cat looking in through slightly open window

The Sneaky Side of Depression

I think one of the most helpful things I’ve done in trying to maintain my mental health is to become aware of my own personal red flags.

There are certain things, when they start happening, that make me suddenly wonder if something is off. Suddenly I’ll realize, “oh, I’m not handling things well anymore.” 

For me, some of those red flags are:

  • Getting overly emotional at everything (more crying than usual)
  • Feeling tired and fatigued all the time (wanting to sleep as a coping mechanism)
  • The stopping of activities I normally enjoy (lack of motivation to do them)
  • Becoming extra critical and annoyed with others
  • Being extremely bothered by clutter (feeling obsessive about needing to have the house clean)

A few weeks ago I was at work reading one of my daily news emails that I subscribe to, and that day it was focused on the war in Ukraine. As I read about numerous innocent people dying, I suddenly felt so overwhelmed. I just wanted to start sobbing about the injustice of it all – literally, I was having trouble keeping it together. Now, I’m not saying that the war in Ukraine isn’t something worth crying about or getting emotional over. Obviously, it’s a very serious situation. But the reaction I was having was more extreme than was normal for me. That was hint #1 to me that maybe I was dealing with some extra anxiety, or even depression, settling in.

I thought over the previous weeks, and realized I had gotten out of some of my normal routines. I wasn’t writing or blogging anymore. I wasn’t taking time to pray or do other spiritually-focused activities. I certainly wasn’t taking time to exercise either. So what was I doing with all my time? I was sleeping a lot more, going to bed early and waking up late, despite setting my alarm for 5:30 each morning in the hopes that I would actually get up and write (which wasn’t happening). No matter how much I slept, I still felt tired. I was wasting a lot more time on Netflix and social media. It felt like I was busy all day, but I wasn’t really doing anything of substance.

And yes, I felt extra annoyed with people, especially the people I lived with. In my mind, the house was a disaster. Why did it feel like I was the only one in our family who pulled their own weight? How could everyone else stand to ignore the mess and clutter and go about their happy little lives? I had blown up a few times at my husband Dean, and had made it loud and clear that I was tired of being the “only one” who took care of things.

Basically, ALL of my red flags were showing. But this didn’t even occur to me until that day in my office when I was struggling to not have an emotional breakdown over the current news about Ukraine. 

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Max from "Where the Wild Things Are"

Let Yourself Have a Bad Day

“The healthiest way to approach tough emotions is to accept them. Instead of distracting yourself when you’re feeling sad, angry, guilty, or anxious, try taking a few deep breaths and naming the emotion.”

A Healthier Happy by Ginny Graves in Real Simple’s special edition The Power of Positivity

Most of the time, I do okay with the fact that I’m not yet pregnant. I have space to manage all of the emotions that come over me in waves. There’s a touch of disappointment every time my period starts, despite being mentally prepared for it. There’s a bit of a sting every time a different friend tells me they are pregnant. And yet there’s still a bit of hope that I maintain for myself in the midst of all of it. 

But today has been a hard day, rounding out a hard week. I usually have the capacity to deal with the little emotional hits to some extent, but the hits have kept coming this week. It’s like I’ve got no safety barrier left – no cushion left to soften the blow. There’s no time to recover before the next hit comes. 

Last week started with a friend texting me to tell me she was pregnant. She was sensitive to my feelings, and I appreciated her sharing with me rather than hiding it. But it still hurt a bit. I was able to find space to hold all my emotions at once, feeling excited for her while simultaneously feeling grief for myself. Sometimes I feel like an emotional plate-spinner, or maybe a juggler or something. 

My period started three days later. I knew it most likely would. The signs were there, I just always hope that maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this will be the one time I’m wrong. Please, let me be wrong. 

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So You’ve Decided to Try to Get Pregnant… A Saga

What does a woman go through when she decides she wants to try to have a baby?

I can only speak for myself, but in general, I would say she goes through a lot. Different women have all sorts of different journeys as they step into this process, but I thought I would chronicle my journey of trying for baby #2. It has helped me process my feelings, and perhaps will resonate with others on a similar journey. The following are journal entries of significant dates and events throughout this process – it was how I was feeling at the time, not right or wrong feelings, just feelings.
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7/15/19
Today is July 15, 2019. By the time I post this draft, if I ever do, it will be a much later date. This is in part because it’s a little too fresh for me to share publicly. I’m taking time to write today mostly to process my feelings on the matter – but as I think about the purpose of my blog, I really want to let people see inside my mind and be able to experience what I’m feeling. I know I’m not the only person who has ever felt this way, so maybe some of what I write will speak to you and be something you can empathize with. If not, maybe it will at least give you a bit of an idea of what a woman might go through when she decides she wants to try to get pregnant. My experience certainly does not fully encompass everyone’s experiences, but I think it’s worth sharing. Thanks for reading.

Today is July 15 – it was day 30 of my cycle, and I had been waiting to take the pregnancy test I bought a few days ago. I told Dean I was 90% sure I was pregnant – I could tell. I had been feeling slightly nauseous for the past week, and I had even had spotting the day before – which I attributed to implantation spotting. I had planned on taking the pregnancy test this morning, but when I took my basal body temperature upon waking up, there was a drastic drop from the sustained high temps. I had gone from a 97.8 temp to a 97.1 in twenty-four hours. If you’re a BBT charter, you know that’s a big shift. You would also know that a temperature drop can signal that your period is about to start. I told myself that maybe it was a fluke, but I decided not to take the pregnancy test since I knew what it probably meant. The bleeding started a few hours later.

The first time Dean and I ever tried to get pregnant (before Calvin), I experienced the same thing. I had totally convinced myself that I was pregnant, but that time I confidently took the pregnancy test, and was shocked when it resulted in a single line instead of the positive plus sign. I felt like I had experienced a loss, even though I had never truly been pregnant, I just fully expected to be.

It’s a weird thing to feel like you’ve lost something you’ve never really had. I know this feeling does not compare to the experience of having a miscarriage or loss of a child – I have a hard time even fathoming the level of pain and loss on that scale.

So here I am, not actually on day 30 of my cycle, but back to day 1 – starting over again. Attempting to get pregnant is a huge waiting game – you wait for the right window of fertility (which is a bit of guessing game) in your cycle, hope that your attempts go well, and then you have to wait a few more weeks before you can find out if you succeeded or failed. Because that’s kind of what it feels like if you don’t get pregnant: failure.

I read something the other day that said only 38% of women will get pregnant the first month they try, and this number refers to women actually trying to time intercourse correctly for the purpose of getting pregnant. This percentage increases to 68% over 3 cycles of trying – but that still means almost one third of women actively trying for a baby won’t get pregnant even after three months.

Those numbers are both discouraging and comforting to me – discouraging because I know my chances of getting pregnant right away are slim, but comforting knowing that the majority of women are experiencing the same thing. Why am I holding myself to an impossible standard and feeling bad for not getting pregnant on the first try? This is my perfectionism kicking into overdrive and rising up to an unhealthy level. I know that and recognize it for what it is, but yet is is still hard to let go of.

Hopefully I will have the courage to post this soon – it might not be until after pregnancy is achieved and has been announced – though some have called me “brave” for writing and sharing about such sensitive topics, I typically only share when the bad times have passed, not while in the midst of them.
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