About 2 1/2 years ago I came across some very interesting research on dreams and depression. I studied the idea, thought about it, and connected several dots about how this had been playing out in my life when I was captive to the depression monster.
The short version is that when our brains ruminate on stress and the stress is not resolved during the day, the brain works on it at night. The worry of the stress gets acted out during dreams which leaves the body feeling very tired in the morning because the body does not go into deep, restorative sleep. No wonder I had such issues of tiredness like I talked about in my last post! Add a medication that possibly added to it and WHAM! Thankfully I have a new story now that I read every night…
Thursday, September 14, 2006
This morning I woke up very upset. Steve usually wakes up between 5 and 6 am and then calls everyone at 7 am. He came up to the room and I broke out into tears. I told him that I had had a nightmare about committing suicide. I was absolutely distraught. This is the only time this has ever happened, in a dream or in the daytime. I was scared. I started to get light headed and had to go back to bed. Before I did, Steve said and prayer and asked for me to be able to overcome whatever is the problem. I really appreciate this prayer and know that it helped. I went back to sleep and didn’t have disturbing dreams.
About 8:15 I was able to get up and not feel too dizzy. The kids got off to school and I started the day. Steve was worried about me. He said that I really scared him. I was plenty scared myself. It has to be the Cymbalta medication. I called the doctor’s office and he won’t be in until Monday. I asked about not taking the meds anymore. About 1 p.m. the answer came back that I need to cut my dosage…I feel much better now.
Fast forward: My dreams during the years with depression were often vivid and sometimes extremely disturbing. There were countless nights when I just did not sleep soundly or I would sleep soundly for 20 or 30 minutes and then wake up and fight going to sleep–all because my brain would ruminate and whirl with activity.
As for other suicidal thoughts during the 12 years, I had them occasionally. I know that many people with depression actually attempt to end their lives; some succeed. While I never attempted, I do know what thoughts of it are like. I remember one time in particular at about year 11 when I was having an extremely tough time in the fight. I will never forget how dark and hopeless I felt. I remember thinking, “I’m turning into something else. I don’t have control over it. It is such a dark, dark feeling…” I remember walking downstairs to our kitchen to join my family for dinner. Everyone knew I was not having a good day. I emanated darkness and sadness. I recall saying, “Everyone would just be better off without me here.” My family did the best they knew how to do; they told me I was worth everything to them. I went to my bedroom early to just be away from everyone and everything. I knew I did not want to check out of life. I also knew the feelings I was experiencing were real. I really didn’t want to take myself off the planet; I was just so lost for help and understanding. So I did the only thing I knew to do: pray.
And it was this prayer and thousands more that eventually led me to people who have studied depression, people who understand the mind in ways that I did not, and people who had answers that changed my trajectory.
So…dreams…what is ONE thing you are ruminating about that can be dealt with so that you will sleep better? Think on it. Ponder on it. And rewrite the story (Old and New Stories).
Further information about dreams and depression:
The Link Between Depression and Dreams
Something clicked for me today. For the past week or so I have been unusually tired–drained. Yes, I still go about doing what needs to be done but I just feel low on energy. I’m still walking with my neighbor most mornings, my diet is still good, and I get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. For the past couple of days I have started to ask myself what is going on. As I have been putting this post together–which, incidentally, has taken me over a week for reasons I now see more clearly–the dots now connect. I wrote a certain story about myself that began just a year or so into taking anti-depressants. There were two major side effects for me from the medication: 1) tiredness (a lot of it!) and 2) loosing feeling (a topic for another day). Did the anti-depressants cause some chemical changes in my body that caused the tiredness that could not be controlled for? Likely. The point is that I unknowingly began to write a different story about who I was based on the realities of how I was feeling–tired. My story began with, “I am tired much of the time. The fact is that I have to take a two-hour nap in the afternoon while my children are taking their naps or I can’t make it through the evening.”
Stories. They are the stuff of life. They have been around since the dawn of time. It is how traditions, family ties, cultures, and beliefs are borne and thrive. My question to myself today is how the story I began to create over a decade ago has and is influencing me right now. Is there a connection right now, today, in my tiredness script of years gone by and now? I’m confident there is. I have not been on Prozac for 3 1/2 years so I cannot use that as my “excuse.” So what will I do? Connect the dots…
Paraphrasing from my journal:
The ups and downs of the ride with the depression monster are fairly stable during the years of 2000-2005. The biggest thing I notice is issues with tiredness. I put most of that into the fact that I am a young mother with young children–five of them within seven years. Who would not be tired! The tiredness is a fairly recurrent theme that I discuss with my doctor. He does some tests and finds that my thyroid is not balanced. So I begin thyroid medication in 2004. I take synthroid for two months and it does not change anything. I am still so tired
and have to take a nap in the
afternoon. My doctor gives me armor thyroid and it seems to help somewhat.
