Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Depression Confession



I love the movie Apollo 13 for many reasons. It’s one of those I have to watch once or twice a year, for reasons that I could analyze deeply but I won’t right now. But I was thinking of the part when the spacecraft is on the dark side of the moon and unable to connect to their support team back on earth, and they spend this long, dark period of time in radio silence. As the sun comes back into view, radio static can be heard, and then communication begins again. That pretty much describes how I feel right now as I put words down with the hope of connecting to the world. Maybe I see just a tiny glimmer of light, and maybe I’m hearing the faint sound of static that gives me hope of communication beginning again. 

I’ve been fairly candid over the years about my health issues, even if I haven’t gotten into the tedious details of its complexities. What I may not have been quite so open about is the fact that I struggle a great deal with depression. It runs in my family, and it’s common with the disease I have, and I’ve battled it for much of my adult life, but until my physical health really began to deteriorate, I could usually find a way to manage it and get on top of it. I still manage to manage it, but only to a degree. For those of you who have been aware of this blog—and my other writing—you know that there have been huge gaps in time between my having anything to say. Explanation: depression. It’s true that it can be difficult to write when I physically don’t feel well. But the hard, bare truth is that I have done an enormous amount of writing while experiencing physical pain. It’s the debilitating effect of depression, with all of its distorted thinking and accompanying anxiety, that keep me away from the computer. As for my fiction writing, I did hit a point of complete burnout, hence my years of absence in storytelling. As for my being able to show up on this blog and write at a more personal level, it’s all about depression. I often think that I should write something on my blog, and reach out to my friends and readers through this amazing marvel of twenty-first century communication, but I just feel stuck and held back for reasons that I can’t define. But since when are the behaviors related to depression and anxiety supposed to reasonable?

But a couple of days ago, I had a remarkable series of interactions with three different friends who all shared inspired words of wisdom with me. I can sometimes go weeks without a serious conversation with another woman, so to have three in one day was a red-letter occurrence. In the morning I talked nearly an hour on the phone with a friend who lives far away who reminded me of some important things, things I know but they’re easy to forget. To bottom line it, she reminded me that everything has a purpose, that I am connected to God’s power through the light of Christ, and through that power I can win this battle—even if the battle is long and difficult. 

In the evening I had a visit from my friend Holly. She was very encouraging about some ideas I had spinning around, but she said one thing that really went to my heart: “Maybe you will heal as you write.” Or words to that effect. The thing is, I’ve felt for a few years now that I need to write a nonfiction inspirational book about my experiences, and I have lots of notes and ideas, but I haven’t been able to work on it. I think I was believing that I had to heal before I could write, but now I’m thinking that as I open myself up here—with the hope that someone will actually read it—that I will be able to work through these imposter beliefs and find my footing in life again. I’ve always believed that writing is cathartic, and I highly encourage it for anyone and everyone. But apparently I haven’t been able to see the forest for the trees in regard to myself. 

In the afternoon—between these other two visits—Amanda came to see me. Amanda and I have known each other professionally for many years, but have developed a true and powerful friendship in the last year or two. Amanda has a way of seeing and connecting to the most vulnerable and hurting parts of me and making them feel loved and validated and not crazy. When she came to visit she knew my struggle had been especially difficult of late, and she was determined to get me to talk about it and brainstorm for solutions. It was a long and complicated conversation, but from a different direction she told me—in essence—the same thing Holly had said. While writing novels is my day job and I need to do that to pay the bills, writing on my blog could be very therapeutic, and it could also give my readers a chance to look at their own challenges and not feel alone. 

Amanda also pointed out something that had never occurred to me before. In so many words she said that I probably believe a blog post has to be something really great, (because I am, after all, a professional writer) and that I shouldn’t be held back from posting just because I don’t have anything profound to say, or I don’t feel like writing. She said to just write a crappy blog post and get it out of my system. She presented the idea that I don’t have to write much of anything at all, but the discipline of writing on the blog, and the very fact of reaching out, would likely help me in many ways. And since I have a strong sense of my calling in this life being to use my writing gift as a means to help lift and strengthen other women, doing so might help me lose this overwhelming sense of uselessness and stagnancy and isolation. 

