Posted in Faith journey, Personal growth

Purposely taking life slow with depression

From past experiences, I learned that waiting for depression to go away on its own doesn’t happen. If left neglected, it gets worse over time. After a sleepless night, I called the doctor’s office and made an appointment for that afternoon. The kids came with me; while I spoke to the doctor, they sat outside the office door eating snacks and playing on their tablets.

Having depression is not obvious: appearances and demeanor can be misleading. To others you seem to be doing okay externally; you’re smiling, functioning, and not visibly in pain. Talking about it is not easy: it’s not the best conversation starter and there is always the lingering fear that people will not like you or avoid you because of it.

“You are so brave and quiet. I forget you’re suffering.”

Ernest Hemingway

I tell myself that everyone gets depressed at one time or another, but does that mean I need to see a doctor about it? I don’t feel like my usual self, but is it bad enough to take medication? How can you differentiate between regular sadness or something more? Isn’t it reasonable to feel this bad after all that’s happened recently? BUT I don’t have time for this; get over it will you!!, I tell myself.

I wonder why I need to justify it to myself or someone else. It doesn’t need to be a confession (wise words from a professor referring to a childhood memory of meeting my parents at four years old, but her words seem relevant in this case too). Why can’t I accept it as part of my story and my reality??

One step at a time. Life is not perfect but living it well is my wish. God doesn’t abandon me when I’m hurting; He draws me closer. I’m thankful God’s grace covers me when I’m feeling this way. All the condemnation, that I’m a bad believer, a sell out, a weak person, is not from God but from the enemy telling lies. What a time to actively listen for God’s affirming words and his promises by reading the Bible. I’ve been reading it a lot lately.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.

Isaiah 41:10

Going through this so early in January is a wake-up call. This year I need and want to intentionally focus on living slow. All this constant internal pressure to do more and stay busy deflates me. I want to find contentment in this space of ours and stop reaching for what I think I “should” do. So cliche but true: quality over quantity.

Photo by Nacho Juárez on Pexels.com

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming “of it.”

Helen Keller


Posted in Faith journey, Personal growth

A personal talk about depression

Photo by Bryan Schneider on Pexels.com

If you’ve been reading my blog, you will know that November and December of 2018 was an upheaval of sorts with my 5-year-old daughter getting hospitalized three times in one month. When she gets sick, it affects our whole family taking us time to recover and settle back into our regular life. After the last hospitalization, we spent the last week of December catching up on sleep and physical rest.

January couldn’t come any faster. I wanted to put 2018 behind us and start new: a new year, a new attitude, new experiences, new adventures, new plans. The first two days of this year went well for me. Then, on January 3rd, a rush of sadness and hopelessness swept over me. These feelings surfaced intermittently, but I pushed them away so I could keep moving forward. But at Ellis’ cardiology appointment on January 3rd, a casual conversation with the social worker brought my despair to light. I didn’t know why it was a big deal that we had a rough month; I was doing just fine.

On these clinic visits, parent/s and child meet with various specialists to discuss issues, progress, and questions. Many parents with children who have chronic medical conditions suffer from depression, anxiety, and symptoms of PTSD (hospital experiences become a war zone in the mind). Doctors always ask parents how they are holding up. But this time it was evident to me that I was not okay. I recalled what happened each time, which events led up to it, and how I was coping; having someone ask me with sympathetic eyes just broke me down. I was hurting.

My depression has made another grand entrance in my life. I’ve struggled with it since my twenties, and I notice it reoccurs with major life changes or stressers. It’s hard to talk about depression openly with all the negative stigma attached to it and as a Korean-American. These kinds of things are rarely discussed, acknowledged, or admitted in Asian cultures; there’s lots of shame attached to self and to one’s family. It can be seen as a sign of personal weakness and lack of willpower. Oh well. So be it.

