I’d like to Skip a Turn & Trade in a Letter, Please

Okay. Do you remember when I told you I’d write about depression but I had to be in my dark place to actually tell you about it? Well, here I am, deeply stuck in mental purgatory.

Here’s what it looks like from down here:

Please know that it is not easy for me to stand naked before you and share these, my most personal feelings. But, I believe that I must tell my story so that I can help others who suffer, or know or love someone who does. (There are approximately 340 million people worldwide who suffer from depression.)  One of my favorite bloggers, The Bloggess recently posted about her depression. It inspired me to “come out.”

This is not going to be pretty. It could even be scary for you to read some of the thoughts I must process when I’m in this dark place.

If you believe you may think less of me or any one of my fellow humanoids who share this brain chemical issue, step away from the computer. Do not continue reading.

What I do not want this to be is a call for sympathy, or a license for you to judge anyone who has an issue with this mental illness.

(OUCH that was hard to type… mental illness)

But it’s true. You’ve heard it before. It’s just like any other illness. I cannot help that my brain chemicals sometime do not work normally. It just happens. Like diarrhea.  (See, I can still keep my humor.)

It is a  myth that these low spots can be helped.

Is it hereditary? In my situation, it’s very probable. I’ll let you do your own research on this. I’ve gotten beyond the why stage, and trust me; it took me decades to realize that there is no one to blame.

My child came to us through adoption, and although we do not share the same genetics, it is possible that her own heredity makes her more susceptible to depression. I have tried very hard to keep our household upbeat.  I did all I could do to hide my darkest times from her when she was little. It wasn’t easy. I could win an Academy Award for some of my performances.  But since she is old enough to understand,  I have talked openly with her about this subject. Mental health education is as important as physical health education.

On a good day, I will tell you that it’s these dark places that fuel my creativity. It’s almost necessary for me to go into myself to find the words, or the painting, or the ideas. Its’ a part of who I am. I’d like to say I embrace it, but I don’t. I fight it.

In order to not feel alone, I did some investigating and found that I am in good company. Many artists, musicians, writers, actors and people from all walks of life deal with depression.  You may be surprised.

The first time I remember feeling depressed was when I was very, very young. I must have only been about 4 or 5 years old. I recall having an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.  I tied a sewing thread around my neck and placed the other end around my bed post and jumped. No one knew, except my brothers who witnessed this event. I recall them laughing. After all, who has ever heard of a suicidal preschooler? If hypnotized, I may learn that it had nothing to do with depression, and everything to do with being a part-time drama queen. I do not know. Maybe we’d just seen Peter Pan and I was inspired, and the thread was just to hold me close to home in case I did fly. Maybe that’s why I felt hopeless…because I couldn’t fly?

There was another suicidal stage when I was an adolescent. No one understood (including myself) and it was brushed under the rug. During this era, depression was taboo.  No one talked about it. No one admitted to any feelings that were anything except what was considered normal. Thank goodness this has changed.

The dark place has traveled with me all these years and through trial and error I’ve learned how to tame it, to survive. Sometimes I can jump right back in the game. Others, I choose to trade in a letter and sit out a turn.  Sometimes I recover in a day or two, other times it takes weeks.

No matter what, I always climb out. I know my limits. As I get older, I learn more self-help strategies.

For those of you who have never felt depression, and for those of you who may be able to relate, this is how nutty my thoughts get when I’m in my dark place:

I feel trapped, like a wild, tired, scared animal who really doesn’t know which way to turn or how to dig out. My mind is dull, yet working overtime. Nothing is processing correctly. A comment from someone turns into a threat. A small problem becomes an obsession. A tiny headache becomes a brain tumor. I look in the mirror and I see an ugly, repulsive monster. Who could possibly love me?

I quit hanging out with my friends, sure that they don’t care. I could easily be a hermit.

Paranoia takes over in this obscurity, and I fear for my livelihood, my relationships, my sanity. Anything and everything that I could possibly worry about comes up front and center.

