I wasn’t anxious at the Apple Orchard: On coping with high functioning depression.

I went to the apple orchard and was not anxious.

I know this seems like a normal thing, but I need you to know it is the first time in my adult life that I can remember it happening. It is the first time since I was 16 that I can remember not being anxious at the apple orchard.

My junior year of high school I got really sick. I got really depressed because I was really sick. It was pretty clear that I was in a spiral, so my mom through out all the rules about if you don’t go to school you can’t leave the house and took me to the apple orchard for lunch. She thought maybe I needed to be outside. I remember being grateful as we ate our donuts on the picnic table. But I also remember being anxious that someone was going to see me, or ask me why I wasn’t in school, or….I don’t even know what. I was just anxious.

We’ve been going to the same apple orchard for three or four years now. The ten dollar admission isn’t cheap, but then there is no more asking. The jumping pillow, the pig races, the petting farm, the cow train, all are included in the price of admission. Even the clogger show and the cow milking are things I can say yes to.

It sounds like a practically perfect day, and it always is. We started inviting our family and friends who are like family. And every year I would sit on the bench while my kids took 15 turns on the zip line, or road the cow train seven times in a row, and my head would be full of boxes I needed to tick off: Have we seen the pigs race? What time is that? What time is it now? Are we going to milk the cows? Are we going to buy the apples? Should we pick them? Is the kid I can’t see okay? Are they spending too much time on the jumping pillow? Are my kidless friends bored? Does my sister need something? Is my husband having a good time? Are we making enough memories? Have I taken enough pictures? Are my kids going to  be picked for the chicken chase? Do I want them to be? What if they cry? What should I do? What if I am doing this all wrong all wrong all wrong?

That is what was going through my head every year at the apple orchard. I think part of it has to do with the changing of the seasons. It is dark when we get the girls up and the sun sets before bedtime. I just need more sunlight, I need more vitamin D. I need more serotonin in my brain.

The way that people talk about motherhood sometimes, it makes it sound as though this thought pattern is normal. No one thinks that they are enough! Everyone is plagued with mom guilt! Everyone worries about their kids! And that is true to an extent, but not like that. Not like sitting on the porch, admiring the beautiful view, being really happy that your people are with you, and not being able to stop the voice in your head that is telling you that this is either all wrong right now, or it is about to be.

Yes, mothers are often exhausted at the end of the day, but not because they are afraid all day long no matter what they do. Yes, mom guilt sucks, but it shouldn’t be the predominant force in your thought pattern on any given day. Yes, moms can benefit from an occasional glass of wine in the evenings, but it shouldn’t be the go to for turning the angry voice in your head off.

The slippery thing about anxiety and depression is that sometimes, these thoughts are normal. Sometimes, it is totally normal to be overwhelmed. Sometimes life is just like that. But when sometimes become most times, when sometimes becomes almost all times, that isn’t okay. It is a problem. something is wrong.

I was suffering from what they call high functioning depression. Yes, technically I was pushing through, but there were better ways of coping. As it turns out my body doesn’t make enough serotonin. It probably hasn’t since I was a teenager, and I used to do this or that to manage my moods. But what I needed was more serotonin in my brain. I have been taking 20 mg of prozac since March and I am just so relieved. I don’t have to fight for the space in my brain for positive thoughts. There is so much more room.

I wasn’t anxious at the apple orchard y’all. I sat through a practically perfect day and believed each moment that it was practically perfect, that I was good enough. I am noticing the changing of seasons this year, and it is not making me sad. I take prozac every day, and it doesn’t feel like a failure. It feels like a miracle.

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To Priscilla on Her Sixth Birthday

Dear Priscilla,

You are six. I can hardly believe it. My baby is six. How is that possible? And how is it possible that you were ever not here, that you were ever not a part of our family?

This year you went to kindergarten and you were totally ready. About a week before school started you pulled out the picture Ms. Rudolph had gifted you of your pre-k class. You spent time looking at it and being sad that this would not be your class this year. You spent time grieving that things would be different. You are remarkably good at feeling your feelings, something I am still learning how to do. It is sad this year is different, and also it is wonderful. You knew to feel through the sad to get to the wonder.

