Lilacs at Highland Park

The last time I posted (on New Year’s Day), I was hopeful that the upcoming semester would be smoother than the previous, and had set some crafty goals that I had hoped to accomplish during this year. It’s now mid-May, and I haven’t accomplished a single one of them. But I’m not beating myself up about it. That’s not what this post is about.

Where have I been? Well, this semester turned out not to be any easier than the previous one. If anything, much harder. There were so many things that made it hard, and I’m not going to go into all of them here. But one of those things is that I was sinking deeper and deeper into depression. I’m not new to depression and anxiety, though depression and anxiety post-motherhood is something I have a much harder time managing (especially since it is exacerbated by sleep deprivation, which has been a huge problem for us – my daughter only very recently started sleeping more than 2 hours at a time, and at the beginning of the semester, I was being awoken every 45 minutes for weeks straight – this breaks you). I also have a much harder time talking about these things post-motherhood, because of the guilt I feel about it, given everything I wrote about here, and given the expectations people impose on parents. But post-partum depression and childbirth-related PTSD are things that should be talked about, not shoved aside because they challenge our idealized picture of motherhood (I’d say the exact same thing about babyloss, too). No mother should ever be made to feel as though she is ungrateful or unworthy or less-than simply because she is honest about the challenges she has faced…and yet, this is exactly what happens, much of the time. I wish for acknowledgement, understanding, kindness, and compassion this Mother’s Day, for everyone who struggles.

Anyway, this past semester, I sank. I’m really good at pretending to be fine when I’m in the classroom, or meeting with someone at work, or whatever – I held it together in public, I think, but behind the scenes, I was crumbling. And that meant, among other things, not blogging here. There’s been no crafting to blog, and I haven’t felt up to sharing this stuff in a more public place (I’ve talked a bit about it in less public places, so some of you reading this know about it already). I’m going to open up a little bit about it here now, though. I’m still in it, honestly, but now that I’m not hanging on by the tiniest of threads while trying to keep myself together for teaching, and am getting to sleep in longer than 2-hour increments most of the time, it’s easier to reflect a little.

I don’t do the best job of describing what depression feels like. Or at least, I must not, since when I try to explain what’s going on, what I get back is mostly “you’re so negative! you should just be positive, your life is better than most people’s!”, and while all of those things are true, it’s not helpful stuff to be told. It’s sort of…missing the point, as far as depression is concerned. Anyway, thankfully, other people on the Internet do a better job than I do of explaining these things. One I’d like to particularly highlight is Allie Brosh. She is one of my favorite bloggers. Her cartoons are just perfect, and I end up quoting them a lot (clean all the things?). She’s been very open about her struggles with depression in recent years (I’m so sorry, Allie – you don’t know me, but I’m always rooting for you). She’s done a better job than just about ANYBODY EVER at describing what depression is like, in her Adventures in Depression and Depression Part Two comics, the latter of which was just posted this week and deserves to be spread far and wide. If you haven’t seen them, go. Right now. Then maybe go read this post at Dooce. Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) is another amazing person who speaks honestly about anxiety and depression (and is freaking hilarious, too).

And if you do struggle like I do, then maybe the DIY Couturier’s 21 tips would be a helpful thing to read (I related a lot to her post, as someone who has chronic physical health problems – particularly pain-related ones – that exacerbate my ever-present melancholic tendencies). Maybe read that post even if you don’t struggle – it might help to understand that we are trying. And for anyone who is worried about me: I know I worry about stupid crap all the time (hello, anxiety!) and being told not to worry isn’t helpful, so I’m not going to tell you not to. But please know that I am doing all of the right things “behind the scenes” to try to dig out. Some stuff that makes this hard isn’t in my control, but I’m doing what I can with the things that ARE in my control. I have a great therapist. It’d be easier if I had more of a support network (and, um, a bigger paycheck), but the realities of academic life are that I live far from family, and the people I was closest to in my program, all those “honorary aunties” M had when she was first born, have all moved on to faraway jobs post-graduation, while I’m still trying to finish. It’s just the nature of things.

