I’m Depressed. Or a Genius. Or Just Human. It’s Hard to Tell.

My thoughts have been twisty and turny for days now. Sometimes content. More often angsty. Sometimes not very present at all, like my brain is on hiatus even more than usual, which is really saying something since I’m usually working with one cobbled together from dried toothpaste, discarded snack wrappers, and the petrified crusts of toast that breed inside my couch cushions. MacGyver ain’t got nothin’ on a mom brain, man. 

It’s just, lately, I’m stuck somewhere between inertia – just sort of face down on the floor and done in and rather ppffftttt – and thinking I need to be more Nike; all gumption and grit and mind over matter and push-through-every-hurdle-life-throws-at-me – Just Do It personified, you know? Whatever It is.

And I’m extra hidey right now, too, like I’m not ready to be done with the hibernation of winter, and I want to stay huddled in a dimly lit, subterranean den lined with fluffy pillows and soft blankets and equipped with two of those fancy, plexiglass tubes from the drive-thru bank — one that connects me to the library so I can request cannisters stuffed with fantasy novels, and one that connects me to the bakery for fresh cinnamon rolls and the occasional cannister-shaped pie. So tell me, please, is that another wonky resurgence of depression, hard to recognize like the last one, or is it just genius and we should install a massive, worldwide network of plexiglass tubes, STAT?

It’s not that things are bleak. The opposite, really. My family is lovely in all the usual ways, by which I mean my 7 year old crawled into my lap last night to snuggle and to lick me, like an enormous, gangly puppy who can’t possibly show the depth of his love without saliva, and then I repaid his devotion this morning by betraying him when I woke him at 7:30 instead of 7:00 even though, “You knew, Mom! You KNEW I wanted to get up at 7. I always want to get up at 7, and you RUINED EVERTHING,” and tears, and wailing, and not enough time for Minecraft before school, and, “How could you do this to me, Mom? HOW?!” 

Which is the question, really. How can I do this? To any of the people I love and to myself? This constant being human, and making mistakes, and so truly, utterly, completely lacking perfection; how can any of us do this to each other and survive? 

And how do we tell the difference between Something’s Wrong and Needs to Be Fixed (like, helloDEPRESSIONvs. We’re Just Human and This Is Part of It and Welcome to Life, you know?

How do we know when it’s time for a medication check and when we need, simply, to submerge ourselves in Love and Grace and practice relentless forgiveness, especially of ourselves?

I don’t know. 

I wish I did, but I just don’t.

Greg took the kids to the beach on Friday. It was a perfect Spring evening; sunny and warm, and the kids played in sand by the sea. By the time I joined them on Saturday, the storm was raging with sideways rain and driving hail, and our big family felt small – teeny, tiny – inside the little redwood house Greg’s grandpa built while we watched the wind and the waves at war. The kids were afraid we’d blow away, and me, too, a little bit. But Greg reminded them that the house has weathered this before, and will again and again.

Which is maybe all I need to know.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
46 comments
  1. Waving! I’m there too, hang in there honey, hang in there.

  2. I know there is a hole somewhere nearby with my name on it. I hear it calling me. It’s gravity is dragging me toward my pillow. I could name a dozen reasons why I should get to curl up and hide and I think I will for an hour or so but I will also stand back up if I am able. My five year old son has asked in the nicest way if we can grow giant sunflowers instead of pole beans this year. I think the least I can do is let him plant the sun while I am so desperately called to the darkness. He needs both and I have to find it in myself to give it to him if I can. But oh the lure of quiet darkness and sleep and dreams and worries forgotten and chores left to rot. These are going to be the heaviest sunflower seeds ever planted in the history of the universe.

  3. I wish it was easier. Genius or human, both are hard.

  4. I have a lot of respect for you all. What a wonderful thing it is to find a group of people who experience and support each other so freely and without judgement!

    I’m more of a paranoid I’m going to loose my job even though there is literally no reason for me to, kind of person. Yea it sucks, but I’m glad I am able to step away from it and see it for what it is. Some sort of crazy head games with messed up brain chemicals party. I just remind myself that what I am thinking isn’t reality. That can usually help.