Sept 1, 2006
This morning I had my annual physical with my doctor. Steve came with me. I have really been struggling emotionally and physically over the summer. It feels like I am back to square one with tiredness issues and it’s been a really long time since I’ve felt like I’m on a roller coaster emotionally. So, we talked about all of this. My blood work shows very low progesterone and DHEA levels, as well as a drop in my thyroid levels. The short story is that I will start taking the progesterone and DHEA supplements again and up my thyroid meds to 180 mg. I am going off of prozac and will take another anti-depressant—cymbalta. There are not supposed to be any side effects of tiredness from this one. I am hopeful for a change in how I feel. I know I am having these challenges so that I can empathize with others who have health challenges and not be judgmental.
My daily prayers to my Higher Power always include the phrase, “Please give me the stamina to make it through the day.” My thoughts are that I just need to endure as best as I can because this is my challenge in life and there isn’t much that can be done about it. Other people have much larger challenges anyway so I should be grateful that mine is only what it is.
Connecting the dots: Today I will create a new story about who I am without continuous feelings of tiredness. I will take out a piece of paper and fill it with all of the ideas that will flood my mind as I create a new story. Gone is the script that I just need stamina to make it through the day. Gone is the script that there isn’t anything more that I can do to not be tired. The new story will sit by my bed and I will read it every night. I want my brain to chew on this new information! I get to create my stories. I am in charge of how they read and manifest.
What story about yourself do you hold onto that needs to be rewritten? Change your story and you just might be surprised at what happens. It matters!
Today I pause in my narrative to give a huge shout out to the men in my new neighborhood! The following video was made by them awhile ago and the song was a hit months ago but the message holds true.
To the men out there who honor the women in their lives…and to the young women and women out there who need a reminder about just how beautiful they are…
You Are BEAUTIFUL! and it matters that you believe it…:)
A big part of my journey has involved reaching out to others even when and in spite of feeling “out of sorts” or in the depths of “just bury me in a hole.” Although the following video relates strongly to mothers, the principle holds true for single men and women and fathers. This video is a great rendition of the 1/12 of a teaspoon I talked about two posts ago…
When you think you haven’t done the right things…
What will you do for someone else today?
And then there are other days when doing something for yourself is most important. But that is an entry for another day…
Steve and I went to see The Giver a week ago. It is a powerful message. Feelings and emotions. Emotions and feelings. Is there a difference? Does it really matter how we feel or what emotions we express? Does it matter that we are capable of deep emotion? Looking back, I realize that I went into the mode of stuffing many of my emotions and feelings until they stacked up like a brick wall. Sometimes that brick wall has felt pretty impenetrable. Sometimes it has crumbled bit by bit when I just cannot hold it in any longer…
Our anniversary is coming up at the end of the month. I decide that I will take the Good Earth supplement and that maybe if I plan a fun retreat I will feel better and won’t need a doctor; maybe I just need a break; maybe all of the thoughts and emptiness will go away if I can have some uninterrupted time with Steve. I plan a three-day adventure at Zion’s National Park. Steve’s sister agrees to take all of the children. I anticipate having this fun time, alone with Steve.
We have a great time. There are so many adventures to have at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch and we pretty much have the place to ourselves! We talk somewhat about what I have been going through but I am still in the mode of holding it all in. I’m still so unsure of what has hit me that I am in the mode of “just persevere and trudge through it.” The problem is, I do not even know what I am fighting.
We pick our kids up after three days and profusely thank Steve’s sister and husband for taking care of five children! We return home and life resumes. The trouble is, it picks up right where it left off which means the fight inside my head and heart resumes. A few days after our return, our youngest was due to have his well-baby check. I take him to the doctor. He is fine. I am not. The wall begins to crumble as my doctor asks how I am doing and I break down in tears, stammering, “I don’t know what is wrong…I can’t explain it…” He says, “Let me guess. You have so many blessings and so much going right but you feel guilty because you feel so sad and you don’t know why.”
I sit in shocked disbelief. “How did you know?” I ask. He replies that he sees this time and time again. He suggests Prozac, an anti-depressant. I am willing to try it. He gives me a two-week supply and says it may take several days before I notice a difference.
