Sunday, September 14, 2008

Not even the tip of the iceberg

Lately I feel like I'm going through my days in a joyless haze.

There are times I laugh uncontrollably over one of Allison's antics or get riled over something in the news while I'm placing it in the next day's newspaper, but in the few quiet moments I have to myself each day in the car driving to and from work, I feel myself slipping into the grips of depression.

It's hard to write about for so many reasons. Most of all because I don't want to have to deal with the well-meaning people in my life who are going to want to talk about it. Add to it the chore of putting what I don't understand into words -- trying to make the intangible tangible -- and it rockets to the top of my Ignore It and Maybe It Will Go Away List.

I've been there before. In that dark place where nothing gave me pleasure. I became so detached from my body that even eating and sleeping were optional. I no longer felt pain.

That was years ago. I don't remember exactly how I survived it. I think it was part conscious decision and part disgust with myself.

This time around, it's nothing in particular, but everything all at once. As convoluted as that sounds.

I don't have anything to look forward to anymore. Every day runs into the next. I get up exhausted, shuffle through my morning routine with Allison, pray for the moment she needs a nap so I can collapse back into bed, wake up even more exhausted, take care of the house, try not to dump all my stress on Jerry when he gets home, make lunch for everyone, shower, get dressed, scrounge dinner together to go, commute to work exhausted, summon superhuman optimism, do my job, commute home exhausted and collapse directly into bed usually sometime around 1 or 2 a.m. The next day usually starts at 7.

"You need to do something for yourself," Jerry said a few days ago. "Like take a pottery class or something."

As thoughtful and good-intentioned as it was, it spurred a mental breakdown.

We live in a small town without much in the way of culture or night life or even groceries. Pottery classes are at least a 30-minute drive in either direction. Even if I had the energy to devote to something like that, it would probably be offered during a weeknight while I'm at work. Like everything else in life. Everything goes on while I'm at work. My nephews' birthday parties I miss every year. Concerts that we have free tickets to that have to go unused. Invites to friends' houses that I have to turn down. Sporting events Jerry goes to with other people besides me. All the things worth living for.

That said, even after almost a decade in my chosen profession, I still love my work. I love what I do. I couldn't care more about the news industry and the product I put out every day.

But technical problems, the atmosphere in my office and the rigors of recently losing a person in my department have me feeling defeated. I can't remember the last time I worked an eight-hour shift. Let alone took an actual break instead of scarfing down a half-assed microwaved meal at my desk. I give so much. I'm working harder and doing more than I ever have before and it's completely thankless. I'm expected to do it all over again the next day. Just like everyone else.

Sadly, home isn't much better. All I see are the dishes that need to be put away. The dirty laundry. The bills that need to be paid. Next to the computer I never have time to sit at and write anymore. Fuck pottery. I just want time to write again.

But because of the ongoing sleep deprivation, I don't have the energy for any of it. I concentrate on making it though by looking forward to my random mid-week days off, but I'm usually so exhausted that I collapse at Allison's 8 p.m. bedtime. Then I blink and my soul-sucking schedule starts all over again.

Earlier this week when I locked myself in an upstairs bedroom, sobbing underneath a blanket until the point I couldn't breathe without choking, my mind just ran in circles, trying to catch hold of something to make sense of it all. Something I could use to focus on. To put things into perspective.

But I kept coming up short. I feel overloaded. Overwhelmed. Incapable. Like I'm going to lose everything I've worked so hard for.

It would be easy to say that the one thing that has changed in my life is Allison. That I'm putting so much energy into making sure she's healthy and happy that it's sucking the life out of me. But that couldn't be farther from reality. She is my constant joy. Forget sleep, I would find a way to give up air if that's what it took to raise her to the best of my capability. I find a way to give her my best smile and attitude even when I'm struggling with everything else.

The solutions are escaping me. Which feels like such a slap in the face because I opted to forgo even more sleep to write in hopes of finding a little clarity.

Instead, my body is rebelling against me. I'm so tired and hungry the pains start at different spots and meet somewhere in the middle, resulting in a dizzy buzz.