So, here I am: confessing my depressing state of mind, and my goal and my hope to just show up here and share my thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Some of you might be thinking that it’s not the first time I’ve said I would write more on my blog, but I want to believe my heart is in a different place now, and I’m needing very much to move forward in this way. Wish me luck!

And if you’re reading this, and/or you have any thoughts to share about what your own challenges are right now, feel free to comment. We’re all in this life battle together, one way or another.

God bless us, every one!

P.S. I ask that comments posted on the blog not contain any criticism or judgment or even well-intended advice toward me or anyone else who comments. We all have an instinct to want to help, and I appreciate that, but offering advice while only knowing a tiny part of the journey and experience can often make things more difficult. I’m opening myself up in a vulnerable state and with a trusting heart, and I ask for respect on that count. Thanks for just being there and hearing me!

--


Anita Stansfield aka Elizabeth D. Michaels (All of Anita Stansfield's books, and The Horstberg Saga by Elizabeth D. Michaels, are available at amazon.com)

22 comments:

Amanda Wilhelm said...

My dear Anita - thank you. I cherish your words, those you write here, those you write in fiction and the ones I am lucky enough to share in private. I believe in the universal principle of momentum. Once the endeavor is begun, it is easier to continue.
I don't know if you will ever know what you mean to all of us who love reading your books, but I don't think I overstate it to say we love you. If you feel pain, we feel it. Please share with us. We want to help. We will always be here. Thank you for writing.
Amanda

Bobbi Condie said...

Anita, I love you. Depression can be a hard thing to discuss because it is so different for each person. It's something I have struggled with all my life. I'm so grateful for the amazing women I know and love that give me strength. You are one of those. It doesn't matter what you write-it matter that you write. I'm so grateful for your friendship and look forward to sharing the journey with you. Bobbi

Laurie said...

Anita, I have since my youth been one of your groupies and I always will be. Amanda, stated it so clearly, that your words are cherished and beloved. They are meant to be sent out into the universe to strengthen, uplift and also to make us question. Thank you for sharing your gift inspite of your challenges. I also have struggled with health challenges the last 24 years and depression. Sometimes just that you woke up is a huge accomplishment. It is amazing that you have been able to write and bring joy to so many while going through pain, depression and all these earthly struggles. Sometimes I just remind myself to talk it one day, one hour or one minute more. You can do anything for a minute, then make it ten minutes. Please share, Thank you again for writing. You have changed my life.

Margaret said...

I've struggled off and on for many years with depression. So on some level I understand the struggle. Of course, what bothers me, is peanuts to you and vice versa. Many years ago Barry Manilow with one of his co-writers went to the top of Mt. Tam. They wrote the wonderful song "Daybreak" that afternoon. Barry says he was in really deep funk and yet it's one of the happiest songs!

Just know you are so not alone!

Tamra said...

I too am dealing with depression. I have for years, but much of the time with the help of medicine I do well. A few months ago they removed my tyroid. My levels show normal range, but I am struggling with extreme fatigue, depression and pain. Cerebral Palsy, nerve pain and arthritis also contribute. I haven't felt like socializing or keeping in touch with others much because I have told myself no one wants or needs to hear it. Everyone has their trials, so thank you for being honest and open. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I don't feel so isolated and alone. As you spoke, I realized I am not alone or crazy.

Lynn Gardner said...

Bravo, Anita! It's hard to open up but I hope others will profit from your pain and sharing. Love ya, Lynn

The Writing Wizard said...

Anita, I appreciate what you said a lot. I've dealt with health problems and depression to a different extent and it's not easy to keep moving forward. Writing on my own blog and in my journal on occasion has been therapeutic for me. I'm excited to see what you post. We're all going through our own battles so it's nice to know that others struggle too. Thank you for your beautiful words!

