result of a mix-up of your body’s chemicals. What your mind/body normally can deal with is all screwed up because your interior links are a mess and to help sort that out, medication can be helpful. (Not for everyone, but for some.) It took me a couple more months before I could be convinced that I was not a bad Christian because I needed to take medication – that I was not weak and in fact strong – that it was a disease that needed medication to help ‘cure’ or at least ‘slow-down’. So, after those months, I went back to my doctor and accepted her help and proceeded to take meds.
For some time I faithfully took them until I decided I was well and no longer needed it. I came off and it didn’t take long before my husband pushed me out the door and back into the doctor’s door. This occurred a couple of times before I realized that what I had might be chronic and it might be life-long and it might actually be a thing. So I don’t take a large dosage but I do continue.
Perhaps it is best described by Big Daddy Tazz, a Winnipeg comedian who deals with depression on a very large level, he is known as the “Bi-Polar Buddha”. He speaks very openly about this disease and in a manner only he can get away with, brings the disease to the forefront and makes it ok to laugh about and to cry about and, most importantly, to talk about. He was asked, “Why do you still have suicidal thoughts? I thought you were taking medication.” His reply, and I won’t quote verbatim, ‘medication doesn’t take away the thoughts – it doesn’t paint the world in vibrant colours and all bad goes away. IF normal is here – and he drew a line halfway between his feet and head, and my depression takes me here – and he drew a line much lower down, then the medication brings me here – a line just under ‘normal’. When my depression is down here and suicidal thoughts come along, I have no ability to think rationally or to think at all – my defences are all down and so I act upon the suggestion. When I am on meds and I am up here, then the thoughts still come and the hard times still are there, but now I can call up the rational side of my brain and start to work through the thoughts instead of just acting upon them.’ (My apologies to Big Daddy Tazz if I did not do your answer justice. It was many years ago that I heard you say words similar to that. Feel free to correct me if I have erred in my memory.) http://www.bigdaddytazz.com/
So I find comfort in that and in that I recognize that perhaps my depression is legitimate, because I have been feeling very blue and very down and thoughts have come and gone about walking away – going somewhere else. Low thoughts about my self-worth and my intelligence and my looks. Thoughts that can almost paralyze me and cause me to not venture out and visit, or paint or write or, or, or. Then I wonder, where would my hand draw an imaginary line if I was not on medication?
But I can’t let medication do all the work. I still need God – desperately, need his grace, his love, his understanding, his empathy and then his strength, courage, wisdom. But I struggle to journey to my Bible – I find I am keeping my life simple by reading anything but – I struggle with prayer. NONE of these struggles, however, keep me from believing, loving, trusting, hoping in God. My faith is no less. My belief in God’s grace is still strong (it has to be or I will seriously be screwed!). I just struggle to be in conversation with him. Hmmmm… as I type this, I recognize that I am struggling to be in conversation with anyone – even those closest to me. Is that something?
So I have booked an appointment with a counselor at Recovery of Hope. There is a long wait. I booked in April and won’t get in till this coming Monday. (They did say if this is life-threatening, then they will take people immediately, so it is not that they can’t help fast if need be.) (*Note: as of posting time, my appt had been cancelled due to a family emergency the counselor had, now I am waiting for a new appointment. Sad.)
I have put this off for months. Why? I am scared. I am scared of a few things: 1) they wonder why the heck I am depressed - she has it pretty good. That they kind of laugh behind my back (maybe even in front of my back (which is probably physically impossible?)) and think, ‘hah, she thinks she has it bad? Seriously? Has she met our patients?’ 2) they require me to face some of my anxieties & struggles head on. I’m not sure I want to or can. 3) that I will get better.
Yup. I said #3 right out loud. I am kind of afraid to get better. What are you thinking you crazy lady? Well, here is what I am thinking…
IF I get better. IF they can help me fight my way out of this haze. IF they can give me tools to umbrella the storms – better than I have been doing. IF I have no excuse… there it is, the real reason. IF I HAVE NO EXCUSE – if I can’t blame the depression or the surgery or the pains (whatever word you want to substitute), then it means I need to face life head-on. It means I need to take chances. It means I need to put myself out there. It means I can’t hide behind anything. It means that I need to take all the skills that I will have been given and take some chances, get things done. I can’t hide behind anything and say, well, it’s because I am in a haze or in a fog or whatever it is.