While my mind is running away full speed on the crazy road, people on the outside think that I’m just grumpy or angry or tired, or just plain weird. It’s a type of self-absorption, maybe, but it’s unintentional. I’m quite aware that there are horrible things going on around me that are much worse than this mental state.  There are sick and hurting people out there. I have no reason to feel the way I feel. I am physically healthy. I have shelter. I have a wonderful family, friends, a job, and I live in a safe environment. How could I feel depressed and so hopeless?

There are other times when I put on my best acting skills and no one knows that I’m having a hard time.

At other times, I put myself into a tail spin of anxiety and can hardly catch my breath or control my tears.

Anxiety is what I refer to as a side effect of my depression. Anxiety attacks are not fun. They are scary and debilitating.  They are the physical embodiment of my mental state at the time.  It’s fear, out where the world can see.

Here’s a snippet of a day in the life:

I went through my Facebook account, removed my repulsive face from my profile and replaced it with a flower. I hid a lot of my info and photos and seriously thought about closing my account all together. I looked at my friends list and thought how all of those people really hate me.

All day, I contemplated dumping my blog. It’s stupid, unnecessary and silly. Why did I think I had something to write that anyone would enjoy or find pleasure or help from?  I should quit writing.

I thought of getting rid of all of my art supplies.

I went to my car at the end of the day and it was gone! That’s because I had parked it about 3 blocks in the other direction this morning and my mind was so dull and absorbed in darkness that I did not remember.

I knew I had to help myself the best I could. I walked and I worked out. I ate a healthy dinner, and got to bed early. Sleep is important. Shutting down is okay, as long as it’s at bedtime. Reading also helps. It’s a great way to let my mind travel.

Hopefully, tomorrow I will wake and be able to see that spring is all around me, I have loved ones and that it’s all going to be okay.

Larry’s photo from our yard

In the words of the late Dan Fogelberg  –

I have these moments
All steady and strong
I’m feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself
Starting to crumble.

The meanings get lost
And the teachings get tossed
And you don’t know what you’re
Going to do next.
You wait for the sun
But it never quite comes
Some kind of message comes
Through to you.
Some kind of message comes through.

And it says to you…

Love when you can
Cry when you have to…
Be who you must
That’s a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we’ll all understand…

Please have patience with those whose light goes out for a while. They will come back, but if you fear that they are not, help them to find what helps. I know it can’t be easy living with someone who has depression issues. (Thank you, Sweetbuns ♥, for always loving me through these events.)

If you, yourself need help, seek it. There is no shame in asking for therapy or medication (I’ve had both…another true confession.)

Share your struggle. (Gee I hope I don’t regret telling all of this. Sometimes the disgrace is unbearable.) It helps so much to know that you are not alone.

Peace to you,

– Libby Lu (Debbie Downer, but for this post only…I hope. ☺)

P.S. In writing this, my cloud has lifted again. Thank goodness, for all of our sake.

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33 thoughts on “I’d like to Skip a Turn & Trade in a Letter, Please

  1. thank you for sharing this. My step- daughter has battled with depression on and off her whole life. Thank God she is in a good place right now, we all rally around her with love and just being there for her to know she has us no matter what. But as you know things can come crashing down at any time so we enjoy the good times and do our best to help or just “be there” during the dark times. Know that you are loved and your happiness, health, are in my prayers. Hang in there friend. 🙂 love Lady G

  2. You are an amazing writer! Is there anything others can do to help someone during their dark times? I would never want to do anything that made it worse but it isn’t easy to know what helps. I am so humbled by your openess and honesty and for sharing so much of yourself in this blog! I am Blessed to be a follower of this blog and your life.

    • You have a kind heart to ask this question. Everyone’s journey is different.

      Speaking for myself, sympathy is rather embarrassing. Helping your loved one get their mind off of the dark place is a great thing. Ask if they want to go for a walk in the woods. See if they’d like to play cards or go catch a movie (preferably a comedy ☺) Get them talking about some of their positive accomplishments. If they are inclined, do some crafts together or clean out a closet. Productivity and creativity really help. The things that make it worse are when people try to analyze and figure out “what’s wrong”.

