On Being Okay (Or Not)

okay
Over 90% of my blog posts reflect my very blessed life: a wonderful husband who is my best friend, three amazingly adorable kids, books, coffee, a home, friends. My life is beautiful, full, and glorious.

Except for when it isn’t.

Every once in a while I feel the need to talk about mental illness. Okay, my mental illness. I’ve been on the flip side and scrolled through amazing blogs where it seems that everything is perfect and wonderful all the time. Times like that I feel like a giant loser, like everyone else is clued in on life and I’m missing out. I wish these blogs/facebook pages/lives had a blooper reel describing piles of laundry that are never conquered, the annoyance of ants munching on crushed goldfish crackers in the kitchen, the pain of hearing your three year old spit out the swear words you let slip in anger, the exhaustion from a constantly nursing toddler, the fear and hurt welling in your breast from a defiant teen, the meaninglessness of every day work tasks, the loneliness of having a wonderful husband but going for months without any semblance of intimacy. But who would read that?  I don’t know who would read that, but I know I have to write it. If I am going to talk about all the good in my life so publicly, then I have to talk about the bad. Otherwise I am fake and there could always be someone like me… out there on the internet… wondering if they are the only ones battling inexplicable sadness in the midst of such a good life. Hence, me writing about things probably better left in a private journal. Oh well.

Everyone, EVERYONE, has bad days. And many people, MANY PEOPLE, endure worse days than this. My children are healthy, my husband and I have jobs, I have food and water and coffee! Yes, my life is beautiful, full, and glorious. BLESSED.

That is what makes clinical depression so insidious. There may be a bunch of small stresses and annoyances that trigger depression. Or there could be not a single damn thing wrong. The average, every day stuff has the ability to completely debilitate me. I can feel angry, hurt, sad, worthless, and bent on destruction for no damn reason. Then that adds on guilt. I should be okay. Things should be okay. But they’re not okay. I am really good at hiding when things aren’t okay. I’m pretty sure Sam is the only one who knows how not okay I am. When we have to have discussions about when and if I should go to the hospital or who I should call if things get bad or yes, bathing still should happen every day and how that constant drum in my heart that echoes “bad mom bad mom bad mom” isn’t true. When I think about how outwardly competent I can be at work (I’m getting things done!), how outwardly loving I can parent (hugs and cuddles!), how outwardly altruistic I can be at church (I will volunteer for everything!), how outwardly tender and loving I am (no hate, no guns, no meat, love for all!), how I pour so much energy in being okay, looking okay, acting okay, I am pretty amazed at how well you all buy it. Why do I fake being okay? Because nothing fucks up a kid’s life quicker than a parent who isn’t okay. I love my children more than anything and I don’t want to mess this parenting thing up.

But I am fucking up because I’m not okay. There is this hollow empty space right under my breastbone that I try to fill with hugs, projects, food, music, books, laughter, even God, and it just seeps out of me. Then it just fills with anger. Raw, pure, self-hatred. I am 34 years old and I still feel like an angry, confused, lost 14 year old girl. I’m a fuck up. Then I hurt myself. I find myself judging how much I can get away with hurting myself and that is a very dangerous game to play.

So maybe yesterday I spent a half-hour weeping in my van in an empty parking lot. Trying to Facebook friends who are therapists, trying to call my parents, searching on my smart phone for intake guidelines for mental hospitals, bemoaning the fact that my legs are cut to shreds again by my own hand. All this while Sam is at home bathing the kids and playing with them. And I am falling apart. For absolutely no damn reason.

I had a wonderful day yesterday…
…until I didn’t. Atticus was difficult, Persy fell, the house was a wreck, I’m tired and cannot sleep and I lost my cool. And I scared my kid. And I feel like shit.
And I’m not okay.But I’m trying really really hard to be okay with not being okay. Weather the storm. Things will get better. This cloud isn’t real, it is in my head because….

Yes, my life is beautiful, full, and glorious.
NOTE: I couldn’t decided whether or not to publish this, but I do feel like honesty in blogging is valuable. The times when I have divulged an uncomfortable amount of information about my mental health have been beneficial to myself and others. I’ve had people contact me and thanking me for honesty and encouragement. If my verbalizing the awfulness of being mentally ill helps to defeat the stigma of the mentally ill and helps others then it would be unethical for me to be silent. I’m not okay, but I will be okay. I have an appointment for next week with a therapist. No worries.
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21 comments

  1. Admire so much your honesty.very brave of you to share&your voice will help someone else.hopefully the cloud lifts soon.

