Archive for the ‘depression’ Category

Walking out of depression

“You can predict the future by looking at the past,” my first real love used to say.

He used this as a mantra in financially difficult times.  He would declare with confidence and enthusiasm,  “I’ve had money before and I’ll have money again!”

His logic, if there was any, was never clear to me, but when I get too sad for too long I remember what he said.  I figure if I’ve been happy before then I’ll be happy again!

I know myself in pain, fatigue and sickness.  I know myself in sadness, grief, confusion and shock.  I know myself in crises, one after another.  I know myself in defense of my dignity and integrity.

Fortunately, I also know myself in joy, peace and happiness, but if the truth was told, I haven’t been really happy since my son became ill when he was nineteen years old.

Depression had literally disabled me before my son’s illness, but I was managing and getting along.  I had gone back to college hoping to finally finish about the same time my son began having medical problems.  I withdrew for the second time, both times were medical withdrawals due to depression.

I know myself well in depression.  Some days I think it’s no more than the way the sun shines that gets to me.  Some days anyone in my shoes would be depressed.  Then, there are times when I remember something that brings me down.

Recently, the memory of that awful relationship I was in not that long ago crept into my mind.  I didn’t want to feel the memory.  I didn’t want to feel the confusion that comes when I recall what I thought was love, only to remember that he said it was all a game.

The gloom that set in was soon interrupted after a brief phone conversation with a very good friend.  I had called to ask him for a favor.  He was able to help me, which relieved me of an hour-long trip.

It wasn’t his kindness alone that changed my mood, although I was certainly grateful for his help.

After telling me the favor I asked of him was no problem and something he could do quickly, he jokingly started pretending to be a ladies man.  “Hey baby,” he tried to say, but we both laughed at how funny it sounded coming from him.  He’s not the kind of man to call a woman Baby or Darling, or like one of my very southern friends, “Sugar,”  who reserves a special name for the sweetest women, a group he says I fall into and calls me, “Sugar Bugger.”

My good friend who can’t even say, “Hey Baby,” without laughing and is not from the south thinks this is a very funny way to address women.  On occasion, he enjoys playing this type of character.  He knows it makes me laugh, which is why he does it.

He tried again, “Oh, baby.  You’ll owe me.  You’ll pay up –he had to pause trying not to laugh — you’ll pay in kisses!  Chocolate kisses!  I will exploit you to no end making you pay in chocolate kisses.”

We both laughed.  I realized when we hung up the phone how much better I felt.  The dark cloud was gone.

Having my friend joke about such a thing or me merely hearing the word, “exploited,” might have made me very sad or even physically sick six months or a year ago.

The joking around didn’t cause the dark cloud to rain misery down on me and instead brought only laughter.  My friend’s silly imitation of this type of character made me see how lucky I am today not to be in a relationship where what he was joking about would be my reality.  A peaceful feeling set in with me for the rest of the evening.

I feel lucky to have made it back to myself.  What a long trip away it was.

This past summer brought healing to my heart in a new friendship with two sisters, both young and full of enthusiasm for the simple things in life.  I laughed more that summer than I have in ten summers put together.  My son laughed too and for the first time in years I started to see his smile when I snapped pictures of him.

One night we laughed so much and lost track of time.  After midnight I realized the girls should have already gone home.  They were grounded for a week.  Secretly, I felt like a child.  Not that I wanted them in trouble, but we all knew our time was innocent and laughter had gotten the better of us.  Not so much a crime in the summertime.

The girls’ family is of a particular religion that has many rules, a few of which I unknowingly broke, like when I gave them both a birthday celebration.  One of the parents was pretty upset and things changed after that.   Nevertheless, our times together, especially when we all laughed so hard for hours that we would completely wear ourselves out, remains in my mind as a time of healing.

