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Entries in PPD (11)

Monday
Jun292015

I Didn't Set Out to Write about Depression

This weekend I set out to organize the last part of the house I had yet to tackle, all my sewing and work supplies. I've been doing technical writing as a part-time job over the last six months and have not taken a lot of sewing work. I recently picked up a few custom jobs this summer and now I have my writing, my sewing, and two little kids to care for.

In other words, I'm pretty busy. Having my tools and supplies out of sorts has been a hindrance because I need to work smart and manage my time. Rummaging around for what I need is not optional.

It took me a day and a half to bring it all to heel. I started snapping photos of the organizational wonder that began to emerge. What I saw in the photos was a blissful order and what I realized I was sitting down to write was actually a post about relief.

For the last five months I have been dealing with a serious round of depression and anxiety. 

Cora took this photo of me in February.

This is an accurate representation of how I felt at the time. Blurry. Foggy.

I didn't realize I was spiraling downward in February but looking back it should have been obvious. January was the first anniversary of re-posting the article about my father. It was traumatic to post it last year and  it was just as traumatic this year too. Months after re-posting it I was in my therapist's office trying to dissect why I was depressed again and she gently explained that I was re-visiting the trauma over and over every time I had to look at that article.

I can only be so strong. I will leave the article up so it can serve as the warning and Public Service Announcement that it is, but I don't think I'll have the emotional energy to re-post it every year. Justice probably will never be served. I have to move on.

Of course January was not the only 'first anniversary' that visited me this year. April had one too.

As the date of the loss of Rebel Heart approached I could feel the anxiety welling inside me. I began to re-live every day of the trip prep, of the passage, of the two weeks of madness that really swirled around the entire event. The time came and went but by April I was deeply ensconced in a maddening circle of depression and anxiety.

March was the worst of it.

Me in March 2015.

Can you tell I'm depressed in that photo? I can always see it in my pictures.

It is even worse when I look in the mirror: the face that looks back at me is a passive mask. The hair, limp and unattractive. The skin dull. My eyes flat pools. I retreat from friends. I hide at home. It is apparent that every person I meet must see how I'm feeling, apparent to me at least. I imagine they notice in the same way as if my arm were in a cast or my face bruised and swollen. They must see the giant neon arrow bearing down at my skull blaring to everyone the way I feel, "DO YOU SEE?" it screams, bouncing angrily off my skull. "YOU CAN SEE IT IN HER, RIGHT?"

I went to two psychiatrists. The second one is now my official psychiatrist. I have a therapist and a psychiatrist. How avant-garde, no? Actually what is avant-garde is that I'm talking about it. There is still so much stigma surrounding mental illness. As my doctor and then my psychiatrists switched first my meds and then their amounts, I railed against the changes to Eric. I too, fall victim to the stigma.

"This means I'm weak."

"I should be able to pull myself out of this."

"I don't want to be crazy."

"Why can't I feel happy?"

"I'll be on meds for the rest of my life!"

"I don't want to tell the girls. What if Cora tells someone that 'Mommy's brain is sick?'"

There was no denying, however the physical symptoms. Climbing stairs was a monumental effort. Walking around felt as if two giant hands were pushing down on my shoulders, curling my body forward under their weight. My eyelids were tired.  

I couldn't focus on my work, or on reading. I couldn't write. That really stung.

The girls seemed to talk to me from the end of a tunnel. Seeing friends, and pretending to be "normal" was excruciating. It almost always ended in panic attacks by the time I could get back home, or even just back to the car. I'd be hyperventilating as I buckled the girls into their seat belts, my hands shaking as I buckled my own. And so I stopped driving anywhere with the girls at all. When I realized I was basically imprisoned in my own home from the disease I acquiesced to the med changes. I couldn't live like that anymore.

As the meds started to help, I was able to think clearly enough to realize how very little I knew about depression and mental illness.  I regained the mental energy to read again and I discovered The Noonday Demon, an Atlas of Depression, by Andrew Solomon.

It changed my life.

Night after night I kept interrupting Eric's own reading to share passages from the book. He patiently listened to me every time I read.

I was going to quote some of my favorite passages from the book, but my Kindle died half way through reading it and I lost all my notes and bookmarks from the first half. C'est la vie.

Cliff notes? I learned I am not alone. I discovered that parts of me that I thought were simply "the way I am" are reflected in others who experience depression and anxiety. I was aghast at this revelation. There was a tinge of horror to it, to realize others had these same needling thoughts, but mostly I felt overwhelming relief. There was a name for so many things in my life.

Mr. Solomon, if you ever read this post, thank you from the bottom of my heart for writing that book.

This photo was taken mid-April. At this point I knew we had found the right dosage for my meds and that I was going to be all right.

