A LONGSUFFERING WEEK

By Lisa Huddleston

My husband has gone to a conference, and I’ve had a lot of time to myself this week. That can always be a little risky for one with introspective, depressive tendencies, and that I’ve spent my time being the hospice nurse for my dying cat has added to my melancholy. Honestly, I’ve spent the week thinking a great deal about death and dying. (Doesn’t that sound fun?)

Interestingly and perhaps not coincidentally, I chose this same time to pull out a book a friend had recommended to me (twice) and to begin a serious contemplation of the value of life, the existence of the soul, and The Givenness of Things (essays by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Marilynne Robinson.) Heavy stuff but good and well worth pondering during a week of longsuffering.

Questions have floated back and forth in my thoughts as I’ve watched my cat hang on to his ninth life with tenacious claws. What is it that makes us alive? Is it more than the working of our bodily machines? And what is it that leaves when we die? We all have seen it or rather the effects of its departure—the deflating of the tent, the darkening of the lamp. There is a point in time at which alive becomes dead. A changing of the guard so swift that the ghost is gone without so much as a fare thee well. What is this thing and when will it leave Pippin and me to rest in peace?

While that point of time passes in the blink of an eye, a heartbeat, the getting there can take what feels like forever. Longsuffering is just that. L O N G and S U F F E R I N G. I nobly wrote last week that I was going to gift Pippin by allowing him to pass away at home, but more than once I have considered calling our veterinarian to make an appointment to have him put down. Please, don’t misunderstand, if he were in great pain, I would. But he is just slowly and quietly dying. I am the one who is suffering, and it is I who wants to be relieved of this gift. (Of course, Pip can’t really express his wishes to me, but he seems comfortable enough sitting and shedding on the back porch furniture and squinting into eternity.)

I woke up this morning hoping he was gone. I am ready to remove all traces of cat life and death from my house. I can already uncover the leather sofa my husband has protectively plastered with blankets for years in order to prevent the scratches and tears Pippin and his predecessor, Dusty, were so good at making. Mom, too, has tried to little avail to protect her furniture from the stiff white hairs that weave through any fabric and resist removal as strongly as Pippin himself. I need to remind her that she can clean to her heart’s content. And finally THE LITTER BOX can go! I have hated it for 20 years and even though my uninvited outdoor cats plead to take Pip’s place, it will be gone without remorse ASAP.

But really what I want to get rid of the most is this longsuffering and painful waiting and the useless plastic bubble wrap I have wound around my heart.

Woody and Me

By Lisa Huddleston

A few of you have expressed a desire to hear about my experience with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) so here it is. Last Thursday was my final session of 65, and although I enjoyed my time with the staff at my psychiatrist’s office, I was glad to see it end. I am not a patient patient.

Let’s see … here are some of the questions I’ve been asked

What was it like? Well, it felt a lot like I would imagine having a woodpecker imagespeck on your head for 30-40 minutes, 5 days a week feels like. Okay, maybe not that bad, but I was startled by the experience especially for the first few days. My head was awkwardly strapped against a chair, and my eye on the side that was being stimulated ran tears down my face. The nerves that run from my left eye to my upper teeth on that side jumped with every jolt, and I was asked to play a video game called “Text Twist” throughout each session. It was uncomfortable, but definitely not unbearable, and I decided right away that it was better to do what was required without too much complaining–I just wanted to get the most benefit from it that I could. I would not be afraid to do it again.

Did it help? My answer at this point would have to be yes–but really not as I had hoped it would. Right before beginning TMS, I was struggling through a severe episode of depression. My energy level was extremely low:  I was spending most of my time sleeping either in bed or on the couch, Mom and Chuck had taken over all of the cooking, and I was pretty much just breathing in and out. Since TMS, my energy level is up. I am cooking dinner, cleaning house (as much as ever–wink, wink), going to yoga, weaving, and contemplating the arrival of two new pets–a couple of recently-born Toggenburg goats. So, yes, it helped. However, my attitude is still pretty negative. During the past several months to a year, I have withdrawn from many if not all of the limited involvement I still had with people. So now, I have more energy, but not any real sense of a direction in which to expend it. This time my “recovery” is not like dark clouds lifting to reveal a clear blue sky (the way I have described the end of a depressive episode in the past). Rather it is a physical invigoration without the sensation of a dramatic emotional “lift.” Hard to describe, but hopefully somewhat understandable.