Nicole Tracy said...

I understand on a personal level how hard and frustrating dealing with depression can be. Of course, it's different for everyone else, so I don't pretend to know exactly how you feel, but I also struggle with depression.
Shortly after Stephen and I got married we knew right away we wanted to be parents and have a large family. We tried for some years and nothing ever came of it. It was pretty heart-wrenching each month to get my hopes up and then horrifically dashed to pieces as everyone's favorite "aunt" came to visit.
I felt less and less like myself as time went on. I started blaming myself for things that I had no control over and that I was prevent Stephen from reaching his potential because of my own problems. He assured me that simply wasn't the case. I never believed him.
I spent so many nights literally crying myself to sleep. I lost interest in things that I once lived for: art, cooking, singing, learning guitar, these things all took the back burner to wasting time just to get through the day.
My oby/gyn finally referred me to a fertility specialist, who, within 5 minutes, diagnosed me with PCOS.
It was a dark time for me and there were many times, even in interviews with our bishop, that I was certain Stephen would be so much happier and better off if we divorced and I remained single. I felt like a horrible burden and that soon enough Stephen would accept my offer and I could go back to being miserable on my own.
Finally, on one particularly emotionally draining day, I remember crying and sniffling, trying to get to sleep and Stephen just felt so helpless. I didn't know this until after I recounted these events to him, but Stephen prayed for me. He prayed that maybe I would feel better if one of my promised children could come see me...
You know that place between being awake and asleep? I distinctly remember laying there in the dark, something had woken me up. I looked at the foot of the bed and a young boy, maybe 7 years old, was standing on the bed looking at me. He was my spitting image, except for his eyes, he had Stephen's eyes.
We simply looked at each other for a little while before I asked him, "Who are you?"
He shifted uncomfortably before replying, "Aiden."
"What are you doing here?" Seemed a pretty legitimate question in my mind. I wasn't really confused, just curious.
"I'm not supposed to be here." I wanted to ask him what he meant by that, but I left that place between awake and asleep and he left with it.
I stayed up for a while thinking about what I had seen and puzzling over what he meant by "I'm not supposed to be here." Those words have haunted me since.
The following day I told Stephen about what had transpired and honestly (I think I may have been in shock), but I can't remember what he said about it.
That night as I lay in bed I once again felt myself at that place between awake and asleep and feel someone grab a chunk of my hair, lift it up for a second, like they were playing with it, then let it drop. I turned over to see Stephen, facing the opposite way, snoring. He was dead asleep. I knew it was Aiden, reassuring me that I had not imagine his visit and that he was watching over me.
I still took some years for me to get to where I am currently: A peaceful kind of, "what will be will be" place. Thinking back on that experience and how special it is to me I came to a conclusion that seemed so profound to me, yet so simple and that I had never bothered to consider before: Perhaps the prayers we give in our darkest moments, in the times when we feel the most pain, either physically, emotionally or spiritually, maybe it's not our prayers that are heard, but rather the prayers offered selflessly by those who love us most in our behalf.
Know that you are loved and that in time you will be able to look back and see how far you have come when you reach that peaceful place.

Baby Sister said...

I am so sorry you are having such a hard time. My husband suffered with depression for years, and almost reached the point of no return. I hate depression and hate that anyone has to deal with it. I can only pray that you find peace and light in the dark times of your days.

Myrna Varga said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl Crenshaw said...

You have been on my mind for the last few weeks. Now I understand why. Know that you are loved.

Jeanne Thelin said...

Dear Anita, I do love all the memories of the time we've spent together. Al & I miss you and your family very much. We have had our own challenges - but honestly not a good excuse why we haven't reached out to you and your family. I love your blog thank you for sharing. May God bless you so very much. Love Jeanne T.

Romance Queen said...

Thank you all for being candid and open about your experiences, and also for your love and support! God bless!

Annette Lyon said...

As this comment thread shows, you're nowhere near alone. Count me as yet one more person who has battled depression for a very long time. So has my husband and some of my children.