It is also astonishing but true that no matter what you say about your depression, people don't really believe you unless you seem acutely depressed as they look at and talk to you. - Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon [emphasis added]

By mid-June I was doing this again. Taking photos of the food I was preparing for my family and sharing it on social media. This photo equals energy, motivation, and a drive for social interaction.

All good things.

All Charlotte things. 

I have been socializing.

I have been exercising.

And I have been creating.

The relief I feel to know I've pulled out of the last few months is immense. I will be dealing with depression and anxiety for the rest of my life. I'll be on meds for the rest of my life. And that is okay. I have learned so much more about myself over these last five months. I know now that I'm not alone. I have more support and more tools in my arsenal for beating this back when it rears its ugly head.

A final note: to my friends. It can't be easy to have a friend who suffers from depression/anxiety. I'm sorry about that. If I seem distant sometimes, trust me, it's not you. I'm retreating backwards, even if I don't want to. I need your love and friendship very much indeed. When I'm capable, I try to show that in every way I can. Please also know that the new medication I take has a side effect of forgetfulness. It looks like mommy-brain isn't going away for me any time soon. I forget text messages. I forget where I put my earrings. I may read a message and then forget I read it entirely. I ask for your patience. And I'll never be perturbed if you ask me two times about the same subject. Promise. I'll take forgetfulness over the last five months ANY DAY. It is a price worth paying.

With that, I give you photos of the organizing I did this weekend. Perhaps you'll understand their significance to me now, for they represent the-things-I-could-not-do over the last few months.

In order I find comfort, bliss even. And when I am in the depths, there is no order.

Bias tape, binding and facing on the left, elastic, bungee, and embroidery thread on the right.

Welting, piping, cording, and trims in both of these boxes.

Zippers, glorious zippers.

Large spools of thread, webbing, and ribbon.

Heavy-duty/upholstery thread and bobbins on top, a rainbow of thread in the bottom two sections.

Tools. They aren't just for dudes, you know. I also put my Sailrite Edge Hot Knife in there too.

Sail makers kit, zipper pulls and stops, needles, Sailrite spare parts, hardware and accessories.

This box of beauty is my well organized Pres-N-Snap set. The red-handled tool is hog ring pliers. Hog rings are to the left of it.

I call this my "junk drawer," a well organized one at that.

Lyra had gleefully dumped this whole set out while I was installing some book shelves. Cora helped me re-organize everything.

Household bits-n-bobs.

I had been holding on to the paint colors for the rainbow mason jar organizer and from the girls' dress up armoire. Now I have them immortalized in photo. Into the recycling these went.

Ta-da!!!! Here is everything in its nicely ordered existence. 

Now I can begin to tackle the rest of the sewing projects. More to come.

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A few final thoughts on Depression and Anxiety:

  1. It is not my thyroid.
  2. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say it. 
  3. Yes, I probably will be on meds for the rest of my life. If you don't understand that, please educate yourself further. 
Thursday
Jan152015

The Sound of Silence | Still No Justice ~ 2015

How do you write a blog post following the update about the blog post you wrote last year? The post exposing what your father did to you and your sister? The post that explains that your father is an unregistered, unprosecuted sex offender?

It's hard to follow an update post like that with a cheery blog post about crafting, sewing, saving for a new boat, or working out. It all seems empty when compared with how my sister and I feel right now. 

For those who have tried to help us, by sending words of encouragement, or more importantly, by sending emails and phone calls to the Governor of Alaska and the Fairbanks DA, thank you.

I tend to listen to songs over and over. This is on repeat right now.

"But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence"

Sunday
Feb232014

I Should be Blogging about Provisioning

The view above me as I work out in the plaza of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.

In 2010 I avidly followed several boats and their blogs as they crossed to the South Pacific. I was pregnant, and then had a newborn, and was fascinated by families like Totem and Forgeover and wanted to see how they worked the sailing life with kids.

There is no way I would have guessed that I'd be spending my last several weeks before crossing the Pacific Ocean with a loss for words, especially since I know people are following our blogs the same way I was following others in 2010. How will the crossing work with two young kids? Will they have fun? Will it be scary? Dangerous? Worth it?

I imagined that I'd have whole posts outlining how I was carefully provisioning, with spreadsheets and mathematical formulas. I would gleefully show how we had meticulously organized the boat and talk about the exciting places we were going to visit.

The truth is, I can really only focus on the basics right now. Simple basics, like wake up and greet the day and my family joyfully. Mindfully make breakfast. Sit in the cockpit as the girls play, and I drink morning coffee and listen to the net. 

Attila from s/v Bettie. She's a wonderful workout partner.

