“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers. ~ M. Scott Peck
I first must say, I am so happy to writing this post tonight (this will seem very strange once you get to the subject matter, but the writing part is what brings me the joy, not the topic). As you may have guessed, I took yesterday off not because I was not feeling well and frankly also just drained from all the activities of the week. That said, I have been thinking about today’s topic for 2 days: what quote to use, how to treat it delicately as it is delicate and ultimately what to say that will make sense and not trivialize the issue. So, as I was driving home from a haircut late this afternoon, I was giving more thought to the framework of the post and as I looked to my left, I am pretty sure David Beckham drove by me at at a 4 way stop intersection near my house….um yes, we can pause for a moment to conjure up the image, he is that attractive, but alas he is not the topic for today.
The topic, because it is one that I have known personally, but not as well as some and it is so evident from so many of the folks who are sharing on the blog that it may be a topic of interest…Self -isolation and depression. You don’t exactly know when it started or maybe you do but you know that you don’t even know where to begin to bring yourself back to begin to find happiness or the even more elusive joy? My journey started with therapy and watching the wind (I call this my baseline). I will explain…
As fate would have it (there it is again), after planning to write on this topic, I got to put my baseline into action last night. As I was driving down our pretty tree-lined street around 6 pm, I noticed the wind blowing strong and the sun shining through the trees casting a halo of light down the street, it was stunning. I pulled into the driveway still amazed how the trees seemed more green and the sky seemed more blue. I began to wonder if this was just because I had taken the time to notice or if the trees were actually more green than usual (it has been raining in LA lately – gasp!) and the sky more blue.
From the driveway, I rang my friend back east who is going through some tough issues in her marriage and she was filling me in on the latest. I walked inside, kissed the babies and sat down to chat for a few more minutes. Suddenly I heard “the” dreaded loud dull thud from the back of the house, which I knew could only be Q’s head (it has always been VERY large and this happens somewhat frequently since it’s so heavy! For the record this has been passed down on KSP’s side, who our pediatrician confirmed also has a very large head via a tape measure at one of the kids’ appointments – those that know KSP will think this is comical) hitting the hardwood floor and the subsequent cry out and crying that followed. I dropped the call, and ran back to get him. Nanna H. had arrived before me and was carrying him toward me so I grabbed him and took him into the living room where I tried to cuddle him. As I sat down on the couch and Nanna H. walked back into the kitchen Q started to cry even harder and every hair on my body stood up as my instincts screamed he is crying for her. I am consistently devastated by this as I am his mama and having him long for someone else is heart-breaking. I know I chose this for myself, and I need to work (both for my mental state but also financial), but at the same time it hurts my heart. When these deep-seeded hurts are triggered, I begin to ruminate and a larger beast begins to appear, which is essentially the cumulative effect of the past 2 years. I was relieved a few minutes later as Nanna H. brought the warming bottles out to me and said her goodnights and left (please don’t think I don’t know the value of having someone who loves our kids and our kids love, but they are supposed to love me more! – only half-joking:)) We can also go into the working and stay at home mom scenarios at some point but to be honest in either scenario some people (not all, some are perfectly happy and comfortable with their choice) feel guilty, half-happy, and unfulfilled and so people need to do what works for them in their particular situation which noone can ever know unless they are in their exact shoes (ok, I just got down from my soapbox, but when I first looked into children choosing a nanny over a parent on a discussion thread on Yahoo! I was appalled by the extreme judgement people had for women who were clearly feeling sad and down already, that is just not my kettle of fish – as my 2-year-old niece would say very dramatically, “NOOOOOT NICE!”.