I just want to feel normal again.


Anonymous said...

I really hope you can find your way through all of this. The feelings you are feeling totally suck. All I can do is give you a virtual *HUG* times 100 and pray that you feel better soon. Take care.

sarahhh said...

you are a good person. my friend, which i think of you as (even though we have never spoken or anything), you have done everything right. exactly what is expected of yourself, and honestly you are run down.

the most obvious is your lack of sleep. uninterrupted sleep is the best thing you can give yourself. i know sleep may seem unattainable, but perhaps having a kind older lady come to the house a few days a week quietly in the morning to take care of Allison so you can push 5 hrs of sleeping to 8 hrs. what are 3 hours of someone else cleaning up cheerios and getting toby all peed and quiet? --- all worth your sanity. after time this lack of solid sleep can really run your mind and body down. it'll make anyone feel loopy and sad sad.

i use to do this for a neighbor of mine when i was in high school. i'd creep in and play with the baby downstairs. we'd eat apple sauce and play blocks for a few hours. i'd change the morning diaper and it seemed to help mom out a lot. she even enjoyed taking some time in the morning to get herself looking nice or sleeping in. if i were there i'd do it for you. and only if you promise not to feel guilty about it. we all love you. ((hug))

jsi said...

It is terrifying to not feel anything.

Especially when you feel surrounded by tons of reasons to feel happy, sad, convicted, devoted, joy-filled and encouraged.

Pay attention to your deepest awareness - there is something that needs serious attention when you lose your grasp on feeling. It is a valuable gift to know there is something missing, something you want back.

It is compelling the burden that is carried by those whose work through the late p.m. hours and early a.m. hours of life - not of exclusion but of isolation. You honestly do feel that the parts of life you want to remain connected with are out of your grasp, leaving you behind. It turns choices and opportunities to be viewed as sacrifices and unbearable burdens.

Doing something for yourself sounds like compassionate and thoughtful advice, but it is still another thing that must be done. Away from home. Somewhere else. For a reason.

Do not ignore the impact your tag-team schedule has taken upon you, as you and your husband parent together but separate from each other for parts of the day. Its carries a heavy load for the two of you. He brings you joy. Your writing brings you great joy...and it feels so far away from you because there's hardly room for it. That in itself is another burden, feeling so distant from your joy.

You sounds like you are also describing a grieving about work. A loss of a connection from someone no longer there. An undesireable change and element of reality you don't like or desire to maintain. An intentional desire to see worth and accomplishment from something you devote your time, energy and creativity.

I am praying for you this morning.

emma said...

Please please please try and look after yourself. I think you already know this, but maybe try and take a weeks holiday off work, and just spend the week relaxing. Im sorry im not much more help, i dont know what to say. Always look on the bright side of life....maybe the song will be stuck in your head? Always makes me laugh :)

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah 29:11:

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

tarheelkate said...

I second a hundred times over what sarahhh and jsi said. Right down to the part about praying for you this morning.

Alexandria said...

I've been there before, too, and I know how easy it is to slip right back into the groove. I went through a year where I felt nothing and nobody, I had so many reasons to enjoy my life, and I just couldn't see it.

I truly hope you can pull through this. I haven't ever gotten professional help, so I can't say that I know it'll help, and I do know that medications can often hurt more than help. It sounds pointless to say, but you have to tell yourself that you can make it through. Again, it sounds stupid to you, but you have so many people who love you who are willing to help you at any time.

Love, Alex.

Anonymous said...

reading this blog made me think of my mom, she is going through exactly the same thing. A couple of weeks ago she told me she stopped enjoying doing things and that she's just constantly tired. Her and my dad have their own company which is what is sucking the life out of them. Thankfully they have just gone on a 3week holiday which i really hope will revive her spirits but im scared she will drop right abck into it. Im curious to see how you deal with it. I wish you all the best.

HeyJade said...