      Thanks for the compliment.I love writing, and actually feel “normal” since I finished that post…for now, at least.
      Thanks for reading my blog!
      L.

    • Connie–my personal answer would be to to ask, “Is there anything I can do?” Be there when the person resurfaces, it sounds certain that you don’t judge mental illness as a weakness–but speak up when others do. I like to be left alone in my pit, but also appreciate those who know I am there checking in to make sure it’snot getting worse. Not saying anything is probably easier, but letting people know you are there if they need/want to talk is an approach I find helpful.

      If you have specific people in mind who have disclosed that they have depression, etc. Ask them on a good day what they want you to do when the days get dark. That alone will let them know that you are an ally.

      Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

      • Great advice and well said, M. I had to chuckle at “I like to be left alone in my pit…” Ditto, most of the time.
        And cheers to Connie, who is not afraid of us, and wants to help others.
        Thanks for sharing this.

        • Thanks for the information and advice. My sister suffers with depression although hers seems to be triggered more situationally. She will talk with me about it some. I try to be supportive and am very careful to be possitive and encouraging. She never acts as though I have made it worse for her and I pray that I haven’t. I remember in college being scared for her safety but haven’t felt those fears since then. I do wonder sometimes if there are specific things I can do and say that would help or to just leave her alone. I do ask her if there is anything I can do to which she generally answers no. I wonder if she likes that I ask or wishes I would stop asking. Maybe in happy times, I’ll ask that question. I will try the suggestions you both have offered. Thanks for sharing with me.

  3. Libby, first I want to say “thank you” for having the courage to share this. I have lived with depression in my family, and you’re right, it’s not easy to understand if depression is not a part of who a person is. Watching someone go through it can be confusing, and even terrifying at times.

    For this reason, I want to thank you for sharing, because no one up to this point has been able to explain to me what it is like. In other words, it has been very hard for me to feel compassion, because up to this point I believed I had just never “been there” myself.

    However, I can tell you that I also get many of those same thoughts, and they just appear out of the blue and then proceed to beat the hell out of me. When this happens, I get angry at the world, so maybe I do get depressed, and don’t even realize it. All I know is, I feel like I have no control over these thoughts and feelings. And then, as quickly as they come, they are gone.

    You are truly one of the most magnificent and talented human beings on the face of this earth, with the heart of a lion. And, btw, I miss seeing your beautiful face at HH.

    • Thanks for reading my blog, P. I miss seeing you (you sweetie) and your gals at HH. I am undeserving of your compliments.I do not know how brave or courageous I am for spilling the beans here. I figure those who love me will still love me tomorrow. Those who don’t get it may not, but I’ll live. LOL. Thank you for telling YOUR story of being around family with depression. It must be confusing and scary for those who have never felt it. I bet you and Larry could talk up a storm about this matter. He has been wonderful, although like you, he didn’t understand it so much in the beginning. I think the only reason I can tell all about this right now is because after all these years, I’ve put a lot of the puzzle together. Knowing it’s something I can’t help, but must control myself has sure helped. That and having great people like yourself in my life! Thanks again- Love, LL

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your journey, Libby Lu. Having watched friends and loved ones deal with their own dark places throughout the years, it’s helpful to hear the reality of what it feels like when you go to your dark place. Thanks for putting words to the struggle and for being brave enough to share your story. I’m so glad you’re here and I’m so happy to call you “friend.” Love you!

    • Thank you for reading my blog, and for being one of my dearest of dear friends. You have no idea how much you have helped me through some rough spots. (I still think you missed your calling as a counselor.) Love you- LL

  5. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share this. Hopefully, as more of us acknowledge that we fight the darkness, the less shame and misunderstanding there will be. There are photos of me looking terribly anxious when I was less than 3. My anxiety and depression are well-managed at the moment, but I have to “take my temperature” often. Am I having a shitty day, or am I starting down that slippery slope? Glad you are climbing out.

