Friday, January 28, 2011

Depression Symptoms: Substance Abuse

Several months ago I was working on a series of posts about my experience as it relates to the formally recognized symptoms of depression. There are a few still to go.

I’ve seen enough movies to know that alcoholism is associated with depression (Crazy Heart, anyone?) but have not thought much about it except in the abstract. I was surprised when, in the middle of my own depression, I discovered that drinking is an effective anesthetic.

The denomination in which I grew up is historically a tee-totaling crowd. I picked up on that undercurrent and drank little even through college. I became accustomed to social drinking during our years at the seminary. Odd, I think, and problematic, but that’s for another time.

I remember clearly the night I realized I needed to guard against excessive drinking. My family was out to dinner, celebrating a major achievement in my brother’s career, and we shared a couple bottles of particularly yummy wine. It crossed my mind that I would like to stay there and keep drinking and forget the unrelenting sadness of my life.

I told my husband about it that night. I’ve found that telling my secrets takes the power out of them. This one seemed particularly shameful to me. I don’t think I ever told it to anyone else or ever spoke about it again with my husband.

The urge to drink too much came and went throughout my depression, but I think that having spoken about it aloud helped me stay aware of how our unhappiness could have been multiplied by alcohol abuse.

To read all the posts in the depression symptoms series, go here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Authentic and Awkward

Our church has been praying for me every week during my chemotherapy. I am thankful for their prayers on my behalf, though it has been uncomfortable to see my name on the prayer list every week for as long as we've been here. I feel like I get so much attention just because I'm married to the pastor that I don't need any more.

On Sunday the prayer was altered to thanksgiving that the treatments are done. Lots of people spoke to me afterward to express their happiness for me. I was asked several times, usually with a mood of eager optimism, how I am feeling.

You'd think that would be a simple question. A year or two ago I'd have told all those kind people that I'm feeling much better, thank you. They all want so much for me to be well, for my life to be happy. I'd hate to disappoint them.

I'm trying to teach myself to be considerately honest and sometimes that's uncomfortable. When people asked how I'm feeling I told them I'm relieved to be done, but I don't feel very well.

Every time I felt a little like I was hurting their feelings. We'd have a very brief awkward moment in which we all took in the disappointment that happiness and ease has not yet arrived and then we'd part.

Being honest is awkward. We are all in a hurry to be done with pain and living alongside other people's sadness is hard. It is also much more helpful to all of us than polite lies. Now those people know me a little bit.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Blogs by Pastor's Wives

Every week a few people visit this blog for the first time because they saw it listed on the blog withpurpose. Blogger Amy has compiled quite a list of blogs written by pw's. It's a good place to start if you'd like to connect with other women whose lives are intimately connected with church communities.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When Can I Stop Needing So Much?

Chemo is finally done. ALL done. It will be a few weeks until I can have a test to ensure the cancer is gone and I fully expect it will be.

The depression is also gone. Every day that I make plans or march happily through an ordinary day I remember how miserable it was to be unable to do that. I recently wrote to a friend that I feel like I'm waking up after missing the last three years of my life. It feels SO good.

This morning I read a post at Church Whisperer about self-reliance and it reminded me of an unhappy thought that has crossed my mind several times in the last weeks: I am eager to be able to take care of myself. I have been depending on so many people to take up the slack - care for my kids, feed my family, encourage me when I cannot come up with any encouraging thoughts on my own - and I'm tired of it.

I feel weak and needy on Sunday mornings. I know there is strength to be gained from worship and from conversation with the kind souls there but I want to stay home and hide until I can show up on Sunday feeling put together. Everyone else seems to have it together. They don't look like enduring an hour in the pew with their kids is going to make them cry or strangle someone.

I KNOW, of course, that weak and needy is precisely how God wants us to come to Him. I know that less of me and more of Him is good. My pastor suggested once that my need is a gift to the people who are able to help me.

I suppose I am not the only one who is torn between what I know is good and what I feel like I want. Must it be so complicated?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

One To Go

I've missed you! Even though I haven't been writing, I've been thinking of you and praying for you.

The end of chemo is in sight: one treatment to go. Next week. Boy am I ready to be on the other side of this. When I'm not miserably sick, I have trouble sleeping because I want to make plans about what I'm going to do when I feel well. Even if I limit the plans to my own house (I don't - I also have writing plans, reconnect-with-friends plans, travel plans, places-to-go-with-kids plans, cooking plans....), the list is long because I started chemo a week after we moved in. I could spend a week rearranging closets and bookshelves and kitchen cabinets.

I probably won't, but I could.

When this started, I didn't realize how pervasively disordering cancer would be. I was protected by naivete. I thought it would be like going to the dentist, or getting the car fixed: time-consuming, but limited in its effects.

Instead, I've been focused on just getting through the day, making it through all this treatment. When it is finally done next week, then what? There are still side effects that will limit me for a few months. And I look different. I lost so much hair that I now have a buzz cut. My son says I look like our previous neighbor, a lovely woman who is a lesbian. My son is inadvertently contributing to my little identity crisis.

And then there are all the family and friends who have walked with me through these crisis months. They've been praying for us, encouraging me, taking care of my family, counting down the weeks until I am done. When I have the last treatment it will appear that it's all over and I can go back to normal life. I don't think there will be any going back. I'm not sure how, but I feel like my life will seem different. I imagine the pace will be slower for a while, I might be a little more introverted, perhaps more cautious.

As eager as I am to be done with chemo, I am apprehensive about the transition that accompanies it. Change, even good change, is disorienting.