I don’t enter this conversation lightly because I have been in this space before. I recognize my fear – he is very recognizable. When I was recovering from surgery and had help in my house for my kids and for the home, there was comfort in knowing I ‘didn’t have to’. I ‘didn’t have to’ keep the house looking nice, entertain my kids like a good mom, make great and healthy meals, do things. Then there came a time where, inwardly, I knew I was well enough to help out – but I continued to use the excuses of, ‘I still feel a pinch in my incisions’, or ‘my body is still not able to handle standing too long,’ or whatever other excuse I could come up with. Then, a young, wise woman who was helping us out, called me out on those excuses. Told me to (in very nice words) get my ass out of bed and start living again. I really had no excuse. I had to get up and get going. It was time to take the risks that came with being a mom, a sister, a daughter, a friend. I had to face the reality of making suppers (and being ok if sometimes that was mac and cheese… from a box) and going out to visit people and having to chance people noticing my colostomy bag (a temporary bag I had to wear on my stomach… that’s another story!), the reality of trying my hand at a new art form or keeping my house clean-ish.
The reality of life scares me. Because if taking those steps puts me out there – then I can easily get hurt and come crashing down again.
The reality of my whole 3-step fear process is not lost on me. Those three steps and the fear of facing life is still all part of the depression and haze and my rational mind recognizes it but can’t quite separate it. Does that make any sense at all? All of a sudden this seems like murky ground. Hmmmmm.
The long and short of it is – it is time to try and face my new reality. A reality that doesn’t include my dad. A reality that I might fail at what I try to do. A reality that if I don’t take some risks that I will continue to berate myself for it. It is time to try and end this circle of ‘misery’. My dad would want me to live. He would want me to be creative. He would want me to love people and be with people.
This whole hazy part of my life isn’t all about my dad. I think I was in the fog long before his passing, I think he was just the catalyst that pushed me beyond what I was capable of being able to talk and med my way through.
There is so much sadness and hurt and struggles out there. My journey with depression looks much different than yours or hers or his. What I am doing to help is going to be different than what you or them will do or are doing. But, I’d venture a guess that you, her, him, us – what we do have in common is the desire to see clearly – to walk freely with our heads up – to see with eyes that see reality and ears that hear rationally and lips that speak truthfully. No one wants to live in the storm. No one wants to really stay in that space. No matter how scary the other side of the storm might look – or the dangers there are in being who we are once we are free of the murkiness – we do not want to stay in the dark.
So, perhaps my words don’t help you or speak to you. Perhaps they will make you angry. Maybe they will make you shake your head and go, ‘really, tam? Do you need to share everything?’ If none of this does it for you – then at least take this with you.
Literal storms do pass. Nowhere have I ever heard of a storm that started raging years ago and is still raging. Tornadoes blow in and do damage that seems unfix-able and unbeatable – and yet, years later you drive through those wind-infested towns and there are new homes, new trees, new life. The fog eventually rolls away and you can see across the waters. Tunnels can be dark and long, but if there is no light at the end of them, then they weren’t a tunnel to begin with. You can dig a hole but you can only go so far before you hit some kind of molten rock (not a scientist) and in order to keep going… well, you would need an army to keep going. AND even if you did get through the rock and the heat in the middle and back through the rock – you would still come out the other side where there is light.
Not that figurative storms can’t invade your life for a good portion of it – but there are ways to help get through them. You can board up windows to keep the wind out. You can use an umbrella to keep dry. You can hide in the basement for a while. There are tools accessible to each and every one of us – we just have to decide that we want to use them. And if your low is so low that your rational mind isn’t working properly, I pray that those around you can step in and, like my husband did, push you into the doctor’s office or counseling room or wherever they feel you can find the best help. There are no easy cures or answers and each person is unique and wonderfully and profoundly made and we are complicated beings – intricately lined with nerves and veins and muscle and sinew and brain sparks and neurotransmitters firing all the time (not a brain surgeon).
But join me. Join me in fighting this disease. Share your stories with me. Let’s be there for each other. Let’s not be afraid of the disease, nor the cure. Let’s walk together. If you are a believer, than grab the hand of God and ask him to drag, push, pull us alongside him. Appreciate the grace he has to offer. Perhaps that grace is not available to you in your home, your work or your church – but it is available through God, through his son Jesus, and in the form of his spirit. Grace to enable you to be real with yourself. Be real about the battles you face – knowing that the God who created you, loves you. THERE IS NOTHING that you can do that will pull his love away from you.
Join me in helping put smiles back on people’s faces. Join me in trying to bring the joy back to our broken world. It starts with you. If we can love ourselves, we can open up to love others and in that… the joy returns.
“You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights. Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book.” Psalm 56:8 (The Message)
Those words written by King David. A king who encountered depression. A king – you think he had everything anyone could ever want/need and yet, entered into that deep blue haze. He chose to continue to trust in God and in that he persevered and went on to become one of the most famous kings of all time AND was part of the lineage of Jesus.