Thursday, June 28, 2012

Long Goodbyes

I have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of goodbyes, at least to loved ones that are leaving and I'm not sure when I am going to see them next. The last few months have really made me realize that goodbyes can be difficult, and sometimes it may be the last time that I will see that individual on this earth.

My first experience with death was when my Grandmother Ririe passed away in November of 2010. Little did I know that a few years earlier when my parents and I paid a visit to California to visit my grandparents that that would be the last time I would see her. My last conversation took place while she was in the hospital. She asked all about me and my life even though she was in pain. Her death was not a shock to me. I had felt strongly weeks prior that it was her time to go. She led a good life and she will always be a part of me. I learned so much from her and we were both creative and loved sharing what the other was working on. I still think of her often anytime I create something, imagining her smiling and happy that I take time to be creative.

My Grandmother Shurtliff almost passed away shortly after my other grandmother but pulled through. The doctors told us that she wouldn't make it to the end of the year (2011). Tom, my parents and I made a trip out in March of 2011 to spend time with her and to say our goodbyes. Her death was not a shock to me. She passed away in November of 2011. We were all so blessed that she lived as long as she did. She almost died a couple of times over the years but kept pulling through. I was able to make it out to her funeral which was really like a huge family reunion. I went out a week before, so I got to spend some time with my grandfather and other family members. It was a bittersweet time. Little did I know that on the day of her funeral that it would be the last time that I would see both my grandfather and Uncle Wayne. My grandfather passed away in January and my uncle in April. Both took me by surprise. Even though it was hard I was glad that my grandfather didn't have to live many years without my grandmother. My uncle's death still makes me sad when I think about it. I feel like his death has left a big hole in my mother's family. He left behind an amazing wife and amazing kids and grandkids. I can't even begin to imagine what they have been experiencing since he left this earth.

As I have written before I was not looking forward to saying goodbye to Paige, Bryce and Josalyn. I tried my best in my circumstances to make the most of their time left. Heavenly Father gave me the perfect afternoon with both Josalyn and Bryce. I got to play with each of them seperately and together. That was the day that I first heard Josalyn say my name. That was the day that Bryce asked me to make him a peanutbutter and jelly sandwhich even though his mom was home. Something I have done countless times ever since I started watching them. I couldn't have planned a more perfect afternoon with them. I am so thankful that I listened to the inspiration to keep on biking that day, for I would have missed out on something precious and something that I will always hold onto.

I had mentally prepared myself that I would be saying my goodbyes on their last Sunday at church. I texted Paige that morning asking whether it was okay if I sat with her at church. I wasn't taking any chances that I wouldn't be able to entice Josalyn to come and sit with us. That is when I gave Josalyn and Bryce their photo albums of some of my favorite pictures of them from our time together (I have hundreds). After sacrament meeting I went into Nursery where Josalyn was, not planning on staying there too long, and another little girl attached herself to me. She wouldn't let me put her down. In our Primary when it is a child's last Sunday with us we sing their favorite Primary song to them. I didn't want to miss that, so I ran off to the Primary room with the little girl in my arms. I made it just in time. Bryce picked "Do As I'm Doing." Tom was playing the piano and all of a sudden he ducked down. I knew he had lost it. I walked over to him and we both shed a few tears. I spent the rest of church running back and forth between Primary and the nursery with the little girl in my arms.

After church I went to the Relief Society room with the kids planning on saying goodbye to Paige. Many of the women in our ward were saying their goodbyes so Tom and I took the kids outside and he flew Josalyn around and carried her on his shoulders. We eventually walked them all to their car. We got our hugs, kisses, and I love yous. We were about to head to our own car when Paige invited us to come over later in the evening. Both Tom and I were unsure if we were up for that. We had said our goodbyes and felt like we were ending things on a good note. But at the same time how could we pass up a chance to spend more time with the kids?

We went over around five and stayed till nine. We played outside and had a wonderful time. Loved every minute of it! Once again we got our hugs, kisses and said what we believed was really our last goodbye. We were glad that we had spent that extra time with them and were able to capture some pictures of the four of us together. Even though it was hard walking away from the house and I shed a few tears we both felt that it was a good ending to a difficult day in many ways.

