Owning Sadness

I've been absent online, and honestly, in the real world, too.

In April I got the news that I need a follow up mammogram and ultrasound. It took till May to get that done, and then to the end of May to get the biopsies done, and then into June to get the results, which were good--no cancer.

That gave me roughly ten days to turn all my worrying to the colonoscopy and EGD I had done yesterday. They were followups; my first ones were done four years ago, and led to a followup colonoscopy one year later because of a worrisome polyp. The last one I had a couple polyps, so I was given a reprieve of three years. I've been on nexium for my GERD for four years now, and since that was getting worse, not better, it was time for a repeat EGD.

All of this, honestly, had me all but curled into a fetal position, and in a state of mind that had me pulling back from everyone and hiding as much as possible. I'm teaching a face-to-face summer class, so I couldn't completely hide, but I did my best.

It led to some serious considerations as to whether depression was rising back up or whether this was situationally-appropriate-sadness, as I had decided to call it. I've been asking that question since March, to be honest.

2013 has been a difficult year. We lost Aphrodite in January, which left me feeling bereft--too many pets gone in the last two years. I started the semester sick, and stayed that way. We had some issues with an individual we'd tried to help, and the lingering damage of that, well, lingered...March saw the suicide of a student and the suicide of one of Rick's sisters. We struggled with my stepson's poor choices...and what would happen because of those.

The girls grew increasingly unhappy at school (and yet parts remained good--they loved their teachers, they excelled at the work). We had to pull them off the bus and I had to start picking them up again because of bullying.  We made the decision to homeschool them once the school year finished, and it was that promise that helped Rosie get through the remainder of the year.

And then April and autism awareness...ughhh....and my concern with visions of breast cancer, and of course, I scheduled my colonoscopy and EGD back then so I could have a couple months to fret over fears of colon cancer and esophageal cancer, because, yo, that's the way I roll...I am an expert worrier.

And May...sigh...some of my favorite students graduated. I was still dealing with the biopsy thing...and then my brother had to put his dog to sleep, and I was with him for that, although we did laugh, as Hunter was "fucked up" as my brother called it--the dog looked seriously stoned as the sedative slowly took effect. It was a surreal experience, to laugh and cry at the same time.

Anyway, you can see why I would be struggling with whether I had fallen back into depression or enough shit had been slung my way that what I was feeling was appropriate. Oh, and did I mention I decided to reduce my zoloft, to try to get off of it? Yeah, that spectacularly backfired, and I spent months walking around dizzy as hell. In the end, I remained on zoloft at 50 mg, only able to reduce to that.

So, while I debated as to whether I was depressed or situationally appropriately sad, I also had to debate whether to give up months of hard won progress to reduce my anti-depression meds and up it back to the 100 mg and someday fight that battle over again.

No wonder I've spent time in the fetal position wishing for a break from my head or my life, one or the other.

And here we are, now, one day on the other side of the procedures I was dreading but knew needed to be done, some worries relieved, others, well, not, and I still don't have a real answer as to whether what I'm feeling is normal and simply must be gone through, or if it's my lovely brain's wiring screwing up. I guess I'll begin to get a glimpse of that answer if I resume my normal life, set up my lunches with my dear local friends and get back into the swing of things. If I do, it was SAS (for short). If I don't, then, well...fuck.

I'm a little bit worried it's the latter, because I still feel this deep reservoir of sadness, along with this edgy feeling of frustration.

I think maybe, though, that's simply life. I woke up one morning, a few weeks ago, realizing I probably would never be a grandmother, and I was devastated. It came out of the blue, and it was weird, and it passed, but it was there...and I have to honor that feeling, I think, because it has to be gone through and accepted that the future and present many of my old schoolmates are having I won't experience, and that's really okay, but it's also okay to be a little sad, too.

My oldest will be 24. He's sweet and complicated--he can be gruff and impatient and very rigid. I think he's fairly happy, but he's frustrated with his old friends from the center, and he doesn't want to talk to them when they call, which leaves the girls frustrated--they ask him if he knows how lucky he is to have friends...and he just growls. He wants to be alone. Not alone-alone--he's happy here, he loves his sisters and they spend hours together wrapped up in their shared interests, but...