    • Thanks for reading, M. I am glad that we can all help each other out. I’m also glad that someone else has very early memories of anxiety/depression. That has bothered me for years…being able to remember tid bits of things that kids should not feel. Normal? Maybe not, but interesting we are! (channeling Yoda there.) Gee, I think my spell check is off here, so please forgive my typos. Keep managing and checking in. May you have an extra long stretch of good days!

  6. Love you Libby Lu! we’re truly are kindred spirits.. so many common bonds and common threads. You shared it so beautifully. Many of us live with this mask and academy award performances, we just don’t know how to share them with others. Thanks for being you and being a lifelong friend.

    • A perfect example of knowing someone pretty much all your life and not knowing that they were fighting the same little demons. You do get that academy award, girl! I never knew. Now we can hold hands on this path. Or maybe we always have…You are always such a bright spot! Thank you for reading and for your friendship! Love you so! LL

  7. Libby, Thank you for sharing some of your deepest, darkest thoughts. You may remember our daughter sara – She’s battled depression since her high school days(probably before but we hadn’t figured it out yet). She turned 30 last year. She usually knows her limits and does well with meds. Her college days were scary for us because she was out of reach. Her wonderful, loving husband understands (or tries to understand) and has been outstanding in helping her seek help when it’s been needed. After we learned about the genetic factor, we put together some of the picture with David’s mother’s family tree. So far, we’re aware of the very strong genes for mental illness through the current 4th generation.

    So take care and know that there are many friends and family who understand and are ready to be there for you and all others who suffer.
    Sandra

    • Thank you, Sandra, for reading my blog and for telling your story. I’m glad that Sara has you two and her husband for support. It’s not a battle be fought alone. The genetic thing is almost fascinating. My whole family for 2 generations that I know of, is riddled with addiction issues of all sorts. Upon checking this out, you learn that it’s a tale tale sign of depression…the brain chemicals aren’t right and everyone is trying to self medicate with drugs, alcohol, food, or with hypochondria. Very interesting. Anyway, I’m glad that Sara is in good hands. Love her through it. I know you do. You are a good Mom. Thank you for your encouragement! LL

  8. Libby you rock! You are so courageous. I think of your picture at the top of our post with all the darkness and just a little bit of light. What you’ve done here is pull all that darkness out into the light and darkness is destroyed by light. By the light of your courage and by the light of the love and support of so many lives that have reached out to you with thanks, support and hope because they know they are not alone in what they face because of what you have shared. Just like the sunrise rolls back the darkness at dawn, a very beautiful thing to witness.

  9. Like others before me, I thank you for sharing this and helping me to understand. I once had an employee who suffered from severe depression. No one could make her feel better and she couldn’t believe that anyone cared. I sent her flowers and she asked why I would bother. I’m not sure how “outsiders” can help, but I hope you know that you must be extraordinarily special, because I feel like your friend just reading your stories. To make me care about you just by some words – well that’s extraordinary, isn’t it?

    • What a sweet, sweet gesture…to send your co-worker flowers. I’m sure she appreciated them, but didn’t know how to express that. Don’t feel like it was wasted. In another dark place down the road, she will remember them. Her mind may dismiss your care, but eventually her heart will know that others do, indeed wish for her the best.

      And what sweet words. Thank you for this, my fellow writer. I appreciate you and your friendship.
      LL

  10. Oh Libby Lu, How I Love You! Your description & way with words makes me realize so many things. For I too have dealt with depression & still do from time to time. Runs in this family for sure.
    Love You Bunches & am so grateful for your honesty as usual! GNO one day…

    • I’m so glad we know what we know. Aren’t you? I’m glad A. knows, too. Hurdles to watch out for…
      Love you, too and can’t wait for another GNO soon!
      L.