Now that I had made it through that I had to make the decision if I was going to make a trip home or not. Monday I was exhausted and spent most of the day in bed. I'm not sure if I was fighting a bug or if I had overdone it with the bike riding the week before. Well I got a text from Paige asking if we would watch the kids Tuesday night. Both Tom and I looked at each other wondering if we could say our goodbyes for the third time! Of course we said yes. I was still weak on Tuesday, so Tom headed over there first and I joined him an hour later. We played outside with the kids once again. I followed Josalyn down the street while she pretended to be an airplane (she loves planes and airports). We walked down to the river which is right outside their backyard. Tom and Bryce enjoyed throwing rocks in and trying to skip rocks. Josalyn sat right at the edge with her nice sparkly shoes in the water throwing in rocks over and over again. It started to get a little chilly, so we went back inside. Tom helped Bryce get cleaned up and I got Josalyn cleaned up. Tom then read Bryce a goodnight story while I laid down with Josalyn in the bed she was sharing with her mom. It brought back memories of the many nights where I would go through the night routine with them. Josalyn and I cuddled and just looked at each other. I knew she was tired but then Paige came home and she heard her so she got up.

We then talked to Paige for some time while Josalyn sat and played between us. They then walked us to the door. This was for sure our last goodbye. Paige was leaving for Utah the next day and then Ben (their dad) was going to fly out with the kids later in the week. I gave Paige my first hug ever. We wished her safe travels and she wished us the same. That took us off guard a little since we live within walking distance and she smiled and said she meant when we come out to Utah next. I think it was more of a see ya later for Paige. She thinks we make it out to Utah often. Probably because I actually did go to Utah three different times last year, though that is unusual. In the past we would only make it out once every two years. But now that we have a more reliable car Tom and I were even thinking maybe we would have to make a trip out when he is done teaching this summer. Yeah to see his family but especially to see the kids. There is a chance that they may come out this August to spend a week with their dad who is living in the house now, but I have to be honest and say I'm not a big fan of him and I'm not sure he is a big fan of me. If they do make it out hopefully we will at least get to see them.

Now I'm not expecting any of them to pass away anytime soon but since Josalyn is only two I have to come to terms with the fact that the next time I see her she may not remember who I am. That will be hard. I hope and pray that there will be more memories to experience and more pictures to take of time spent with them. But for now I have past memories, videos, and photos to return to. And yes I'm sure I will shed more tears. Possibly even this Sunday when I don't hear Josalyn before I even see her. That she won't be there to sit with us. That Bryce won't be in Primary. That I can't call on him to answer a question or help me with part of Sharing Time. That they won't be there. And as I've learned over the last couple of years you can't rush the grieving process. It takes time.







Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Even With My Dark Side

As I mentioned before in a previous post I first came face to face with depression at the age of 21. Is that the first time I was depressed? No, probably not. Someone who suffers from depression over a long period of time just assumes that is what is normal. They don't know any differently until it deepens or someone has the courage to bring it to their attention if they notice it. In my case it was because it deepened. I had decided that I wanted to serve a mission for my church. I was called to the Poland, Warsaw mission. I typically don't share this with people that don't know about it, but I think most of the people that read my blog already know. I entered the Missionary Training Center in December of 2002. Being a perfectionist (another thing I came to face at this time), learning a new language and learning how to be a missionary made me feel overwhelmed. I started to feel a darkness take over. I prayed with my entire being that it would leave. I couldn't understand how I could feel so dark in such a place. I felt that I was in this small dark box with no way out. My time in the MTC is not the point of this post, so to make a long story short I started to meet with a counselor in the MTC. I woke up one morning and met with him and he decided that my plate was overflowing and that being sent home would be in my best interest. By that evening I was sleeping in my own bed at home. I stayed a set apart missionary for a couple of months and immediately started to meet with a counselor with the intention that I would fly to Poland with my district. It became apparent to me that Heavenly Father had a different plan for me. As I've mentioned in the past I met with a counselor for about eight months facing some of my weaknesses. I returned to BYU the fall of 2003.

The next time that I fell into a deep depression happened January of 2005. I had been in a serious complicated relationship for nine months that came to a sudden end. I took it hard. For his own personal sake I won't delve into what the complications were. But I had given him my all. I was heartbroken. I went through a period of two months where I hardly got out of bed and pretty much lived off of apple juice. I believe that I only met with my counselor once during those two months. Somehow I picked myself back up and returned to BYU at the end of February.

