After The Rain(e)

I was kind of a cute kid.
I was kind of a cute kid.

My middle name is Raine, pronounced just like the precipitation. (My mom’s always been a bra-less, free-thinking, interesting woman, to say the least.) I hated the name when I was a kid—probably until sometime in high school—most likely because it was different. Being different was highly undesirable then. Now, it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve embraced a great many of my quirks and decided I don’t care what most people think. I understand that a great amount of nastiness in people springs from jealousy and all I feel about that is pity. And the truth is, I don’t remember anyone actually making fun of my middle name. If they found out what it was, I’d get “That’s weird” or “That’s cool” but nothing glaringly negative. It was just the fear of that potentially awful reaction that kept me tight-lipped about my middle moniker.

To this day, when my mom or granny says my first and middle name, there’s a notable southern twang. It’s like it was built into the two-word phrase. My granny was born and raised in Kentucky and for a time, my mom worked there on the horse farms. It’s where the father I’ve never met lived. Where he probably does still.

When I was in elementary school, I remember visiting “down home,” the farmhouse Granny grew up in and where her brother Fred, or Uncle Heavy, as I knew him, still lived. I will always remember the lack of an indoor toilet more than anything. And the fear of sitting over that black hole in the spider infested privy. Now, my memories of him are kind of hazy but one thing that I remember in detail was the way he liked to tease me. I’m sure he picked on me about lots of stuff but what I really held onto was the way he called me Thunderstorm. Lindsey Thunderstorm, instead of Lindsey Raine. I remember constantly correcting him, getting more and more frustrated when he refused to listen. I can hear the growls and indignant retorts now. Even then I was a hothead. Maybe he saw that in me. Maybe he was just trying to get a rise out of me. I’ll never know since he passed away before I was old enough to wonder about it.

Uncle Heavy
Uncle Heavy

What he couldn’t have known was just how stormy I’d end up. Along with some unfounded rage issues, I fight depression. It’s hard to pinpoint when the clouds of this invisible, torturous illness moved into my life but when I think back, I’m inclined to believe it was around puberty. Something changed chemically. A switch was flipped. Couple that with the already tumultuous experience of being a teenager and you have a recipe for some fantastic highs countered with incomprehensible lows.

I was angry. I was sad. I lashed out. I earned another name I didn’t care for. Bitch. The worst part was, I, as well as everyone around me, didn’t see what was happening. I knew I was miserable but I didn’t know why. In the beginning, Mom liked to attribute my moodiness to the birth control injection I’d opted to get as a 15-year-old instead of the pill. That very well helped elevate my misery—as well as my weight, which did nothing to improve my mood.

After my junior year in high school, I dumped the goofy, ponytail-having-boyfriend and switched to the pill for contraception. I felt like a different person, for a while. The clouds never fully parted. It felt like the darkness was always there but as my hormones leveled out, I learned to hide it. More than Geometry, Algebra, or English, I mastered the art of acting. I learned quickly that no one understood why I might feel gloomy and introspective. So, I hid it. But not for long. The driving rain from the storm raging in my head shoved me farther and farther into the darkness.

All I really remember about my senior year was prom, being inducted into the National Honor Society, graduating, and the weight in my heart, the blackness seeping into every corner of my mind. And one other moment. I wore a perpetual frown and often put my head down on my desk in school. “Whatever” had become my go-to response. The once interested participant in class was obviously gone, traded-in for a heavy-sighing, eye-rolling lump. If anyone noticed, no one said anything. No one except my college-prep English teacher. I’d always really liked her, having her my sophomore year as well. She supported my writing and love of books and was a generally fun person to learn from. Senior year that changed. At one point, our CP class had seventeen different projects/assignments we were working on simultaneously. I understand that she was trying to prepare us for college, hence the “college prep” course. But when I learned that the general English students were playing board games during their class time, I was disgusted. I was already struggling to get out of bed every day and her harping and piling on the tasks was enough to make me hate her. My loathing didn’t go unnoticed, even if my depression did. After a particularly snarky reply to some question she asked me, she followed up with: “Why are you being such a bitch?” In front of the whole class. All I could do is shrug and collapse in on myself, staring at my desk.

I know I deserved it. My attitude was terrible. For years after that, I didn’t like her. I eventually forgave her, like I’ve forgiven and continue to forgive those that don’t understand.

At some point during my last year of high school, my mom, having a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a keen perceptiveness, had finally taken me to the doctor, being the only person who realized I might have a problem beyond being a moody teenager. Though I remember very little about the actual appointment—I went kicking and screaming—I know nothing was prescribed. The magic number for receiving anti-depressants is 18. I graduated at 17. When I returned to the doctor in August after my birthday, I was placed on Zoloft. To this day, I find it ridiculous that one day as a 17-year-old I couldn’t have the medication, and the next day as an 18-year-old, I could. It might not have been literally overnight, but the difference was mere months. I suffered through my entire senior year with no help, medically or otherwise. It’s upsetting to think about it now and to realize someone else is probably facing the same thing.

I’d like to say that things got better after high school, that I grew out of the funk so many people assumed I was in. But I’d be lying. And though I’ve gotten so good at lying about how I really am, what I’m really feeling, I’m tired. It’s exhausting pretending you’re fine because trying to explain the pain inside to most people is impossible.

I’ve spent the years since graduation in varying states of depression and on multiple medicines. I’ve hated the detached feeling most of them cause and on several occasions, I’ve stopped taking them. While on them, it’s easy to feel like I’m fine, that I can handle my mentality. But every time I walk away from them, the darkness eventually overpowers me. It’s made it clear that it will never go away.

