I'm depressed. I think that is the first time I have ever admitted publicly that I am truly depressed at the time that I am depressed. I've been prone to depression since I was a child. I can pinpoint the years of my life when depression ruled the day. Yet, as I have gotten older I have found myself dealing with it on a day to day basis far less. I thought for a good long while that I had beaten it. I thought that the most I'd feel were moments of sadness, frustration, or let down. I didn't think that depression would come again.
Admitting that one is depressed can have so many negative repercussions to how one is perceived by their peers. While there are many difficult aspects to living with depression, people who are depressed should not be ruled out as productive, interesting, and lovable people. Assuming that someone who is depressed is ungrateful, lazy, selfish, dramatic, or emotionally stunted or overstimulated is like saying someone who has diabetes is also all of these things. There may be a personal component to having an illness like depression or diabetes that is often chronic, but science tells us that genetics also play a strong factor in our predisposition to developing it. There is no one to blame for depression. People who are depressed should not be counted out.
Currently, I'm struggling with the compulsion I feel to do things "properly." It has taken over so many aspects of my life that I wake up every morning with an intense pressure to do things as prescribed by the text I'm reading, the mentor I have chosen, the philosophy of whatever group label I have dove into for support. I'm overwhelmed by all of these things I've told myself that I have to do to be successful that when there just isn't enough time in the day to research educational philosophy, I think about the laundry list of things to do in the day while I'm supposed to be focusing on God during meditation, or I fight the urge to let my toddler watch some TV so we can peacefully complete our school lessons, I feel incredibly guilty and as if all the effort I've put forth to do this mother and homemaker thing well has just been washed down the drain. The day is a loss. I've failed my children. I've failed my husband. I've ceased to matter in the larger scheme of things. I'm just a failing housewife.
I know. It's irrational. I completely understand that and recognize it. Does that make a difference in battling these feelings? Mostly not. However, it is a starting point.
The task before me is learning to let go of these labels, rules, and prescriptions and adopt what is truly a fit for me and my family. I have to learn that the effort is as important if not more so than the result. I have to stop the thoughts of failure. I have to accept that the me that God created, the joy I feel when allowing myself to just be who I am without apology, is enough for me and my family.
It's so easy to feel the burden and guilt for not being content and happy. We are bombarded by the positive thinking movement (which I believe has much merit) saying that happiness is a choice. It makes it seem so simple to choose to be happy and content. They say begin by being grateful for what you have, as if someone who isn't happy is an ungrateful person not recognizing the many things they are blessed with every day. We can't simply make a list of what we are grateful for and suddenly expect to be happy or not depressed. Gratitude can be fully lived and recognized while in deep depression.
Every day is a new day even when depressed. Often, while depressed, facing the day at all is something that makes you feel dread. When you measure yourself against your peers and their accomplishments, it is easy to feel like you aren't doing enough. Motherhood is a lonely place many times. I've written that before. I long to have a voice in things that matter to adults. Many of my feminist friends (and no I'm not saying that I'm not a feminist) would say that what I'm doing as a stay at home, homeschooling, wife and mother is a choice that I can un-choose. Probably, a lot of those who would say that aren't mothers yet or have chosen not to be. When another person's life and opportunities in that life become your responsibility, choices become infinitely more complicated. I could ask for the greater world to become more interested in mothers and all that we accomplish in a day, but in our culture of leisure,consumer values, and immense access to information about our world, domestic life is pretty boring. Raising children becomes something that isn't our "work", but the thing we do as we do our real work, or depending on arrangements, when we have completed our real work for the day. I know to some, I'm wasting my mind by not taking on some "meaningful" work. Does it sound like I resent that? Perhaps I do. Perhaps there's a hint of jealousy. Perhaps I just want to eat my cake.
So, from this place in my life, I have a lot of hard work to do. I'm someone who believes I was born with all I need to be happy, content, and prosperous. I believe we are all important. We are born children of the Most High. We are wanted by God. Planned by God. That is no small thing. What that tells me is there is the possibility of Light. I first want to accept where I am, speak/write my experience, and then begin to adopt the practice of letting go and feeling my way rather than using unbalanced intellect and sacrificial willing to obtain the Ideal.
We stayed home and she nursed me all through the night. She let me sleep in her bed as she almost always did when I was sick. She wet wash cloths and kept them cool on my forehead. She told me stories and rubbed my back and feet. I'm sure she left the room, but if she did, it was when I was sleeping.
This past week, my Mimi, who is now 80, had a T.I.A event. My mother quickly got her to the hospital and once assessed she was transferred to a larger hospital a little over an hour from our hometown. She spent the entire night confused, sometimes knowing us and sometimes not. I was home alone with the girls and before we knew whether or not she had actually had a stroke, I worried that I wouldn't be able to get to the hospital in time to talk with her during a time when she still knew us. That scared me. While she hasn't been in the best of health, she hasn't really been ill.
I'm fortunate enough to still have all the grandparents that I have known and loved since I was born. That's a pretty big deal for a thirty-six year old. Yet, I know it can't last much longer. My grandparents have been such a huge part of my life, I'm not sure I'm ready to know what it is like not to have them a phone call away.
We lived with Mimi from the time I was about six years old until I was about eleven or twelve. She cooked for us and I rode to school with her every morning. She worked at the county Board of Education as a secretary. I walked to her office every evening after school and played until she was ready to go home for the day. She tickle-rubbed my back and feet nearly every night to help me relax and go to sleep while she watched Dynasty, Falcon Crest, or Knots Landing. When I washed my hair in shaving cream before school, it was she that put it up in a mushroom bun to make the "wet look" look purposeful like a woman from a Robert Palmer video.