And me, the worry-wort that I am, worry that when I am gone, where will my three be--will they still be entwined in each other and able to balance out, so that with all their strengths combined, they'll be able to make it together, handle all the things involved in living without someone else paying the bills, etc.?

These are reasonable concerns, especially given that I'm not sure the girls will attain that elusive and somehow desirable flying from the coop.

There's also the age factor--Rick turned 50 on Monday and I turn 45 on Saturday. We've got a lot of work ahead of us to get things ready and set in place for the kids. And we know, on a visceral level, that the clock is running out. Sure, I might make it to 90....but ummm....is it okay if I really don't want to unless that 90 means I'm in a nice little retirement village playing old people games with other pink haired little old ladies? I'd rather not have the weight of the world on my shoulders till the day I pass...you know?

So, while I don't know if I'm depressed or situationally appropriately sad or not, I am at least owning that I am still feeling this deep sadness, when I had really hoped that I would magically wake up this morning, with all the icky tests over, no longer sad.

Life is a very complicated, intricate, wonderful mess of emotions, and sadness is one of them that we have to learn to live with. I think, maybe, that doing so will intensify the joy when we find it, and I find a lot of joy. My girlies light up my day...my son provides me with laughs...my students inspire and impress me with their dogged determinism to see the course through and to tackle tough subject matter where they undoubtedly expected to write inane pieces. I have a lot of people in my life that make me joyous.

Maybe this will pass and I will be able to look back and say it was something I simply had to pass through, like going on a bear hunt. Maybe I'll have to be more proactive. Whatever happens, I know I am not alone, that others are walking this path, too. And I know that I have friends who support and love me. So, I'll own this sadness--name it, put it in writing, and in that way hogtie it and wrestle it.

I think it's also possible that I've gone too long without my pink hair...excuse me while I rectify that. :)


kathleen said...


Usethebrains Godgiveyou said...

SMACK--SNAP OUT OF IT!!!...uhm...sorry, been there and done that and just trying unsuccessfully to be funny.

Funny, too, that yesterday Ben made a comment about this cartoon, http://raggette.blogspot.com/2013/06/for-kim.html (I had to put it on my blog instead of the weird page I found it on...Just for YOU!!) It was my favorite cartoon for years, and your nerd girls might like it, too. Anyhow, I was showing it to Ben and he started laughing and said how entertaining it would be to try on a kid and I said, "You know, I can see your poor kids now, having a Dad like you!" and we started laughing about how kids are very good for entertainment. Every once in a while I get a whiff of grandmotherhood--I don't care if I am or I'm not, but I'm starting to think, I could be. Hell, there's not that much your kids have to do to make you one. A lot of questionable people are parents...look at Joel and I...and we're among the good ones!(Most people are, but the bad ones more than make up for it.)

I'll be right back, looking for something I saw about worry....http://www.fredraylybrand.com/the-easy-way-to-conquer-fear/ <<<--there it is. If you got a few minutes listen to it. He's a nerd who I got Ben's English homeschool idea from. He made Ben (eventually) very comfortable with writing. Ben didn't work for me, but because of Fred, he has been getting 100's on his papers in college. They don't grade spelling, thank God, but ideas. Anyhow, he sent this yesterday and I thought today you might be able to use it.

The bible says, "Don't worry about tomorrow. Each day has trouble enough of it's own." That's wisdom. I'm sure the Tao or Buddhism say the same exact thing.

Anyhow, don't make me have to start worrying about you because I will! dammit....

melbo said...

Yep .. I think situational sadness is a very appropriate term. Just sending hugs. xx

Kim Wombles said...

Thanks, ladies.

Rose, I appreciate the cartoon and the link on fear-he's a smart guy--gonna have to remember his three keys. :)

Kleatexas said...

YOU are one AMAZING lady!!!

Usethebrains Godgiveyou said...

The other thing is...my muse, my Joyce told me once to do anything you can to avoid getting stuck in a mental institution, because people will never take you seriously again. I think she saved me from the burden she bore.I think I went through a nervous breakdown but stayed the @#$% away from psychiatry and just became a blob for a few months. I have a picture of depression on Raggette, the for Kim page. I remember it hounding me, and then, it would go away, of and on for years. In my mid 30's it stayed. I don't think it was necessarily related to life circumstances---I think it was inherited. Son of a bit....uhm....thanks, Dad. I understood him better when I saw it that way. You don't have to print this unless you want to. I'm not going to be hurt.

