The tricky thing about depression is that it can be triggered by a trauma, a series of events, or absolutely nothing at all. That’s the rub. It’s a chemical imbalance in the body. It’s something that we can’t control.
The other thing is that when it sets in we don’t realize it until it’s gone on far too long most of the time.
Each time I have an onset it takes me weeks (if not months) to get the clarity to say to myself “Wait a minute- this isn’t real. This is my depression.”
Now I don’t mean the depression isn’t real.
I mean the nasty horrible thoughts in my head aren’t real. The debilitating loneliness isn’t real. The hopelessness isn’t real.
But 6 weeks of beating myself up and turning these things over and over in my head creates a nasty habit and sometimes I can’t break free on my own.
In 2018 my best friend since 8th grade relocated two states away.
The following month my husband left me and my three children.
The month after that my therapist went on sabbatical.
That July my parents were called halfway across the country for a family emergency. It was a rough few months to be sure.
But the thing that sent me over the edge was one day I went to pick up my kids from their summer program and one of them had gotten in trouble.
For some reason that was the straw and I was the camel. And it broke me.
I don’t even remember what he did (normal kid stuff I’m sure). What I do remember is driving home with all 3 kids in the car having a major panic attack and sobbing. I couldn’t catch my breath. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t get a hold of myself.
When we got home I went out on the back porch, sat down on the sofa, and continued to bawl. I’m talking wailing. Like the neighbors heard me kind of loud.
I just couldn’t pull it together.
I remember looking through the sliding glass door and seeing my daughter (who was 9 at the time) trying to make nachos for her brothers (7 and 4). She couldn’t reach the microwave so it was a plate of chips with cold shredded cheese sprinkled on top.
She was trying to get them to sit down for dinner. She made nachos because she knew that was one of my favorite foods and thought it might help Mommy feel better.
That was the moment I realized I needed help.
I couldn’t allow my daughter to try and raise her brothers. I needed to get my shit together.
When you’re in the throes of depression you tend to isolate yourself. If it goes on long enough people eventually quit checking on you because they have been blown off or ignored for so long. You inadvertently create a real isolation.
So the fact that I had to drive myself to the hospital the next day because there was literally no one around wasn’t lost on me.
By the time I made it to intake my whole body was shaking, my blood pressure was through the roof, and I was still crying. I was an absolute wreck.
I started in a partial hospitalization program where I went daily from 8:30am to 3:00pm.
I am so very grateful for this option as it allowed me to take care of myself and still take care of my kids. Every morning we got up, got ready, got to school, and then I would make the 30 minute drive to the hospital.
In the mornings we did a check in and going around the room and discussing a worksheet we filled out each morning.
How many meals did you eat yesterday? (At the point I checked in I was only eating a single hardboiled egg and a piece of string cheese per day. That was it. That is not enough to survive on.)
How many hours did you sleep last night? (I usually only slept about 4 hours. I had no problem falling asleep but I would wake around 3 am every night and couldn’t go back to sleep.)
Have you had any suicidal thoughts in the past 24 hours? If “yes” the follow up question was “Do you have a plan?” (My suicidal thoughts were always passive- “I want to die” not active “I want to kill myself”.)
After “check in” we had groups on different coping skills.
I cannot even begin to explain in a short post how much these tools helped me. I employed so many strategies to combat my own brain.
Getting out of depression for me was a battlefield. It was an active struggle. It doesn’t just go away on its own- I had to fight. Attending these groups gave me the weapons I needed.
After lunch we usually did something a little lighter- yoga and meditation were group favorites. And then around 3pm we all retreated to our cars armed with our new skills and our goal for the afternoon.
Goals were simple things.
“I will go to the grocery store today” was a common one. “I will put away one load of laundry today,” “I will call my insurance company today and make sure they have all the paperwork to get this treatment covered”. Simple tasks. Achievable tasks.
I stayed for 3 weeks in partial hospitalization and then stepped down to intensive out patient which was only 3 half days a week. I did this for about 4 weeks.
And then I was released back into the world. I returned to work- a little shaky at first but as the days passed I got better and better.
It’s now been 2 years since my rock bottom and I am doing so well.
I have moved with my children to a farm in the woods. We got 3 cats, a German Shepard, 6 goats, 5 pigs, 1 rabbit, 3 rats, 1 rooster, 3 chickens, and 4 baby chicks (yeah I realize that sounds like a lot).
We have been carving out a new life in a new town and we are happy. Don’t get me wrong it’s not all rainbows and unicorns but the dark isn’t quite so dark anymore.
I am not proud of my rock bottom moment but I am grateful for it.
If I hadn’t seen that sad scene through the glass door I don’t know that I would’ve been moved to do something to help myself. As Mamas we will do anything for our kids even if it’s scary. Even if it’s stigmatized.
Even if it’s embarrassing. Even if it’s hard. I am so glad I did.