Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where I'm Going, Where I've Been

*Expecting Indy, Idaho, July 2006*

Here is the road block I run into over and over again:

I blog about my life because I want other people to know they're not alone. This involves the sharing of pain, but I don't want to dwell on pain, to nurture it. To feed that wolf.

This is my mission because twice in my life, my suffering has been deeply compounded by the belief that I was alone in it.

Weeks after getting married, I was struck with the worst depression of my life. I couldn't get out of bed. If I got out of bed, I couldn't get out of the shower. Mr. V went to work and instead of going to my last semester of college courses, I'd sit in the bathtub immobile, imagining myself spread out on my white bed spread, with red plumes of blood flowing from both of my wrists, staining the sheets. I don't know if I deeply intended to create this image, but I nurtured it in my heart.

I was 21. I was attending an evangelical church and angry there. Religion was a thorn in my saddle but I couldn't admit it yet, too scared of going to hell if I didn't go to church. Church contributed to my depression; everyone around me having transcendental experiences with a God they said was like a father (a punitive one), insisting Jesus could heal all wounds (like magic) and me, shriveling inside, my heart a stony pit. I wrote fragments in those days, (too disturbed for real narratives) pouring out the terrible images that filled my head. I felt myself rotting from the inside like a deer carcass in the moss. I imagined that my skin smelled of sour milk, that I was spoiled down to my very flesh.

I wanted to go on anti-depressants but we couldn't afford health insurance.

I've had people in my life determined to tell me that my pain has never been worse than their own. And now I only hold in my heart these words, from Amanda Palmer:

you can't measure human suffering with a yardstick.
those who try to do it end up vindictive, even when they're
trying to be helpful.

because the minute you start measuring suffering, you invalidate somebody's suffering.
. . . and that just never works. that's where the whole shit starts getting ugly.

anyone who says "my pain is bigger than your pain" is speaking from fear.
anyone who says "my feelings are more valid than your feelings" 
isn't speaking from empathy.

there's no pain that isn't 'real' because somebody has it worse off.

I sat in church and I prayed the only prayer I could: please help please help please help.

Eventually I felt better. Then I became pregnant by mistake. We were evicted from our apartment. The day we moved out, friends took us out to dinner and gave us two or three hundred dollars. It brought our bank account balance back to positive and remained pretty much all we had in the world. (Besides each other?)

We lived with his parents, we lived with my parents. I had a baby and brought her back to a house with a $800 rent we couldn't afford. Depression hit again. I didn't know it was common. I thought I was fundamentally broken. Marriage and motherhood were supposed to be two of the best experiences of my life, and both sent me into the darkest place I'd ever been. When Ayla was a baby I didn't imagine myself dead, but I was filled with such rage. I broke dishes, dashing them to the kitchen floor. I kicked a hole in the wall one day while my baby cried in her nursery, knowing only that I mustn't go to her. After four months of independence, we had to ask to be released from our lease again, and were back to living with parents, in an ugly room with sheets tacked over the windows, in a life I hated.

Through both these experiences I felt so terribly alone, and this is why I blog. I remember the overwhelming relief I felt, years later, watching an Oprah that said that huge percentages of women feel depressed after they get married. I wasn't fundamentally broken.

I was normal. I wasn't alone.

And eventually,  I got out.

I went to hell, and I came back.

It took years. It wasn't easy. It's not a one-time journey, a final destination. You don't arrive in paradise and stay forever. Sometimes things get difficult and I catch myself treading back toward the dark woods. I don't know why. Because it is a familiar way, a path I know, a path that seems to be ingrained on my heart. These ruts.

But my heart, like my brain, can form new connections, spark new life, learn new paths.

Sometimes it doesn't seem like I've allowed myself to choose the path. Sometimes life just smacks me there. I land hard in a scary place, all the wind knocked out of me, and I sit down and cry.

I have to remind myself to keep looking for the light.

This will be the journey of my life, learning to tread this meandering walk way that twines between the thick wood and the sunlit beach and back, learning to turn, again and again, away from depression and darkness and if I have anything to offer it is my truth. The story of my depression and the story of my spirituality are the same story.

I've been to hell, and I've been back.

I found my way back, and so can you.


  1. This is so important and it speaks to someplace very dear to me. I wonder what it would be like to not have to traverse these hills and valleys so often. I wonder if I'm lucky for having the richness, however painful, that journey provides. I'm glad I don't have to wonder if I'm the only one.

  2. I know that this post speaks about depression, but as always your words, phrases and sentences are arranged so wonderfully that they make me happy. You do such a phenomenal job of describing, taking me along with you, that I feel satisfied after reading whatever it is that you wrote. So thank you, for that.

  3. You are so not alone, my dear. This is so beautifully woven ... it boggles my mind how depression can truly inspire such beauty. Yet it does, in many writers I know.

    This shines such a beautiful light on depression and makes it a much more manageable issue. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone.


  4. I can't thank you all enough. I worry that writing about depression will make others depressed. But one of the paths out of darkness, for me, was reading about other people's bouts with it.

    xoxo back at y'all.

  5. I think writing about depression, or whatever else that ails you, is wonderfully therapeutic. I find artwork (or crafting, etc.) is also very healing.

    I think it's very brave of you to speak about what you've been through. I'm glad you learned that you're not alone and I'm so very happy that you're doing better.

    Wishing you lots of bright, happy days. :)


  6. How can a person possibly have depth without going into deep despair?

    I was just talking to a girl at work about this who has been married about a year. I told her how HARD the first year of marriage was. (Didn't help that I was pregnant 3 months into my marriage) Oh, the memories of sneaking out of bed and going to sleep on the couch at night so that I could weep more loudly into a pillow. (while my DH slept so peacefully in our bed, thinking I was doing the same next to him). The memories of sitting on the floor of my kitchen in my bathrobe crying to a risk line that I had remembered from the walls of my high school. Those were dark days. And dark days still come. And I have sharp impressions of conquering those dark days and know that I can do it again. But those desires to smash stacks of plates in a field against a stone wall...that never goes away. ever.

    THANK YOU for sharing this. It is so incredibly validating to know we're not alone.

  7. Susan, thank you, thanks for reading.

    Alicen, don't you wish someone told us all this before we got married? I think it needs to be public knowledge. So many women struggle with depression as newly weds.

  8. Beautiful post, and while I do not suffer from depression, my youngest sister has (several bouts, including EST, etc.)and I'm very aware of how vicious it is, how hard one must work to "get better." I applaud you for writing and supporting those who are depressed, who feel like they have "nothing to be depressed about" -- your love for your family, for others shines through your writing and illuminates all of us. Thank you.

  9. I happen to think you're a genius, and I wanted to take this one line you wrote in a comment and smack it down.

    "I worry that writing about depression will make others depressed."

    A, it's your blog. It's about you and your life/healing.

    B, you have no control over others.

    C, writing about depression can no more cause others to be depressed than writing about money can make others rich. At least not as far as I know, because I've read a lot of things rich people write and I'm still working for a living.

    K? Clear? K. Hugs.

  10. Your writing is great. I'm looking forward to reading more. Have you seen the Hyperbole and a Half post about depression? It's so ridiculously truthful it's hilarious:


  11. Ajax, thank you so much for reading. Yes, I just love Ally. She nails it every time!


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