You put perfectly into words what I think so many working mothers, including myself, feel in a regular basis. We strive to give 100 percent to our families and 100 percent to our jobs, but obviously that can not be done AND we end up leaving ourselves out of the equation altogether which can only lead to complete breakdown. There is an ebb and flow to motherhood, well, to life in general actually. Just know that you are not alone in this and there are so many things to look forward to just on the other side of the exhaustion. Keep at it, Kelly. You are a survivor.

ajandmac said...

that fucking sucks

im really sorry

i think this is so different for everybody, ya know? a lot of us have been there, but it's never the "exact same thing." what you're experiencing is a product of your life, and the lives around you that influence. some good influences, some stressful. it just all piles on, yeah?

i wish i could tell you great and mighty things, like "here's how you beat this: kick it's ass!" but, there's not exactly a remedy for depression or even a case of the blues. i mean, ppl have tips, no doubt, like 1. shower every day 2. get sunshine every day 3. eat berries 4. do jumping jacks in the morning 5. take yoga 6. eat bananas 7. carry an iPod 8. smoke weed 9. make prank calls to old boyfriends .... i think they're trying to be helpful, it's just that this is not exactly the same for everyone.

What pulls you out of this, sooner or later, will be something unexpected, and maybe even undetected. You will look back and think, "Remember that time I wrote that post, and I was feeling so terrible? It's strange, and I don't know when it happened, but I don't feel like that anymore." Just remember, there are people in your life right now, who will be around when you're feeling shitty, and when you realize you don't feel quite as shit-filled anymore. That's love I guess.

Wishing you the best.

erica said...

This reminds me of another version of what my mother has struggled with on and off for a long time. She became very sick when I was in first grade and that seemed to trigger something in her that never quite went away. She never cried. She never asked anyone for help professional or otherwise. She never talked to anyone, not even my father. She would just sleep on the couch all day and stare off into space. We would ask what was wrong and she'd just say "oh nothing". And my father never seemed to notice, or perhaps he just gave up after awhile. She worked 7am-7pm as a nurse in the ICU unit (although she almost always gets off somewhere between 8 and 9). Then she finally exploded one day. It scared her and she finally sought some help, and tried some medication. She didn't care much for it but it helped her until she was able to pull herself out of her metaphorical hole by herself. Now she'll confide in me once in awhile, but she still never cries.

I'm telling all of this not because I'm saying you should get on medication. Exactly the opposite actually. You said that you cry. You talk to your husband, and he tries to help. And you DO find joy from time to time. All is not lost : ). Hold on to those moments. And keep allowing release. Perhaps you just need some introspective time. Maybe even some private journaling where you could try and work through your confusion. Maybe instead of doing something for yourself outside of the house, perhaps you should have an afternoon where you forget the dishes and the laundry and watch an entire season of your favorite show or some of your favorite movies. Anyway, many many people go through similar struggles - although of course it's different for everyone. But still, you're not alone.

Anonymous said...

I rarely comment, but it was tough to read your post today. It was tough for me because I've been there too. I've suffered from depression on and off for the past ten years and from time to time I see a therapist to work out any issues and gain perspective. I've found that working out helps, and realistic thoughts. When everything feels out of control, I always stop my train of thought and ask myself if it's really that bad. I also make a list of what's bothering me, and try to find realistic solutions. It's a long road but hopefully you will be able to find what works for you. It will get better.

LeslieAnn said...

I think that a lot of people in journalism are feeling similarly about their jobs. I have a friend at a paper in Indiana who is being pushed to the brink because her paper keeps making newsroom cuts. Those that are left on their staff have been forced to pick up the slack. Luckily the paper I work for is such a tiny, family owned company we aren't having these problems so badly. Though my editor had to go to part time so now we do some of her work in addition to ours. But it's still not bad. I think in terms of work there are many other journalists who can relate.

I hope that you can soon find some peace and balance between the stress and the running and the working and the joy and happiness that you deserve. I also think of you as a friend, even if it's just been online for a few years. We all love you and wish you the best. Your words always have a way of making us laugh or touching our hearts. I think everyone here wants good things for you and your family.

Please don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. It is ok. More virtual *hugs* for you.

