The Stories We Tell Ourselves

I’m shy, but I’m an extrovert. I have anxiety and depression. Sometimes just depression. Sometimes just anxiety. I grew up on the East Coast, but I fit in better here. I actually prefer structure and a step by step guide to follow, even though I frequently disagree vocally with what I am told to do. A blank page (or brand new, empty blog post) and all its infinite, unknown possibilities are terrifying. I love to travel, but doing new things is scary because I might not do it correctly. My greatest fear in life is embarrassment. This fear is so significant for me that I suffer from Secondhand Embarrassment that totally ruins movies that most people find hilarious. (Side-note: I can’t quite describe the relief that I felt when Mike’s cousin shared with me the name of that particular quirk of mine. It’s a thing other people feel! I’m not completely bonkers!)

Each of those things is a part of me but it’s not all of me. You can’t have the extrovert without the shy (sadly). The anxiety seems to trigger the depression, but the anxiety is also such a part of my life that I can’t imagine who I would be if I hadn’t lived with some level of it all my life. It’s what made me the kid who followed the rules, read all the assigned reading (except for Tale of Two Cities, OMG, who could read that whole thing?!), completed all the homework, and really, really, really wanted to do the right thing in every situation. I took the chance when it was offered and spent two summers in China, but my fear of embarrassment kept me from learning to speak Chinese because I couldn’t get the words out until they were perfect. I couldn’t let them witness my learning (another side note: the Chinese people I knew had absolutely no social or cultural barriers to laughing in my face when I tried to practice speaking Chinese. Not out of meanness, just a cultural difference, but even knowing that was true, I couldn’t get past my own fears).

How do we fit all these stories into our everyday lives? When do I claim my East Coast upbringing (generally in meetings when I’m being loud and direct or when I want the last brownie at the potluck)? Or when do I think of myself as a Midwesterner (anytime I think of moving).

Which of the stories I tell myself makes me stronger? weaker? more stuck? Isn’t this the problem with life — knowing how to talk to ourselves about why or why not, should or shouldn’t, could or couldn’t? How do we put our stories together to make ourselves who we are?

Recently these wonderings have turned into a fun new anxiety — What do the stories do to kids? The stories I tell about them are no different than the ones I tell about me. Evan isn’t always trouble — his kindergarten teacher says his strengths are that he is a quiet worker and good rule follower. Nathan isn’t always the outgoing one — he HATES to sing at church, never mind that he’s been whistling along with songs (on pitch) for WAY too long and has a lovely little singing voice. Evan is our dog person, but Nathan has a serious soft spot for our rescue bloodhound, Earl. How do I tell them that these stories are just pieces of who they are and those pieces aren’t set in stone? Nathan is old enough now that I know he is internalizing some of the things that we say about ourselves and others. I hope it doesn’t take him until he’s nearly 40 to figure out that just because he’s my worrier right now, that doesn’t mean he can’t also be fearless sometimes.

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Ode To Joy

Hello there! I DO still exist. :) And so does Nathan. Here’s a little video of his recital performance from earlier tonight.

If you scroll down a bit, you may notice a video from a little bit ago. He was so little! He still seems completely unfazed by playing in front of a room full of strangers and so far practicing most every day is something he enjoys instead of the chore I always thought it was. (Odd, I wonder if that is why I was so mediocre at clarinet and oboe… nah, that can’t be it.)

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Five little snowmen

Nathan had a cello recital last week. He was adorable and very composed. In front of a room full of people, he just got up there and played his song. I couldn’t be more proud or more impressed. He didn’t seem at all concerned about being up there in front of a room full of people he didn’t know. Here’s a little video of the event.

In case you’d like to sing along, here are the words —
Five little snowmen fat.
Each with a funny hat.
Out came the sun and melt’d the one.
What a sad thing was that.
Down, down, down.

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He’s Two.

And that’s all the explanation we need these days when Evan is around. He is still my hilarious little bundle of boy, but right now he is primarily my little bundle of rage. I’ve been told that some mornings at daycare it takes him 45 minutes to calm himself enough to come to the table. Calm himself from what, you ask? No one knows. Everything and nothing makes him mad these days. I guess we have that in common at the moment. =) Most nights we can’t convince him to sit in his chair and eat dinner. He will sit there before dinner is served, but as soon as we are all ready to eat, something will happen and he’ll throw himself on the floor screaming and then wander off to play. Any attempt to talk to him will result in a repeat of the tantrum. Last weekend at the grocery store he demanded to be both in and out of the cart at the same time. He wanted me to hold him until I was holding him and then only Dad would do. He did’t want a cookie but then was mad as soon as we walked by and didn’t get one. He’s exhausting.

But then tonight he insisted that he wouldn’t sit with Mike and Nathan to read stories unless I stayed. He just sat there, looking at me and holding out his hand for mine and whining. And when Mike tried to sit with him in the rocking chair for one last song and a snuggle, he screamed for me. And made me sing lots of songs. I’ve missed my Evan-snuggles. He’s pretty sweet when he wants to be.

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It’s official

I suffer from depression.
I am Moderately Depressed.
There’s another even more official sounding diagnosis, but I don’t remember it.
I’m not sure if it’s “appropriate” to announce such a thing on the internet. I’m hoping that it’s easier, though, than actually telling people about it. Because I need people to know about it. Not everyone, certainly, but I’m an over-sharer by nature and this is something that it would be nice if people just knew so I didn’t have to keep explaining it.
I have heard from a couple of people who already know that I don’t seem depressed and I don’t act like I am depressed. I think my husband would disagree with that assessment. My depression doesn’t look on the outside like sadness. It looks like anger. I get unreasonably angry about things much more easily than I used to. I yell. A lot. I pick fights with Mike and swear a lot at work. These are not good things.
I have so many things to be happy about. Trust me, I am completely aware of why I should not be sad. A fantastic job where I am respected and get to use my brain (it’s not without it’s frustrations, but so much better than any other job I have had), a beautiful home and loving family (who have been putting up with more of my rage than they should have to), a pile of friends who get me off my couch and out of my house to do fun things on a regular basis. I don’t stay in bed all day crying. I don’t skip work or hide from social events and when I am out with my friends I have a good time. And yet…
In the past couple of months, more often than not, I don’t want to do anything. I do all the things I used to do, but it takes more energy than it used to. And I don’t want to do most of it. It’s not even that I would rather be doing something else. Describing this is so much harder than I thought it would be. It sounds pretty lame as I’m typing it.
One of the tools doctors use to diagnose depression is the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). I’ve taken it a few times throughout my adult life and I have never had to honestly check any of the boxes in the “more than half the days” or “nearly every day” categories. This week I had check marks in those columns for 4 out of 9 questions. That’s what makes this official. I’m no longer just sometimes down and in need of a good cup of coffee and a shoulder to cry on. Now I’m Moderately Depressed.
What does it mean? Don’t know. Probably for now it means that I will try some anti-depressants and see if they help. For sure I’ll be making appointments for some therapy. The biggest question/concern that I have is whether or not this will be something temporary that I will work on for a while and recover from or whether I will continue to struggle with it for the rest of my life. Either way, my family, friends and co-workers deserve better and I need to be better. I’m tired of being so tired. I’m officially sick of it.

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