Now, I feel like I’ve come full circle as I’m back on Zoloft. After a roller-coaster ride of deep sadness, numbed passiveness, the inability to stop crying and crawl out of bed, sexual dysfunction, and sickening withdrawal symptoms, I’ve come back to the first medication I was put on. It had worked well then, but eventually stopped, prompting me to try something new. My doctor put me back on it since 15 years has passed and my body chemistry is completely different now. It’s also good for someone like me who doesn’t want the glaring side-effects or the extreme emotional deadness that some of the other meds cause. Luckily, it’s working well at a very low dose.

The key word here is "less." Somethings never go away completely. ;)
The key word here is “less.” Somethings never go away completely. 😉

The last time I came off of my anti-depressant was terrible. At the time it was a pretty high dose of Effexor. The withdrawal was a delightful medley of dizziness, shaking, and weird flashes in my field of vision. I thought I’d stepped down slowly enough but apparently not.

I was sure I never wanted to go back to the drugs. I was sure I could handle the depression. It was during this time, and the many others where I was trying to be normal, non-drugged, that I had to put on the Academy Award winning performances. No one wants to be around someone who mopes around all the time or has mood swings that would make even a pregnant woman raise an eyebrow. No one wants to hang out with someone who cries all the time. About everything. Broken plans. Being late to an appointment. Watching a Campbell’s soup commercial. So, I would summon all my skills and be someone else.

When Robin Williams killed himself, I’d been off my med for a year and three months. I was struggling. I’ve never actually cried over the loss of a celebrity but the tears welled up in my eyes as I read about his death.

I probably would have cried even if I'd been medicated...
I probably would have cried even if I’d been medicated…

Not just for the beloved actor, so familiar he was like family, but for the man I knew had suffered silently for probably most of his life. My heart broke because I knew why he’d put on the mask. And I also knew why he’d left this life behind him.

Awareness about depression and other metal illnesses is growing, but it still feels like an awkward conversation. It still feels like I need to fake my way through my days and the discomfort of others is apparent when I actually bring up my depression, which isn’t often, for that very reason.

I’m not likely to try to step off of my medicine again. The coming off, the full-force depression that always returns and the going back on, have only gotten more difficult with age. I’m done fighting the fact that I need a pill to chase away the clouds. I realize it doesn’t make me weak any more than a diabetic is weak for needing their insulin.

When I’m on my med, it’s easier, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where the rain clouds begin to gather. The difference is that I can pull out of the growing darkness and make myself refocus. There will always be a part of me that exists in the middle of a drowning downpour but I’ve learned to embrace it, to use it. It’s where my writing comes from—from the deep thoughts and emotional responses. It’s true I’m a more prolific writer when I’m not medicated but needing the medication is something I’ve come to terms with too. I’ve learned that there is no shame in using an umbrella to get through a thunderstorm—that after the rain, there’s often a blue sky.

After The Storm

~L~

My Craft Wife

It’s a pretty helpless feeling watching someone suffer physically and being unable to do anything to make them feel better. You can speak all the encouraging words you know but it doesn’t do a thing for the actual pain. I’ve been witness to the premature wreckage of my mother and more recently, one of my best friends and co-author of this blog.

Mom has a bad back, neck, and joints among a slew of other issues probably exacerbated by the medication she takes for said back, neck, and joints. I can’t pinpoint when she really started to go downhill but I remember her back and neck surgeries starting somewhere when I was in elementary school. Every year afterward seemed to get just a bit worse than the previous. Then she wound up in an emotionally abusive relationship and spent a great deal of time in bed. Depression knocked her down and when she finally removed the abuser—after 8 years—she’d been sedentary for so long I think it had ruined her. What the boyfriend hadn’t robbed from her quality of life, her Degenerative Joint and Disc disease and immobility had helped itself to. He’s been gone for five years and she is only a tiny fraction of the person she used to be.

And it hurts. Her pain is physical and I can’t begin to understand. What I do comprehend is how heartbreaking this has been for all of us. The pain has robbed her of so much. She can’t keep up after her house like she should, she can’t do yard work, she can’t even carry in heavy groceries. She battles depression every single day and every day she’s able to get out of bed, I’m grateful.

With my history or chronic depression, I know how I would react were I in her shoes. I encourage her and try to help when the chaos allows, but the truth is, I’m weak. I couldn’t handle what she deals with every second of her life.

Now I see *d* fighting the same monster and I break inside. I want to be able to help, to make her more comfortable. I know there is nothing I can do for the physical aspect. All I can do is be there to listen and to try to make her laugh. I know she appreciates my efforts but it doesn’t make me any less angry. She’s not even 35 and so much is being taken from her. We’re the same age. I gripe about a sore back from cleaning houses and she just wishes she could clean her own house. It’s not fair. She’s young and a momma to four kids she doesn’t get to enjoy like she should. Still she stays strong because she has to. Because it’s who she is. Because she is braver than I will ever be.

When she vents to me about the pain, the debilitation, I don’t always know what to say. There are only so many ways to say that you’re sorry. And no matter how literally sorry I am, the word isn’t enough. Not for me.

She is my Craft Wife and I am hers, silly nicknames for two women who love Hobby Lobby and the craft of writing. We also love each other, as great friends who share the darkest parts of their hearts with each other, often do. If I could do anything for her, I would take away the pain. But since I can’t, I will let her know that it’s ok if she’s not always strong. It’s ok to feel the anger and sadness and mourn for the things she’s missing out on. It’s alright to feel robbed. She’s handled every curve ball life’s thrown at her with a grace that I can’t begin to emulate and she deserves to fall apart from time to time. She has people who love her who will scrape her back together to face another day. And as long as I’m around, someone who will whisk her away for greasy bar food, conversation, and trips to the Hobby Lobby.

We're a couple of sketchy characters...haha
We’re a couple of sketchy characters…haha

~L~