WRITE that nonfiction book!

Angela said...

Depression is hard for so many people to understand. Even after experiencing some of it myself I have a hard time understanding my husband's battle. Each battle is so unique.The only common thread I see when it comes to depression is that depression makes you feel like you are the only one.....The only one that isn't good enough. The only one that feels like this. The only one that can't go to work. The only one that.... the list goes on longer than it should.

Thank you for putting an end to the only one thinking.

Tawna said...

"... offering advice while only knowing a tiny part of the journey and experience can often make things more difficult." What a beautiful sentence.

I've not been a sufferer of depression, and I've had relatively good health, so I can't say that I know how you -and others here- are feeling. I do know that I can honestly say that I feel bad for what you are going through. I have family members who suffer with depression and ill health, and it breaks my heart to see it happen. To know that sometimes just waking up and thinking about even brushing your teeth can be an overwhelming process, is just something that is incredible for me to comprehend. I have learned, through the years, to repeat to myself the ideas in the first sentence that I quoted here. I've learned that hugging and loving is more important than words. So, please know that you have loves and hugs from me. Your books have taught me many lessons through the years, and this blog post has done some more of that. Thank you.

emmiesfamily said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, there are many people who struggle with those feelings. And this helps us all to see we are not the only ones with these feelings.
I enjoy reading your books and wait patiently for the next one. I understand the feeling of not wanting to do something.
I do hope and pray you will feel ready to write again,soon. I know my sister and I look forward to your books. We are never disappointed in them and feel inspired by your words, the stories you create and pictures you paint with your words.
Keep hanging in there and trusting the Lord. Sorry you have to go through such trials.

Lil' Mel said...

Thank you. You are courageous and generous. You are a blessing to me and to countless others. "We read to know we're not alone." ("Shadowlands" movie, my favorite.) I believe it is true that we heal as we "put it out there". Thank you for offering it up. It feels delicious to me.

Lisa Rowe said...

As you and many of the others on here have said, we all have our own unique struggles. I know from experience that those who are brave enough to be vulnerable and share their struggles often bless the lives of others, so thank you for being one who is brave. I have loved your books ever since I first discovered your 'First Love and Forever' trilogy (Michael and Emily will always be close to my heart, as will Alexa and Jess). You breathe life into your characters with your writing, and they become so real that I almost believe I could actually meet them in person one day!
You are a great example, and I hope you will continue writing (in all forms, non fiction and fiction) so that we can continue to be blessed and touched by your words.

Carrie said...

Thank you...

Janelle Joy Craig said...

I have struggled with deep deep depression for years. I even went I to psychosis last year after having a baby. I find healing by sharing my story. But also by reading your books. They have been best friends for me and always inspirational. Thank you!

Carol said...

It is so easy to go along in life, thinking others we see, publicly or privately, are having non-stressful, easy lives. By sharing your life, you help us to see that you are 'human', just like the rest of the world. I have been touched by the many inspirational words from Church leaders I have seen on Facebook lately. I think it is so wonderful that it is becoming easier to speak up and admit to having mental health struggles.
My husband was diagnosed many years ago as being Bi-Polar with anxiety disorder, after many years of struggling without a diagnosis. Life has not been easy - for either of us - since that diagnosis. He was able to continue working as a power plant mechanic until his early 50s, and then took early retirement. Finances are hard, but we are making it. Years ago it was a huge thing to admit you had depression. It carried a huge stigma. I am so thankful it has become so much more acceptable to admit our imperfections and struggles and illnesses - physical or emotional/mental - to the world.
My heart goes out to you, Anita. Your books have many times helped me to cope through a difficult time in my life. I believe the Lord has used you to bless many, many lives through your gift of writing, & I am sure those close to you have also been blessed by you in many other ways. Thank you for being a blessing in my life, over and over again. I look forward to your future writing, here on this blog as well as future books. Thank you for sharing your life. Love and Hugs, Carol