Sunday, January 13, 2013

Razors pain you, rivers are damp...

Razors pain you, rivers are damp.
Acids stain you, and drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren't lawful, nooses give,
Gas smells awful, you might as well live.
             Resume  by Dorothy Parker

I know where suicidal thoughts come from.  We all, at some point in our lives, have had them.  Most people have them during those tumultuous teenage years when emotions are crazy to begin with and you are POSITIVE you will NEVER GET OVER whatever embarrassment or failure or horrible experience it is. But you do – get over it, I mean – and you wake up the next morning, and the next, and gradually the shameful sting goes away, and you’re fine.  Everything is fine and you get perspective and it’s all fine.

But I’m talking about the thoughts that creep in and just sort of stick around – the ones that never let you get any perspective whatsoever because they keep creeping in.  Let me clarify here – I’m way too much of a control freak to ever actually take my own life.  No one else is capable of raising my kids the way I can, and I certainly don’t trust anyone to deal with all my stuff properly, etc...  So I’m going to stick around.  I don’t want to worry anyone – I just have been thinking about this since one of my favorite weather guys of all time, Don Harman on KC’s Fox station, committed suicide in December 2011.  Don was funny, good looking, smart, and battled depression for years.  I actually cried when I heard the news, and couldn’t bear to watch his fellow morning newscasters slog through the following few days. It was awful even though I don’t know them personally – that’s the way it is with TV, you feel like you do.

Anyway… There are so many levels of depression, and Don Harman had a severe one.  I have a milder one, situational depression, but even situational depression has about a 50% chance of turning into severe/clinical depression, even if the “situation” is dealt with.  Counseling can help, medication can sometimes help, but how many people actually get the right help? Less than a third, according to the WHO, NIMH, and the CDC.  (Yes, I did the research before quoting statistics.)
My situational depression started well before my divorce, which surprised me when I looked back and realized that.  After Ben was born, I was tired and sore and bleah all the time, even after sleeping six plus hours or doing things that used to make me happy.  I knew there was something going on besides just the usual tired, I really knew I wasn’t healthy.  I had a lot of strange symptoms that no one else had – numb fingers and toes for no reason, sharp pains in my rib cage for no reason, tender spots on my legs that ached for days if they got the slightest bump, canker sores and yeast infections all the time, burning flaky itchy patches of skin on my face and scalp, and joints that just sort of quit working and wouldn’t hold my body weight (I fell down once in church because my ankle just froze). Plus I was tired and felt like I had a fever all the time.  THAT’S NOT NORMAL EVEN FOR A MOM OF THREE LITTLE ONES. Right? Right.

I saw four different doctors who all said the same thing: ‘You have three kids under the age of five, of course you’re tired.’
You know how you can hear the words and know the meaning of the words, but FEEL something very different when they settle into you? They all said pretty much the same thing (see above) but this is what I FELT them say: 

Doctor #1: “I understand that you are tired, and I’m not surprised, as the kids get older you will probably feel better, try to enjoy this time with your children. Your symptoms are probably just your body reacting to stuff your kids bring stuff home. You should get a flu shot.”

Doctor #2: “Of course you’re tired, you had three children in less than six years, what did you expect to happen? I’m sure your symptoms don’t mean anything other than the normal colds and aches and pains of aging, I can’t do much for you. Do you want a flu shot?”

Doctor #3: “Um, really? You’re wasting my time with tired? Did you get a flu shot? You just said you have kids, all parents are tired. There’s nothing wrong with you.”
Doctor #4: “Yeah, you are a hypochondriac freak, and I feel sorry for your kids.  Flu shot. ‘Bye.”

Why I went ahead and tried Doctor #5 is a mystery to me, but I’m glad I did – Dr. Amit Mohan in Raymore listened to my list of symptoms (without a smirk, I might add) and suggested I see a rheumatologist.  I went to see Dr. Mark Box at Kansas City Internal Medicine, and finally someone didn’t think I was crazy.  I cried with relief in his office and he didn’t think that was crazy either.  I have nine of the eleven common symptoms of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.  YAY! A diagnosis! Oh, wait – it’s not a disease that has a happy cure.   Lifelong symptoms include arthritis, general inflammation (that feverish feeling), organ damage, increased risk for multiple sclerosis, and decreased life expectancy. OH, AND DEPRESSION.  Awesome.