After that, I wait for my workout partner to stop by and we work out on the finger of the dock while her two month old makes funny faces at us in his baby seat and Cora and Lyra squawk away while they play next to us, their heads peeking out from time to time between the canvas privacy panels to see what we are doing.

I find myself going through peaks and valleys as I slowly pull myself out of the cavern of the events from January. Ever so gradually, my lows are not getting as low as they used to be, and that is good, because having academic conversations with myself about the pros and cons of suicide is just not a great place to be, ever. I had no idea what would trigger me until after the post was published and I got side swiped by the sheer amount of stories from others who had experienced something similar. Trying to read Dylan Farrow's own account was overwhelming for me. And the next low, another something I hadn't expected, was innocently checking the search queries on our blog. I love to look at the search queries to see the funniest or weirdest search term that will get someone to our blog.

Let me tell you, the types of things that people type into Google that related to my post about my father in January, that are unbelievably disgusting, is mindblowing. I was trembling as I looked at vile search query after vile search query, feeling like my blog and my writing had been violated again, like I could never go back to that search page, or have any fun looking up quirky search terms...ever.

And after I saw those queries, the words festered in my mind. I mentioned it casually to Eric and within a few hours I had instigated a fight with him. Some stupid fight, that led me to yell, "Why are we fighting about something this idiotic? Oh my god, I just need a hug!" And I launched myself into his arms and bawled my eyeballs out, sopping his t-shirt and gasping that I had ruined our blog. 

Another low point. But I woke up the next morning and I told Eric, "Enough. I can't live like this anymore."

I told him that he needed to force me to work out. Every day (with breaks when needed). I desperately needed the endorphins. I was on a new medication and after the week or so change of weaning off of one med, and on to another, I could shake myself out of the annoying technicolor brightness of a world warped by a change in anti-depressants to say, "It's got to be me that helps to fix this."

And so Eric helped me. And I helped myself. And I'm on the three-pronged approach: medication, therapy, and exercise.

While the medication is helping, helloooooo energy and interest in the things I used to love, my creativity feels dampened. I have a burbling of posts to write, words flow in and out of my head in paragraphs, and my nightly series of dreams would make a full and interesting novel every time I awake. My inner mind is a non-stop creation machine, but somehow the creativity can't tumble out of my mouth, or my fingers, to type it all.

With less than two weeks (or so) to go before we set sail, instead of getting a blog full of provisioning, and route planning, and fancy sailing vocabulary, you get the basics in my life that I'm actually focusing on.

Family work outs at the plaza.

Amazing 12-year-old Mira from s/v Lilo.

Making use of some of the amazing babysitting offers we have been inundated with this sailing season in Mexico.

With Steve from s/v Landfall and Hamish and Rani from s/v Western Explorer.

Having one too many margaritas with friends.

Being the most 'boring' couple at dinner. Seriously, the couple in the background? Christian is from Uruguay and his wife, Florence, is from France. Next couple? Sabine is from the Netherlands and her husband, Terry, is from New Zealand. And the last couple? Ted is from New Zealand and Stella is from England. Hey, at least one of our kids was born in Mexico!

I've been hanging out with all five of these amazing women. The six of us gave birth in Mexico in 2013 and we all live on sailboats. It's a Mexican, boat-baby BOOM!

We celebrated Lyra's birthday yesterday and had our going away party. I will miss the friends we have made here.

Things I want to write about:

1. Lyra's birthday party.

2. Reflections on Lyra's first year.

3. The brilliance that is Cora.

4. Provisioning.

5. The cool people we have met here.

6. Everything I wanted to write about in December and January, but couldn't.

7. The wonderful things I have sewed lately.

But I may not get a chance to. And that's okay. One day.

Right now, I focus on basics like my family, my friends, my health, the food we eat, and working diligently on achieving our goal of sailing westward, very soon.

Getting to spend my days with Cora, Lyra, and Eric, is grounding, satisfying, and enough. I'm looking forward to the Pacific sail and pressing the 'reset' button.

Friday
Feb072014

Taking a Break

Taking a break from the blog and social media. I'll occasionally check email. If you really need to get a hold of me, contact Eric.

Much love ~ Charlotte

Monday
Feb032014

Cracking Me Open

When Sariah and I went for our road trip to Phoenix right before publishing the account about our father sexually abusing us, we talked for hours about the possible outcomes of publishing the truth versus not saying something publicly. We tried to spin off of on all the variables; we pondered about what could happen to us, to our husbands, to our kids. How would it affect us? Or the people we loved? Or our futures, or their futures? We knew it would be hard.

We had no idea how hard.

I thought it was funny when a therapist-friend left a comment on FB sounding surprised at my hurt reaction to our brother saying we were making it up.

"Oh, you didn't expect that?"

