I’m kind of an expert on being depressed. Having a dead child will do that to a person.
I’m also kind of an expert on snapping out of it.
Sometimes, that snap requires medication. It did for me a couple of times. And then, once I got my push start, I could wean myself off and be good to go. That’s not to say that I don’t occasionally have a feeling-sorry-for-myself day, but, overall, I’m a pretty happy person.
And, more important than that, in my opinion, overall, I’m a pretty POSITIVE person. Because while the world might be spinning out of control, I’ve learned to harness the positive energy and be all Pollyanna-like and look for something to be glad about. Shifting to that mindset is a process, but it can be done.
It’s been a rainy, dreary week, and the sun has just reappeared in the Tennessee Valley. It’s cold, but the sun is out, and I choose to be happy for the sun. Bill is struggling with his mom’s negative energy. We’re pretty sure she’s depressed, but she’s refusing to see a therapist, and every other word out of her mouth is just so negative. When I was in the throes of my depression, I shut myself off from the rest of the world. Right or wrong, that’s how I handled it. My kids were taken care of (I wasn’t THAT checked out) and I got some joy from them, but it was like being in a fog. I knew my attitude probably made me a bear to be around, so, to spare my friends, I just sort of cocooned with my kids. Some of my friends got mad about that and they aren’t my friends anymore, and, well, there’s just not much I can do about that. It is my coping mechanism, and I was protecting my friends from being stuck in my Debbie Downer spiral. It sucks when you’re in the Debbie Downer spiral. It sucks even more when you know you’re bringing everyone down with you.
I walked into a doctor’s office and requested a prescription for Wellbutrin, something I had been on before. I used it as the ladder to help me get out of the depression hole that I had been living in. That ladder doesn’t get you all the way out, but it got me to the point where I could see the sunlight again, and if I just jumped high enough, I could grab onto the edge of the Earth, and if I just pulled hard enough, I could get myself up and out of that hole.
Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Bill’s mom is already on three different antidepressants. One is prescribed for some other off-label use, but, regardless, that’s plenty of ladders. Some people need therapy, as a metaphorical rope that gets tossed down into the hole, to help you pull yourself up. And there’s nothing wrong with that. (I’m convinced that my psychologist kept me sane in the weeks and months right after Chloe died. The woman was an angel.)
But, in the end, you have to want to get out of the hole before any other tools will help you out. Nobody can’t want it enough for you; you have to want it for yourself.
So Bill’s mom asked him to tell her every time she said something negative, because she didn’t believe it when he said that she was being that way.
He was on the phone with her last night for 20 minutes and I must’ve heard him say, “Negative statement!” at least 20 times. It’s extra frustrating because she claims her life is very stressful, and she can’t help but be negative, due to the stress. But, having been a single mom on welfare, her life looks like a DREAM to me. Has never had to work a day in her life, has nothing but herself and two cats to take care of, has plenty of money and plenty of free time. And yet she is just miserable. So nobody wants to be around her, because she brings everyone around her down. And, of course, that perpetuates the cycle, because she’s upset that nobody wants to be around her. What’s worse is that, even when he points it out, she still claims that she has no idea that she’s so negative, it’s just how she’s “always been, and it’s too late to change.”
Y’all, it’s never too late to be a positive person. I LOVE surrounding myself with positive people, people full of energy, people who see the adventure in every day. I strive to be one of those people. Someone that other people just know that when they are around me, they’re going to have a good day.
She complained that she “had to pay bills” today. Sad, whiny, I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-do-this-horrible-task tone of voice. Bill said, “Something like that is very easy to turn around into a positive. Aren’t you glad you have enough money to go shopping and buy what you want and have the money to pay those bills at the end of the month? Aren’t you glad that you don’t have to work, that you’ve never had to work, and when Dad died, he left you plenty of money to pay the bills?”
Nope, she’s not glad. She’s just annoyed. Don’t try to talk her out of it.
I picked up this book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, from the library, after starting our 24 days of giving for Advent. The premise is a good one, and, particularly after doing the giving at Advent, I will be more mindful of giving gifts to people – tangible or otherwise – in the future. In fact, when both my dad and Bill’s mom were sick recently, we stopped by our favorite Chinese restaurant and ding-dong-ditched them with soup.
My dad texted a thank you. Bill’s mom complained that the wontons were mushy.
Sigh. It makes it really tough to want to gift someone with anything a second time around when they complain! It also makes it really tough to force ourselves to be around so much negative energy.
As far as the book, I have to be honest, I almost didn’t make it through the Debbie Downer whining in the beginning. I’m all about supporting people when they are going through a rough time, but even when I was at my worst, I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. There is always, always someone worse off than you. (For the record, I give the book a “meh” rating. It’s got a good message, if you can trudge through the Debbie Downer-ishness.)
One of my favorite books that I’ve read in the past couple of months is A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It really deserves it’s own blog post review, and it will get one one of these days.
One of my favorite quotes from this book is, “Good stories don’t happen by accident, I learned. They are planned.”
An acquaintance of mine is going through a rough season in his life. He’s done triathlons, is a diver at the Tennessee Aquarium, was a volunteer firefighter, goes kayaking, all kinds of cool stuff. And it seems like, lately, he’s just stuck in Debbie Downer mode after a bad breakup. I do give him credit; he doesn’t appear to enjoy being stuck in Debbie Downer mode. He is trying to snap out of it. I have begged him to read this book. It’s not even about being all positive and happy all the time, it’s just about living your life to the absolute fullest. It’s kind of hard to be a Negative Nancy if you are pushing yourself to live your life to the fullest. I hope it works for him.
That’s what makes me the most sad about Bill’s mom. Her husband died seven years ago; I will give her the grace to have a broken heart. But at some point, you have to realize that all of this life is happening around you, and you are stuck in one spot, treading water, doing nothing memorable, and while you aren’t necessarily content with that, you’re also not willing to make any changes. Her husband wouldn’t want her to be wasting her life away, sitting on her recliner, thinking negative thoughts and feeling sorry for herself all day long. My daughter wouldn’t want me doing that either.
If anything, we can learn from the loss of a loved one, whether that loss happened way too soon, or whether someone close to us died after living a long, full, life. My grandmother was the latter. She was my best friend in the world, the matron of honor in my first wedding, someone I talked to almost every single day of my adult life. The woman could make a game out of the windshield wipers being on, and we’d have to find a song to sing to the beat of the windshield wipers. We’d play Jeopardy at night over dinner and she could always give me a run for my money. If I wanted to know what something was and she didn’t know either, we’d go to the library together (before the advent of Google) and figure it out. She said, when she retired, that she wanted to go to Alaska. She never got to see it. I actually had us booked on a cruise ship, her and I and my ex-husband and our kids, all together, in a suite with a butler, because I wanted her to see Alaska in style.
Then my daughter died, my life fell apart, and it just never happened. And I kick myself to this day for not getting my grandmother to Alaska.
We’re going to go to Alaska one day, for Grandma. Because she would not want me sitting around, feeling sorry for myself, because she is gone. She would want me to learn from her mistake and go see the world and do grand things. She would want me to take the light that she used to shine on everyone and keep it shining. Bill’s dad would want the same thing for his mom. I want that for my kids, for my husband, for myself, for everyone around me. The more people that are out there, living the crap out of their lives, the better the ride will be for all of us.
Be a positive light. Be someone that other people want to be around. And, as my grandmother said to me on one of her last days on Earth, “You must remember to always laugh.”
Have a great weekend, y’all! Plan a good story. Make it memorable!