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  13. Thank you for your naked honesty. In response, I’ll be naked along with you!
    I’m hear you and feel you Libby Lu, all the way from here to there and back again, in my own way. Likewise, I’m well acquainted with my own *dark place*, first discovered when I was young (although I never thought to use string and my bedpost!!), but never seriously manifested itself until after I married my children’s father. And I most assuredly hit Rock Bottom.

    Over the years since, I’ve learned to perform my own brand of triage for my depression, but since 2010 there has been a new monster under my bed: CHRONIC ANXIETY ATTACKS. These anxiety attacks have been overwhelming and debilitating. They steal the very breath from my body, filling me with terrible FEAR.

    So, I understand from experience, my dear. And, *I am here*, always, should you need a partner during bouts of the insanity. And, of course, *I’m here* also when all is well. ❤you❤

    • I love you, Beth! Thank YOU for sharing this. Anxiety is the absolute worst. Depression just stinks like an overrun litter box. Thanks for being here for me. You know I’m here for you! XOXO L.

      • (LOVE the “litter-box” analogy! hehe… 🙂 )

        YES: ANXIETY IS the Absolute Worst — NO CONTEST! Interestingly enough, my periods of depression are almost a walk in the park compared to the ANXIETY MONSTER stealing my breath and seeming to eat at my soul! Thankfully, I usually *sleep a lot* during periods of Depression. But during periods of High Anxiety? Heck, during those times, I WISH I *COULD* SLEEP!

        I will easily agree that it is probably a chemical difference in our brains that make many of us so susceptible to Anxiety and Depression. BUT, it is too often said that Depression and Anxiety are *totally irrational*. And, perhaps they are, BUT: It never ceases to amaze me, when caught up in the grip of either one, that the varied thoughts and feelings traversing my mind and heart actually MAKE COMPLETE SENSE!
        For me, it is as though during *normal* periods (whatever *those* are, ha!), that I am seeing life through very dark or rose colored glasses. Then, conversely, when either of these monsters insists upon being my constant companion, it is then that — ALL FILTERS HAVE FALLEN AWAY — and I AM ACTUALLY SEEING LIFE CLEARER than ever before!

        Sadly, however, the *WHAT* that I see in the world around me, and the stark clarity with which I see it, quite frankly Libby, can scare the hell out of me! Such clarity reveals to me that –with the exception of extremely rare, precious nuggets of goodness– it is *The World — Out There* that is *Totally Irrational*!! NOT the fact that I CAN SEE IT so clearly.

        SO, IF *The Truth Can Set You Free*, then perhaps ANXIETY creates a *chemical window* through which we can actually SEE THE TRUTH.
        The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Like it — or not…
        And these Truths cannot be handled easily, or for very long periods of time. That may well be the moment when many people say, “Stop! No More!” — “I cannot handle the truth any longer”, so they choose to close their eyes forever. May they all Find and Rest in Peace.

        I ❤ you too, LibbyLu! Very much!

        (Well! How arrogant am I? I may actually need a blog of my own since I've proven a tendency to write extensively within yours! I'm truly sorry about that, LLC! I cannot, however, bring myself to delete this, the past hour of my life, from the screen! I hope you understand!)

        • Please don’t. I love this, and the fact that you shared your experience with the Monsters and I love your thoughts on truth. SO, maybe we should think of this as being special? We have a gift, right? tee hee.
          XOX
          L

  14. I’m glad you wrote this! I have always been one of those people who think “mental illness” is stupid. Seriously, it’s something that people should just get over. But fun fact: I’ve always been a terrible worrier. Fast forward to last month I had to go to the er and turns out I had an anxiety attack. It’s been a month and I just don’t feel the same as I used to! They said early 20s is usually when it strikes… So here I am now one of those with a mental illness that I used to make fun of. I have a new understanding for it now!

    • Thank you, Christina, for sharing this story of how you came to understand. I guess it all boils down to tolerance. I’m sorry that you are having anxiety issues. It’s not fun at all.

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