Friendships Always Matter

Friendships

Whether one is suffering from depression or not, friendships — true friendships —  always matter and are a source of support, whether they know about one’s mental illness or not.

I find myself actually “forgetting” or leaving behind my feelings of depression for a while  whenever I am able to “force” myself to get out of the house to accept some meal or get-together invitations. After such events, I find myself feeling somewhat elated and am thankful for being able to accomplish it — it does feel like an accomplishment — a small step forward.

My introversion does make me feel drained after being surrounded for hours by people other than my friends, but that’s par for the course.

It makes me smile reviewing all my photos on Facebook, and this particular photo, taken by my husband two Christmases ago made me want to blog about it. This was a “staged” photo, guided by our friend on the rightmost side, who was into advertising a few years ago. He asked us if we noticed how most print ads show people with “open-mouthed” smiles. We then realized it was true.

So while having that Christmas meal 2 years ago, we tried to make our own “print ad”. We tried so hard not to laugh while the camera was on a 10-second timer. Being a print ad model was harder than we thought!

The people in this photo (save for my husband and me) have been our friends for many years. They all always be friends we will treasure.

Hope you find yourselves with true friendships that will stand the tests of time, like we did.

 

 

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Pummeled By Pain & Letting Go

Depression

It feels like that — like being pummeled with one upper cut after another. Body punches, severe blows, many below the belt, are leaving me with scars and bruises that will take a very long time to heal.

Depression feels like that to me lately, especially when the triggers keep coming – relentlessly.

External factors – toxic people, the stress and the negativity they cause every single day — eat away at the very fragile inner peace I have tried so hard to cultivate for many months – nay, for many years.

Gone – just like that. Even fear of change or the unknown has nothing on the effect of soured relationships and external negativity.

Just yesterday, while browsing through business and marketing books in a mall, I quietly recited a mantra – “I will NOT be beaten. I will NOT be beaten!” The joy of walking was cut short by a very brief e-mail. I had to survive those few minutes alone inside the bookstore.

I am down, so down – but not beaten. I REFUSE to be beaten. For someone suffering from depression and anxiety, it is quite a feat to even say this. I recite the mantra — then stressful news come again. It is an everyday cycle for so many months. It is a wonder I am still alive.

I am letting go – every minute, every hour, every day – of the effect of people on me; people who are not going to be in my life for long, who do not even think of me and who I don’t need to think of either.

I will cry. I have cried – no, I bawled my eyes out too many times to count. And I will cry some more. I need to.

I am discouraged and down on my knees with head bowed – but I do not pray. I can’t. It’s just too hard.

After taking a small step forward, bad news comes through text or e-mail that set me back five steps. I cry. I cry some more. I fall to my knees again because of the tremor that suddenly overcomes my body. I could not breathe.

It would seem that depression and anxiety will stay with me, despite years of medication and occasional therapy. There is no cure for it – I can only manage it under relatively stress-free conditions.

Let go – let go.

At The Edge Of The Precipice

They say that fear of the unknown is not reality — because the unknown hasn’t happened yet.

Woman standing on precipice edge at Horseshoe Bend, Arizona, USA

Have you ever felt like you were standing on the edge of a very high cliff, with a leopard about to launch itself at you, while you decide if it is worth jumping to your “unknown” demise instead of being eaten alive — which you don’t even know yet, right?

The precipice, known also to me as my “critical juncture” in life, is where I find myself standing on the past year, and every decade. There is fear either way — fear of “staying” where I am, just on the edge,  afraid  that I will grow old not ever knowing what is on the other side.

And then there is intense fear of what lies beneath the precipice — will I fall too deep and too hard? Or is there a soft green meadow underneath the sea of dark menacing clouds? Or is there an actual safety net waiting for me? Or will it be just the same as it was before.

A pivotal scene in the movie Divergent was when the newly inducted Dauntless members  had to prove themselves worthy of belonging to such a “fearless” bunch, by leaping into a dark abyss as their first real test. No one wanted to go first. No one wanted to be the first to “die”. The deep, dark abyss represented death for them.

Beatrice Prior (the protagonist played by Shailene Woodley) was the only one with enough courage to literally dive into the unknown. She was afraid, but she also realized her fear was just that – fear. The fear of possibly dying has not happened, so dive she did.

Her triumphant smile upon landing on a huge safety net became the catalyst for change in her fellow Dauntless’ hearts. You know what happened next — everyone jumped — and survived!

I am afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet – a life change that could actually be healing for me and my family. Anxiety and depression make the thoughts and decisions even harder. Anxiety and depression keep my feet tightly glued to the edge, cause me to vacillate, think and re-think every decision and outcome, and stoke the embers of fear in my heart until they become a raging fire that consume me and whatever little courage I have tried to muster.

I am afraid to jump – yet I am more afraid to stay because then, I will never know what awaits me. There is so much fear at the edge of the precipice. I cannot stay there much longer.

Lord, give me the courage to jump, for when I do, I will land on the safest place — your loving hands.

 

The feeling of being homeless…

 

Homeless

My husband and I have been renting apartments since we got married. Where we live, it is not easy to own a home. The insecurity of being driven out of a place and being homeless has been with me ever since.

Just two weeks ago, we were informed that the apartment we are renting has already been sold and that we need to move out within 2 to 3 weeks. We were stunned and felt very betrayed. Looking for a relatively decent place to move into on a very small budget that allows pets is very difficult. We had to adjust our schedules so we could look at several places to rent at such short notice.

