Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Getting Good at Faking Happy

These last two months have been difficult for me on an emotional level. I've been slipping slowly into a depressive state, though it has not been as bad as many people I know who suffer from it. This last week has been especially difficult, made more so as we receive more and more bad news from those around us.

For most of the year I do really well. I have no problem handling life, and can do it with a sincere smile. Twice during the year, however, I find myself having to fake happy. I put the smile on my face, but if someone looks close enough, they'll see it doesn't stretch quite far enough. For the sake of my husband, for the sake of my children, I push myself to appear normal, but all too soon my neatly stitched quilt of sanity begins to unravel.

My wonderful husband is always the first to recognize the signs. I can tell he's seeing cracks in the carefully crafted glass wall I start to put up when life becomes too overwhelming. He begins to ask me if I'm okay...a lot. He notices my hesitation to leave the house, my inability to laugh at simple things, and the need to spend endless hours losing myself in books where I'm taken away from my own life for a little while. He begins to volunteer to do my own self-imposed chores around the house, as I have no energy nor desire to do them myself. Then he asks me more what he can do to help.

I don't know if I'm your typical depressive, if that's a word. Instead of withdrawing completely, as is my natural instinct, I push myself to seem okay. I'll do things with the kids I normally wouldn't think about doing during my normal days just because I'm worried they'll feel neglected. I end up placing so much pressure on myself to "shake it off" and throw myself into doing more, more, more so that no one will worry. This, of course, is out of character and so people worry regardless.

Another thing that's hard to cope with is the fatigue. I could sleep nine hours and still wake up exhausted. I could go for a few hours during the morning and need to take a nap during the afternoon. I hate naps. When I take one several days in a row, something's not quite right.

This last week I had a pretty big break down. I spent most of the week weeping with occasional sobs flying through the day. My poor children don't know what to think during these episodes. My darling husband is at a loss to know how to help me feel better. Heck, I don' t even know how to help me feel better. But talking about it helps.

I've talked with several people about it over the last few days, and I feel my mood lifting. Is it because I'm finally acknowledging what I've spent so much time hiding? Does it have to do with allowing others to take a small portion of the emotional load off my shoulders? I don't know. Though I'm feeling pretty good right now, I'm fully aware that tomorrow I could break down all over again. I can feel how hard I'm working to hold it all in right now. But it is better today.

I do find, during these times, my Heavenly Father knows how to help me in little ways. I get phone calls from friends and family I don't normally hear from. I get surprise visits like I did this last Sunday from a good friend, who was visiting from California (it was so good to see you Brent! you have no idea what a blessing you were to me that day. And we missed seeing LaDawn and Brook!). My husband comes home from Sunday meetings with compliments from church members, who say they love to sit next to me when I sing, or some kind words from a former youth who asks if I'm still writing amazing letters as I wrote to her during some difficult times.

At the same time I recognize Satan is working hard to keep me down, as he did when my oldest had a horrific experience because of the choice of three girls who were just "having fun" at the swimming pool. Just when I think I'm at my lowest, he finds a way to bring me lower, to snatch the brief moments of genuine happy I have grasped in my white-knuckled fists.

All through it, though, I'm ever aware there is something more to look forward to. There is joy I know will be given to me in spades. Every time I go through these awful spurts of despair, there is something more to be gained when it finally passes. It is written that "Men are that they might have joy." Happiness, pleasure, these can be fleeting. Joy - the joy promised to those who remain faithful even through the horrific parts of life - is what helps me cling to the end of my rope and swing.

I have no doubt in my heart, my mind, or my soul that one day soon I will experience great joy. If it means I have to deal with periodic depression, the sort that leaves me recovering for weeks when it finally lifts, then so be it. I also realize I'm blessed to be able to help others who may suffer from this same affliction. There's nothing like knowing someone's going through something similar to your own experiences.

It certainly won't stop me from appreciating all the prayers you can send my way.

1 comment:

Josie said...

Hi Laurie,
I'm sorry you've been so depressed. I'm glad you have the guts to talk about it though, that should help out a lot. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.