Both experiences were not enjoyable to say the least. But I walked away from both experiences stronger and with a more compassionate heart. I felt that if I could make it through those experiences I could do anything. I felt a freedom that I had never felt before. I didn't let fear stand in my way. By August of that same year I found myself getting married to Tom, a guy that was a cherished friend but that I had never considered. God opened my eyes and made me realize that what I was looking for was there all along. It also helped that friends and my parents and his parents were supportive and encouraging of our relationship. I was honest with Tom before we even became engaged that I had suffered from depression in the past and that I had no idea if it was something that I would have to deal with in the future. Part of me to be honest was thinking maybe I wouldn't because I had experienced and learned all that could be learned from such experiences. How naive I was.

This present experience took me by surprise. There was an actual moment where I told Tom I was depressed. Looking back I see that the signs were there starting at least in October but I kept telling myself that I'm just tired which would be understandable considering what November held for me. But it wasn't until the beginning of December that I came to acknowledge it. I made it through December and was pretty optimistic at the beginning of January that I could kick the depression to the curb quite quickly. I've been here before so it will be easy to work through it. Boy was I wrong. I fell and boy did I fall hard. In the past I had wished that I would die but I never really took action towards that end. It became a nightmare that seemed like it would never end. I now know what it feels like to live like there is a Hell on Earth. I now know what it is like to spend time in a psychiatric unit. I now know what a medical roller coaster it is trying to find the right antidepressant and dealing with some horrible side effects. I now know more than I realized there was ever to learn. And I am still learning.

I spent a few days with some of my family this past week. Somehow I dug up the energy to make the drive home to WA. I am glad that I did. But I also came to the realization once again how depression may be a lonely road for those trudging through it but that it also effects those around that individual. I only personally know the one side but I have watched and observed even in my moments of misery how I was hurting those around me. Those that I cared about. Those that had sacrificed much for me and my safety. I pushed almost everyone away and became the ultimate hermit. Now, that is common for someone suffering from depression, but I am now finding it difficult to find the balance of slowly letting my loved ones back in my life. I still tire easily. I'm still fragile. I still become easily drained. I still fear that I'll start sliding back into the black pit.

Music has been a huge blessing during this difficult time. It seems like I always find a song that expresses what I am feeling better than I could ever express it myself. There have been a number of songs over the last couple of months that have spoken to me and that I have listened to over and over again. At this point in my recovery there are a number of songs that fit the way that I'm feeling. A couple of months ago I listened (really listened) to Kelly Clarkson sing "Dark Side". I consider depression to be one of my dark sides. I have been blessed that those near and far have continued to support and love me even when I was at my worst. Even when I yelled "I hate you!" or got angry for no real good reason or took actions that were selfish and I was only thinking of myself. It would have been easier to say goodbye but lucky for me I am loved even with my dark side.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Now some of you may be thinking from the title of this post that Melissa has finally gotten her behind out of her apartment and has taken up running. There may be some of you wondering if that could even be true. Some of you may be curious about what I am going to write because you have heard me many times say that I will never be a runner. And you would be right. This post is not about running. At least not in reference to that form of exercise.

Anxiety produces three reactions: flight, freeze, and fight. I have experienced all thee many times over the last few months. Depression on the other hand can produce flight or freeze. Not so much fight, at least in my case. My experience so far is that I do not usually experience anxiety and depression at the same time or what I should say is that one tends to mask the other. My anxiety levels were pretty high for the longest time and then they lowered. That is when I felt the full impact of the depression. Where just getting out of bed is a chore. Pretty much everything is a chore. Things that you would be excited about in the past mean nothing to you now.

Freeze for me would mean literally freezing in place. Typically curled up in a small space just frozen in place. During those times I would try to focus on my breathing and tell myself courage is choosing to breathe. The freeze phase for me usually doesn't last very long. It leads to either flight or fight. Fight for me is when I would all of a sudden be overcome with anger. I am not a person who gets angry very often, so it was difficult for me to know where to channel it. Many times it got aimed at Tom, God, or maybe someone else. Actually many times I aimed it at myself. Add the feelings of hopelessness, despair and the feeling that this will never end would then move me into flight. And that is why I have titled this post Run because I'm going to focus on the flight phase.