After she left, I put Q on the floor to go grab the wee ones’ pajamas and Q’s bottle. Immediately, he three-toed slothed (this is my new version of salamadering, he now is in a seated position where he half crawls half scoots, it is equally funny) to the big window in the living room. He loves to look outside, move his head back and forth side to side to either real music or that endless music in his head, and see his breath on the glass. Upon reentering the living room I was pragmatically explaining to Q in an adult voice and tone, that I am his mama and that I was the one who carried him in my belly, and stayed with him for countless hours every day in the Nicu and have tended to his every need everyday since and that it was very important he remember that (aka my baggage). He was riveted by my guilt trip (I promised I wouldn’t do it anymore once he could actually understand my words) and continued to stare out the window to his music and gnaw the wood separators separating our window panes…rrrrrrrrch, Oh my gosh, he is chewing on the wood! I drop everything and run to grab him (everyday is a new day) …He of course was upset with me that I had ruined his beaver moment, and started to fuss. I grabbed his bottle, still bothered that I had (I cannot prove this, but I am pretty sure) come in second tonight in the “who should comfort me competition” with the nanny. I sat down on the couch and turned Q toward the window and he calmly started to drink his bottle. I was getting more sad and irritated by the second. I considered going back online to see if anyone had any advice and thought about calling my friend “I” who has much more experience with nannies than me, but out of the corner of my eye I caught the wind blowing one of the trees outside of our house. The wind was blowing strongly and so all of our flowers and trees were swaying in the wind. And as I sat there with my baby Q, we both watched the wind and I calmed down and realized what a special moment we were having. That it won’t be long before he isn’t drinking bottles any more and sitting on my lap to watch the wind will be as appealing as me asking him if he wants to watch paint dry. And everything changed. I was quietly grateful. I let go of my ego-entrenched frustration and just was. Even 2 years ago, I would not have been able to make the shift, I would have just pushed it down and let it manifest itself in some other frustration. Thankfully, I had started my journey toward being “more light-hearted” many years ago (I call it this because, this is exactly what I said to my mom when I was describing the heaviness that was constantly in my heart and how I wanted to make it go away and laugh more easily and just laugh more.)
Often, it seems, depression and even more severe psychological scenarios can be part of a genetic makeup. The origin point can be passed down both genetically but then also through the actions between parents and their children and as the parent struggles with their issues, it only naturally bleeds over into the children either through actual experiences clearly representing the depression (lots of crying, struggles with motivation, emotional abuse, etc. causing long-term scars and reinforcing the vicious cycle) or through a scenario that involves parenting a parent, where they child becomes responsible for navigating and helping the parent with their ongoing issues ultimately invalidating the child’s feelings and forcing them to grow up and mature much more quickly. Other people have major life events that throw them into this state. Often these life-changing events completely throw your world into a tail-spin and you don’t know how to right the weeble wobble that has become your life (remember, weebles, wobble but they don’t fall down). However it happens, the daily struggle is frustrating, upsetting and on-going….
My journey to “become more-light-hearted” (for the record, this was SO just scratching the surface, I was very far away from being light-hearted) became most meaningful, important, and successful about 7 years ago. The success started with the day I identified was just down, always down. I could pretend all day long when necessary that everything was fine, but it wasn’t. I had always been a more serious person but now I was heavy in my soul. I had frequent anxiety attacks, I cried quickly and easily (not in the same way as I do now, if that makes sense), and I was incredibly prone to outbursts of pent-up sadness for reasons that noone could make sense of usually because they were an accumulation of multiple hurts that happened to get expressed when I finally felt I couldn’t take it anymore. I had isolated myself from my friends because I was first person I knew that was my age that was getting a divorce. This came with judgement, fear (people seem to evaluate their own relationships when someone they know are getting divorced – if you like Modern Family, there is a classic episode where Phil deals with this) and loneliness. People couldn’t relate, or at least I didn’t think they could. Additionally, I had moved across the country, away from my best friend (my ex-husband) and all my other friends, started a new job, was in a new relationship (note, it is challenging to cultivate a new relationship successfully when you haven’t grieved properly for your old one) and my grandma died. In addition to this, I am pleaser. I often take on things that I probably shouldn’t because making other people happy makes me happy but it also brings praise, and for reasons outside of today’s post, I LOVE praise. I believe many successful people are pleasers as it makes you diverse and a bit of a chameleon, you can acclimate to any situation because it will please others, which ultimately pleases you. This can be very helpful in doses but on some level this can also be detrimental. There is a line, but as I have come to know, you have to find it and know it for yourself. I would really see just how depressed I really was when I would drink socially. Alcohol was not my friend during this time. I was not abusing it, but it was not uncommon for me to take what could be a very fun night out and have it quickly turn into a tear-filled explosion simply because it allowed me to let my very “solid by day” guard down (there is a reason they call it a depressant).