I stayed with her a few days and one night at the hospital this week. The night I spent with her was hard. Her blood sugar went low and I didn't recognize it. The nurses didn't check it for several hours, so they didn't know either. She pulled and tugged at all the lines and cords attached to her. She, who always freezes, pulled her covers off. I'd explain to her why she had to have all the monitors. I'd put her oxygen back on. I'd curl up in the straight backed chair watching the same episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations three times wondering if this out of character behavior was a sign of something more.
As a doula, I've attended births. I know what the thinning of the veil feels like. What it feels like when a soul is about to breathe air for the very first time. It's that electric feeling where you can act in a pinch of a moment as if you knew what to do before you had to do it. It felt that way that night. I've heard elder midwives and birth attendants say that the thinning of the veil feels the same at death as at birth. So, I worried. At least she knows it is me who is here, I thought.
My Mimi is coming home tomorrow if all goes well tonight. She'll be at home for Christmas. She'll know us for Christmas. There will be some days, weeks, months, or years left. It still feels strange though, that somehow I am to that stage in life where the tide has turned. It will be my mother, me, and my siblings caring for her now.
Mimi showed me what it meant to be fiercely independent. She was a single mother to my mom and her brothers for many years. She never dated anyone as long as I was aware, or if she did, it was not something to talk about. She had a career and was super good at it. She even seemed happy in her work. She made her own decisions and stood up for her family. She kind of did it all, and it was from my grandmothers that I learned that I was strong and capable.
I don't know what is ahead for my family. Transitions are always bizarre and filled with the unknown. When she takes that final jump of this life, she won't be alone even if she is physically alone. Even if I'm not quite ready to step into the next pair of shoes, I will. I'll do it proudly, because that's what I saw her do. I know endings are just beginnings for everyone involved. It will be for her too. Every single prayer or well wish that has been sent to our family is appreciated. My Mimi thanks you too. We're just glad that she will be back home soon, where she belongs right now.
In my last post, I triumphantly stated how I was going to avoid scrolling my Facebook newsfeed through the Advent season. I wanted a break from the bombardment of negativity, and I wanted to take control of what I see. My resolve didn't last very long. I've been scrolling my newsfeed and feeling pretty guilty as I often judge myself harshly. Yet, despite our perceived imperfections, Spirit sees none of it, and readily communicates with us in the most mysterious of ways.
I was washing dishes and listening to our local NPR station, when I heard a story about a Canadian parliament member who was caught playing Candy Crush Saga during a hearing on pensions. The story that aired featured an interview with a psychologist/researcher (if my memory is serving me correctly) who spoke about why people seem addicted to things like social media, online gaming, and video games. She said that it was for rewards. It was when she equated his game playing to someone checking emails during a meeting, when I began to really identify. I'm not the person who would be online during a meeting without due cause, but I am the person who would check my email or Facebook repetitively for a reward. What type of reward? An adult conversation, acknowledgement of my efforts either professionally or as a mother, finding a super interesting news-story, or receiving a note from a friend or family member I don't see often enough.
Mothering can be a very lonely place to be sometimes. When your husband works long hours and breaks are few and far between, a day can feel so long. It's only natural to seek a reprieve. What I now realize is that Facebook has become a way for me to feel connected to the world outside of my home and my homeschooling. It has become an outlet for me to make and maintain friendships that is perfectly set up to appeal to my introverted nature. I, too, realize that seeking a reward is not always a bad thing. It's a boost. An encouragement. It can keep you motivated and on course.
What isn't worth the time on Facebook is the bigotry, racism, sexism, homophobia, unnecessary violence, hyped and ill reported sensational stories, and extreme hate that I am exposed to in my newsfeed on any given day. So, when I stopped feeling guilty about scrolling my newsfeed when I had made a spiritual commitment not to, I wondered where the heck I could find balance in social media. I want to still have my reward and cut the bull.
Without fail, Spirit reached out to me again. On Facebook, a friend tagged me in a Facebook Tips post about customizing your newsfeed. I understood better than ever that I can be proactive about what I see by using the options of like, comment, unfriend, unfollow, hide, block, and I don't want to see this. I can adjust my newsfeed by interacting with it in the way it was designed. In doing so, I'm not worried about compromising my privacy, or hurting anyone's feelings. I'll just be acknowledging my Truth in a kind way, and using the proper options based on what I'm seeing. Honestly, there are people who I have loved most of my life that post things that I really get shocked by, but I know them and I understand to some extent where it is coming from, so I can adjust my reaction. However, if someone is an acquaintance or I haven't met them, I have no reason to continue to be present with offensive material. If I have to make the choice to process one's cosmic junk, I also want to have a meaningful relationship with that person either familial, friendly, or professional.
Sure, deeply thinking about Facebook can seem as cliche as announcing a "friends" clean-up or hiatus from social media. We live in a new era though where staying away from tools like Facebook is growing more difficult if you also want to be present within your community/village/tribe. It can really shock and throw folks of my generation who didn't regularly use computers until college, let alone the internet. I'm constantly seeing the reaction of people to the transparency and insight to the innermost thoughts of people they never dreamed they didn't know. It will take some time and adjusting to figure out our place in this new age. We must figure out our place so we can begin to under consequences of what we are embracing and help our young people navigate their use of media in a healthy and productive way.
So, I'm adjusting my expectations of myself to something more doable for me at this stage. When I'm on Facebook, I'm going to behave authentically. I'm going to rightly use the options Facebook provides and I'm going to post whatever I deem appropriate for public intake that honestly reveals my values, opinions, beliefs, concerns, and that which brings me joy.
Kelli Hansel Haywood is the mother of three daughters living in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. She is a writer, weightlifter, yoga and movement instructor, chakra reader, and Reiki practitioner.