Full Disclosure

Determined. Photo by Samantha McGranahan @https://unveiled-photo.com/
...when it came to being
she said be tender and tough at once
you need to be vulnerable to live fully
but rough enough to survive it all...
-Rupi Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers

I have not published a blog post since mid-August. I have been writing, but I have not been able to put anything together I felt okay about putting out into the world. Week after week has gone by until months have passed. At first, I told myself that folks have enough challenges in the world to read anything I was writing because so much of these past months, grief has been the primary topic.

But that was not the whole truth.

The truth is that I have been struggling with depression. I have had depression several times in my life. Usually, it’s from adjustment and loss. Life can throw us some serious curve balls. I have good coping skills and I get over it. This time is different. Mental illness has so much stigma around it. It’s not fun to write about. It’s not fun to read about. Depression is, well, depressing.

The details are not fun to list. My husband can tell you all about them: lack of motivation, pervasive tiredness beyond even my usual exhaustion, disinterest in activities I usually have great enthusiasm for, a wicked sense of humor long on hiatus. My fun factor and zest for life have disappeared. Everything feels like a slog through pea soup. I do things. I see people. I go places. But my enjoyment of those things is profoundly muted and I find most things uninspiring. I used to at least be a good “functionally depressed” person, but that was when it was more “adjustment disorder” related to things like the death of a loved one or the usual transitions in life that can be very hard. I always bounce back.

This time bouncing back is proving to be hard. I make it up a few rungs on the ladder only to find myself back in the hole. I think of the many conversations I have had with my friend Audra over the past few years about how mindset is the ball game. I know that. I have used that strategy so many times. During brain injury rehab it kept me going.

This time is different. I am unmoored. Without my beloved adult day program to be a bright light for me, one that I was so lovingly dedicated to keep moving and growing, I am struggling. I am doing creative projects at home. I am seeing a few clients as I am physically able too, I continue to see my therapist, take anti-depressants, set goals, and then grind through trying to meet them.

The biggest struggle of this is that I am not who I was before the accident. It’s like all the parts of me from cognitive and physical energy, the mental acuity and sharpness I have always possessed, the creativity, the fast thinking able to churn out ideas and get things done; it’s all been shorn off to a much duller and less efficient system with caked up grease and grit clogging the gears. Being confronted by that over and over is hard to find peace with. I am still so much me, but the brightness is dimmed, the edges sanded down and the energy dialed way back.

My productivity has decreased so dramatically since a brain injury. It’s such a frustration. I am better at re-framing life around what I can do instead of what I can’t do. That helps. It is helping. It will help. But I also have the grief of all I have lost. I am so much more than my productivity. I also love by being productive because there are so many things I want to do, I long to do. To do any of them I must first overcome inertia, then break activities into tiny bite size tasks and checklists. By the time that is done I’m wiped out. Then I must rest and again overcome inertia to begin doing the task. What was once fun and creative is now exhausting and feels overwhelming.

Plenty of people struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health challenges. I am not alone. I don’t feel alone. I don’t even feel sorry for myself. I am trying to move through this, find the coping strategies that work, and continue to have gratitude for the incredible amount of good we have in our lives.

I know where the light in this hole is. I know there is a ladder. I have plenty of caring folks to climb down with their flashlights and help me out. That is lovely. I appreciate it. I want to feel better. But until I do, I will keep getting up each day, setting small goals, making sure I have things to look forward too even if I don’t have the energy to be the enthusiastic cheerleader for them that I once was. I’ll continue to look for the good, work on mindset, and use all the coping strategies I have learned over the years.

What I won’t do is act like I’m “fine” (whatever “fine” is!) or create a persona on social media that is not accurate. I won’t beat myself up about it or speak unkindly to myself. I will speak my truth. I will be honest about my struggles and vulnerability not just for my own sake, but for others who may not be as comfortable in acknowledging their own challenges. I’ll continue to try my best to balance the hard with the good, keep faith that this too shall pass, work and hold hope that my joyful heart is just a little further down the path, waiting to be reclaimed.

If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health you are not alone. There are resources to help at the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

5 thoughts on “Full Disclosure

  1. I get it. Utterly. Even, although some circumstances are different, personally. I love you, Cathleen. We keep on in the ways we can. And it helps me to remember that each and every breath is a new reality, whether I notice or not. As one of my favorite songs offers, “The world is always turning toward the morning.” (Gordon Bok, “Turning Toward the Morning”


  2. Just discovered your blog. Love it, and love you. You hit to the core of things that I deal with.. I’m off to read the rest of your posts!

  3. Cathleen. Your words speak to me as I watch my son’s anxiety and depression. He is at the totally unmotivated point and there does not seem to be anything I can do to help him get unstuck. I am so glad that you have not given up the struggle though I know how much energy that must take. Continue to call upon your network to help you along this path. We are ready to help how we can. You are such a strong woman.

  4. Our lives and circumstances are very, very different, but I feel so much of what you said as well. I have had depression all my life and at most points, it’s been well under control but I’ve been having a tough time over the last few months. All the same symptoms you talk about. Just trying to function at a level to “pass” as normal. It’s exhausting. I’m so sorry for everything you are going through.

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