  5. Oh man … SNAP!

    I won’t link to the conversation I had on an ‘exceptional’ day last week. But if I can, I’d like to link the de-brief afterwards…. http://lifewithtwins.co.nz/so-about-yesterday

    Here’s an excerpt;
    “The days where my internal mechanic starts trying to figure out what is wrong and which part needs fixing, or replacing. Most-times these days last for, well, a day-ish. Other times it lasts slightly longer.

    Once upon a time it lasted for far too long but being the rational human I am, I fought my feelings. Terrified that should I even cast a sideways glance their way that I would unleash the ultimate Hell into the world. Of course my struggles only caused that big old saucepan of Hell to spew out anyway. Only then did I admit defeat and call in the Calvary. But that was then. This is now.

    Now I’m not scared.”

    Our feelings are just reactions. Not good, not bad, just a symptom. What we do with the symptoms doesn’t matter. It’s what we do with the cause that really counts.

    AS the legendary *cough* Stacy Jaxx would say; “I know me better than anyone… because I live in here… and nobody else can.”

    You know what is best for you. Trust yourself. And God. And Family.

    Hugs and Heart lovely lady.

    Rach <3

    Oh and I also found this from Loius CK – about why people need to allow themselves to feel…. http://youtu.be/5HbYScltf1c

    1. Oh and in answer to; Depressed. Or a Genius. Or Just Human…?

      All of the above. Plus every other letter of the alphabet;
      Awesome
      Brave and Broken
      Crafty
      (the D word)
      Exciting
      Flatulent (lol – ok, Fabulous)
      (Genius)
      (Human)
      Inimitable
      Just
      Kick-Ass
      Lemon Juice – tart, kick-ass, completes sweet and good for everyone 🙂
      Magical
      Nonsensical
      Opportunistically Open
      Persistent
      Queen (d-uh)
      Radical
      Stronger-than-Conan
      Tactical
      Undeniable
      Vulnerable (I know, over-used – but true)
      Weird and Wacky
      Xylophone – because you don’t need batteries to make music
      Yakkity-Yak (Don’t talk back)
      Zany (lol – my 1D manic daughter perked her ears up and went “Zayne? Where?” but I told her you were more of a Harry gal.)

      🙂

  6. Oh the pain of life, when everything is wrong, wrong, wrong like beautiful babies who die, and the pain of life when everything should be right because it really and truly is. We are broken….and will be made whole. I cling to that when I remember too. Waves in the dark to everyone here. Actually, the biggest hugs in the dark to everyone here.

  7. I have been there, too. What I have learned is that you should not wait for motivation before you “just do it”. Do something, anything, and the motivation and energy follow (maybe slowly, but it will happen). Be kind to yourself during this time and try to find the time/money/energy/babysitting to do things that would normally cheer you up – you may need Greg to make some suggestions. When you are feeling a bit better, you should start a little list (an index card is big enough), of the things that make you feel good when you are in better mental health. Try to do more of these things all the time. When you feel you are going downhill, you pull out the list and you make these things a priority. It can be things like: have a bath, read a book in bed with a cup of tea (and no small children), bake a cake of my own choosing, listen to music. I was on meds for many years until I started quilting – it’s my therapy! One family doctor told me that most episodes of depression resolve themselves within 6 weeks and he wouldn’t advise changing/starting meds until that time was up. Obviously, you know your mental health history better so can gauge what to do. Good luck. Thinking good thoughts for you. xo

    1. I hope I didn’t come across as Mrs Bossy-Pants there. I certainly don’t know how it is to be you right now but I just wanted to share what has worked for me. Hope things are feeling a little better.

  8. “I repaid his devotion this morning by betraying him when I woke him at 7:30 instead of 7:00 even though, “You knew, Mom! You KNEW I wanted to get up at 7. I always want to get up at 7, and you RUINED EVERTHING,” and tears, and wailing, and not enough time for Minecraft before school, and, “How could you do this to me, Mom? HOW?!”