The first day I met the girls I was walking the dogs.  I wasn’t long out of the bad relationship and I had two serious cuts on my fingers from an accident in the kitchen.  They asked me how I was doing and I broke down in tears right there on the side of our road.  I had to bend down and rest on my knee.  I was completely taken by sadness.  I cried while I told them all about my life, how hard it was and that’s when they asked if they could hold the dogs for me.

Most days after that they were here.  Most days they walked my dogs for me.  I cried a lot for the first month or so, but the laughter began healing my heart.  Then when I took pictures and saw the familiar smile on my son’s face that I hadn’t seen in years, I felt that if there is such a thing as angels, those girls surely must be ones.

Not having the best luck in the world, my summer ended with a new neighbor who turned out to be a nightmare.  The situation eventually thoroughly depressed me and the neighbor was soon after evicted for harassment.  The girls weren’t visiting as often anymore.

I felt like I had taken ten steps back.  I had to go through some of the same emotions I had felt that past winter.

The girls went back to school.  My son went back into the hospital.  I realized I was burned out.

Then, just to top things off, a stressful family event happened that caused me more turmoil.  I felt like too much had gone wrong.  I became seriously clinically depressed.

I feel like I’m walking out of depression, but it sure is hard.

In many ways over the past two years, life has called me to question who I am, what I want in my life and just as importantly, what I don’t want anymore, hence my love of the NO icon.

What I don’t want is pretty simple.  I don’t want to be treated poorly and I don’t want to endorse cruelty by standing in the line of fire.

What I want is pretty simple too.  I want to know myself outside of depression.

My mother recently gave me a few letters my uncle found that I wrote to my paternal grandmother in 1990.  I couldn’t believe how happy I sounded in the letters.  I was a little depressed back then but nothing, nothing like I’ve experienced since.

One of the letters reads very much like those happy Christmas letters people write.  Other people.  Not me.

I tried to remember how I felt writing the letters.  I couldn’t remember exactly how I felt, but I know I wrote them.

My son’s letter is the best.

a happy child's letter to his great grandmother

His childhood notes, creative school work and art definitely speaks to a happy kid.  I like that.  I take some credit for the good times he had growing up, which is a piece of happiness.

Returned also to me was a card I had sent my grandmother when I went to Texas to visit a friend.  I think this was the time my friend and I rode across the horse pastures, she on her Arabian and I on a Quarter horse under the light of a full moon and in Texas, that’s a really big moon!

card to grandma, boy I sounded happy

“Just having fun,” takes you a long way walking out of depression.

Thank you for visiting my blog,

dogkisses.

PS  If you haven’t laughed in a while, here’s a video that sure made me laugh.

“Laughing Girl”

All my tears

All my tears may account for years but when I look at these photos, I can see that it was only days ago that I was smiling.   I smiled yesterday when I received a surprise phone call from a friend.

Yesterday brought a resolution to a recent crisis, but the aftermath of having gone through it has triggered an acute episode of severe depression.

Depression is something I’ve suffered with for most of my adult life but most certainly I don’t feel this bad all the time.  I couldn’t take it if I did.

I also have PTSD.   I am sure this is the root of the depression I’m experiencing.  I had terrible nightmares after the resolution.  The crisis was too familiar, which is all I’m able to write at this time.

I’m sharing these photos because the moments in time when they were taken, which was not so long ago, I was okay.  Okay meaning able to smile, eat, enjoy parts of my life and sleep.

I have laughed before and I will laugh again — maybe today but until then, I hope you like the pictures.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

traveling dogs posing for the camera

cute camp dog gives her mate a kiss

we danced around the fire at night in the mountains while camping

campdance

fibromyalgia made sure I was up to greet the morning crows!

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A bright star and a drop of heaven

“My Buddy is a Dog”

A letter from a smart girl to a smart dog, with Love.

I received this letter today from a sweet and wonderful girl who has obviously fallen in love with my dog.  My dog’s name sounds like “Roofy,”  so I left the letter as it is, except for my input to correct my name, “Ms. Dogkisses.”