No. No, therapist-friend. In all the eventualities we tried to prepare ourselves for, our own siblings not believing us, or defending our father, never occurred to us. I guess we were just naïve. Neither Sariah nor I, are trained therapists. We have no previous experience doing something like this. I tried to buy the 'Handbook to how the tell the world your father is an unprosecuted sex offender' but couldn't find that book anywhere. (If anyone has a copy, please send it my way).  We held each other's hands, took a deep breath, and hit 'publish,' and our world cracked apart.

We have been inundated by messages of support and thanks. Quite literally, hundreds of women, and men, have messaged us to say thank you for telling the world what our father did, for not being quiet, for not letting him slip away into life, again to be free to hurt other children. And if I have to re-send that post every year to the schools and city officials of Taos, New Mexico, or wherever my father lives, I will, until he is prosecuted, and put on a sex offender list so people can be made aware without the need for our very public warning.

Along with all those hundreds of Facebook, website, and email messages though, have also been people pouring out their hearts. I have read more accounts of horrific abuse that others have suffered than I could have even imagined. Figuratively, it is killing me, and I've got to stop reading them, at least for now, before it literally does.

I don't think any decent person could read even one of the messages and not be upset by it. And to get as many as we have? It is crushing my heart. My empathy vein has been slashed open and I am spilling every ounce of energy I have reliving other people's agonies too.

I get it. People want to share what happened to them, too. It is such a relief to tell someone who will listen. To feel heard and validated for what you have been through, but again, naïvely, we didn't expect such a response.

And then Dylan Farrow published her own account about her step-father sexually abusing her, and I tried to read it, almost threw up, and had to stop. To read how someone else also tried to put it all down in words, I couldn't get through it. It seared me open again.

I feel like a vintage glass, whom someone is holding tightly in a sweaty palm. At any second, either my sides will be crushed by the weight of their grip, or the person holding me is going to let me go and I'll splinter into a million pieces when I hit the ground.

Two nights ago, still alone while Eric was out of town, I thought about taking my life. I sat there toying with the idea, almost as if the concept were an egg yolk and I was stringing it back and forth between my fingers, stretching the thoughts from my thumb to forefinger, waiting for the egg yolk to snap. I have no idea how long I had been sitting there contemplating it, until I realized exactly what I was doing: having a conversation with myself about how much better it would be if I weren't alive. 

It would be so much easier.

I wouldn't have to deal with any more pain.

I could rest. It would be quiet.

I wouldn't have to talk about it anymore.

But how would I do it? Drowning? No. Pills? Maybe. A knife? No.

What about the girls? They couldn't find me dead; how awful.They need me. I'd have to wait until Eric was home and could take care of them.

What about Eric? 

And so my mind cycled, thinking. And then it cycled in an even larger orb around those thoughts and I observed myself thinking it all, realizing that I had never ever been so low that I had such crystal-clear thoughts about just slipping quietly away from life. It was scary. I messaged Eric. I messaged Sariah. I told them what I was thinking. They talked to me until I felt better. Eric got home the next day. 

But, really, feeling suicidal was also NOT an outcome we thought about when considering whether to publish the post or not.

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I've got to pull back. If you have messaged me, and I haven't written back, I just can't right now. Some day I might be able to, but I don't know if I'll ever have the words to ease your suffering, or know what to say about your abuse. If there is a way I can help, someone I can email or message, something concrete I can do, let me do that, but I can't write back just now while I'm so awfully frail myself.

Here are things I want to write about: Lyra is almost one, why I'm glad that Eric is back, the girls' quarter berth and the new lee cloth I'm making, provisioning for the South Pacific, and our sail across the ocean. 

Also, please, if you run into me in person, this isn't a topic I want to chat about on the docks, or around my my daughters. While yes, I made the account of my abuse public, that doesn't mean I can talk about it the way I can talk about sewing or yoga. If you want to discuss it, give me a heads up, let me know why, but let's not do it in front of my three year old. She doesn't need to hear even key words about it right now. She'll know the whole story when she is older, but not now. Thank you!

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I often immerse myself in music when I need soothing. This song has helped today.

 

I've been looking for a fight

All the trouble that I know
Trying to lose the world inside
But it's got no place to go

Oh I'm armed and dangerous
At the whim of my command
I've been searching for an angle
For a cause I can defend

Oh take me home
Let me go all day
Just be here til I know
Til I know that the riot's gone, the riot's gone away

I've been haunted all my life
On the brink of something close
People know that I ain't right
Know I'm grappling with a ghost

Oh I'm armed and dangerous,
And I'm deafened by the fray
Waiting for the day I'm able
And I said it all this way

Oh take me home
Let me go all day
Just be here til I know
Til I know that the riot's gone, the riot's gone away

~ Santigold, The Riot's Gone