    You too, eh?

    Little does he understand that the extra 1/2 hour of sleep is LOVE! Oh well. I hear ya, battling the same up and downs. Don’t have an answer for ya either. The only thing I know for sure is if you start having thoughts of death as a release then you should call your doctor. Rules I live by. Pun intended.

  9. MacGyver ain’t got nothin’ on a mom brain, man. Truest statement ever.

  10. Love this. I have felt the same way the past week. It’s so hard to tell whether it’s just a struggle day/week/season and or whether there’s something that needs addressing.

    My counselor said, “don’t so much focus on the ‘why’…just run to love. if there’s something that needs addressing, it’ll emerge.”

  11. I’ve been wanting to cocoon too. I know I should be grateful for all my blessings, but there’s family drama that’s been ongoing for far too long, and it feels like spring will never ever get here, and one of my kids is failing out of ninth grade and I was totally swamped by college myself (to the point of why on earth did I ever think going to college at the age of 48 was a good idea and oh god how will I ever pay for these loans)and the dog won’t go outside because it’s raining and her poor bladder must be hurting by now and and and…

    So. I’m out here. Waving to you with one hand, and clutching my precious coffee in the other.

  12. Funny – I was just thinking about you yesterday and hoping you were ok. Love you!

  13. I feel for you Beth.I have a wonderful life,the best husband in the world,two beautiful children,a lovely home,we are financially secure…..yet I live every day consumed by a constant low grade anxiety,punctuated by moments of unbelievable overwhelming fear and panic attacks.I don’t know how it started or why,all I know is that it is relentless,every day,every hour.And the guilt is unreal,the guilt that I can’t enjoy my lovely life,that when I do summon up the courage to meet a friend for coffee,I struggle through wondering how I will “escape” if the panic gets too bad,that I am unable to sit through three hours in the salon to get my highlights done,that I am dreading going on the holiday that we have booked,I could go on…..and on!!!
    But,something that I read recently resonated with me…..anxiety is only an emotion,dare it to do it’s worst,laugh at it,break it’s power….here’s hoping!
    All any of us can do is plough on,keep going,concentrate on the good things and know that we are not alone,we all have our “thing”….and as my very wise mother says,if we were to swop our problem for someone else’s,we would take our own back in a heartbeat!!
    One final thought Beth…..have you thought of getting your thyroid checked?I always feel very flat when my thyroid med needs to be adjusted.

    1. O God,reading through my comment I see how totally self indulgent it all sounds…..I can’t sit through getting my hair done,I’m dreading going on a holiday…..woe is me,what first world problems….and here it comes…..hello guilt…how you doin’….

      1. Oh yes. I’ve been there. After a few years on mood stabilizers and anxiety meds I’ve weaned off of them and onto supportive supplements for thyroid and progesterone and amino acids for healthy neurotransmitters etc. etc. And I tell you what. I still have seasons where I think “holy cow! I’m circling the drain and this is too much for my stoopid vitamins and minerals to handle! I’m going DOWN!” And then the Lord assigns a deep thinking, grace and faith-filled mentor to reach out to me and we talk it out for awhile and I come to realized I’m not necessarily going insane again.

        I’m coming to believe my depression swings are a beautiful gift. When I can release my fear of spiraling into the abyss, I am able to examine where I’m at. I can quiet my spirit for a few precious moments and grasp at what my body and mind are trying to tell me. And frequently they are telling me it’s time to let go of something that is not serving me well. It may have served me well in the past, but for whatever reason it’s time to let go of it in this season.

        Sometimes it’s a physical or mental habit. Sometimes it’s a commitment that I’ve grown out of. Sometimes it’s a false believe about myself or my Creator. Whatever it is, it’s dragging me down and I remain sluggish and foggy until I can pinpoint it. Then, I have to constantly seek Divine release from it. And the next thing you know, I’m free of it. Until the next adjustment period comes along of course.

        I don’t know if this makes sense to you or resonates with you. It’s just a pattern that I’ve noticed for myself and my cyclical depression patterns. Take some time to tune in to yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you discernment. And then just keep offering yourself grace and accepting His grace until you eventually break through the fog.