Lexapro did help, it was like being a little drunk all the time. Dad just used the real stuff. He was a successful bartender, a millionaire at his death. The hardest worker I will ever know.

Kim Wombles said...

Hi Rose,
I'm sorry you've struggled with depression for so long. I've had bouts of it since my late teens, but most of the time have not taken prescription meds for it because of the side effects and because I'm stubborn. I tried to outwork it, and I've definitely tried to out-shop it, which can make it a whole lot worse, honestly, as it simply compounded the problem. It's a nasty vicious cycle.

Maybe being open about it will help. At least it allows for the chance to find people who are dealing with the same issues and allow for a shared existence and understanding.

Leigh@flappinessis said...

They say bad things come in 3s, but that's a lie. Bad stuff comes more like balls at a batting cage, don't they? So glad you are okay. I had a bit of a cancer scare myself last year. I was a completely non-functioning wreck. Hugs to you.

Stephanie said...

I've experienced that mix of feelings, and the questioning of one's feelings, for different reasons, and for some of the same. Seeing the same things I've felt written in someone else's words for someone else's reasons, I can't help but take a step back and wonder how we got to this point.

Situationally-appropriate sadness implies that depression isn't situationally-appropriate, i.e. that the feelings of depression are somehow less real because they are not justified by the situation.

I think back to my episodes of depression, which cycles in and out of my life. They're always uncomfortable, destructive, draining. But are they really "inappropriate?" Is what you're feeling really "inappropriate" or even questionable? From bullying to overwhelm, with lots of other stuff in between, there are reasons for the ways I've felt. Not rational, scientific, appropriate reasons. But reasons nonetheless.

It made me think of and find a quote from a book I just read: "There's a lot of debate about whether or not depression is truly a disorder, as most clinicians and the majority of the psychiatric establishment believe, or whether it's an evolved adaptation that does something useful." The quote is from Paul Andrews. The book is What Patients Don't Say If Doctors Don't Ask by Dr. Manon Bolliger.

The same system that tells us we should do everything possible to treat autism, i.e. the goal being normalcy, says that we should treat depression, again with normalcy being the goal. Part of that is denying the "appropriateness" of our feelings.

So, I guess my question is this: Why do those of us who experience depression give others the right/responsibility to qualify whether our experiences are "appropriate" and are we better off because we do so?

Kim Wombles said...


You raise some great points. I didn't mean to imply that someone diagnosed with depression was not justified in their emotions, but rather that when life situations create feelings of sadness (or depression--I think of the word in terms of its psychiatric definition) that those are emotions that shouldn't be numbed/muted/removed by medications but experienced and learned from.

We already know too well how easily doctors dispense psychiatric meds, so if we go to a doctor and say we're feeling sad, we're likely to walk away with a prescription.

So I guess my answer is that I don't think we're in disagreement, but that we are using the term depression in different ways. If everything is fine in my life--no major crises, no existential angst and I'm unable to get out of bed, get dressed, shower, feed myself, or do daily activities, then what I'm feeling needs some outside assistance. If I'm feeling that way because I've lost a family member or endured trauma of some sort, then it's situationally appropriate.

I think, though, that the decision as to whether what we're feeling is situationally appropriate is best made by ourselves, though, although others are certainly happy to do it for us.

Stephanie said...

Oh, I wasn't try to disagree or imply an interpretation to your words. It was more of a reaction to our society's approach to depression and feelings of being "depressed."

I totally agree that outside assistance, when in a state of psychiatric depression, is a necessity.

But I've been feeling more and more--your post just triggered the response--that the way we go about providing that outside assistance leaves much to be desired.

You talked about working your way to a lower dosage; my husband has been on meds (and not improving, just not getting worse) for years; and I've struggled through without meds (except when hormonal issues were involved) and often without professional support.

None of it seems to empower the people experiencing the depression to 1) function normally (for themselves) or 2) find an emotional balance.

It just seems there's a consistent lack of helpful insight.

Kim Wombles said...

Stephanie, I think you're absolutely spot on--therapists are hit and miss, medication and a doctor willing to really listen and work with the individual is definitely difficult.

It's frustrating at best, and leads to people feeling even more isolated.