You are having a particularly glorious year. Your teacher tells me you are like a tiny para-pro, keeping everyone on track and learning, even her. She says your presence in the classroom makes her a better teacher. I ask her if she is trying to say you are bossy and she shakes her head vehemently. “She is a leader, she is learning how to lead.” I smile, grateful that the adults in your life see the best in you.

This summer we went to a play date with your cousins. A kid who was much larger than you stole a ball out of your baby cousin’s hand. “Hey!” you shouted, “Give him back his ball! That is HIS ball!” The kid gave it back, deciding wisely that he did not want to tangle with you. Your cousin was delighted. Your aunt and I were not surprised.

You are an excellent advocate. Most often, you are advocating for yourself, and there certainly is a time and place to remind people it is your turn. But this gift of yours becomes exponentially more powerful when you advocate for others. Bigger kids, adults, even your mom sometimes give in because we do not want to go up against you. I am praying you can learn to know when to stand down. I am praying you know when to fight, both for yourself, and for those who need you.

Some time this summer your sister learned how to read. You have decided you need to learn as well. You resent the idea that everyone in the house has access to information before you. You are doing everything in your power to catch up. You are your biggest critic. Be gentle with yourself love. You are doing so much better than you know. You are doing so much better than you think you are. You see the world as black and white and right and wrong and good and not. I see you looking at yourself with that eye, and I want you to know that you are the only one.

Everyone else thinks you are doing great. No one else is as critical of you as you are. You are delighted in, by more people than you could ever know.

3 days ago you snuck your sister’s pink kimono robe into your book bag, you paired it with the blue sparkle boots you like to wear. You put it on over your uniform as your “jacket” and apparently marched around school all day like that. Your teacher thought we were letting you express your free spirit. We really just had no idea. It didn’t occur to you that this was out of the ordinary. We all loved it. We all love you.

Love,

Mom

 

Summer Lovin’: Things I have loved 2017

Hey there! It is 11:24 on Labor day and therefor the end of Summer. I am sad. I am so sad that this summer was over. Last summer was all angsty and I wasn’t sure where I was going to land. This summer I knew where I was headed in the fall. It was good, actually relaxing, and just a good time.

I was on the book launch team for two books that I totally adored. One fiction and one non-fiction.

The Day the Angels Fell by Shawn Smucker is just really good. If you grew up as an avid reader and in a church you have read a lot, A LOT of christian fiction that isn’t very good. You keep thinking the next one will be better. THIS ONE IS ACTUALLY GOOD. It actually is good and I highly recommend it, especially if you want to have theological discussions with your kids (maybe age 10 or above.) I read it in two days. Get this one y’all.

Adopted: The Sacrament of Belonging in a broken world by Kelley Nikondeha is stunning. It is absolutely stunning. Kelley is my favorite theologian, hands down, and her take on adoption is amazing. It is robust and thoughtful and a really necessary voice in a conversation that christians are having about adoption. It needs to be our guiding light on this topic, it absolutely does!

My big summer project is a podcast! I put our first episode out Friday and the next one comes out this Friday. I love the format and am really enjoying myself. Next week you get to meet my husband and also how I set my oven on fire and ruined a super bowl party once.

I also helped my professor start a blog, and am learning all about what it means to be a methodist. If that is your thing, go say hi to Dr. Burkholder.  If you want me to help you start a blog, I can do that too!

I also found the most remarkable lipstick ever. Catsuit liquid lipstick by wet n’ wild! I am totally surprised that I love the same brand I did in the second grade, but there it is. This stuff is AWESOME and is under 5 dollars. If you want a really pigmented lipstick that stays on all day, this is what you want. Target carries it. Could it be better?

The highlight of my summer might be that I bought an instant pot. It is like a really remarkable electric pressure cooker. I love, LOVE my instant pot. I did ribs (amazing), risotto without stirring, and the most amazing french dip sandwich ever. If you have an instant pot recipe that you think I want, you are totally right. I do!

What are you into? What did you love this summer? I would love to know!