  2. I was just thinking the other day that I want to write more posts about the down side of….everything. I’ve been writing less about my personal life lately for not really any reason at all, but I think when the view into our lives is narrow (like blogging and twitter), things can seem perfect when of course they are not. Everyone benefits from a reality check now and again. Hugs to you, my friend. You remain a great mom (even when you’re not…because we all have moments when we’re not) because you can reflect and evaluate and be honest.

  3. I think you make a great point about how usually we only see the happy side of everyone’s lives, through facebook and other social media. I think this has the danger of making all of us compare and judge ourselves even more than we normally would. You’re right about it being okay to not always be okay, and even our kids have to learn this lesson. I hope writing this post was therapeutic for you, and that you are starting to feel better again. Take care of yourself.

  4. Firstly, I love you. You are one of the most inspiring, amazing, and strong people I have ever known.

    Secondly, you are awesome. You are an awesome mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter.

    Thirdly, we all go through this. I’ve had my bad moments in front of my kids too and they made me feel like absolute shit. Even now, my daughter wants to know why I have to take medicine. I don’t have the heart to tell her it’s to help keep me happy. At least not yet. I’m afraid it would kill another piece of my heart to do it.

    Lastly, I am so proud of you for recognizing you needed help and are getting it. Like the others, I can see the problems with social media if we’re only showing our best sides. I know I do. I was raised by grandparents and that stuff stays in the family. And I’m so proud of your sharing and hope I can learn something from you.

    Love and hugs my friend.

  5. Thank you for being brave enough to post this. I think many of us feel that it would be nice for bloggers to share more of their personal details, but shy away from actually doing so ourselves. I struggle with a lot of these same feelings (I’m sure lots of us do!), and I know how difficult it can be when you start to berate yourself for feeling lousy in the first place. I really admire your decision to talk to someone about this, and I wish you the best of luck and lots of warm wishes!

  6. Someone once told me, “when you look at facebook, you are seeing everyone’s highlight reel, not their real life.” I think this is helpful to keep in mind. I love how you share so much–the good and the bad, and I always come away from your posts thinking about how much I admire your honesty. I hope things get better for you. I deal with depression too and I can relate the guilt over not being happy when I have plenty of reasons to be. All I can say is, it’s great that are seeing someone next week and it will get better 🙂

  7. First, my like on this post is an “empathy like”. Because I know every bit of what you are feeling.

    Second, life obligations aside, I would see if you can get a therapist appointment sooner. Only you know where you are for sure, but just don’t wait if you really can’t.

    Third, I am in no position to give MH advice, but I have a “distraction buddy” that we can just find each other online and say “Ijust need to stay occupied”. No questions asked, we start with everything from the boring to the inane to keep the other from whatever our self harm coping mechanism is. If your friends know about your struggles, then maybe one or more can be that. You can even have a code word to text in case they aren’t on fb at the moment or whatever.

    Finally, just try to hang in there. If you ever need to talk, feel free to contact me.

    ((hugs))

  8. Oh, Amanda. You’ve got so much on your plate and those hormones and biochemicals get so out of whack after you have a baby. I hope you start getting more of the rest and the care that you need for yourself. Sometimes you have to put yourself first for awhile before you can take care of others. And that may mean going into the hospital for a few days so that you stop hurting yourself and get this self-hatred under control. You are so right: things will get better. But please do try to suffer through this without getting help.

  9. I’m sending you a million hugs right now. There are days when everything is okay and all of a sudden you’re angry or upset and that cloud just comes even though it ruins everything.

    You’re so right. As bloggers, we need to highlight some of the negative along with the positive. I think it’s why I don’t often take pictures or share more personal things about myself and my life.

    Hang in there. I hope the therapist you see next week is a good one and can help you.