After an especially bad anxiety attack one day (I always had a tightness in my chest but I was having trouble breathing) I decided I didn’t want to be like this anymore and I started a journey to this moment, I went on my health insurance website and located a therapist (who ironically wouldn’t take my insurance) and I started reading any book that I thought might be helpful for me. I read multiple books and would take little nuggets but continued to fall back into my old patterns. I tried putting good energy into the universe, I tried meditation ( I am not good at meditation), and I tried making peace with my demons. I didn’t love my therapist so as soon as I started to feel even remotely better I quit going, as part of me felt pressured to go both from a financial perspective (like she was only seeing me for the money and she wouldn’t agree to see me less than once a week and at $125 a pop, that was too much for this newly single gal in a new city!) and also that I resented being forced to please her. I went back to my old ways and pretended to myself and others I had never been better. I was still sad, but I just forced it down and old habits of pleasing took over, my being “happy” pleased others. The only person who probably saw the real toll this took on me was KSP. However, we were still trying to find our footing and I couldn’t figure out a way to communicate so most of his “seeing this” was in occasional outbursts with him (as we all know relationships are a 2 way street, but I do own my part) I Then, about 2 years into my journey, I decided to try again. KSP and were getting married, and I was so happy but still heavy. This is when I found Dr. J. I went to see him and upon our first meeting I described what I had been feeling and what I thought the origin to be. He asked me some questions, and then asked me some more questions about my childhood and I left there crying and cried for 4 days. When I came back the next week, I knew I was going to make progress. Things improved, KSP and I married and started to try to have a baby. I stayed in therapy because I knew I had deep-seed issues that I didn’t want to put onto my children (refer back to stellar example conversation with Q in our living room last night), but time ticked away and we didn’t get pregnant. Pressure mounted as did frustration and helplessness and then 8 months after we got married, along came Oprah…and Eckhart Tolle. The Great 8, the term coined for my childhood friend (someday, I want to write a book about us, in all my free time, maybe I can write it at stoplights around the city while driving – just kidding), decided we would do it together…read and participate in what I still consider to be as a business person one of the greatest multi-platform executions in the history of the entertainment business (Print, TV, Merchandise, Online, Podcasts, Live Events = AMAZING!!!! this is the stuff that gets me excited – weird I know:)) “A New Earth” and “The Power of Now” catapulted me into a new place of self-awareness. I fully embraced “A New Earth” and I actually was reading “The Power of Now” when my Grandpa Virgil passed away and I got pregnant. These books helped me to feel some much-needed peace and one of the most interesting tidbits was in the very beginning of “A New Earth” where it discusses that if you focus very closely on a tree or a leaf and the wind rattling that tree or leaf and you fully focus you will be fully present in the moment, and guess what it worked! At least for me (and Oprah). She is actually rerunning the segments on-line now as part of her final season http://www.oprah.com/oprahsbookclub/Chapter-1-Oprah-and-Eckhart-Tolles-A-New-Earth-Webcast-Video). The tree and the wind have become my baseline. They are my small awareness trigger and they are easily accessible.
As I have mentioned, I also recently finished “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. This too is a great book, but I think (note, this is just my opinion and I have been known to be wrong – yes KSP, I said the W word) that it is probably more effective for those that already consider themselves reasonably happy and not those that are really depressed. She does have a blog if you want to check it out, she is a fascinating person and I actually very much identify with her. http://www.happiness-project.com
So with the wind in my head and my heart I made changes to my life. I looked at KSP with love and felt love, I made apologies and requests of what I needed where necessary to my family, I tried to be a better friend and never pass judgement but to just be there for good and for bad. I made many small steps forwards and backwards on my way here. In spite of everything happening with our babies and having somewhat isolated myself again for the past 18 months, I was a little better this time, I can say I am much happier at my core. I experience a range of emotions, sometimes all in one day, and I constantly have to remind myself about being in the moment, I do have a choice (although admittedly it’s not always that easy to just be like, choose to feel better). I try to practice kindness, identify what the root of whatever my emotion is, and remember how I express it is up to me. I do try to abide by Gretchen’s “Act the way I want to feel”, but sometimes I fall down and sometimes I succeed, but in the end I do the best I can. In my past and recent isolation, I have felt uncomfortable, unhappy and unfulfilled, but I was propelled by this to step out and search for a new way to deal with my emotions which is why I am typing this in this very moment and I am so grateful I did, because, I have not felt such peace and happiness in a very long time if ever. I am where I am supposed to be.
I wish all of my friends that struggle with depression everyday or those are going through an especially challenging time that their discomfort, unhappiness propels them to step toward something that makes happier even if it’s in the smallest way and if even that’s too much perhaps take moment to watch the wind.