This was a long winter for me and my dogs.  I was injured from a bicycle accident and then a serious cut to two fingers.  There were many days when I could not walk them too far and some days not at all.  My young 4legged companion,  “Roofy,” really needed a friend to play with her.

With the dawn of Spring we met our new neighbor.

“Roofy,” runs as fast as she can and the girl holds on, running behind her laughing the entire time.  It’s hard not to smile seeing them run like they do.  It’s hard to stay down in the dumps in their presence, so I don’t.

“Roofy’s” new buddy is a bright star for us both.  One day when I was sad, she had a bowl of jelly beans her dad had dropped off a few minutes earlier.  They were amazing jelly beans.  One tasted exactly like buttered popcorn.

“I know how to make you laugh,” she said.

“How?” I asked, smiling some, trying not to cry.

“If you eat two different flavors at the same time, it will taste so bad that you will laugh.”

So I tried it.  I couldn’t see how this was supposed to make me laugh, but I figured why not and that maybe she knew something about laughter that I don’t.  She was certainly right about them tasting bad together.  The two I chose tasted like cheap whiskey.  I made an ugly face and she smiled.  She was waiting on me though before she laughed.

Her anticipation was clearly visible.  I had to smile,  not from the taste of whiskey, but at the abundance of life in her face.

Joy is easy for her to reach and the hope in her eyes that she could make me laugh was simply beautiful.   Several times since we met, I’ve felt the desire to at least allow a door for joy to enter.

I had mentioned in front of our young friend that one day I might move.  I  wish I hadn’t said it.  I was just thinking out loud, but she immediately responded saying she would miss us, well, she specifically said my dog.  I immediately regretted having said anything about moving, especially since I’m not planning on it anytime soon.

Children and young people think more about now than yesterday or tomorrow, kind of like dogs.  They really do know how to live.

That night she wrote this letter.  I read it while she visited me today.  She asked me to tell her my three favorite things about the letter.

I was completely moved.   I told her I loved the entire letter, which I do.  I told her I especially liked the first line, and then how she described her feelings so well.  I didn’t know she enjoyed writing.

I didn’t tell her that the last line made me a little sad because one day I might have to move.  But again, that is the future and the girl and the dog do not live in the future.  I was sorry to have mentioned it.  Honestly, if she said her family was moving, I’d be sad too.

Every day I look forward to the school bus now.  Every day that I am blessed with a visit with the girl, I feel happy.   I wish I’d had more children but I didn’t.  I wish I had a daughter and my son had a sister, but we don’t.

Life is amazing isn’t it?  With pain, sadness and grief, there are these bright moments that seem like they are no less than drops of heaven sent straight into our laps.  I guess that’s why we endure hard times, because we know there will be these precious moments that make us glad to be alive.

All those long winter nights when I cried, and cried some more, and then I silently prayed.  I prayed for help in this world — on this physical planet we call earth.  My heart had a hole in it so I’m glad it is being filled with joy and the love between a girl and a dog.

I love my dogs.  They give so much.  They are truly amazing animals so of course I want them to be happy.

They help me more than any medicine doctors have ever had available for depression.  They give me a reason to keep going when everything around me is falling down.  They love me when I’m sick or in pain.  They love me every single day, even on days I’m too sick to walk them.

In my darkest hours they are here for me and they know.  They know when I am in the darkness of grief.  The lower I fall the closer they move their furry bodies to mine.  Sometimes I think I’ll get smothered if I don’t get my butt up and live a little.

It was true.  The day the girl didn’t come, “Roofy” watched the window and every time she heard people outside she got excited, until she realized it was not her new friend.  She let out a little sigh each time.  I could tell she missed her friend that day.

Today they were both happy.  They climbed a steep hill together.  The girl is a bright star and the dog is a little drop of heaven.  They are quite a pair.

I have a new friend!

This is a picture of my Egyptian princess on a day she is happy with her new friend.

