June 20, 2012

Goin' through the big D

And I don't mean Dallas.

I don't mean divorce either.

Depression.  or depression. (probably the latter, though it feels much too intense for a lowercase letter to do it justice)

This is the photograph I was working on when I got the call about Mom's death.
In so many ways it symbolizes her life for me.
So it is with this experience as well.
At some point in time I will look back and see it as a refining, beautifying process.
But now it just hurts like hell.

So, depression.  (I have a theory that the more times I say it, the less scary it will become) It's too much sleep and too much country music.  It's a feeling I've never quite experienced before.  I've been sad, sure.  And I've been through hard, worrisome times.  But this is the first time in my life that I truly do not recognize myself.  Where have I gone?  

The intense grief following her funeral involved many tears and poignant memories.  Really feeling the loss of her and what that meant for me.  Swollen, stinging eyes, curled up in a ball - the whole nine yards.

Then there was a respite.  Two weeks of feeling surprisingly normal.  Feeling happy for the first time since her passing.  And it felt so good to feel good!  So good, in fact that I pushed away any thoughts of her that popped up.  I didn't want anything to ruin how wonderful I felt.  "Just one more day of being happy," I thought.  "I"ll deal with this later."  I knew the grief was not gone forever.  I knew it would cycle back.

But when it did, it did not come back as tears and memories as it had before.  It showed up as a total loss of identity.  A complete disinterest in my own life. I was still moving along, doing my routine, but I felt completely hollow inside.  Nothing there.  Numbness only.  I explained it away for quite a few days.

It will get better.
It will go away.
Your mom just died, it's probably normal.
This will pass soon.

But it just stayed.  The fog stayed for so very long.  I lost the ability to handle my normal life.  Everything my kids did was too much for me to handle.  I was terrified of my complete incapacity for patience.  Where was this resentment, this contempt coming from?  This is not the mother I wanted to be.  After watching my own mother struggle with depression her whole life, I told myself it would never be me.  I was made of different stuff.

But then I saw it.  Ellie's big eyes, searching mine intensely.  Looking for me somewhere inside the shell of my body.  Confused and perplexed.  And I remember being there.  A child, wishing with all my heart that Mom would come back to the surface.

It put me over the edge.

I finally admitted that I needed help.  I sat on the couch and cried to Joe about my deepest fears.

I am afraid of not being able to handle this grief.
This motherhood.
This life.
I am afraid of becoming her.
I am afraid of being depressed, because that is her, not me.
I am afraid of needing medication, because somewhere along the way I decided it would be my ultimate failure in life.

And you know what?  After I said those things - they weren't as scary as they were before.  I started seeing a therapist and it is making a world of difference.  Life moves on in a cyclical motion.  I am not making my way out of this grief, so much as I am navigating my time through it.

I write all this for a number of reasons.  I've always been into sharing - usually too much information - and it's so healing for me to put my experiences into words.  Also I feel I should explain why I haven't been writing here for so long.  And I hope that by being open with this experience, maybe someone reading will find the comfort that comes in knowing that none of us is ever truly alone.  

I'm going to keep talking about hard things on this blog.  Because that's what life is made of.  Smiles and laughter, yes.  Beauty and joy.  But also very hard, very meaningful things.  All of it together makes up this life that we are each experiencing.


  1. Whitney, My heart is so heavy for you. I know how you are feeling exactly. Not over the loss of a parent of course, I couldn't fathom that pain. But I know myself, and through my husband the crushing effects of depression, the hopelessness, the absolute not caring, and the fog...I know it well. I am totally here to help in anyway I can. Medication saved my husbands life, very very literally.


  2. I so admire your fearless honestly. This is hard and I hate watching you go through it. I hope you know this is not your load alone, though I assume it feels so. My heart is with you all the time. I wish I could dig inside and pull you out, because I know you are there, I see glimpses of you. I love you. I'm grateful to be a part of this very hard refining process we call life, with you.



  3. Be well Whitney. Good job for confronting it positively.

  4. That's you, Whit—doing what needs to be done and doing it well.

    And thanks for sharing, friend.

  5. This was a beautiful and courageous entry and it meant a lot to me.

  6. I love you, Whitney. I resonate with so much of what you wrote; I'm definitely in the 'D' boat with you. Some part of every single day I sink into that place where I am incapable of facing life, dealing with my kids, doing anything at all. I have hope, though, that it won't always be this way. I'm so glad you're seeing someone. Medication is not failure, especially if you use it as a tool and not a crutch.
    Thank you for being willing to talk about something that could be uncomfortable for some people. I am grateful for your honesty. It empowers others who struggle. I am sorry you are going through this, and I know that over time you will see more true Whitney little by little until this is all a memory. Love you!

  7. Oh sweet Whitney! I wish I could be there with you right now. You are so strong, so very strong, and this post just reaffirms that. Strong enough to seek help. I am so glad that you are finding things that help like the therapist. You have so much life in you, it has always amazed me. Thank you for sharing a bit of it with me, and with others through your writing and photographs. I love you!

  8. My dear Whitney, I'm loving you and praying for you and thinking of you often these days. Thank you for sharing your struggles and your strength with us so that we can be blessed by your example. I'm so glad you've decided to go see someone and that it's helping. Keep up the fight and know we're all fighting with you. I love you and wish I could wrap you in a big hug!

  9. Whitney, I'm not sure what to say other than I appreciated this post. Very real, very raw, hits a little too close in some ways I prefer not to think about. I'm glad that you've been able to recognize the depression. I think that deserves a big high five since some people probably suffer years without facing it. I hope there are many blessings in store for you and your family. Love you girl!

  10. Amazing post. I absolutely love and am strengthened by your courage and honesty. There is such a misunderstanding about the big 'D,' but you are such a great example to many. It is ok to admit you need help and ask for help. It takes a truly humble and strong person to take on what you have, and then to share it with others. Praying for you as you go through this difficult time and process and hope for happiness and joy in the journey and in the end. You are you, and you are full of such strength, understanding, and optimism. Never doubt yourself and what you can overcome, especially when you ask and accept for the help of those around you, ready to help whenever!

  11. I went through a bout of depression several years ago (sometimes it surfaces again, but never as bad as that time.) When I go back and read my journal from that time I don't even recognize myself, it seems like someone else was writing in my journal. Kind of like what you said. Anyway, I remember that the first day I went to the therapist was the day it started getting better. So hopefully you're on the right path. I was never brave enough to write about it and I don't even remember if I talked about it openly with anyone so I think it's really great that you are. And I'm glad that we're friends! I really enjoy hanging out with you and your gorgeous girls.

  12. Thank you Whitney. We're glad you're a part of the family.

  13. I wish I could come and give you a hug right now! I love you and thank you for your openness! You are in my prayers and I know that you are an amazing and strong woman.

  14. Whitney,
    I'm not very good at commenting on your tough posts because I just ache for you and don't know what to say. You are such an amazing person and I think the way you have reached out is a testament to what a devoted mother and wife you are. Both my parents dealt with "the big D" (and the other big D, for that matter) and I completely understand the resolve for that to never be you.

    As a person who has definitely been sucked into the swamp of depression and not addressed it as gracefully as you, I appreciate the strength of your example. You are such a powerful person. Your family is so lucky to have you and I'm sure they know that.

  15. Thank you for sharing, there are a lot of us thinking about you from far away.