Yesterday was my birthday.
31 is a strange age. First of all it’s an odd number and second of all it’s just simply odd.
How do you celebrate at 31 years old? It kind of feels like when I turned 23 or 27 and I can’t remember for the life of me what I did on July 12th during those years…I’m really thinking about it at this moment.
Nope, still don’t remember what I did, but that’s irrelevant.
So, many moons ago I asked Derrick to do all the planning for my big day, because I was horrible at making decisions BD (before depression) and I am still horrible, in fact, a significant time gap in thinking occurs when I simply think about what my next thought is going to be…No shame, but I’m proud to have recognized my limitations and my husband, bless him, made plans.
He suggested the aquarium and I felt an internal glimmer of joy as if I were my 2 year old’s best friend. Good thing I thought about developing some type of schedule for the day, because by the time he announced this activity, it was going on 10 am and the children weren’t dressed; not even close to being ready. For anyone who has two children two and under, older, or more (God bless), I’m sure you know the struggle of how long it takes to round-up the troops; so naturally we left about 1 pm.
I managed to endure a somewhat stressful situation of getting the kids ready, getting myself ready, and surviving what felt like fire on my body from the warmth of the sun and exhaustion of the cooling car. I’m going to be honest (because there is freedom in honesty), I felt pretty good on the depression scale, a strong 8 in the right direction, but those events knocked me down to about a 7. I felt a very little bit of that lowly haze, but once we were in the car and the sweating stopped, that haze slowly went away. Getting through that brief set back was swift compared to the effects of stressful events within the previous week. I have progressed so much in this journey and thankful for the practice of not resisting against depression.
It has been a LONG time since my husband and I have been on a road trip. We use to be all spontaneous and just pick up and go wherever, whenever, but then we had kids (cue the violins). So this was our first road trip as a family of four and a very monumental experience for us, especially for me mentally. I’m not sure if any other parent would just naturally feel this way, even without depression, but I didn’t even think about the fact that this was our first road trip and all the stress that probably should have over taken me with what will I pack in the baby bag?, how many snacks do I need?, is the baby going to be able to handle the car ride?, etc. I surprisingly did not do this mind dumping that has exhausted me into a slippery slope into the deep end many times before; I calmly packed a bag with all their essentials and didn’t think about our first road trip experience, without stressful thinking, until we neared Chattanooga.
But, of course, our first road trip was not without stressful moments. Sage’s usual car blowouts, Sydney asking for “fren fries” (no typo) and not getting them fast enough, Sage crying from probably sitting to long, the husband having his natural frustrations with high-pitched seemingly continuous screaming, and so many more things that I’m sure you can imagine happened while riding in the car with an 11 month old and 2-year-old for 2 hours; stress, stress, stress. Now I keep mentioning throughout this entry and previous entries that I have made a surprising (well, to me) amount of mental progress in my journey with depression due to all that I have learned through cognitive behavioral therapy, but this progress is fresh and if you can imagine how hard it would be for a brain that has been in a severe episode of depression for 11 months straight, to handle SO MUCH STRESS…Difficult is an understatement.
I would love to tell you about how difficult it was to handle that stress and what I did to get through it, but my brain is tired and lack of sleep and depression do not mix. Therefore, when the kids are napping and I have me time, I shall return and explain to you how yesterday’s adventures helped me to formulate the notion of how I want to make my 31st year alive, the ‘The Year of the Jellyfish’. Any ideas of how jellyfish and mental health are related?!
To be continued… (It’s 3 am; insomnia)
Well, I’m back. It’s 2:27 pm in the afternoon, I’m exhausted (can never tell these days if I’m tired tired or depression tired), and had to really push myself to pick up the computer, sit down, and open it. Yes, it’s that kind of day, but I know I will feel a little better, as I usually do, after writing my feelings out; positive visualization.