I call her an Egyptian beetle-hound princess because she has natural eyeliner and beauty marks that remind me of Cleopatra.  She also hunts and finds insects.   In photos, her eyes almost always have the green glow around them.  I guess this is “red eye” in a dog’s world.

A couple of days after this happy day the girl, “got on the A-B honor roll for the first time.”  She was proud of herself.  I wondered if her new friend has helped her as much as she has helped us.

When being too tired is an emergency

night light

I write with little energy.  I cannot communicate with my favorite blogging friends for now.  What I thought was a severe episode of chronic fatigue syndrome and with it, some serious brain fog, is unfortunately more than this.

I went to the ER because I was exposed to pneumonia followed by a weird chest pain with a new cough.  The fatigue had worsened and the brain fog turned into confusion.  I couldn’t do my paperwork.  I got scared.

I don’t have pneumonia but was admitted to the hospital so they could watch my heart, which they did.  They watched it run slowly all night. It stayed between 45 and 50 beats per minute until the nurse came in at 3am with the maintenance man to fix the heater’s thermostat, which wasn’t broken.  It did go up then but not for long.

They discharged me early, partly because I had begged.  I can’t leave my dogs.  I have bills to pay.  Things that must get done this week.  I agreed to follow up with doctors, which I’ve done as I write.

Right now I’m like my sister’s cell phone was a few minutes ago — working with only one bar.

My discharge papers reads, “Sinus bradycardia.”

What I know is I’m dead tired.  I got to where my fingers couldn’t type.  I couldn’t pick up the telephone when it rang and it was beside the bed!  I couldn’t do anything.  I knew I had to seek help.

After monitoring my heart all night, then having a few conversations with a very good doctor, he decided that the slow heart rate is a nutritional problem.  He believes that I’m not eating enough.  He may be right.

When I said I had a broken heart, well, I guess it goes to show that our emotions are very much a physical part of being human.

I had a lot of grief over the past year.  I had many changes too.  Lately, things have actually been changing for the better, but I guess life gave me a bit more sadness than my heart could take.

The sadness I have gone through reminds me of the Kudzu that grew in the mountains where I lived, as well as where I live now.  You pretty much have to go in and blast the foundation to get rid of this plant.

The new leaves are supposedly nutritious and can keep a person alive.  I think there are medicinal uses for the plant, but of course, I can’t remember what they are.  I’m running on low.  I do remember that you can only eat the fresh leaves in the springtime, otherwise it is a poisonous plant.

I had myself a session with a psychopath, exposing me to an awful growth of toxins.  I ate from the autumn vines with the darker bigger and poisonous leaves and they made me sick!

Hopefully, and I am hopeful as I write, I think simply from having written, I will heal and very soon.


Horses healing hearts

Horses heal the mind, body and spirit

Candy, A Morgan

Wow!  OMG!  Totally Awesome!

Those are the words that first come to mind as I write, recalling my ride today.  

Today I met a Morgan horse named Candy.  I couldn’t believe her name was the same as the Appaloosa that I rode last summer.  I loved that Appaloosa, who was a very spunky girl and today, I loved Candy the Morgan horse, who was tender, sweet and did exactly everything I asked her to do, and then some!  I mean, some things I asked her to do I didn’t realize I had asked for because I’m an amateur rider.

The trainer showed me how Candy was keen to my every move, such as barely moving my foot in the stirrup, which told Candy to slow down a little. Candy was sweet and intelligent.

I also learned that gently pulling back one side of the reins, while giving a little on the other side controlled Candy’s speed during a trot.   Instead of bouncing up and down, afraid of falling, I was able to move gracefully with her.  This was an awesome feeling.  It was exciting too.  It was most likely my favorite part of the lesson.

The trainer told me I was doing a great job.   She said she was surprised at how well I did during the trot.  I’m sure she had no clue how much this meant to my self-esteem hearing her say that.  I felt good about myself in that moment.  It was a healthy sense of control in a time when most everything in my life feels completely out of my control.