  10. You know, while I don’t believe it would be unethical for a person to remain silent about their mental illness (I think only the individual can decide for themselves what she/he can handle and what they feel safe in sharing), I’m glad you had the courage and strength to share your story. I have absolutely no doubt that you’ve helped others through your words and story. I wish so very badly that you weren’t hurting like you are. It’s so very awesome that you have a good life, but all the wonderful things in life aren’t a magic cure for illness. I know your depression is trying to give you awful messages about how bad a mom, how bad a person you are…but that’s the depression talking. And as a very dear friend of mine says all the time, “depression lies.” I know I don’t know you all the well, but darlin’, you are so *not* a bad mom, so *not* a bad person. You sort of radiate love, Amanda…you really do. I feel it every time you talk about your kiddos and your husband and humankind.
    I wish so badly that mental illness didn’t hold the horrible stigma that it does. It makes absolutely no sense. No sense whatsoever. While I don’t suffer from chronic depression, I did go through an episode of clinical depression that culminated in a stay in a psychiatric hospital, and that’s still something that’s not easy to share. And two of my three kids have mental illnesses and are on medication, and we’re not even comfortable sharing that with some of our family because of their attitudes. So Amanda, thank you from everyone who has ever had a mental illness or a loved one with a mental illness, for being brave and sharing this.
    But most of all, try to remember how loved you are. You’re loved because you’re special, you’re loved because you’re you. And I hope so very, very, very much that your therapist can help you feel better very soon. *enormous hugs to you, sweet lady*

  11. So completely understand and relate to all of this. I have not, and probably will not, talk publicly about the things that have been killing me for the last 11 months, because they aren’t just my issues and I don’t like to talk about other people’s private things, but I am drowning. I’ve spent the last month not cutting, but gorging myself in order to shut the pain up, to make myself physically sick so that I don’t have to feel as much of the emotional sick. Just another form of the same disorder.

    Honest blogging is wonderful. I feel like social media often asks us to be perfect, and it’s not right. So yes. Thank you. And I’m sorry, because I do understand and can feel that pain, and relate to every single one of these things you say.

  12. I love what Kate said about FB being a highlight reel, not a reflection of real life.

    I wish I could come hang out with you. I wish I could give you a hundred hugs. I wish we all understood that we’re not alone when we struggle. I wish none of us suffered from feelings like that. Sadly, I can’t really do any of those things. Just know that you aren’t alone 😀 I’m super glad you reached out. That’s the best thing to do…and the freaking hardest at times!

  13. I want to echo others’ appreciation for your honesty: thank you.

    However, I will disagree with you on one critical point. You say that when you are loving, altruistic, tender, etc., you are faking it. You’re wrong. When you get things done at work, you ARE competent. You give hugs and cuddles? You ARE a loving parent. You volunteer? You ARE altruistic. The list goes on. Before you criticize yourself, before you allow that voice inside you to bully you and undermine all you have done, accept the fact that your actions are real, and no one (not even that bully voice) can take away from all the good you do.

    No one is happy/together/etc/ all the time. That’s a given. Why do people try? Do your best. That’s all you can do. Remind yourself, even if you’ve just hurt yourself. You’re doing your best. Getting help? That’s doing your best, too.

    I will leave you with one more thought. When I was in labor with one of my children during transition time, I was standing alone in the shower. There were a few moments where I felt like I was going to die. I said to myself, “I can’t do this.” But then I realized . . .hey, I WAS doing it. Remind yourself when you think you can’t, you already are . . . .

  14. Oh Amanda. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. I suffer from depression as well (though I take a little blue pill to make mine better rather than talk about it…whether that’s better or worse, I don’t know). I have talked about postpartum depression on my blog and I really try not to color all of my posts with rose-glasses, but sometimes it is easier to write about the good rather than the bad. And I hate sounding like I’m whining (which is how mine usually comes out rather than an elegant and heartfelt post such as this).

    Last night I was putting Evie to bed and I overheard Elle telling Scott that she didn’t ever want to see me again. Are you fucking kidding me? She’s always been a daddy’s girl and she shows blatant preference to him, but that was the final straw in a really shitty day. I told her that I wasn’t going to sing her songs after I was done nursing Evie because she hurt me. I’m pretty sure this was the wrong decision–not showing her love when she wasn’t showing me love…what am I, 5? But all I could do was crawl into bed (at 8) and just lie there scrolling through twitter and thinking all the bad thoughts. All I can do is hope that tonight is a better night.

    I’m sorry that you are hurting. I know how badly that sucks. I hope that the therapy helps a little. Big fat hugs to you.

    1. Thanks, Trish! What depression medicine do you take – if you don’t mind me asking — I was really worried about nursing and taking medication.

      I think we give so much of ourselves being a mom and it is exhausting. All we want is some love and cuddles, right? A little appreciation sprinkled on top. Nothing too fancy.

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