I previously thought my dance with depression, began about 3 years ago. Yet, as I spent more time replaying life events, I began to realize it has been much, much longer. I can’t say exactly when, but I suspect this malady sought to get acquainted with me, around my late teens, early twenties. While I wasn’t aware of the actual term for it, I have long believed I was battling Antepartum Depression, during my fourth pregnancy. And, although I wasn’t officially diagnosed at the time, I am certain I rode the waves of Postpartum Depression, for almost two years, after my daughter was born. As I think back, between Spring 1995, and Spring 2016, there were numerous episodes of unexplained, or rather, undiagnosed crises from one extreme to the next. I found myself existing on autopilot mode. It pains me to say that there are moments in life, I have no recollection of. Memories my children share with me, that sound unbelievable, at best. Great memories. Loving memories. Times I showed up for them, when I couldn’t show up for myself. So many days and nights of feeling empty, and then being ashamed for feeling empty. Only to participate in their lives, in a seemingly subconscious state of being. For so long, I harbored major regret, only to descend deeper into the abyss of depression, anxiety, and fear. I questioned every aspect of motherhood. Am I too hard? Too soft? Am I doing it right? Wrong tone? I am good enough? Do I love them enough? Do they love me at all? Will they hate me later in life, because I did or didn’t do this thing or that… Yes. I did things I wish I could take back. I said things I should have worded differently, or elaborated on. I missed key moments. However, I own my choices. I’ve asked for forgiveness, and I’m happy to say, there are some bonds that will never be broken.
With that being said, I am finally able to identify the trigger/triggers for my 2016, episode, if you will. I found myself in an unwanted relationship with Empty Nest Syndrome. Yea, I thought it was just an old saying, as well. And although it may not be an actual clinical condition, it’s real to me, and to those of you out there, experiencing it now, those who have in the past, and those who may in the future. It wasn’t just that the majority of my adult children, had exited the proverbial nest. No. By January 2016, I yielded to countless tears from excruciating pain, caused by a car accident, four months prior. I found myself in a new city, due to the husband’s job promotion. No friends. And only 3 people in our household, compared to the 10 we had the previous year. 2015 saw us having 3 generations under 1 roof. Including, the Mr. and myself, our 3 adult daughters, and 3 grandchildren. Don’t misunderstand, I have long welcomed the warm embrace of an empty nest, I just figured I’d have more time to prepare. And because everything happened so suddenly, and without much advanced notice, I caved with uncertainty. Three years later, I’m just now able to successfully, and intentionally cook for 2. However, it was terribly awkward getting used to the idea of not shopping and cooking for so many people. After all, I had spent the last 28, of my 42 years, caring for everyone else. I didn’t even know how to began, to focus on myself. I was, what some might call, a classic SAHM. He worked. I stayed home. I cooked, cleaned, cared for the children. All the things. I did it. I am proud of it. I was then, and I am now. However, being abruptly cast into the “real world”, I found myself without a resume. Though I had worked outside the home a handful of times over the years, the time between each position, wasn’t what most employers look for these days. I truly just didn’t know what to do with myself. To make matters worse, unbeknownst to me, I was on the verge of embarking upon an unplanned spiritual trek. But, before I could deal with that, I had to get a handle on what was happening inside my head.
I was prescribed pain meds for the neck injury, but, I’d rather not pop pills if I can help it. I spoke to my doctor about the surges of fear and anxiety I felt, as I drove the hour or more, it took to get to the hospital for my many appointments. I told him about the unusual heaviness and sadness I felt. How it was becoming increasingly harder just to get out of bed. As much as I didn’t want to share this information, knowing it would lead to even more prescriptions, I knew I had to. As suspected, I was prescribed anti-depressant, and anti-anxiety meds. I tried to take them. Begrudgingly. However, I just couldn’t take feeling like a zombie. My one ray of hope, in the darkest of days, was spending time with my grandson. I would drive an hour or more, in the middle of the day, to pick him up, just to partake in a tiny measure of the joy I felt when I had a house full of family. Unfortunately, while taking the meds, I wasn’t comfortable driving. I knew I had to find another way…
I started researching medical cannabis, herbal remedies, and how the food we eat, effects our body, and mind. Even though I was ashamed to tell anyone, I tried edibles, and vapes, in hopes of gaining relief. To my amazement, the veil of darkness began to clear immediately. More immediate than the prescription meds, ever were. I switched my eating habits to a more alkaline lifestyle, and I began to study the use of herbal teas as a means of healing my mind, body, and soul. I wish I could say the journey has been perfect, up to this point, however, I suspect you know that is not the case. Even as I type, I shudder at the thought of hitting “publish”. Not many people know this about me, and even though I am not ashamed, the old thinking tends to play peek-a-boo, on occasion. Another thing I did briefly, was write down how I felt. The nights were the hardest for me. Much too quiet for my liking. I dreaded being alone with my thoughts. I sometimes wonder if therapy would have been a good fit. But, I just couldn’t, or didn’t, make time to squeeze it in. I guess it’s possible to slay the dragon without “professional” assistance. Either way, you get to choose your weapon.
During this time, I suffered through insomnia, and if I did manage to sleep, it was fitful. The edibles and strain specific vape cartridges, eventually, allowed me to find peace in deep sleep, once again. Today, I smoke an occasional J, and I partake in edibles, if the need for deep sleep is warranted. More importantly, when I’m eating properly, my body rewards me with the energy I need to sustain my busy lifestyle, and the rest I need to recover, and recharge. In the middle of one battle with insomnia, I wrote a piece, describing what I felt in the moment. I will share it here, in hopes of offering a bit of empathy to those in similar situations.
In the darkness, while everyone else slumbers, I slowly disintegrate. Terror grips me as I am swallowed whole by uncertainty. Anxiety surrounds me in a cloud of despair. So long, to the days of carefree symmetry. Though I am certain it was mistaken as such. I am envious of the sounds of sleep. Breathing. The rhythmic assault of respiration. The hours hang in the air as an overcast sky. My visibility is obscured. I fight to take hold of every moment that lends a heavy lid. So many sounds to battle against. My inner thoughts. The modern technologies of an over-stimulated world. Lights. It’s astonishing how many colors I see in the midst of exhaustion. Green. Red. Blue. Yellow. They threaten to break me from all sides. The shadows creep in as I close my eyes tight. I anticipate the cold hands of defeat, as I close my eyes tighter, still. I relax my body as I prepare for the descent. Even if only a fleeting moment, I welcome the sweet taste of rest. ~ Written May 25, 2016
P.S. I am an advocate for anyone who uses cannabis to assist in healing, whether it be mental, physical, or spiritual. I realize this may be an unpopular opinion, and it certainly goes against everything I was taught in religious settings. Thankfully, I don’t subscribe to the opinions of others anymore. Seek therapy, eat an edible, meditate, trek through the mountains, take up sky-diving, whatever you feel you need to do to heal from the darkness in your life, do it, with intention, and most of all, responsibility.