Okay, so how does one manage all these symptoms? The usual stuff that you do to stay healthy: eat right, moderate exercise that doesn’t hurt, get enough rest, avoid stress.
                 (cue maniacal laugh track )

Since that diagnosis, I’m not exactly batting a thousand in any of those categories.  Divorce, dead relatives, an unexpected pregnancy and another marriage, new husband’s physical disabilities, a step child (which brings the total kid count to 5), dead pets, chronic unemployment and rejection despite my skills and education, bills that I can’t keep up with, house falling apart a little bit every day, commitments I can’t give the same energy I used to, vehicle maintenance, my own physical limitations… It seems like something sharp pokes at my life bubble every day, and for a control freak, I’m having some serious issues. Simple stuff seems to come with a boatload of crap these days. 
Take car insurance for example.  Most people shop around for the best deal with the best service, right? Yeah, I’m struggling to get anyone to cover me at all, and here’s why: I’m married.  Yep, I can’t get car insurance JUST FOR MYSELF because I’m married, and my husband’s ex-girlfriend filed for child support in two different states on the child that we actually have custody of and his license got suspended because she gave them a false address (she doesn’t have a license to suspend, so they took his). I found out about the suspension when I went to renew the insurance. We still haven’t been officially notified of a suspension from either state – one state claims we have moved and left no forwarding address.  Ummmmm, no – we responded to the LETTER YOU MAILED US.   We’ve been trying to unravel this for several months, during which time I have been without car insurance and praying every time I leave the house.

So this is why I’m saying I know where suicidal thoughts come from.  I do have those moments when I understand why someone would think it would be nice to just not have to deal with it all anymore.  Since the world didn’t end and I haven’t seen any zombies, I will continue to deal with it, but when someone says they don’t understand how someone can take their own life, I will say honestly that I do. I do understand.
And I will give them the same advice I’m going to take myself. Instead of just moping around asking WHY??? I’m going to choose Y instead.

Yogurt – sweet, creamy, comforting and packed with nutrition - protein, probiotics, and calcium all have health benefits. It’s the ultimate food – eat it anytime of the day without seeming weird (like spaghetti for breakfast), and some flavors taste sort of like pie or cake.
Yoga – gentle stretches and balancing exercises can be done anywhere anytime, and really help relieve a lot of the physical pains that come from stress.
Yawn – the minute I feel myself yawning, I will take that as a sign and snuggle with one of my kids for a quick story/nap/cartoon/whatever break – the quiet time will do us all some good.  I can yawn on command.
Yell – there are times when I feel like yelling - at a bill collector who is not listening despite my attempts to be nice, at my car or my house for falling apart at just the wrong time, at my kids for leaving their dishes on the table (after all, it’s only been a rule for a few years), or at my husband because sometimes you feel like yelling at your spouse.  Well, I’m going to take some of those opportunities and yell.  Nothing specific, no profanity, just a good old Tarzan Yell to blow off some steam.  Come on, bank, call me.
Yes – I’m going to say yes the next time someone asks if they can help me. I may not know what I need or how they can help, but I’m going to say YES – I NEED HELP! Accepting help can be a huge relief, even for a control freak like me.
So I do understand where the thoughts come from, and even though I will not let them get out of control in myself, I absolutely understand how they do get out of control. Life is painful sometimes, and the social nature of today’s life makes the differences between people seem that much more obvious sometimes.  I have facebook friend who is beautiful, thin, healthy, happily married to a great guy who happens to be very wealthy, went from one amazing job to another in the past year, operates a charity and a small business… Yeah, I hate her sometimes.  Great things just seem to flow her way, and I feel like just the opposite, but I’m happy for her too.  She is making the most of the things she was given in life, and at one time in my life I was able to do that also.  No one knows what the future may hold for her, either.  I didn’t ask for or do anything bad to get this disease, I didn’t want to be divorced, and I certainly never thought I’d be unemployable.  I’m trying to make the most of the things I’ve been given too, and not pine over the things that have been taken away.  (And I blocked her from my newsfeed because her chipper-ness wasn’t helping J - sometimes making the most of what you’ve been given means knowing when to say no.)

If you are struggling with any form of depression, say Y, get help, and know that I really genuinely DO know exactly how you feel.

Love, Natalie