Would you recommend TMS? Yes, I would. I am better off than I was (although not as dramatically as I’d hoped). I had little hope for improvement without it. None of the medications I’d tried were doing much good, and the side effects they brought with them were wearing me out. TMS has been a good thing for me.

How are you now? For nearly 7 weeks, I have had a daily 3-hour job to do: get up, get dressed, drive 50-60 minutes to the clinic, spend 40 mins with “Woody,” and drive 50-60 minutes back to the farm. TMS literally has been my whole life. Without it, I am at loose ends. I met with my counselor a couple of weeks ago, because I knew that I was going to feel like this when TMS ended. I had nothing waiting for me to do. She gave me this advice, “Follow your enthusiasms.” And that is what I’m trying intentionally to do–follow not lead. And life is going okay. There is still the hope of more progress over the next couple of weeks, but this may be it. I think I can live with that. I am not sure I could have before.

Thanks for asking.

A POTHOLE IN THE ROAD

images-3By Lisa Huddleston

Yeah, I had that happen to me only it was much worse, because I was all alone. You’re so lucky to have help.

You just need to make yourself get out of the house more often.

Have you been going to yoga? You know, exercise makes you feel much better.

I read this great book all about how depression is a spiritual problem. I can loan you a copy.

If you suffer from clinical depression, chances are you have heard many statements like those above. People equate depression with laziness or sadness or lack of willpower. Depression is much more than that—it takes the energy from your life. You can’t read, you can’t create, you can’t clean, you can’t get ready to go out, you can’t carry on conversations, and sometimes you can’t even sleep. It isn’t situational, and there is little that a depressed person can do about it other than to depend upon mental health professionals and wait it out. But the waiting can feel impossible at times.

I called my doctor’s office the other evening, because the waiting had become just that. Because I have drug resistant depression very little has helped me when the dips in the road swallow me whole and without warning. I can’t help thinking about the “easy” ways out. (Again, that’s what peoppotholele call it.) So this time I called. And now my husband is home for the next couple of weeks at my doctor’s recommendation watching me and handling my medications and worrying about letting me out of his sight for too long. He knows I am smart and stubborn. I am sad for him and for me. I don’t like seeing him as my keeper or my adversary. I don’t like being treated as a child who cannot control her own medical care.

In January, hopefully as soon as possible, I will begin Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. My doc says it’s the gold standard, and he has seen great recoveries in other drug resistant patients.

Until then I’m stuck waiting and listening to well-meaning advice and faking it when I can. What do I want to hear from friends and family?

I’m really sorry you are feeling so rotten.

 Is there anything I can do to help?

 Sometimes just breathing is a good day.

DON’T HARSH MY MELLOW

By Lisa Huddleston

And … the journey continues. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I was beginning a trial with my 5th antidepressant and since that time the 6th. I am currently on a self-imposed fast of all medications (with my doctor’s tentative approval and an upcoming appointment). I want to give my brain a chance to settle and see who is the real me. I know that giving up on meds is a common occurrence for many (most?) mental health patients, but I promise that I am not giving up altogether. I will see my doctor in a few days, a counselor soon after that, and then we all will decide where to go next.

In the meanwhile, I want to share some wonderful encouragement I received. You know how people always say God will never give you more than you can handle? Well, I think that may be wrong. I think He gives us more than we can handle all the time so that we are forced to (allowed to) see what He can handle when we get our little selves out of the way.