(On a separate but similar note: I think the national news has been getting to me too much. Being a reporter near D.C. I can't help but read all the political and economic news I come across here and it all makes me so depressed and worried for the future of this country. I'm hoping this stops after the election ends.)

Kristin said...

I agree totally and completely with what sarahhh said. Get more sleep, sweetie. I hope you get better soon. There's so many people that care about you =/


Naomi said...

After all the comments you've already received, there's not much more for me to say except that even as a random reader, I'm so touched by your struggle.

Recently I read a list of eight things men can do to help their wives relax, mostly things like massages, pedicures, and bubble baths. But as a woman remarked, after the massage, the dishes still have to be washed and the laundry is still waiting to be folded. That's the real source of stress. I agree with her. It seems that for many women anxiety/depression/overwhelmed-ness isn't so much about not having enough "fun," but the knowledge that we have so many things to do that only we can do and not enough time to do them all well.

If getting help a few hours a day is possible, it may make a huge difference for everyone in your family. Combining the demands of hyper-parenting and a career is a sure recipe for burn out.

In a few months I'll be a new mother while still going to school and working--no leave, if all goes as planned. (We'll see how that works.) I take inspiration from your posts--on the good days and the not-so-good!

Marina said...

What Sarah said.

Bitchy Mom said...

I know advice is probably not what you want or need and that's okay, because I can't give you any. I'm going through the same thing, everyday, and know how you feel. I have not yet found a solution though...

I just keep reminding myself that it won't always be like this... it's just another "stage" in life.. and it will soon be over and I'll have other things to worry about.

I hate not having time for myself, even 5 minutes to brush my teeth is a luxury... So I know how you feel.

My Dr wanted to put me on Zoloft... Sometimes drugs can help, but not always. I just get help from others whenever I can and keep on trucking.

Lots of hugs to ya Kelly!



Anonymous said...

I have been fighting in my head with this same exact thought for weeks now, I don't want to go back there again because it was the worst time of my life. Reading this made me realize that I am back there again, and I need to do something about it quickly before I'm so far gone again. I'm praying for you, I know what its like when the light at the end of the tunnel gets so dim you have to fight to remember that it is there

Jessica said...

I was going through the same exact feelings for about the first 4 months of "babyhood". My son was waking to eat every 2 hours around the clock, and I was trying to do it all. I got up with him and fed him and took care of him all by myself for 4 months straight.

So I know how torturous no consecutive hours of sleep are. I think its got to the be the worst form of torture out there.

I don't know what to say to make you feel better, there isn't anything, really. My advice is try try and find some way to get more consecutive sleep. Would it be possible to hire a mother's helper for a few hours in the AM? At least you could sleep in a bit. Or something.

I know its hard when there's a new baby and all kinds of bills and other obligations, but consider it not only for your health, but for Allison as well. You can't care for her adequately if you're always on the brink of falling apart, KWIM?

SO I realized when I took time to care for myself I was really taking time to make myself a better mother for my son. That's about the only way I can make myself take time ... HTH And you'll be in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Girl, there is absolutely 100% no shame in going to see a doctor and getting something to you get your through this rough time. I have many friends who for 6 months or a year or so have been on prozac or the like, and I can only say that their experience has been wonderful with it. Maybe it is time to try something like that for a bit?

Bob the Tomato said...

Hire a maid/nanny, sweetheart! It takes a village, not a supermom :) My mom was a stay at home mom with two kids, and she had a maid/nanny who would come in, clean, let her take a nap, just give her a break. /unsolicited advice

Jessica said...

I'm so sorry you're going through this slump. I really don't have any words of wisdom, but I hope things look up for you very soon.

Anonymous said...

i will add you to my prayers every day. sending lots of love and hugs your way!

Randall said...

While I have no personal experience with this, I do agree that it is important for you to seek help with this - in your home, in your heart, in your head.

You'll certainly be in my thoughts and prayers.

DNgel_1 said...

I agree 100% with the people who said that you should hire someone to help you out with Allison and around the house a couple times a week. You should try that out for a while and see if it helps a little. Sounds like you need to catch up on your rest.

Ray said...