        And also, if the Lord impresses you that it’s time to reevaluate your meds. Do that too. 🙂

        1. Sorry, I didn’t mean to reply to you specifically mummypupper. But I would encourage you that you’re on the right track. My anxiety swings didn’t start to calm down until I stood over an open casket of a beautiful 3 month old baby and I realized that although death was incredibly sad, the death of anyone, no matter how dear they are to me does not have to equal my own death (spiritual or physical).

          And for the first time, I got really angry. I got so pissed off at my panic and anxiety that I felt myself inwardly turn around and look it in the eye and curse at it and threaten it right back. I physically wanted to turn around and run right at it and beat it down hard. It wasn’t an immediate healing, but it was the turning point. So, at some point. When you’ve had enough and the conditions are right, you’ll be given the gumption to stare down the panic and you’ll start fighting it and you’ll start attracting people and healthcare providers who can help you kick its butt. Don’t lose hope!

          1. Tara……you’re words are so encouraging,thank you so much.I’m sorry that your turning point was so tragic but I am so happy that it was just that,a turning point.Your words have given me much food for though….and I won’t ever loose hope.xxx

      2. It’s okay.

  14. Can you get those tubes out to Tanzania? And can they be made large enough to send Chili’s to go orders? Last week we lost two beautiful 9 month old babies at the orphanage within 48 hours – Lulu and Hope – to virulent pneumonia. Hope was premature and still small and weak, and we knew that she might not make it. But Lulu was healthy and happy and fat and beautiful and perfect, and then within 24 hours, she went from mildly feverish but happy to gone. Lulu was literally the smiliest child I had ever met, so ridiculously beautiful and sweet, and I always had in the back of my mind that we might be able to adopt her one day. Her funeral was yesterday and it was horrific, they don’t embalm or do any type of cosmetic anything to the body, and it was open casket 4 days after her death in a tropical climate, so yeah. And her father and cousins were bawling at the viewing but they literally never came to visit her when she was alive, and I wanted to scream in their faces. So incredibly tough. Then today is Hope’s funeral. And I really do feel like I’m burying all hope. In the case of Hope at least we know her father adored her, and we did everything we possibly could for her – Lulu got sick so fast that we were never able to get her to a better hospital than our little local one, which doesn’t even have working oxygen masks right now. Beth, can you send a little bit of that grace stuff over here? Because I am drowning. Drowned.

    1. I’m sorry, that was probably too graphic, we’re just in a lot of pain right now. What I meant to say is that I know how you feel, and it’s awful when there’s a reason and it’s awful when there isn’t, and it’s part of being human but it is really fucking terrible. But it’s worth it to feel.

      1. Bekka, I’m so sorry for your pain. It really is fucking terrible.

      2. I’m so glad you shared this. We need to hear these things, even if they are graphic. Not to diminish the importance of our own problems, but to help us remember that even with our problems most of us are still very lucky to have what we have.

    2. Oh God bless you. I don’t even know what to say.

    3. That is so sad…..those beautiful little babies….I’m sure that your love made their short lives so much better

    4. Dear Bekka, you are on the Front Lines of the Fragility of Life. In the midst of heat and grit and mosquitos and broken oxygen masks you are giving children a chance, giving it your level best, as they say there. But in doing so you have placed yourself face to face with the deep grief and loss that such wide, mighty caring will also bring. I wish we could hold you as you hold them, help you as you collapse into your grief. I hope you have some who can care for you the caregiver. Most of us are so far away. I wonder if you could at least post information about your NGO again? I want to get a look at the ways to give. Point us to anything that will help get some better medical supplies closer to you and the babies and children you care for. There is no salve for your grief we can send on magical chutes, much as I wish there were. Just know we are thinking of you and want to support you and yours however we can. Lala salama to you and all the little ones.

      1. I agree, Bekka, you’re on the front lines, and you’re taking on more than your share of the fight we all fight against death and against pain and against evil. I don’t know you but I’m glad you shared here because I choose to stand with you in prayer.