After five hours of sleep, a pretty calm morning of routine tasks with the girls and a little coping through coloring, I’m back to tell you why I want my 31st year alive to be ‘The Year of the Jellyfish’. But before I get to that, can I just say how much I enjoyed sitting in a moving car for two hours. Yes, the kids were naturally being kids and it evoked an internal struggle within me that would register as a 8/10 on the stress richter scale of anyone living without mental illness, but mindfulness was literally and figuratively all around me. East Tennessee, heading toward Chattanooga, is gorgeous. Focusing on the stillness of the deep blue river water and imagining how soft the grass must feel on an untouched hill sitting in the water, brought me from an 8/10 to a 9/10; it may not seem like much of an increase, but a slight increase in my mood can make a difference between a balloon popping versus a bomb ruining my day, maybe even days.
We arrived on 1 Broad St., the Aquarium, at around 4 pm eastern standard time. I was of course a little antsy about how much time we would be able to have in the amount of time it took for us to get there, but those four hours or less we were there, we had a whale of a time. Who knew that Chattanooga had so many family friendly activities right there on it’s aquarium campus. We walked through an expansive exhibit of what seemed to be miles and miles of a never ending fish tank in the River Journey section of the aquarium, and then we walked to another building, less than 20 steps away, to the Ocean Journey exhibit. We didn’t get to see an additional exhibit of seahorses (there are so many kinds) in the river journey, but the fact that it was about 6 pm, only two hours after arriving in town, and we had already had so many laughs, daring experiences (I touched a shark; YOLO), claw marks from Sage’s newfound experience with extreme fear of things that are way bigger then she is (I’m sure frightening), lots of cool moments captured on camera, and so much more, I was impressed with how much we accomplished.
I loved seeing the expression on Sydney’s face as she discovered new creatures she had never seen before, and admiring the great relationship my husband is developing with his kids, crawling on the floor to help Sydney get closer views and reading her almost every description about seahorses in Australia, as well as cracking adult jokes about the rainbow cooter turtle (childish, but it felt good to have a deep belly laugh).
We had a really good time, but I can’t stop thinking about how calming this experience was. I had mindfulness all around me as we travelled up and down the hills of I- 24 East, and then I was surrounded by mindfulness in the aquarium as well. From the flowing water to watching the creatures move or splash through their natural surroundings, it was so peaceful and helpful in helping me cope swiftly with all the continued bouts of stress that continued to occur as we walked through the halls of the exhibits. I was especially attached to the Jellyfish, their beauty (behind the tank of course), and how much of their anatomy, life history, behavior, and ecology I would love for this time in my life to mirror.
Did you know that jellyfish, though they only have a short life span, sometimes as little as a few months, have a killer neurological system, literally, deadly to anything that comes inches away from it, and have very few predators preying on them. Most importantly, jellyfish can be considered to be the head honchos of the food chain; wow. How can such a small, very beautiful creature with such a simple makeup, be basically the king of the sea? It’s just so fascinating and if you have a second you should really consider browsing through a little literature about them. This notion about little jellies being near the top of the food chain, kind of reminds me of the will and sheer awesomeness of those of us who battle with a mental illness, daily.
Those who battle mental illnesses, though we are small in number (1/4 of the U.S. population), have a killer stamina, stronger than they may know when it comes to flowing through life with mental illnesses as your prey; always around, maybe giving you a brief break every now and then, but nevertheless, around to stay. Though some succumb to the fight (God rest their souls; you have a special place in my heart and in my fight), like the lifespan of these beautiful creatures, that fight was not in vain, because there was so much durability and will in pressing through such a cloud of daily turmoil. A way out is bigger than suicide, but the beautiful lives of these individuals should not be remembered for their end, but be honored for their potency in this sometimes deadly food chain called life.
I salute you, your friends and family who rode the wave with you, and those of us like me who are continuing to fight in honor of your strength and endurance.
This will be ‘The year of the Jellyfish’ and hopefully many to come, of my fight to push through the debilitating effects of depression, support others as they fight, and breakdown the stigma of having a mental illness living in this world.
You are a PREDATOR and I am PROUD of you.