It saddens me to see you this way. I wish there was something I could say to bring you some sort of clarity, but I have nothing. I know depression all to well. And I understand the feeling of wanting to grab a hold of anything, of something to make sense of it all. And how it sucks not to be able to. To feel empty inside. To feel "incapable" of fixing things as you've put it.

I hope you find a way out of this feeling/of this state of mind: So there will be no more uncontrollably sobbing from underneath your blanket.

Take, care Kelly. <3

Heidi said...

I was just thinking about you today, and how awesome you are with Alli (Keagan was standing at the end of the tub while I was taking a shower, and I thought of a recent post).
I also wondered how the heck you do what you do ... I find it a lot of work, and I'm still on mat leave.
I totally agree with sarahhh ... I really think you should look into hiring somebody to help you. 5 hours of sleep is not enough to do everything you're doing .... I know this is unsolicited advice, and I hate it when people give it to me, but something's gotta give. Big hugs, and I am praying for you!

chelsea said...

Next time Alli has a doctor's visit, mention your problems to him/her. Doctors are probably use to that. They can give you advice on what to do besides possibly taking an anti-depressant. They probably know mothers better than regular adult doctors. I'm sure your newspaper has a health section, maybe snatch lunch/dinner/snack with the editor or head writer for Health and talk. I'm sure they know something. Or can direct you to someone. Excersise is also important since it boosts your happy hormones or whatever, maybe the sports editor knows some quick moves to do at work. Or you could just ask him that for shits and giggles. I've been rather depressed too since starting college, and swimming has helped me. My mind clears. And it is good to just cry and talk. You can talk to me if you want! <3

chelsea said...

Also, I forgot to add, do you know if anyone in your family has thyroid problems? Because if your thyroid is underactive,like mine!, it could explain a lot. You should also ask your mom if she felt the same after she gave birth. Man, too bad you weren't in my health class last year where we were taught to nap. Funniest but most helpful thing ever!

Traci said...

Sadly I'm feeling some of those same feelings right now. Praying for you.

joanna said...

darling kelly, i don't have time to read the other's comments, so I'm positive i'm just repeating their thoughts. i just wanted to let you know how much i adore you, through your writings alone.

have you ever considered getting some help? maybe someone to come in for a few hours a day while you sleep some and they take care of alli and tobey. it'd be such a huge relief for you to get some sleep alone. also, try taking some vitamins, i know that sounds completely dumb, but i've found getting all my nutrients really has helped me.

all of my prayers and positive thoughts go to you. i hope that by all of this support from your readers, you know how much you are loved.

mercurial scribe said...

Oh man I get this. Really.

I have never been so exhausted. Delighted yet unfulfilled. Stressed but not over one situation but rather over the whole.

I hope it changes soon. If you figure out an answer, please please share. If I figure out an answer, I'll pass it along pronto.

Much love and hope your way.

Tennille said...

I love the first person's offer of a virtual hug because its what I'd like to give you too. I can't imagine being a new mother and working as hard as you do. One of my partner and I's agreement was that when this time came I would be a stay-at-home mom until I didnt want to be anymore. Is it possible for you to do any part of your job from home? Some companies are trying to jump on that bandwagon with their long term employees because of the gas prices. It could make a world of a difference. I may be suggesting something completely impossible but its a thought and I hope it was a decent one.

I'm going to pray for you. I'm going thru things too and I'm tired of praying for myself. So I'm just going to stop and pray for you!

Kristin said...

I'm in the same black hole. I wish I had solutions for you. But I've tried anti depressants and therapy and neither of which has actually helped. I'm trying therapy again because I don't know what else to do.

I hope you have better luck with whatever solutions you can come up with. Wether it's outside help or sheer determination.

Marsha said...

