Tag Archives: depression

Thanks Again, Richard

It’s Wednesday. It’s blog day. It’s also one of those days. People who have never fought depression probably can’t imagine what it’s like to wake up depressed. It’s hard to face waking up at all when you know as soon as you open your eyes that the day is going to be a battle day. It’s hard to throw off the blankets and put your feet on the floor. It’s hard to stumble to the kitchen and put water on to heat while it’s still dark outside and even darker inside.

Just getting up today was a triumph. That was a battle won, right there. Fixing my coffee, getting my notebook, writing Morning Pages…every little action was a battle won. I knew the big battle would be convincing myself to Sweat to the Oldies. There is never a time I need it more than when I wake up depressed and there is never a time when I feel less like doing it.

That’s why I need Richard Simmons. I need to get a good workout and I can’t depend on my depressed self to do anything except follow instructions. I don’t have enough motivation to do a series of things. I can do one thing. I can put on my workout clothes. Then I can do another thing. I can go into the living room and turn on the DVD. After that, I just follow Richard. He gets me through an hour-long workout, one little exercise at a time. At some point in the middle of that workout, I start to feel better.

I thank God for Richard Simmons. I never in my life had a regular workout routine until I found Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2 and discovered how much my mood improves after an hour’s worth of exercise. I could never keep up with an exercise routine for the sake of my figure. I couldn’t even do it for the sake of my health. I don’t do it now for fitness. I do it because it never fails to bring light into my darkness.

I suppose I’ve written about this before. I will probably write about it again, some dark Wednesday when, one more time, it pulls me away from the edge of the pit. Today is blog day and it’s one of those days. I promised myself I would write every week and I promised myself I would tell the truth. The truth is, today was a bad day and Sweatin’ to the Oldies made it better.

A Cold Blog Day

I Sweated to the Oldies today. Are you impressed? If you are not impressed, then you don’t know how much I wanted to skip it this morning. It was twenty-seven degrees outside and I actually had to go outside while the temperature was still twenty-seven degrees. That was because my husband drives a Honda Odyssey that was involved in the recent airbag recall. He made the appointment to get it fixed before anyone knew that arctic cold would be invading Florida today. Since his vehicle was in the shop, I needed to drive him to work. It was either that or let him take my car to work and I did not want to be without a car all day, so I put on a whole lot of layers and I took my husband to work.

Well, technically, he drove, but I did drive myself home after he hopped out of my car and went in to his workplace. Okay, he didn’t hop. He doesn’t like his job that much; let’s be honest. After he trudged into the office, I drove myself home. The whole way there, I was arguing with the part of me that hates to exercise, who thought going out into the cold at the time we normally start the workout should be a good excuse to skip it. I wanted to skip it. I woke up depressed for no apparent reason and all I wanted to do when I got home was wrap myself in a blanket and drink warm beverages.

Instead, I took off my warm layers and I put on my workout clothes. Then I went to my living room and turned on my Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2 DVD and I sweated to those oldies. For a whole hour! Then I pumped my fist and said, “I win!”

Literally. I did that, in my living room, because I was so happy that the lethargy did not win. It was strong but I was stronger. I made a good choice on a bad day, and that turned it into a good day. I celebrated by baking a pie.

Acorn Squash Pie

Acorn Squash Pie

It’s an acorn squash pie. The recipe came from Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts, a book I fell in love with long before Martha Stewart became famous, built a media empire and served time for insider trading. She was just a caterer who wrote a book about entertaining and then wrote a book about pies. THE book about pies, the most beautiful book about pies ever written. This book is full of wonderful pie recipes, but the acorn squash pie is my favorite.

Yes, I had this pie in mind when I picked out the Sweet Dumpling squash and the Golden Acorn squash that appeared in my recent paintings. I’ll admit to a little pang when I plunged a knife into them, gutted them and cut them into chunks for steaming. I got over it. The pie is delicious.

A Long Post About Depression

I wrote last week about using exercise and other self-care strategies to fight depression. I didn’t go into great detail about my history with depression because I don’t like long blog posts and I figured most of my readers were related to me and familiar with that history. It turns out that’s not entirely true. I actually have some readers who don’t know me well.

Someone who doesn’t know me well might read that post and think I’m one of those people who believe that happiness is a choice and we can fix any mood with appropriate self-care and a positive attitude. I am NOT one of those people. I am a woman who has had two bouts of major depression in her life and knows that both of them were related to hormone fluctuations.

I did not need a double-blind study to tell me this. The first episode happened when my life had just become as perfect as it could be, after the birth of my second child. I had everything I had always wanted, including a loving husband, a secure home and two healthy children. If my mood had been reflecting my situation, I would have been in a state of complete joy and peace.