Aside from enjoying the ride there is a relationship that you develop with a horse and it doesn’t take long — only a few minutes.   It’s amazing how much a horse listens.  The simple act of holding out my pinkies, which I didn’t know about,  slowed Candy down.

While I’m certainly tired from the ride, there is a smile on my face as I write.  My spirit feels good.  I don’t feel like a complete failure.  Candy sure helped me.

Morgan horses are so sweet!  They are much like dogs.

Candy, a very sweet girl!

“Morgan horses are kind of like dogs,” the trainer had said when I first arrived at the farm.   I walked through the barn and met the other horses while she saddled up Candy for me.  One of the Morgans especially reminded me of dogs.   She kept nuzzling her big pretty head up against the bars appearing to desire a scratch behind the ears, just like a dog.  I gave her a scratch and she kissed my hand, just like a dog.

I had a great time!

Now I must go rest and dream of my meeting with one of the sweetest horses in the world!

Candy lives at a farm in North Carolina.  This farm does not offer or include in their lessons equine-assisted therapy.   Any therapy I received I captured on my own.

I’m not a doctor or a medical professional, nor am I offering advice on treatment for depression.   I simply want to share my experience and tell how riding a horse, along with the relationship that is created, is great therapy for me in my journey to fight chronic sadness, frustration, illness, grief, and often, a loss of interest in things I would otherwise enjoy.

Antidepressants don’t always come in a pill.

(update on Monday, March 22, 2010) —  Lots of stiffness and sore muscles since my ride, but today I’m doing better.   I stayed in bed most of the 24 hours after the ride.  I also had to take anti-inflammatory medication but to me, it was totally worth it.

Physical strength isn’t a requirement to ride on a gentle horse.    I didn’t have to lift the saddle, which was a good thing and I chose to trot, which I’m sure added to the aftermath of pain.

Compared to the side-effects I have from antidepressant medications, the short-lived flare of the sore muscles and fatigue is not a big deal to me.

The extra pain will go away and the gifts Candy and her trainer gave me will stay.



From the desk of the disabled

the disabled=

Dan was funny and talented.  He wrote poems, songs, played the guitar and sang, sometimes performing  for various coffee houses or one of the locally somewhat underground etched out gathering places downtown.

Even with a few beers in him he remained smart enough to help  my teenage son with his algebra homework–- something I was not equipped to do.   He was also tall and handsome.  Everyone liked him.  They called him, simply, Big Dan.  He made us all laugh.  He was single and so was I.  We were the same age.  Needless to say, Dan and I had a passionate, though short-lived love affair.  He passion to party didn’t mix well with my responsibilities raising a teenager.

Dan and I often met in the center of downtown where the local teenagers, tourists and foot-travelers were having fun or stopping for a rest.  This was the downtown Asheville we knew before the 100 year lease on the Vance Monument ran out, leaving its reasons for existing to be annihilated by the local powers that be.

Our cultural downtown oasis would soon be over but that summer, before it all changed, Dan and I were wonderful lovers.

I often sat in the sun warmed grass around the monument while Dan played his guitar, an action he would later purposefully get himself a city citation for, due to his not having a license to play an instrument downtown.  He thought this was funny and looked forward to his court date.

“Have you applied for disability benefits?” he asked me one day.

I was taken aback.  “What for?” I responded.  The word disabled conjured up the image of my father.  He had been disabled. I wasn’t like my father I thought.

“How long have you been out of work?”  he continued.  Dan worked at a group home and was educated on the subject of disability.

“It’s been about three years,” I answered.  Hearing myself say three years did sound like a long time.

Looking surprised he said, “Depression is a disability and you can get help because of it.”

I remember that day.  I remember the grass.  I can still remember how it felt to sit there with Dan.  It felt really good.

I would slowly begin to realize many things about my life; the history of it; how and why it played out the way it had — and myself — I would in some ways meet myself for the first time in my mid-thirties.

It would be six months after that sunny warm day with Dan that I walked into the Social Security Administration’s local office.