You KNOW I've been there. Now, you have I am sure gotten great advice, I didn't read all of the posts, though. I admire the sacrifices you two are making for your child.
Lack of sleep is a killer, there's a reason it's a torture device. Although, a few weeks or months ago you were depressed as well.
Personally, I'd go on some antideprssants. Heck, I AM on antideprssants LOL.
Say what you will, they are a qucik fix and will get you over the hump. But ultimately, yes, something will need to change in your schedule or something.
I don't know what else I could say to be helpful. But slipping down further can be stopped with meds. And the meds can help you make the changes you need to make. I couldn' tmake dietary, self-care, and exercise changes until I climbed out of the pit with some pharmaceutical help.
I hate to see others struggle with a perceived "weakness" when you'd pop a Tylenol for a headache in a heartbeat.
I will pray for you. Just so you know, my post partum depressions hits me around 4-6 months and then gets worse and worse and worse until (both times anyway) I wake up around a year and go good golly I need to do something and then 4 weeks later when the meds have kicked in , I KILL myself for not doing it earlier and losing so much time.
Just a thought.

kimiedawn said...

Thanks for writing about this. I too had these feelings of being total overwhelmed with my first child. I am now pregnant again and know that I too will probably feel this again. It is totally normal for moms. We give,give, give to everyone--because we want to and we love them, but after awhile it will peck away at you. Jerry is right in one sense that you do have to escape and just do something for you. You have to, otherwise you will have a meltdown. Don't feel bad--it happens to the best of us, and it too will pass.

the plainsman friend said...

Thanks for your honesty in sharing with us, Kelly. Although it may not seem so now, it is a major step in resolving things to your benefit.

Much good advice posted here while I was away yesterday. My two cents are anything that allows more sleep and help with things in the house is good. And not an end to itself, either, like magic. Knowing that you have high standards will not make it easy to accept it, but letting go there a bit and accepting the assistance will promote healing elsewhere.

I'm not so big on the medicine bit alone as a filter or mask, only as a temporary aid to allow one to work out the underlying causes.

As someone said above, you will look back and realize that things have changed and you are no longer where you are now, but able to fully realize and taste life's joys and acomplishments again, and that day will come sooner than you believe.

One thing I have no doubt about, Kelly, is that your love of your family, and the love and prayers of your frieds will help you through what is no doubt an unbelievably difficult and trying time.

Hugs are good, too.(Hug)

Rachel said...

I know it has already been mentioned, but hire a cleaning person! It is the only thing on my list for my birthday and Christmas this year. I hate coming home from work and having to look at a messy house or actually clean it. I would much rather roll on the floor with my little bundle of joy :) Take care Kelly! I am going through the same grind as you, day after day, but am lucky enough to get a full night's sleep daily, which makes all the difference.

Suzanne said...

'She is my constant joy. Forget sleep, I would find a way to give up air if that's what it took to raise her to the best of my capability. I find a way to give her my best smile and attitude even when I'm struggling with everything else.'
you put it into better words than I ever could. Please know you aren't the only one going through this. I just wish I had the solution to help us out of it. Big hugs to you.

Megan said...

Kelly, I rarely comment, but I've been reading your blog for years(!) & HATE to hear this is how you're feeling. I could give you advice, but I know that's not what you need right now. Just know that you are not alone and that there are so many people pulling for you. Please take care of yourself.

Marsha said...

also stress and hormones do a lot. Do some reading on this and see if anything jumps out at you.


Anonymous said...

sounds like you are depressed kelly. have you talked to your dr about this? depression can come in many ways and sometimes it takes just a little bit of attention to get you back to normal. you really should talk to your dr. :)

i went thru a year and a half like this. i wish i would've known to ask for help.....

Anonymous said...


I am sorry. It has to be exhausting doing all that you do.

Hopefully things will get a little easier soon.

Would a sitter/nanny once or twice a week help at all? Even if it was just while you clean the house to keep Alli occupied? This way you are still home and she isn't with a stranger alone but you get a little breathing room.

Best of luck to you. You are an incredibly strong woman and I know you will make it through this.


Sheryl said...

Lots of good things said on here already . . . my first reaction is that I have nothing to add. My second reaction is, go to the doctor and get a check up. I've been struggling with a lack of energy that leaves me blocked off from the things I enjoy. Cutting to the chase---I'm severely anemic. You never know . . .

I'll be praying for you!