Ten years ago, we made our annual New Year's Eve sparkler bomb with 960 sparklers. For ringing in 2019, I definitely didn't see the New Year enter at midnight - and of the seven distinct voices that can be heard, one is no longer occupying the earth in her physical body. As most of us in this video are creeping towards the end of our thirties, there's not a single one of us who doesn't miss the caring, nurturing soul that laughed the hardest at inappropriate jokes, Cards Against Humanity, and became the event planner for our group of friends. Cancer took her way too soon.
Cancer takes far too many lives at a rate of 9.6 million deaths globally in 2016, but there's another deadly condition that is not spoken of until it is way too late and claims 800,000 lives every year-suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people 15-29 years old, second only to motor vehicle accidents.
My friend had a very visible illness. She was treated with chemo and radiation. She had a team of doctors watching over her and she had family and friends that loved her unconditionally. Sadly, many people that have depression also have family and friends that love them unconditionally, but often times struggle to ask for it. It is estimated that 15% of all people will at some point in their lifetimes experience a depressive episode. Often times, this is not highly visible until a person either attempts or completes suicide.
I am one of those people. I had my first major episode right after my son was born in July of 2012. At that point, I needed a lot of help. It's not surprising that I had postpartum depression-one in seven women, postpartum, experience it and the rate for NICU moms, is about 70% with one quarter of those having post-tramatic stress disorder. My thoughts thoughts were things like I wonder if anyone would notice if I was gone, what would happen if I took this whole bottle of pills, and maybe I should have died during childbirth-it would have been easier.
Thankfully, just like my friend got help for a visible illness, I was encouraged to get help for a very invisible illness. It was the most terrifying thing ever to walk into the doctor's office - and say, "I think I have postpartum depression." But it's even more terrifying to publish this. However, if it will help one person ask for help, then I want to give them hope.
While 2012 is thankfully in the rear-view mirror, the way my 2018 stacked up was awful. It, of course, had a few highs - I published my blog, finished my second novel's first draft, found a creative community through NaNoWriMo, and wrote my first successful grant; but, the lows I have experienced have been incredibly hard. I got sick on vacation, over the 4th of July holiday. I had to visit the eye doctor several times, which ended up in a referral to a specialty clinic and a diagnosis of a swollen optic nerve. I had pneumonia. I became the PTA president for a brief time - until we could have a special election. My daughter's ADHD was officially diagnosed. My husband brought home a vending machine. Our renter moved out with only two and a half week notice, prompting us to want to sell it, but needing to invest a significant amount of TLC in it-just to get it in a condition where we can reasonably sell or rent it again. And to top it off, for my health (both mental and physical), I need to make a career change.
I have continued my antidepressant for six years now and check-in with my primary care doctor for a prescription renewal about once a year. During the winter, being in the Northern Hemisphere, I also have SAD. I feel exhausted from mid-October through about March 1st (when the days are the shortest and outside adventures are almost non-existent), but I somehow keep functioning - even if, barely.
In addition to my medication, I have sought out therapy. Sometimes I have visited with students earning their Master's of Social Work, sometimes I have seen a psychiatrist, and sometimes I have seen a therapist, but they've all listened to me and given me kudos for all the things I've done well. But for some reason my brain will not let me believe that I am a #goodmom, a #greatteacher, or a #caringwife. My brain continually tells me that I am not good enough, which continues my depressive cycle.
Are there things that I can do to help be less depressed? Yes.
First, I can acknowledge that I am a #goodmom. I am the best mom for my children. I can break tasks into the smallest, most minute details for my daughter, who struggles to change from one task to another and has ADHD. I can give her the help of a visual to get moving in the morning and get out the door. I can also acknowledge that my son, who specifically requests that I play with him thinks I'm the #bestmomever! And I can be grateful that after several miscarriages, I have not one, but two reasonably healthy children.
Next, I can listen to the descriptions of my students who say, "Do you know so & so? She's like you, she breaks down the language for us and has a lot of patience." Adult English Learners are some of the most grateful human beings you'll ever meet. And I can be thankful that I have the chance to get to know them. I can also listen to my colleagues from across multiple school districts that say, "You are a #greatteacher. Don't ever let anyone tell you that you're not good at what you do." And I can be grateful that I have a state-issued teaching license that allows me to substitute teach in all grades PK-12 to earn an income while I figure out what is next professionally.
Finally, I can be a #caringwife by acknowledging that the mental load is much, much easier for a neuro-typical person than for a person who has ADHD. I can remember that my husband needs to have his keys in a specific place and always have the second set with him if we go somewhere together. I can put events on his calendar (when I remember) and I can remember that he is willing to support me through this transitional time for me.
So, as I welcome 2019, I am going to practice my superpower: Gratitude. I am going to be thankful that I have all the skills, knowledge, and wisdom to not set New Year's Resolutions, but to simply state what I will do.
1. Show gratitude
2. Self-publish a novel
3. Read 25+ books
4. Publish on my blog at least once per week
5. Give myself grace
6. Be compassionate
7. Read to my children
8. Journal every day
10. Write reviews for purchases on Amazon
11. Teach swim lessons
12. Review movies
13. Practice self-compassion
15. Love my neighbors
16. Love myself
17. Write notes to my daughter in our "Girl Squad" journal
18. Do flotation therapy
19. Cherish memories that I make with friends and family