I take the medication and within two hours I notice something has switched. I feel a lot more “level” and am in control of my emotions. It is remarkable. How could it be?
Do you have a brick wall? What does it look like? What is it made of? What are its dimensions? Has it ever crumbled? What happens that causes it to crumble?
Did you know that any one honeybee “only” contributes 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey towards one pound of honey? That same bee travels the equivalent of one to two times around the earth to gather enough nectar for this 1/12 of a teaspoon. A hive of bees includes anywhere from 20,000-60,000 bees. Why does one honeybee’s contribution matter? Does it matter? Surely another bee would pick up the slack if bee number 43,890 was having a rotten day or didn’t feel like contributing…
I feel extremely out of sorts. I look out my bedroom window and wonder what is happening to my world. Why have things shifted so much? What did I do wrong? I do not understand. I walk into the kitchen to pull dinner out of the oven. I call my young children to the table. I am about to explode inside. I feel so much building up that I’m sure I’m going to pop. I do not understand what is happening. Steve is at the airport and will be home soon. I leave the kitchen and go to the bedroom and begin sobbing. The phone rings. I don’t know why I decide to answer but I do. On the other end is a dear friend from down the street. I can’t hold it in any longer. I cry even more. I try to explain something to her. She says, “Have you ever considered that you may have depression?” I tell her no but that I am open to anything because I am tired of feeling miserable. I’ve been fighting the darkness for months now.
Steve arrives home and comes into the bedroom and is shocked to see me in tears. He has had no idea because I haven’t told him. I don’t want to tell him how much battle has been raging inside of me because there is no logical reason why this should be happening–our marriage is fabulous, our lives are great, our children are darling…
We leave the children in the care of my sister-in-law and go to dinner and then to Good Earth to see if there is anything that could possibly help until I can get to the doctor…
So, does 1/12 of a teaspoon offered really matter? Did it matter that this friend called when she did? Did it matter that she suggested that I might be battling depression? Did it matter that I received her suggestion?
It matters. When has it mattered for you?
Today I read a post on Facebook from a mom whose son is
serving as a missionary for the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He
is in the first two weeks of his training.
He does not know if he wants to stay.
He says he feels useless and stupid.
He says he feels like he is not where he needs to be physically,
mentally, or spiritually.
My response to this unknown mother was this: give
him permission to write out everything he is feeling…everything, especially the
deep, dark feelings that he has probably never expressed. No one should read this. Then invite him to kneel and talk to the
Savior about it and ask him what to do next.
Then he should rip up the paper into tiny pieces and throw it
away. When we don’t express, it shows up
just like your son has expressed, or in depression, or in a hundred different
health issues. It matters.
The year is 1999.
Something is happening. My head
and my heart are in conflict. I don’t
understand why. I have so many blessings. I have so much to be grateful for: a great husband, a fabulous marriage, amazing
children that I get to raise, great friends and family, a deep and abiding love
for my God…why do I feel so sad, so guilty, so lost for some peace? I don’t understand…
I turned 44 years old this week.
Really, I’m just 29! It’s the
joke in our family—“Oh, yeah. Mom’s 29
this year!” I figure if I stick with the
same number every year it will make it really easy for my kids to always
remember my age!
So why age 29 do you ask?
Is she just pining for something from her past or does she not want to
recognize all of the years in between?
Actually, it’s neither. After all
of these years, the reason just came to me.
It’s because I was 29 years old when depression hit me. I was 29 years old when my life took a curve
and entered an era of intense struggle and hardship. I was 29 when I began a journey into the
insidiousness of depression that required medication to “level” me out. I was 29 years old when I began a journey that
would involve deep, dark days; moments of agony as I quietly endured; silent
heartbreak; days and months and years of wondering who I was turning into; days
of wishing I could just be buried in a hole; days when I knew I was not
connecting with my children or my husband; days and months and years when I
wondered how in the world was I going to make it out of this alive; years of
wondering why God handed me this challenge…and years of keeping it mostly a secret as I went about my day-to-day life because I did not want it to define who I knew I really was.
29. It’s an odd
number. And it’s the number that marked
the beginning of a journey that lasted 12 long years…very long years in many
respects. It is also the number that
marks the challenge that had the potential to refine and mold me in ways that I
need in order that I could learn how to honor my true self. It’s the number that began a journey that
lives today…a journey that led to unexpected experiences and learning about
Join me as I unveil 12 years in the making…and the last three years of unexpected returns.