Without the money to advance to landlords (at least 3 months’ worth), we could just look at places but not reserve. We have been to most cities that are not too far from where my husband works and have seen really depressing places. We have been on a rollercoaster of emotions the past two weeks.

The reality that we will be homeless within a few weeks hit us really hard. Without the financial means to rent a place in such a short time drove us deep into depression. I have always been irate at the government for driving illegal settlers away without any relocation plans for them. It is cruel and inhumane. Every human being has the right to a decent place to live. Our society has blatantly ignored this basic right for decades. We are all answerable for this intolerable cruelty.

I know people who also almost lost their homes – and those who actually did. It is downright wrong.

I applaud people who establish shelters for the homeless. There should be more of them and more facilities for the homeless. No one should ever be deprived of this basic human right.

Now I personally know how it feels. I pray to God that we will be given the means to help others in this plight.

Dealing With Depression

Last month marked my first year since I was diagnosed with Major Depression and GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). On one hand, I feel relieved to have finally gone past the 1-year mark; on the other hand, I am sobered to realize how vulnerable I am and yet how blessed to have survived a very difficult and somewhat traumatic year. Prior to my diagnosis, I had suffered two long years of intense loneliness, very low productivity, and depression.

This is not another medical paper discussing the illness or disorder, its symptoms and its cures. I am far from expert and I would rather evaluate my own experiences with the illness to help me understand it, and myself, more.

My depression is turning out to be a longer journey than I had hoped for or anticipated. I began tapering down my dosage of Tofranil at the start of this month, from five tablets to four every night. I had high hopes of recovering and moving on to some kind of normalcy but I guess I hoped too soon.

Within the first four days of April on a lower dosage, I experienced a relapse: immediate depression with bouts of crying and feelings of extreme hopelessness. On the fourth day, I began to experience once again the symptoms of GAD. I worried over everything — from the house chores to our financial future — and could not stop my mind from over processing so many worries. I also began to hyperventilate again and almost panicked at my extreme difficulty in breathing. Our tiny bathroom suddenly felt like a very hot and airless prison and I could not wait to end my quick shower.

I am very grateful that my husband has a master’s background in Christian Counseling so he understands what I have been going through and knows I have absolutely no control over my thoughts, feelings and actions when these illnesses recur. I also agreed to revert to five tablets of Tofranil every night. Perhaps, if I’m brave enough, I will try to reduce my dosage again next month.

My depression began when my mother passed away almost ten years ago. This was then followed by my only sister having to go back to her home in another country, the loss of my job within two months of my mom’s death, the various e-mails from relatives who accused my husband and me of so many things I don’t want to recall, e-mails and visits from people hounding me for payment of my mother’s past obligations, and so much more.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take any more blows, I began to suffer from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). For some odd reason, the first few doctors we saw didn’t have a clue as to what was wrong with me so they gave me all these medications for bloat, muscle pain and others. I burped constantly and feared leaving the house because of diarrhea (diarrhea-predominant IBS or IBS-D). I am very picky with toilets and have learned to always stock up on tissues and baby wipes whenever I had to leave the house. A match box also came in handy in public toilets.

This condition lasted six more years (with the “correct” IBS diagnosis) until I experienced a quick and daily progression of my depressive state. It got so bad that I wanted to end my life many times. I just wanted rest and peace from the darkness I was enveloped in and the guilt and self-accusations that constantly and mercilessly bombarded my head. I lost most productivity – I couldn’t write, draw, read or perform the simplest chores. I did not want to meet anyone or be around people. I felt that my heart couldn’t take any more beatings. Yes, Christians suffer from depression too.

I also began to experience physical malaise – extreme fatigue, breathlessness, general weakness and lack of well-being. These symptoms added to my worry because my family has a history of heart disease (my mother died of MI – Myocardial Infarction). My husband wasted no time in having me undergo several medical tests. We later on discovered that I was fine — perfectly normal and “healthy”. Even my cholesterol level was within normal range. However, the doctor said that, perhaps, I was under a lot of stress. He recommended that I take a stress test. I never went back for that.

While I was very thankful that I was physically fine, the depression and other physical symptoms did not go away. I began to introduce the idea to my husband that I was probably suffering from depression. I certainly remember using the “right” terms in describing how I felt: depressed, hopeless, lonely, extremely anxious, etc. I looked up the illness, and one web page led to another. I took the depression and anxiety tests and had a perfect score on both. I remember feeling very relieved at getting closer to a correct diagnosis and knowing that I was not morphing into a very bad and ungrateful person. My Christianity came into question many times and I accused myself of so many things.

Finally, we were told by my psychiatrist/psychologist (he is both, thankfully) that I was definitely suffering from both Major Depression and GAD. Plus, my IBS was merely symptomatic of these disorders. We were also told that with both disorders, what needed to be treated was the balance of a certain chemical in my brain called serotonin. I cried in relief! I was not a bad person! My brain chemicals and neurotransmitters just needed help!

And so, it has been one year now since my diagnosis and treatment. I’m still on it, but I know I will get better. I guess it doesn’t really matter now how long it takes, as long as I receive the help my body needs to cope. I also have a wonderful support system in my husband, family and close friends.

And for those of you who know me, I am able to write again and have found a new passion for baking at the start of this year. To have finally found a passion is already blessing beyond measure! I am very grateful and I pray that I will be on my way to full recovery someday.