I have depression with propensity for panic breakdowns. I wish I didn’t have it and many times I white knuckle it through those anxiety sweeping moments. But talking about it releases the grip it has on me. Sometimes I get tired of smiling and making it seem like I’m doing fine when really I’m scared and hurting badly inside. This kind of stuff is hard to share: what if my feelings burden someone else?; what if it makes people dislike me?; will they think I’m crazy?; will this label me?; will people think I’m a bad Christian?

I don’t want to be seen as the party pooper who walks around with a dark cloud above my head. It’s not all the time, so I would rather keep it to myself. With depression, it’s hard to articulate those waves of sadness and hopelessness that overpowers the self.

I made a doctor’s appointment the next day. My current medication was not working. I couldn’t let it get worse; I really was holding on by a thread. I’ll see a therapist again. My constant irritability and crying were affecting my family members; it wasn’t only about me anymore. I feel very vulnerable and weird sharing this on my blog. But this blog is about my life and how can I ignore it. Believing in God does not mean that I’m immune from things like this; God is here in the midst and helping me work through it. I cling to Him more in times like this.

I’m learning that it’s better to seek help to get better than to sweep it under the rug. I do the latter a lot and it explodes in various ways. I hope anyone who is depressed and feel hopeless will reach out for help. It doesn’t have to stay this way.

BTW, if my writing sounds defensive or too explanatory, please understand. This is a vulnerable topic for me and something I feel ambivalent about. Thanks readers!!

Posted in Faith journey, Hospital visits, Uncategorized

Thankful for a great year since Ellis’ heart surgery on Sept. 25, 17

One year ago today, Ellis underwent her third heart surgery. Even before her birth, doctors warned us of the various medical and lifestyle challenges we would face in the first few years of her life. They weren’t lying.

It. Was. Tough.

We operated on survival mode and were content with just “getting by.”

Getting to the third surgery wracked our nerves with everything put on hold. So when her cardiologist informed us that surgery was in the horizon for 2017, we were relieved. Our hermetic life continued to make sure she could have the surgery: she had to maintain a constant weight of 30 pounds and keep her healthy to undergo the surgery. The latter was stressful trying to keep all four of us healthy: if one person got sick, it was inevitable that it would pass to another member.

I had to be creative to pass the time; many days I was tired even before the day started. Passing the time meant taking frequent nature walks around our neighborhood, spending many, way too many, hours making crafts with random items laying around the house, and experimenting with making our own YouTube toy review videos (none posted by the way).

Kids knew no difference with this kind of life but it bothered me. I used to joke that my life revolved around a 5 mile radius of our house; I never left San Jose nor rarely left Ellis’ side. I pressured myself to do more from fear that my kids would turn out weird from this unusual life situation. Also, will I have no friends after this? I had to get accustomed to this life circumstance and embrace its unusual nature. Yes, I will…I will as Thoreau wrote, “March to the beat of your [my] own drummer.”

God had big life lessons to teach me in this season of life. First of all, He reassured my heart that we would survive and that we were not alone. We experienced extraordinary kindness from family, friends, and strangers, and experienced God’s reminders that we were loved. I learned that this was a necessary yet scary phase we had to overcome before our circumstance could change for the better.

What a hard lesson in learning about setting my priorities and trusting God. On the outside, you couldn’t tell I was buckling inside from fear, depression, and exhaustion. Alone at night, I felt close to falling apart and not wanting to open my eyes in the morning.

A Time for Everything

Ecclesiastes: 3: 1-8

1  For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

 

We’ve come a long way since last September 25. There’s been some emergency room visits but nothing in comparison to the past. Ellis knows her heart is fragile and that her condition requires special care, frequent check-ups, and daily medications. Elliot is well aware too of our unique situation and he is familiar with the protocol when Ellis needs to go to the hospital. His resilience and understanding that he needs to let us do our thing makes me proud: he has many questions about his sister’s heart, fears about death and sickness, dealing with feelings of why his sister gets so much attention, and yet he still sees himself as her protector.

20171116_1349131608935483.jpg
Elliot demonstrating his dinosaur roar to the lab technician for poking Ellis with a needle.