Instead, I woke up every morning wishing I could die. I went straight from sleep (what sleep I got with a new baby in the house) to despair, with no conscious thought in between. I knew it was chemical, but everyone I talked to about it wanted to find some situational reason for it. There was none. This happened in 1980 and I could find no help. I had to tough it out until my hormones adjusted. Sometimes I look back and wonder how I survived. There were two clear thoughts that kept me from killing myself. The first was that the world was a very dark place for me, but that it would be a whole lot darker for my children if they had to grow up knowing their mother killed herself when they were babies.

The other was that I couldn’t believe, with absolute certainty, that death would end my consciousness. I wanted to stop the pain. I didn’t believe death would end it, so I hung on to life. It was a bleak time, but my hormones did eventually settle down. I was able to wake up and see light in my life again. I even had another child without having another episode of postpartum depression. I hoped the depression was a one-time thing and I would never have to deal with it again.

PMS was a recurring theme in my life, but my loved ones learned to give me space during those times and life went on. As I got older, the PMS got worse. I tried herbal remedies. I wrote a lot of poetry. I meditated. It was just one week out of four. The light always reappeared, right on schedule, so I just kept toughing it out, month after month.

As time went on, there was more darkness and less light. I realized things were going downhill fast when I caught myself weeping in the grocery store and having panic attacks in the dentist’s office. I had lived through a dark time once before and I could see another one coming, so I decided to get help. The counselor I chose was a woman well-known for her belief in natural healing. I was floored when she suggested that antidepressants might help me. Chemicals? For all-natural, new-age, tie-dyed, aging hippie me?

I was desperate and I trusted my counselor, so I gave selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors a try. These drugs take a while to build up in your system and I wasn’t sure, at first, that they were working. I mentioned my doubts to my husband and he said, “They’re working. You’re laughing at my jokes again.”

I had not realized I had stopped laughing at his jokes. He was right about the medication. It made a huge difference. I stayed on it for years. My doctor told me that the medical wisdom was that it was possible to have two episodes of major depression and recover and be able to live without medication, but that once a person had a third episode, that person would probably need to be on antidepressants for the rest of his or her life. The drugs had helped me tremendously but they did have side effects and they were not inexpensive. Once I made it safely through menopause, I decided to try weaning myself from them.

With the doctor’s guidance, I gradually decreased the dose. It took some time and there were bouts of dizziness but, eventually, I was living without selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors. That was when I discovered how much difference exercise could make. That was when I learned the other self-care strategies that keep me relatively sane.

I mentioned these in last week’s blog post but I never meant to imply that I believe they are a proper treatment for major depression. My major depressive episodes were hormone-related. Once I got through the hormone storms that caused them, I was no longer dealing with major depression. I’m guessing I will always deal with mild to moderate depression and I am glad there are natural strategies that will get me through the bad days. If I saw another major episode approaching, I would go back on medication in a heartbeat.

There are people who will tell you there is no such thing as a chemical imbalance. These people are dead wrong. When I hear someone say this, I have to resist the urge to smack them upside the head. Fortunately, these people are usually celebrities on television or Facebook acquaintances and I can’t reach them.

Still Fighting

Wednesday has become blog day for me, and it dawned a little ugly this morning. I woke up with a bit of a headache and the voice of my ever-present depression whispering in my ear. It doesn’t try to talk me out of doing Morning Pages because it knows that’s a lost cause, but it will start trying to talk me out of my Sweatin’ to the Oldies while I’m still writing Morning Pages. It will tell me the headache is a good reason to skip the exercises. I don’t feel well, so I should just rest and not work out.

That sounds reasonable, but I know it’s just a big, fat lie my depression uses to get its its foot in the door and make itself at home for a while. Sometimes it works, but today I had enough fight in me to put on my workout clothes as soon as I finished my Morning Pages, and hit “Play” on that DVD. I use the DVD because that’s often all the fight I can muster. Once I hit “Play,” that’s all it takes. If I start the workout, I will finish it. Starting may be a huge battle but once I start, the battle is won. I started today, and I worked out for an hour. Thank you, Richard Simmons.

The Sweatin’ helped. It always does. It’s the one thing that helps the most since I went off antidepressants a few years ago. Today’s foul mood was persistent, though. Fortunately, I was still able to remember that there are other things I can do that will make a difference. My depression tries to make me feel lame, inadequate and worthless, so it helps if I can do something to prove it wrong. On my worst days, the best I can do is save a video game world, but today was not one of my worst days. Today, I went into my kitchen and baked cookies.



I probably don’t have to tell you what kind of cookies these are. I’m sure you recognize the crisscross. If I ever bit into a cookie that looked like this and there was no peanut butter in it, I would be appalled. I used the classic recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. I felt a lot better when the cookie jar was full, but I was still restless. I needed to bring out the big guns.

