Dear Sappy

Here at Braevehearts we aren’t all depression all the time. Because that would be depressing. So I am starting an advice column. Send me your dilemmas, questions, concerns, thoughts on life to I will change any recognizable details to protect the guilty. I will cover any and all topics you send my way, from fashion to relationships to politics to your grandma’s creepy gentleman caller.

So send away! I need this people, for the depression. Feel guilty yet?


Breathe Deeply

First of all, thank you for everyone who emailed, commented, sent me messages, prayers and wishes. Your support has buoyed me during this time more than you know. 

I have learned that many of you have experienced depression, either  personally or with a friend or family member. This disease is widespread, and I take comfort in the suggestions, recommendations and kind words, especially from people I don’t even know. It is amazing.

Also, I discovered that a lot of you are in the mental health field, which is good to know 🙂

We decided to get out of town for the weekend and headed down to Charlottesville, VA. We first went there for a wedding back in August and loved it, so decided to pack up the girls and go for a change of pace. We spent Saturday at the farmers’ market, where the girls got balloon animals and face paint, I got a delicious apple and some much needed fresh air and sunshine. And also a beer. That was key. We enjoyed a lovely walk around Mr. Jefferson’s Academical Village (I like saying that) where I made a game out of saying the names of the students who live on the Lawn in a snooty voice (they have little plaques on the doors saying who lives there). Try it in your best Thurston Howell voice: “Landon Halliwell Forrester III”, “Abigail Rebecca Hainsworth”, “Willard Mitt Romney”. 

There were some kids walking a low tightrope they had strung between two trees. Maeve was fascinated. Bridget was appalled that they didn’t have shoes on and made her disapproval known by shouting “they no have shoes on!” several times. I think it was mostly out of respect that they could get away with it and she can’t- I promise you this now Bridget: when you go to college, you can take your shoes off any damn time you want.

We went to dinner and I walked back to the car with Maeve, Marc having taken Bridget a little earlier to check out a shop. As we walked along streets packed with students wearing orange pants or dresses that I fondly recall once being able to fit into, Maeve took my hand and said “Mama, it is a nice night for a stroll.” And it was.

On Sunday we headed home, stopping at a few wineries along the way. The girls were remarkably well behaved as their parents tried some of Virginia’s finest wines, although Bridget was rather upset to hear the grapes were not for eating.

I drove home, through winding backgrounds of Virginia countryside, past Montpelier, home of James Madison. The windows were open and it was all just what I needed: a tonic of sunshine, scenery and fresh air. I felt like all of me took a deep breath. 

We are back home now, with a chilly night of crisp autumn air and the smell of our neighbors’ fireplaces being used for the first time in months. When I wrote my original post I was probably around a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. Now I feel like I’m at a four. Each day has gotten a little easier, and this week I have appointments with my psychiatrist and therapist. I think I can get out of this. I can’t say that’s what I believed just a week ago.

A Confession

For how open and frank I am, there is something I almost never discuss. My family members know, a very select of handful of friends, and several members of the greater Washington, DC medical community.

I suffer from depression.

But wait, you say, you are so funny and snarky and such! However could you be depressed?!

Yeah well, tears of a clown and such. 

Right now I am in the midst of a major depressive episode. They hit me every six months or so and it is like being mowed over during the running of the bulls. They have gotten so bad that I am pretty sure my diagnosis is moving towards that of being clinically depressed. That means you are depressed all the time, not just when you hit what I call a wall. Something about this particular episode is different. I feel more despondent. I’ve barely left the house. I’m not interested in eating (which is usually my favorite contact sport). I just want to sleep, and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing.

As you can imagine the effect on my life is staggering. The idea of work is paralyzingly exhausting to me. It is all I can do to get up with my kids and get them out the door in the morning. Showering and changing clothes regularly are pipe dreams. 

No two people experience depression the same way. For me, I become completely hopeless. It’s like tomorrow doesn’t exist. I can’t adequately describe the exhaustion- it is bone crushing and comes out of nowhere. Take the most exhausted you have ever been, multiply it by 20, add in a gut-wrenching sadness that you can’t pin on anything in particular and you might have an idea of where I am now.

I have been on medication for five years now, ever since I had to pull my car over on my way to work because I couldn’t see through the hysterical tears I was crying. The medication controls things pretty well, with the exception of these crevasses every few months. I’ve been approaching and treating my depression as though it is these occasional episodes, but I’m realizing that it is more than that. I live with it daily, beating it back into the darkness from which it came, but every so often it wins. 

I told my husband today that I’d rather have cancer. People understand cancer. You can cut it out, you can radiate it or kill it with chemicals. Even if you succumb to cancer people understand. I don’t feel understood. How can I when I don’t get it myself? I have also said that I feel like there is something in my brain. I wouldn’t be surprised if you cracked it open and there was a little alien in there, like in Men in Black (“Orion’s belt!”).

I don’t want to be this person. Depression keeps me from being the best version of myself. It robs me of patience. My brain works slower and words don’t come as easily. I don’t enjoy things that I normally would. And I get so tired so easily. It sucks when you have two kids under 4 who just want to run and play and climb all over you.

I’m working with a psychiatrist to try and figure this out. I am hopeful that some medication changes and perhaps talk therapy will give me the tools to cope better. I’ve also decided to be more open about my struggle because I know so many people who are fighting the same battle, and perhaps this will give comfort to them. Plus, I’m done being ashamed and embarrassed of this- I think it feeds the little alien and ultimately makes things worse.

Thanks for reading, for listening. I appreciate it more than you can know.