So, let’s go back to crafting, which is what this blog is ostensibly about. Knitting has almost always been part of my arsenal for maintaining sanity. I love knitting, it calms my mind and keeps my hands busy and gives me a vital creative outlet. But this time, in the last month or so – I just didn’t love it anymore. I didn’t feel anything about it. I realized last week that over the course of the semester, I’d basically forgotten how to knit. Well, not exactly – I mean, I still remember how knitting works (making knit and purl stitches and all that – I’ve even been able to help others with their knitting during this time), but I’d forgotten how to, you know, grab some yarn and some needles and actually sit down and knit something. That probably sounds completely dumb, but I literally didn’t remember how to do that; even when I did have a moment of time when I could’ve knit, after M was in bed for the night (which wasn’t often – teaching and tutoring and dissertating with only part-time daycare and no sleep is not for the weak, I’ll tell you that much), I’d sit on the couch and stare into space because I just…couldn’t remember. I basically forgot anything that I used to enjoy. I forgot how to read, in the same way I forgot how to knit (that is, how to actually sit and read something, not how to understand orthographically represented language – boy, that’d be bad, for a writing teacher!). I forgot how to play my violin (hopefully I still remember the mechanics, there – I’ve only played about 3 times since M was born, though). I forgot how to sew – and there, I think I did forget the mechanics, too, because it’s not something I was very good/practiced at. I even forgot how to design things, and that’s just crazy – designing stuff is what my brain usually does when it’s overwhelmed (I could probably put together a whole book out of patterns I designed while I was reading and writing for my qualifying exams a few years back, if I could ever find the time to knit them up), but even that non-stop creative impulse pretty much stopped – there is such a thing as too overwhelmed, I guess?

Anyway, now that I’m done teaching for the semester (and therefore have a tiny bit more time – it might be possible to semi-regularly do something other than work during the hours when Madrigal is sleeping and I’m not), I’m trying to un-forget these things. I’ve felt some sparks in the last couple days, like the creative me might be stirring (I can probably attribute a lot of this to the sun finally making an appearance here in Rochester – SAD being another thing that made “Spring” semester so very challenging). I hope to build off that. I’ll be sure to post, if I’m successful in these efforts. I might even have something to write about this week, if I can find time.

13 thoughts on “surfacing”

  1. Great to hear from you again! I missed you. (Don’t worry about trying to remember who I am, I’m one of the nameless faceless people on the internet.)

    Thanks for all the info and links about depression, very informative. I can keep an eye out for it in my life and others’ lives, and try to avoid being the relentlessly accusative “Happy Pusher”.

  2. Good to read an update, even if it is about dark days. So much of this rings true for me. I don’t do balance well. Hope things get better.

  3. I’ve been following your flickr feed, and I’m sorry things aren’t as rosy as they sometimes appear. I suppose I can sympathize with the feelings of being overwhelmed, and wanting something to give and get better so everything can lighten up. I too have the feeling of wanting to want to knit when I get time, then not doing it. I hope things will turn around for you!

  4. So many hugs. I wish we lived closer to each other! Having an online support system is incredibly valuable, but an in-person one would be even better.

  5. It’s nice to see you writing again. I won’t worry about you because it sounds like you’re doing what needs to be done, but just know that we’re all here listening and ready to reach out if you ever need a helping hand.

  6. Oh, it’s good to see you posting again. It’s really hard to function sometimes, especially when you have a list of “supposed to’s.” Dump the list, do what you can, and find little ways to bring joy back in. Get lots of sun, and let your body tell you what you need. So sorry you’ve been struggling.

  7. I think it’s so important to talk about these things and not hide them, but that doesn’t make it easy to do, that’s for sure! Thank you for being brave enough to do it. I’m sorry the last few months have been so rough for you.

    And man, yeah, Rochester is ROUGH during the winter/spring. I am not prone to SAD or depression, and I still found those months really difficult, especially as it got further into “spring” but everything was still so grey and bleak.

  8. Glad to see you posting again. Please remember that winter in Rochester is tough — even when you aren’t a new mom who is having a rough time of it. I’ve been where you are now. Be kind to yourself and remember that things will get better. You will find balance and will slowly find your way back to the things that you used to enjoy. It just takes time.

  9. I’m sorry you’re going through such a rough time. The good thing is that you have kept going and you aren’t afraid to face your problems. Creating is like breathing to me, but there have been times that are so overwhelming that I couldn’t create anything either. You’re not alone. The sweater for Maddy is beautiful. Hang in there. Things will get better.

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