I mean the teeny tiny yeastie beasties. I was fighting a very tenacious bad mood and I needed to do something impressive. I impress the heck out of myself when I make yeast rolls. These are Soft Sandwich Buns and the recipe is from The Farm Cookbook. I love that little book. It reminds me of my young married days, when I first became a vegetarian and didn’t know tofu from tempeh. That book taught me how to make both, but it also taught me to make these wonderful fluffy white buns.

My daughter was tired of waiting for them to cool.

My daughter was tired of waiting for them to cool.

I am not lame. I am not inadequate. I am not worthless. I made yeast rolls. I rock.

Gravity Works

I picked up my newspaper yesterday morning and brought it in the house. I always let my husband read it first, since he has to go out to a real job that he hates every day, so I pulled it from the plastic bag for him and opened it. As I set it on the kitchen table, I noticed the headline and it seemed as if all the lights in the world dimmed for a moment.

“Oh, no!” I thought, “Not Robin Williams! Not suicide!!”

But it was true. The demons of addiction and depression got another one. They showered darkness upon him and took him when he was alone. He brought so much light into the world but it was not enough to save him. Celebrity, fame and wealth were not enough to save him.

I decided I didn’t want to be alone with this news all day, so I went to Facebook. Everyone had something to say. I read what James Taylor had to say and I read what George Takei had to say and I found my way, eventually, to what Liz Gilbert had to say. Then I spent hours reading comments on her post, because so many people felt the need to comment and they were all saying the same thing.

“It could have been me.”

That was what was all over Facebook yesterday. There are too damn many of us who fight this rotten disease every single day of our lives. We see another soul fall and we circle up. We join hands. We tell each other, “I’m here for you. There’s still light in the world. Don’t give up.”

Our world lost a great soul this week. I can’t add anything profound to all the words that have been spoken about his genius and his magic and his light. I can’t pull out inspiring quotes from his famous roles. The one that always comes to mind when I think of Robin Williams is the one from Batty in Ferngully, “Gravity works!”

My kids watched that video over and over again when they were young and that line is what we all say whenever we trip and fall or drop something. Gravity works.

Today it sounds too much like, “We all fall down.”

Sorry. I wanted to write something uplifting and inspiring but I just don’t have it in me today. I’m sad and I’m angry at the relentless darkness that whispers in our ears and tries to pull us down into the pit. Robin Williams fell, but he fought for sixty-three years and that was a valiant fight. He leaves a rich legacy of joy and humor and delight.

We will have that to carry with us as we circle up, hold hands and fight on.

Let Me Be Grateful

It’s blog time again and I’m not sure what to write about. It’s just been an embarrassment of riches, this week. I validated my NaNoWriMo novel, I baked seventeen pies, I hosted a warm, wonderful, love-filled family gathering on Thanksgiving and my daughter and I finished all the tie-dye we wanted to get done for Small Business Saturday at the local arts market. We loaded it all up in the van, so we’re ready to go bright and early tomorrow morning. I even got a chance to eat leftover pie and watch “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” today, which is my favorite Black Friday tradition. I was feeling tired, but happy and grateful when I went to Facebook.

I just wanted to send out something from the tie-dye page to let folks know about Small Business Saturday but, of course, I ended up looking at my newsfeed and it was full of things “friends” were sending out, apparently with the intent to make as many people as possible angry and/or sad. I don’t understand why people feel the need to do this.

“Oh, you’re feeling happy and grateful? I can fix that.”

Please don’t. I have things in my life that make me feel thankful; let me be thankful. Don’t tell me I’m not allowed to be thankful because evil Europeans killed a lot of Native Americans several hundred years ago. Yes, that was evil and wrong, but it is not evil or wrong for me to be thankful now for the good things in my life. It’s appropriate.

Don’t tell me I’m not allowed to enjoy my pie and my heartwarming Christmas videos because lots of crazy people are running over each other in big box stores today. It’s greed; it’s horrible and I am apparently supposed to be appalled, all day long, that this sort of thing is going on. I don’t want to be appalled, okay? It’s their choice to be out in the malls and it’s my choice to stay home and watch videos. If it makes them happy to shop, let them shop. I can’t make decisions for them. Neither can any of the people posting about it on Facebook, but they sure are angry about it, and they want to make everyone else angry about it, too. Why? Do they think that’s the way to make the world a better place?

I don’t. The only way to make the world a better place is to put more love into it. The world doesn’t need more anger or sadness, so why are people going out of their way to promote anger and sadness all over the internet? Look, I have been fighting depression for years and the one thing I know for sure is that you can’t fight darkness with darkness. Light is what makes a difference. You find a little bit of light and you grab it and hold on to it and do everything you can to make it grow. I am putting my attention into light, because that’s what I want more of.

Yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. Feel free to report me to the grammar police.