Depression trigger incidents

About a week ago, Ellis plopped herself next to me on the couch and asked what I was writing on my blog. When she says something funny, she always asks me to put it on my blog and to say that she said it. She’ll take silly selfies or blurry pictures of our pet fish and ask me to post them. She probably thought it was a post like that.

Turning my face to hers, I quickly closed my computer and said “nothing.”

She’s learning how to read, so I can imagine her sounding out “depression.” Too young to talk about it with her. But this incident made me reflect on the unintended consequences of what I’m sharing.

This mental health issue started before Ellis’ heart journey. I wanted to clarify that, because I have been writing sporadically about it in my blog. In each of those posts, I reference it back to my current life circumstance of raising a heart child. However, it’s been a long-standing issue.

Last night a new thought occurred to me: what if in the future Ellis blames herself for my problem? In no way do I want that. This problem is mine.

It started years before having children and came to a full meltdown in 2009. Years of pent-up stress, meeting familial expectations, exhaustion, feeling lonely, no job prospect after graduation, student loans, and fears of failing at the last step overwhelmed me the day before defending my dissertation.

I never knew my knees could shake and buckle like that in public and wanting to just shut myself into a room. I went down to the subway station to take the train to Korean town for comfort food. Well, the place started spinning and I began to sweat while short of breath. I put one foot into the subway, thought I would collapse once the doors closed, and jumped out right before the doors closed.

Claustrophobia and panic attack: in the middle of rush hour in Midtown NYC.

I’ve had previous episodes, but the 2009 one was the most blatantly painful one that showed me what a meltdown looked like. In that phase of my life, I coped by avoiding uncomfortable situations that triggered panic, worry for days if I had to go to a new place, or gritting my teeth with a smile when the panic set in.

The first time I sought professional help was with postpartum depression. I dreaded going to the doctor assuming they’d put me in the ward. When I left for the doctor’s office, I asked Chris not to be surprised if I didn’t come home for a few days. I shared the same concern with the doctor, only to be told that many new moms suffer from postpartum depression.The depression saga continues with ups and downs. This is the first time seeking help for medication management outside of a general practitioner’s prescription, which is an unfamiliar thing for me. I want to step away from the the cloud constantly hanging over my head.

My ambivalence with seeing a psychiatrist keeps me from seeking God. He has compassion on me. Like a friend said, the mind is part of our body and it needs medical attention too. There’s no shame for a cancer patient who takes medication or seeks treatment.

However, there’s an unhealthy perception that I haven’t prayed harder or my faith is weak. Is it bad to want to be happy? And what happens afterwards when I am no longer sad and anxious? Lots of soul searching and feeling torn in wanting to get better but scared to go there as well. I know…it’s a dilemma.

ahhhh, to look at the ocean and feel its breeze

The depression funk

Feeling depressed is not a new thing for me since I’ve been dealing with it for many years. But when the intense feelings of sadness and hopelessness surge, it’s more than I can handle on my own. For years friends and Ellis’ doctors have urged me to seek psychological help. Parents of chronically ill children develop psychological symptoms similar to combat soldiers in war, like PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Every time we come home from one of Ellis’ appointments or any health-related scares, I’m emotionally spent and pretty much useless for the rest of the day. I run on adrenaline and stress; don’t have time to tend to myself. Once it’s over, I’m a basket case. Those fear emotions don’t stop there. The vigilance continues, as well as the pressure to provide a good growing up experience for both kids.

Rather than giving myself grace that this is a difficult experience, I tend to berate myself for being weak and unproductive. It’s a vicious cycle.

But you get used to certain things, even negative ones. I am so familiar with the depression pain hanging over me that I just accept it as a part of my life. Frequent nightmares are scary but you get used to that too.

This time I am slowly reaching out for extra help. I realize it involves work and perseverance; instead of just calling off the day as “done” or “bad,” I push myself to go outside with the kids. I finally talked with a psychiatrist. *gulp* *gulp* I just said it. Why does it have to be so hard? Why do I give the stigma more power by trying to hide it?!

I know that dealing with these mental health issues does not make me a bad Christian, yet so much shame is associated with it. This is old-school thinking I grew up with. I should be able to pray it out or have more faith. Yep, all that old, unhelpful stuff. It’s hard to talk about it because it takes too much time and words.

Just as much as the body hurts, so does the mind. I don’t doubt God loves me and helps me in my tough times. He’s done it plenty of times before and is still working. It takes time to heal and God is doing something new in me. What that new thing is is ambiguous.

eeek, this has become a vulnerable post. I’m working things out in the midst of life’s stresses and this unprecedented pandemic. I was conflicted about publishing a post so personal, but if I omitted this issue, this blog would not represent my life trekk.

This is a messy and painful journey, but I’m glad to be able to share it with you!