2017-07-20 07.44.39

An image of the sun over the ocean to remind me the sun and the ocean are always there, even when I can’t see, feel, or smell them. They’re a little like hope in that regard.

It’s February. Again.

This winter has been a particularly brutal one. With the frigid temperatures, the cloudy days, and the threat of illness almost daily (Hello, flu epidemic!), my body and mind are physically and mentally exhausted. I’ve been trying to combat the creeping depression with mall walking and walking the dog. Both get me out of the house, and in the case of the dog, I actually get outside. Yay for a little Vitamin D! But now that we’re in the throes of house building (as of this writing, we have basement walls and some plumbing installed), the stress of all the daily little decisions is creeping in along with the winter blahs.

I’m bringing this up, because I’ve decided to be more forthcoming about my mental illness. I’ve written in past posts about having a therapist and feeling less than myself in the wintertime. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but many of the symptoms seem to crop up during the winter months. Or maybe it’s just that I’m cold all the time and want to hunker down under a blanket fort and never want to leave. Same difference?

There have been years, however, when the “winter blues” bled into spring and summer, when life was more chaotic or drama-filled than usual. It was a year like that when I sought out the guidance of a therapist. I love her, although I haven’t seen her in a long time. Sometimes, I think I should get back in the routine of going to therapy, especially now that we’re building a house, one of those huge, life-changing events. Everyone keeps saying, “It’ll test your marriage” and “You have to make all these decisions really quick.” In our case, I may be making most of those decisions myself. Our builder has been patient with us so far, but we’ve only just begun. Weather has been a big factor. He couldn’t dig a hole when the ground was frozen. Now that walls are starting to form, the process is building steam. He’s asked us to look at a window company to get ideas, and my head is already spinning with the choices.

Which brings me to why I may be the one making most of the decisions. No, I won’t be making them without my husband’s input, but when it comes down to last minute choices and Hubby’s in the middle of a surgery or delivery, it will be me our builder turns to about paint colors and light fixtures and counter tops. (I’m sure I’ll always have final say on paint colors, because my husband’s slightly color blind, but that’s beside the point.) Our builder is really laid back and we have a good rapport with him, so I’m hoping the build continues to be as smooth as it has been from the day he dug out the driveway. (There have been obstacles, mainly dealing with the future neighbors. That’s a post on kindness for another day.)

I think what’s really causing my anxiety to kick in isn’t the build itself. It’s been exciting watching the basement take shape and thinking of all the possibilities that could go into a house. What’s really stressing me out is the amount of work it’s going to take to get our current house in shape to sell. We’ve been here for almost a decade, which means a decade’s worth of stuff in every closet and cabinet and shelf. I’ve got de-cluttering and cleaning and garage sale-ing looming over my head. I should start now to get ahead of it all and I. Just. Can’t.

My motivation’s kaput. My sleep has been awful, which means I’m exhausted when I wake up. Little things easily irritate me. I’ve been forgetful more than usual (which is hardly ever for me). Even my writing feels off. I’ve been working on a historical fiction novella since NaNoWriMo, and although I love the idea of the story, I can’t tell if it’s “reading” well, if that makes sense. It’s really frustrating and just adds to the general sense of anxious foreboding. I’ve been turning to sewing for a creative outlet and finding that, although sewing for myself has been like pulling teeth, sewing for others – and teaching others to sew – is helping my mood.

Because of family history, I sometimes think I should try anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. The reason I haven’t already is because I’m highly sensitive to drugs, even caffeine. I’ve been prescribed anti-depressants at various times in my life, and they made me feel worse rather than better. One left me immobilized on my couch only an hour or two after taking a single pill. I know that it can take a couple of weeks or more before anti-depressants start working, but I don’t have the luxury of that time. I can’t say, “Oh, I’ll just spend the next two weeks in bed waiting for the meds to kick in.” Who would get my kids back and forth to school? Who would get them up in the morning, make their breakfasts, make their dinner, give them baths, help them with homework, get them to bed on time, do their laundry? They’re both getting older and can help around the house more, but they’re still very reliant on me. Also, who would take care of them when they’re sick? Who would remember to pay the bills on time, to schedule all the appointments that need to be scheduled, to take the van to get it serviced, to buy groceries and new clothes when they’re needed? My husband helps when he can, but his schedule is erratic and his hours are long and tiring. Babies come when they come. They don’t care that I might be a little depressed in the wintertime. They don’t care that my family has a life outside the hospital.

Before this sounds too much like I’m whining, I have to say that it’s not lost on me how much single parents have to do and deal with on a daily basis. And they usually have a job on top of everything else. Kudos to them for making it work. Also, I’m very grateful my husband has a job that will never not be needed, that we have a great life because of his job, that we can make daily choices that many people today cannot make themselves and their families.

But, truthfully, I’m also a bit burnt out. It’s the curse of being the spouse of a doctor/nurse/lawyer/police officer/fire fighter/military personnel/any number of jobs with odd shifts and long hours, I suppose.

So, why this long, rambling post about my current mental state? Because of podcasts and websites like “The Hilarious World of Depression”  (THWoD, for short) and “Sickboy Podcast”. John Moe of THWoD and the three young Canadians of Sickboy are trying to change the world by making it okay to talk about – and laugh about – mental and physical illness. I’ve been listening to Sickboy since it began a year or two ago and I’ve learned so much about other people’s experiences with illness as well as my own. I’ve only just started listening to THWoD, but already, I’m hearing people put into words how I sometimes feel myself. Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess, in particular spoke to me. Our childhoods were very different, yet, in many ways, very similar. I can relate to what she goes through on daily basis to a lesser degree. I highly recommend listening to her on the podcast (and reading her blog), because she’s funny and poignant and, like many other people, making it easier for all of us to talk about mental illness.

I’m doing okay, by the way. Just tired and stressed and ready for a vacation from daily life. We’re planning a family trip over Spring Break in March, so maybe that will help lift the old mood a bit. And maybe I’ll start feeling better about that novella I’m working on. Only time – or the seasons – will tell.

If you relate to anything I’ve written here, please know that you’re not alone and there are resources and people who can help. MakeItOkay.org is one place to start. If your feeling hopeless and don’t know where to turn, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is there for you with free confidential support. Remember: Depression lies. Take care of you.

A. Cook

Amanda Cook is a stay-at-home-mom and writer living in the rolling hills of southern Indiana. When she’s not caring for her family or obsessing over punctuation, she can be found helping out at her sons' school, catching up on her Goodreads list, playing (and sometimes winning, but mostly losing) board games with her friends, crying over her favorite PBS programs, or sewing yet another costume for the local gaming/pop culture convention, where she’ll probably lose at even more board games. Her second novel, "When We Were Forgotten," is the winner of the 2018 Bronze Medal for Best Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book from the Independent Publisher Book (IPPY) Awards.

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