“I have an appointment,” I said to the clerk.

“What are you here for today Mam?” she asked.

I leaned forward a little, self-consciously lowering my voice.  “I’m here to apply for disability benefits.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Thank you for visiting my blog.

Antidepressants don’t always come in a pill

Her name is Candy and if you met her you would know why.  With strength, a racer’s spirit and her graceful great power, mostly what you notice about her is how very sweet she is.  She sure gave me a healthy dose of an antidepressant!

her spirit comforts mine

Depression is something I’ve struggled with for most of my adult life.  I’ve never been able to tolerate the side-effects of antidepressants.  I’ve turned to more traditional medicine for my symptoms.  I did once promise myself if depression zaps me to the point of not being able to get out of bed that I would take medication but the older I got the more sensitive I’ve become to the side-effects.

Acupuncture helped me when I had access to treatments.  Gardening helps me a great deal too.  When I last had a garden, my favorite part of every day was going outside first thing in the mornings and checking to see if anything had happened during the night.  Often times since I was living in the mountains, things did happen.  Little things that amazed me.  Personally, I think getting closer to nature is good treatment for depression.

The mental and psychological benefits I feel during and after riding a horse came as a surprise to me.   I don’t own a horse but I sure wish I did.

My grandpa used to buy and sell horses.  The thing about that was that he sold them way too soon for me to get to know one.

I got a taste of equine-assisted therapy by volunteering at a riding center in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina for people with disabilities.  She was about six years old.  She was amazing.  She helped me put the saddle on the horse and when we made it to the ring she stopped.

“Why did you come here today?” she asked me.

I had to think for a second.  “I came to help you ride,” I answered, which appeared to satisfy her.  She complimented me on my hair band.  I’d bought it in Texas at a cowgirl craft show.  It was my favorite.  “It’s very pretty,” she said.

Then she looked at me in the eyes and so sincerely she said, “This is the best day of my life.”

I understand better now what she may have referred to.   After having the opportunity to get to know Candy, discovering the antidepressant benefits along the way, I can relate to the feeling of having the best day of my life.

Several years after meeting the girl I started thinking of riding horses again.  One day while driving through the country I saw a sign.

“Horse lessons and Trail rides — I jotted down the number.

Not long after that day I was driving up the steep gravel drive on the small farm in a rural area near where I grew up.  The land was familiar.

Candy was gorgeous Appaloosa.  She was obviously sweet but I had no clue how spunky she was and wouldn’t find out until later when we took her to the forest on an equestrian trail.

Candy gave me good medicine.   I would come home so tired I had to go straight to bed but it felt good.

I would rest and remember how it felt being with her.  Every little turn in the trail had stuck in my mind.  I couldn’t wait ’til the next time I could ride.

I think riding a horse makes my brain produce all those wonderful chemicals depressed brains need.

I felt good when Candy listened to me too.  She certainly didn’t have to but she did.   She really wanted to do something else, which was fly as fast as she could alongside her competitive friend but she did what I asked her to do instead.  I learned to trust her.  I wanted her to trust me too.

I couldn’t believe the power she had.  She begged me to let her show off her racing skills, but I was not at all ready.  I knew I was too weak to handle her if she took off running and I could feel how fast it would be if I let her go.  I felt like we became friends in a way.  She was disappointed that she couldn’t fly but her loyalty seemed to be to me, as long as I let her know what I needed and wanted her to do.  I was sad for days that she didn’t get to run in that forest.  I felt like I had disappointed her.

There are many feelings that I experienced during the blessed time I was with Candy.

Fear, confidence, trust, excitement, accomplishment and love were all part of my experience.

The effects of the rides would last about ten days, maybe a little more.  That’s pretty darn good for one dose of medicine.

Healing and medicine doesn’t always come in the form of a pill.


I’m not a doctor or a medical professional.  This post is not intended as medical advice.

I’m just a person who discovered that building a relationship with a horse is healing.

Thank you for visiting my blog.