What a difference a year makes. Thank God for his grace and for leading me through those difficult times. I felt closer to God in those moments than in happier times. He reminded me that I can rest my fears in Him, even the fears too painful to acknowledge.

 

Posted in Faith journey, Nature observations and thoughts, ocean, sea life, tide pool, slipping on a rock, emergency room visit, Personal growth, Uncategorized

Who knew the dangers of tide pools

*I started this post ready to write about the calm that comes from watching waves and feeling the crisp ocean breeze on my face. But thinking about it diverted my attention to a painful incident that happened a few years back. Letting you know the thought processes leading up to this post.*

esther at carmel
One of my favorite past times…exploring the rocks and tide pools at beaches. At Carmel Beach before children. No fear until my 2016 incident.

The ocean is beautiful, mysterious, and refreshing to see. I love to hear the rhythmic sound of waves rolling onto the sandy beach. Then there is the tide pool: in small crevices between rocks live small sea creatures camouflaged or swimming around in their small habitats. It gets me bubbly excited, and these are times when Chris, my practical and vigilant spouse, tells me, “Don’t go too crazy.”

In 2016 we took a trip down to San Diego for our first family vacation since Ellis’ birth. My excitement level was beyond normal. I couldn’t wait for my kids to experience the joy of looking closely at tide pools and touching the ocean water.

This place was familiar to me since Chris and I briefly lived in San Diego as newlyweds. Pleasant past experiences made me overly confident and careless. I quickly discovered that safely walking around tide pools with small children is very challenging. The result: disastrous.

I overestimated my physical coordination and underestimated the danger.

Painful lesson learned that day: Never. Never. Never walk barefoot on mossy rock surfaces holding a small squirmy child. One misstep taken. I slipped and fell hitting my head on a rock. In that mind-numbing moment, I realized that dying can happen just like that. It was a bone chilling realization. People around me stared with dropped jaws as I rocked back and forth cradling my head between my arms. The goose egg that you see in cartoons was what I had.

Thankfully, Ellis did not get hurt from the fall: only the hem of her skirt got wet.

After Chris registered me in the emergency room, I asked him to go back to the hotel with the kids. It was hard to mask the pain and cry comfortably without getting asked every minute if I were okay. It’s a harmless question you ask people after an unpleasant event, but this was different. I was NOT okay. I wanted to be left alone.

Once they walked out of sight, an explosion of tears (mainly regret for my carelessness and fear of permanent head injury) let loose. It must have been a sight: wet clothes, crazy hair, bag of ice on my head, and a sobbing middle-aged lady crumpled up in a chair.

CT scan showed that the injury as a hematona: a fancy word for bruised. Thankfully, I was discharged with simple recommendations: take Tylenol for headaches, ice the goose egg as needed, and rest to recover. The latter was the hardest to do.

We came back from our vacation slightly traumatized and disillusioned. Although we made some good memories visiting family, the most vivid memory was the beach day fiasco. My kids reenacted the mommy falling scenario for weeks while they played, reminding me of what I wanted to forget.

For weeks I wondered what meaning I could take away from this experience. If deep insight or lesson were gained, I would’ve been less angry at myself. But I couldn’t derive any meaning from what happened. Self-forgiveness did not come easily or quickly.

Then the take-away lesson began to take shape. It was so straightforward and simple that I couldn’t believe it: I must physically slow down and take precautions to avoid future falls. Sounds like common sense but it made a big impact on me.

Another take-away lesson: have deeper reverence for nature in realizing how small and vulnerable I am to its greatness.

Deep inside I wondered if God was punishing me for missing church that morning. But God is not petty. If he operated like that, I would have been struck by thunder a million times already. He is God, the Almighty: not an emotionally volatile and revengeful being.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

This incident made me think how things happen in life because of choices I made, effects of other people’s choices, events out of my control, or overwhelmed by the forces of nature. What a good reminder to slow down and be mindful of my actions and thoughts, in the holistic sense of mind, body, and soul.

Next time at the tide pools I’m wearing a helmet.