For example, last Tuesday. This has been the summer of dental appointments, and I once again had a very sore tooth. I was also suffering difficult side effects from med #6—insomnia, crazy dreams, anxiety, and so on. Therefore I was up very early and FINALLY decided to turn to some scripture reading. I read from several different passages, but took the time to write down the words I read in Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous!” That was it. Hours of reading, and that was all I took away.child-dentistry5-200x300

By the time office hours arrived, I moved one doctor’s appointment so that I could get in to see my dentist, and I left a message at my psychiatrist’s office that I needed to speak with him about the side effects of #6. I was on a steady roll. But when I sat in the exam room at my dental office and my big, burly dentist all dressed in black (can you believe it?) said, “Root canal,” I was not prepared. “Now?” “Yes, now.”

 

He left the room, and I bolted from the chair. Not to escape but to grab a tissue. I was scared to death! I fought tears (so embarrassing), tried to breathe my way into peace, but it just wasn’t happening. I was as stiff as a Barbie doll in a plastic chair. But literally seconds into the procedure, I noticed a tiny, white cloud begin to materialize in the high windows. Just a tip at first, then its pillowy body following. And I don’t know why, but that cloud brought the words I had read that morning: “Be strong and very courageous!” Yes! Better than breathing. I repeated those words in my shaky brain, and I actually felt the muscles in my entire body just melt. From hard plastic to pliable peace. It was stunning and incredibly faith inspiring.il_340x270.775647355_rq64

When we took a break about an hour into the procedure, I was still mellow. I sat up and asked the dentist to talk me through what we’d done so far, and then (totally unlike my normally uptight self) I TOLD HIM ALL ABOUT WHAT I’D READ IN JOSHUA AND HOW THE WORDS OF SCRIPTURE HAD COMFORTED ME.

Okay—awkward silence from him. But WOW! I had faced a huge fear and God had seen me halfway through. I had zero doubt about Him bringing me the rest of the way. Yes. I, Lisa Huddleston, had zero doubt! And I even testified! Take that, Fear!

I survived, thrived, and came out alive. I talked to my psychiatrist that afternoon with novacaine-deadened lips and asked for a breather on the anti-depressants and once again felt the victory of Peace overcome my fear.

And now I wait. I don’t know for sure what my next step will be, but I just wanted to share the last couple with you, because I know that someone else could use the same encouragement I have received. Don’t give up. Not even when you have more than you can handle. It’s not too much for Him.

mellow-out

Peace out, peeps. Don’t harsh my mellow–I hope you find yours.

 

(P.S. This does not mean that I oppose the use of medications for depression. They most likely have helped to save my life.)

UPDATE (October 12, 2016): I did move on to antidepressant number 7, and it has been very successful thus far. Thankful for prayers, loving friends, and patient health professionals!

SPINNING THROUGH THE THICK AND THE THIN

By Lisa Huddleston

This is not a creative or artistic or poetic attempt. What this post is is simply an informative and hopefully encouraging word for any of my readers who understand what it means to have chronic depression–or maybe any chronic illness.

For the fifth time, I am going through an adjustment period with yet another antidepressant. As the fourth one leaves my system, the fifth is building, and I am experiencing the not-so-lovely effects of nausea, irritability, anxiety, weepiness, self-hatred, and so on. Is it due to losing the previous med or introducing the latest? Who knows? And really who ever knows why exactly they are feeling as they are?

One dear friend calls me a warrior and refers to my experience as a battle. I guess she is right in some ways, but I really just feel more like a crappy scrap of paper being blown whichever way the wind goes.

If this new drug (to me) works–Yay! Maybe I will finally settle down and rest in some semblance of peace.

If it does not–and odds are that it will work some but not without the sad side effects of numbing my brain–I am considering an entirely new approach. Maybe I’ll write about it some time. Time will tell.

13522861_10209613899211009_3249131363915354502_oBut as I wait and see, I am learning to spin yarn from raw wool. (Just go with me here. No segue–I know.) Naturally I see the similarities between this attempt and the other. I see connections between everything!