I have made reference to episodes in another post and of course shared a little of my experience in the Johnson Unit which is a psychiatric unit. I'm sure most of you know, realize, or guess that 'episodes' is in reference to gestures towards committing suicide. I have shared with very few the exact details of those gestures. Most of the time flight meant running away from the emotions that I was experiencing. Emotions that seemed so overwhelming and never ending. I know that I have shocked some people when I admitted that I had multiple times wanted to escape this world. How could someone who seems to have a good life, a loving husband, and a whole future to live would want to give that up?

My sister introduced me to a TV show almost two years ago. I don't watch much TV. We don't have cable and our TV is ancient. I consider this TV show to be one of my vices. If it wasn't for the music I wouldn't even bother with it. Yep that TV show is Glee. I have seen season one and two and I am still working on watching season three. My sister has been better about keeping up with her favorite shows. A few weeks ago she mentioned how I probably shouldn't watch that week's episode. Well I still had only seen the first three and so I had no idea which episode she was referring to. Well a couple of nights ago I was watching some Glee with Tom. We got to where the team performs at Regionals. I was excited because you usually get some good tunes from when they perform in a competition. Little did I know that this was the episode my sister was referring to.

In this episode a football player who is gay but has only let one person know is found out. People write horrible things on his facebook page and his locker. It shows him in his bedroom crying feeling so hopeless. Realizing what his future will hold for him at his high school. It became apparent quickly to both Tom and I that he was contemplating suicide. Tom paused the show and said it may not be a good idea for me to continue watching it. I cried. Though my circumstances are different I could relate to how he was feeling. We continued watching it though I shut my eyes and plugged my ears. Luckily his father finds him in time and his attempt was unsuccessful. But what even hit me harder is when the glee team is sitting in a circle on the stage talking about it. Every single one of them said that they coud never imagine experiencing anything that would push them to want to take their own life. Their coach explains that you never know but that each of them could have something that would take them to that place and he shares an experience when he reached that place.

If you had told me in December that I would not only contemplate but make gestures towards suicide I probably would have laughed in your face. When you reach that place all you want to do is run and it feels as if ending your life is the only answer. It could be over. You could be done with it. Now I know and even knew in those moments that it wouldn't solve everything. That I would probably regret making that choice. I didn't care. I didn't care how many people that decision would impact. I let Tom know that I didn't want a funeral but that I wanted him to finish his Ph.D. Now it has been a few weeks since I've had an episode and I believe that I'm finally on the road of recovery (which I'm finding to be just as difficult maybe even more so).

I have so many things changing in my life right now (including myself) that I am often overwhelmed with varying emotions. I also have some decisions to make, and I'm at a loss as to if I am up for what would be required. After my therapy session last week I felt a strong urge to run and escape. I didn't want to have to come to terms with the loss of Josalyn and Bryce. I didn't want to have to decide if I should go home for a visit or not. I didn't want to contemplate how I would do on a 12+ hour drive to Disneyland. I didn't want to experience the changes of a close friendship. I wanted to run.

And I am running. Pushing everyone away. Skipped a therapy session and haven't been back. Haven't been answering phone calls or texts. But what to do with all this pent-up emotion? I thought maybe if I went on a bike ride I could burn through the emotions. I am physically stronger than I was a couple of months ago, but my energy levels are low. I pushed myself. Probably a little too much. Did the bike ride do what I had hoped it would? No. It just made me physically exhausted. But every time I get the urge to run I jump on my bike and push myself even farther. Yesterday I even ended up biking through a thunder storm. I came home soaking wet and collapsed. I went into freeze mode and curled up in a corner of my bedroom in the dark. It even took Tom quite awhile to get me to talk. We then talked til one in the morning. But it was about the past. Not now or the future.

Today once again I found myself on my bike and pushed myself even further. Now of course this is an improvement over wanting to end my life but I know it isn't facing what lies ahead. No matter how many times I get on my bike it won't change the fact that my heart is breaking, that there are decisions to make, that life is still coming at me. In a book I read in December mentions that running from the storm just means that the storm will follow you. How true that is.

How long am I going to keep running? I don't know. There have been a few times where I have come face to face with Josalyn and Bryce leaving. I then find myself sobbing for more than an hour. But it was just today as I was biking that I came to realize that biking is my way of running. And each time I try to "run" farther away. But I eventually have to return home. I will eventually have to stop running and face what lies ahead, but for now I am at least getting fresh air and exercise.