      2. Ooo, clicking on your name took me to the NGO! Fabulous. Sweet babies. I am so sorry for your loss. My condolences.

  15. Love, love, love… the answer, you’re human. A beautiful one at that. You feel things and you don’t let life stop making you feel things. There’s a certain burden in that beautiful gift. Loves from the north.

    1. I agree Shannon…..the lows may be lower but my God,the highs are unbelievably wonderful!!:-)

  16. Wow. Just wonderful. I am right there with ya.

  17. I am just on the other side (at least I hope that’s where I am) of the exact downswing you’re describing. It is jarring and comforting at the same time to read something written by someone else, a stranger even, that seems to speak directly to and from my soul. I’ve been asking myself for weeks if I need to call my therapist or if I am overreacting to my own feelings and really this is just the normal ebb and flow of life. The last few days have been better so I’m hoping it was just stress and I’m managing ok now.

    I pray for you to gain some clarity, and more importantly, peace. That the clouds will part and the sun will shine down on you and you will breathe easy again. You will pull through this haze with the tools to face the haze again (if only we could avoid it altogether) and come out of it faster. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing yourself in this way. You are helping people you will never meet and who may never even have the courage to introduce themselves to you online, but your words, the window into your soul, is a healing gift. So much love to you, Beth.

  18. Oh. You, too? I long to hibernate. The vacuum tubes should manifest. This post is evidence that YOU thought of it first and should get all the patent royalties. The last couple of years have been so very hard. The threat of deadly storms that will rip us asunder and will take at least one of our number seems to lurk in spite of the current calm (you might remember me, awaiting my husband’s PET scan regarding his Stage IV cancer in early March… we had the deep terror of something lighting up but, ironically, our good news was that he had an ulcer! Whoo hoo! Effing cancer…). I am weary and still bedraggled by it all. But he is doing well, gaining weight and strength, playing with the kids in ways he longed to. And now I am falling and wanting to hide and rest. I don’t know the answer to this question of our biochemistry and the simple things, like sleep and exercise and eating muffins and being beautifully imperfect. Our last couple of years has taught me much about what I have done to create the illusion that we are not going to die. I feel like that is what the struggle to be perfect is about: creating the illusion of control and keeping death at bay, keeping change and the mess of life from touching me. Really, letting go of that, when I can, is a release but it also can mean a crumpling and a recognition that I just need to rest and BE for a while. So, now I think I will sleep and be comforted by the story of another sister questioning and without all the answers just like me.

  19. Your last sentence is well put. Amen!

  20. I don’t know the answer, but have been there before. You are not alone! Waving in the dark.

  21. Have had some of those days myself, lately, and trying to decide if it’s end-of-school-year, hubbie-is-gone, bleh or something that needs treating?

    You know the questions to ask yourself to see if you’re in the gray again – go ahead and ask them. I’ll wait.

    … So, what were your answers?

    We’ve missed reading your thoughts. Missed reading you. But I know the cleaning/projects/etc of Lent might have taken a lot out on you.

  22. I needed this tonight. Thank you. I’m waving in the dark from overseas.

  23. Huh. I could have written this. If I could write. Or had time or energy to write….

  24. Speaking from experience, if you have to ask yourself if you need to adjust your medication, you probably do. I’ve been on – I’ve been off, I’ve been on again. It took a life tragedy to tip my scale into the realm of depression, thankfully not full-tilt, but enough so that coping with the demands of mommy-wife-sister-woman-and-somewhere-buried-deep-within-me:me perfection got to be too much. And it has nothing to do with our loving children and husbands – so a little medication and a healthy dose of humor see me through. That, and being incredibly flexible (and I don’t mean limber!). God’s grace is amazing, but he did create people who invented medication for a reason. Love your kids, love your life, and embrace the “helps” along the way. Sanity is way overrated! But it is not unreasonable to expect a little bit of even-keeled-ness once in a while!

  25. I really love this post. I’ve been there, and you’ve said it well.

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