My first yarn barely resembled yarn at all. It was wooly fat blobs, thin stringy spirals, and spots that wouldn’t hold together when given even a slight tug. Fat, strung-out, and falling apart. (Mm hm.)13584697_10209749803768538_3702832674588222962_o

Now I am actually spinning real yarn. Not perfectly but better nearly every time I sit down at the wheel. Am I a yarn warrior yet? Perhaps not, but I have sweat and cursed enough to feel battle worn and torn by the learning process.  And victory is in sight.

13669409_10209776817603867_5152748157087395923_o

A long obedience in the same direction is the only possibility for victory. Keep spinning, my fellow warriors. So will I.

 

CABIN FEVER

By Lisa Huddleston

12540912_10208337832550140_5286633030389461415_nHey peeps. It’s 11:30 p.m., and I’m sitting in front of a blazing fire with my dog, Dottie Pigbody, while watching a 24-hour binge of House. I admit it–I’m not feeling fabulous. The snow is beautiful, but it’s very disruptive. This week I missed a day of volunteering at the Adult Learning Center, an evening gathering of my church home group, an appointment with my counselor, and tomorrow morning I will sorely miss worship at my church.

Frankly I feel myself slipping a little. I know that things will turn around soon–snow doesn’t last long in the south–but it makes me a little scared. Who knows what triggers depressive episodes? Not I.

So let’s just call it “cabin fever” and hang tight. I know things will be better soon, and until then I will strive to do the things I’ve learned. I will exercise. I will create. I will read and write. And as soon as possible, I will spend some time with friends.

And like the snow, this too shall pass.

ALL IS CALM, ALL IS BRIGHT

By Lisa Huddleston

12375960_10208124649220690_5675405771665034409_nChristmas Day was special for me this year. In fact, the whole holiday season has been. Truly, nothing extraordinary happened–unless you want to count that in spite of hosting Thanksgiving for 28, having our younger son’s wedding and Christmas less than a week apart, and having lots of company in our home, I have kept a calm spirit and a happy heart throughout. Oh, how extraordinary that is!

I’m a little hesitant to write about depression again when we are only one day from Christmas, but as my past experiences have taught, many of you are likely to be coming undone just about now. You may regret arguments you had with family or feel as though your dreams of a perfect holiday were not realized or just be completely exhausted by smiling through the stress. And because I remember many years just like that, I want to encourage you to keep seeking the help you need. There is another way to live–you don’t have to keep beating yourself up!

1617126_10208140611339733_6942468301860626981_oThis year, I let a lot of “musts” go. I did not decorate Christmas cookies. I did not buy many presents. I did not set out all the Santas and past photos with said Jolly Elf. I didn’t even cook Christmas dinner.

I did fill stockings with lots of hand-picked little items. I did take a yummy ham to brunch at my in-law’s. I did enjoy conversations with nieces and nephews and my children and their spouses and brothers and sisters and all varieties of extended and ever-growing family. And I didn’t have to be perfect. And that is shocking.

10298043_10208141109232180_4662432374080879601_oOf course, I wonder which reality is really real–this peace I feel or the past stress and anxiety? But then I have to ask if that even matters? I definitely prefer peace–even though I still struggle some with the fact that it probably has to be attributed to my medications and the mental health help I have received. Why does that bother me? Because I am a prideful old thang. But I am learning that help is good, that reality is what I am present for, and that peace really is possible.

And that is my message for you today. What you believe is the most important thing. You are not alone. It’s okay to need help and even to ask for it. And you do not have to be perfect–in fact, that’s the most unrealistic expectation you could ever have.

So I sit here a thankful, hopefully more realistic woman. I am thankful for the blessings of the past few weeks, months, and year. I am grateful for the help I have received, I am thankful for the hope I have, and my friends, family and Savior, and I’d love to pass it all on to you. Just don’t give up!

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me …