“Soft Focus Tulip” Oil, 2002, by the author
Since “coming out” as a person with depression, a lot of people have confided in me that they or someone they love is depressed. Often the question is, “what do I do?” My answer is perhaps very different from what I’ve seen on the Internet. I don’t recommend starting with self-help, I tell them to start with professional help.
Before I hospitalized myself in 2014, I was on a slow path downward for many years. I wanted to shake my depression myself. I hated the thought of taking medication. Continue reading
I had grown tired of the corporate grind. I believed I was destined for something bigger, something more altruistic. The problem was money. Working for a nonprofit doesn’t pay much. I have no relatives to leave me a little nest egg one day. I’d watched my mom live on social security and a tiny pension and no savings. It wasn’t how I wanted to spend my retirement. So I got to work saving money like crazy but found myself depressed instead.
Looking back on my outpatient therapy materials, one symptom of depression that appears a lot is rumination. When I looked up the word “rumination” on Dictionary.com, the definition didn’t sound so bad – “to meditate or muse; ponder.” This is a far cry from what we depressives do. Interestingly, the farm definition fit better “to chew again or over and over.” Yep, that’s my curse. I run the same damn thoughts over and over in my mind, looking for a resolution that never comes. They drive me CRAZY.
Every doctor I’ve ever had has asked me to track my mood and symptoms. I bet you’re getting the same request. I’ve created a lot of different ways to track my mood, used phone apps and websites, and I’ve found simple and easy is the only way I’ll keep with it and use it every day.
So here it is…my easy-to-use mood tracker. Enjoy!
Update 3/21/2017: As I reread this post I am struck by the difference a year has made. I still get suicide thoughts when I have a depression episode, but gratefully, thankfully, that isn’t happening very frequently – maybe a week out of 2-3 months, which means months of mood stability. It’s an amazing relief to be able to write these words. I also think I failed to fully express the gift these thoughts have given me, so I’ve rewritten the last paragraph. Enjoy!
I wrote the original post on February 11, 2016
Photo courtesy of my husband Troy Lukkarila
For a year and half, I’ve had suicide thoughts. They descended upon me like a terrible flu, causing me to fear for my life (which I suppose is appropriate since they’re suicide thoughts! ) I have had depression my whole life, been hospitalized twice. Throughout years of therapy and medication, I never felt I wanted to die. Sleep for long periods of time yes, but not death. In fact, I was absolutely terrified of death.
As a young person, I was only a little afraid of death. I did worry my priest Father Larkin might be wrong about God and the afterlife, so that was a concern. But I was young. Old age and death seemed a long way away. I had plenty of time before I had to worry about such things. Then bam! I turned 40.
“Echinacea” 2002, Oil, Tracey Moore Lukkarila
I wrote this on February 10, 2016, a day after writing Bad Head Comes and Goes.
What a difference one day makes. Yesterday I was still in my bad head, albeit on my way out. Today, I’m feeling good. I knew my mood had switched as I drove into work. My thoughts were about my work with LGBT equality and questioning whether I was doing enough. My bad head voice would respond “don’t bother, there’s no point in life anyway,” or “your illness makes you ineffective.” But this morning, bad head was nowhere to be found. Instead, the immediate response came from sane head “you already do plenty. You model non-judgmental behavior and challenge others to do the same. That’s your purpose.”
(Ah, thank you sane head. How I do love you. So glad you’ve come to visit. I hope you’ll stay a while.) Continue reading
I wrote this on February 9th. I was up and out of this mood by the 11th.
Photo courtesy of my brilliant husband Troy Lukkarila
I have been crawling out of a bad head episode for five days. For me, “bad head” is when my illness takes over to the point that suicide thoughts enter the picture. I use the term with my husband to let him know when it’s bad. If my mood is simply depressed or down, but no or only minor dark thoughts, we call it a funk. (By the way, it doesn’t escape me that bad head has a sexual connotation. But oh well, it’s the name we’ve chosen.)
I launched my blog over a week ago but had not publicized it until today. Even now I am full of doubt about whether I should be doing this, whether I should REALLY go public and let it all hang out with this blog. I’ve been getting tangled up in worry and fear about what my friends, colleagues, and family will think.
It’s not that people don’t know I struggle with depression. Many people in my life know but very few know the whole story — what depression really means. The scariest part is letting them in on my secret, that suicide thoughts are still present in my life. I understand the concern, my friends and family love me and don’t want me to die.
Photograph by Troy Lukkarila
Speech I gave to a crowd of about 75 people at work in November 2015:
On my 47th birthday, I admitted myself to a mental hospital. Crazy birthday present, huh? But I had come to the end of my rope. I was having suicidal thoughts and visual hallucinations. It had gotten so bad I was afraid to drive or go out in public.
Friends and family were shocked. A former boss of mine said “you’re the sanest person I know!” But that’s the thing – I’m very good at hiding it. Bucking up and carrying on. I’ve been keeping my depression under the radar my entire life. I was so good at hiding it that sometimes I even hid it from myself, deluding myself into thinking I was cured. Then it would return.
What follows is an article that was posted in my company’s newsletter. It was the first time I went public with my mental illness. At that time, I had been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD.) In the interview, we didn’t talk about depression. I identify more with the label “depression” than I do OCD, but OCD is definitely part of the picture.
Florida Blue corporate newsletter article March 12, 2015:
Last April, Florida Blue’s #iCount campaign launched in the hopes that it would increase the number of employees self-identifying their veteran and disability statuses on Employee Central and to foster dialogue about ways to improve the employee experience and hiring of these and other diverse groups. More than 60 percent of employees have updated their statuses so far!
This latest article features Tracey Moore, business architect, who volunteered to share her experience as a person with a mental health disability; a topic many may shy away from discussing.