The Dark Side

For so long, I’ve been putting off this post.

It’s tough to talk about personal, difficult things in a public forum like a blog.Β  I’ve had so many people check up on me…wondering why I’m not blogging, why I’m not showing up to social events, or why I just haven’t acted like myself. I thought I’d explain.

Summertime is so tough for me. I’m one of the crazies that deals with summertime seasonal depression much more than dark months of winter. When the weather cools down and evening begins earlier, I feel refreshed and invigorated for the winter. Sometimes I even feel that winter “freezes” me into an enthusiastic, hyper-productive, nearly manic state of mind. Spring is actually my favorite season…watching new growth emerge through the matted frozen soil. But as the days become longer, and temps linger above 80 degrees on a regular basis, I feel myself shrivel and dehydrate. The the sultry, hot days of summer broil the life out of me. I become a sullen, lethargic, and dried-up version of Nicole…despite all the Prozac, therapy, and gigantic cups of Coke Zero I consume.

Summer 2010 felt different than any other summer. But I think it was a result of recovering from life in Summer 2009.

Summer 2009 was almost like a coma to me. In a weeks time, I went from working in a high-stress full-time corporate environment in a major metro area, to packing up my condo and driving cross country, and ending up two time zones west in a borrowed house in a rural town. I began yet another phase of living apart from my husband (who was already away half of the month). I felt incapable of taking care of myself, abandoned in a place I didn’t care for, in circumstances I had little control over. Many weeks were spent alone in my bedroom. I was practically catatonic. It took a few months to get myself to a point where I could function and have a personality again. By October, I felt energetic, was full of ideas, creativity, and aspirations.

After months of unsuccessful job searching, I tried to decided to make a move education-wise. Because of our already excessive student loan debt, taking out more money for school wasn’t possible. I didn’t feel right about working on my bachelor degree at this time, and instead looked into professional training programs. With my background and experience in healthcare, I knew I should find something to make me more relevant in that field. I reconnected with some old coworkers who encouraged me to become a certified professional coder. I found a good online training program, and last October I hit the books.

The next 6 weeks went well…I was motivated in many aspects of my life. I started exercising vigorously, studying diligently, and was feeling optimistic. But Mid-December brought in a nasty back injury and many months of painful recuperation. I was in terrible pain, had very limited mobility, and struggled again to make it day-to-day.

During this time, my marriage suffered greatly. We were both feeling so stressed, upset, and impatient with each other. I hated that I couldn’t have my partner here when I needed him, and he hated that I was living my life as someone different that he’d known for the previous 5 years. Our finances suffered from my lack of full-time income; we were making sizable monthly payments for my tuition, straining our already anorexic bank account. Our communication suffered, and we both had to make a lot of adjustments to recover the things we’d slowly lost in our relationship.

One of the most difficult aspects with my depression is my unrealistic responses to emotions. Things that make me sad suddenly feel tragic, and little joys become euphoric. When I have a small setback, I become unrealistically anxious and hopeless. When I feel success, I become competitive, driven, and egotistical. I am easily tempted by things that would have never been a temptation before. In order to achieve balance during this time, I force myself away from spontaneity, and toward introspection. I spend time alone, and have to force myself to get out of the house. I feel social anxiety when I’m around people that are used to the “real Nicole,” and turn down invitations to have fun (despite my desperation to connect with other people). I went to several conferences this summer (Bloggy Boot Camp, Casual Blogger, EVO, and BlogHer), and was so worked up that many hours of those conferences were drowned in my tears.

This summer was my first time dealing with suicidal feelings, and I’m grateful for the love and support of many people who helped me out of that awful abyss. I focused on my successes and allowed other people to help me.Β  My husband begged me to be selfish and spend time on the things that would bring me happiness and success. I started to regain my mobility from my injuries and started losing weight (down about 25 lbs). I enjoyed being a “stage parent” for Rosie’s first play. I dove headfirst into school, spending 5-7 hours most days on studies. And most of importantly, I fought for my marriage. I changed behaviors that caused contention, I opened up about issues that caused anger and tension. I had to be patient. I had to forgive and ask for forgiveness. I worked on being the spouse I knew that Taylor wanted me to be. And now, things are finally feeling awesome between us again.

This week marks the Fall Equinox, which is the official end of summer. Days are getting shorter and temperatures are cooling. The lengthening nights don’t seem quite as dark as the lonely nights of the summer. I feel hopeful.

  • I am proud of you and of Taylor. Suffering from any type of mental illness (ugh I hate calling it that!) can be absolutely nightmarish. And being the partner of someone struggling with it, I imagine, is harder. For the record, I just came back from a 4 day “emergency” mental health break. Brett and I traveled to GA to stay with my parents for 4 days. All the stress I’ve been dealing with the past year culimated into some bad coping skills for me, and I had to get my head together to make sure OUR marriage didn’t suffer. I can totally identify with ya! Kudos on puttin’ all out there.

  • Coral Jolee

    My dearest Nicole. You are a very brave person for putting all that online. I hope that you find some kind of peace in the Lord.
    Will send you lots of prayers.
    Coral Jolee

  • Amy

    Nicole~ Thanks for sharing, when others do so, it makes it easier to face my own struggles. I’ve battled depression and mania for awhile now, even before I knew what it was. It is difficult to maintain motherhood and wifehood throughout such struggles. I’m glad that Taylor is so wonderful and that you guys are back on track. I’ve been blessed with a compassionate and loving husband myself and don’t know what I’d do without him. I admire your strength and courage and your willingness to share yourself with the world. I know I don’t keep in touch very well, but I wanted to take the time to let you know that you are awesome!
    ~Amy~

  • My husband deals with some of the same things you’ve described, so I know how difficult it can be. But I’m glad to hear you’re starting to feel better πŸ™‚

  • katie

    Nicole,
    How I love your honesty. I feel that it shows real strength. I am definitely not someone who is brave enough to share my faults or hurts publicly and yet I wish I could. I can’t express how comforting it is knowing that somewhere out there someone feels or has felt the way I have and it makes me feel “normal” like I’m not the only one. Thank you for sharing your heart with me.
    Loves, Katie Johnsen Henrie

  • Amen for the equinox, and kudos to you for all your diligent efforts to work through the dark days. Love you, Sweet Lady!

  • Thank you for sharing! I feel your pain. However, I feel it during the winter I have the opposite seasonal depression. Winter is hell for me. Which is crazy that we still live in UT. I dream duing the winter months of moving as far south as possible. Thank you so much for your thoughts it has really uplifted me. I’m glad you are blogging and we should support each other one the other is “off” and one of us is “on”. πŸ™‚

  • I’m so proud of you for writing this out. You feel better yes?

    I have a light to make me feel better in the winter when I’m down in the dumps…I wonder if we could get you a giant dark fridge for the summer?

    xx

  • What Casey said about the fridge is so Casey-hilarious. It’s good that we can make each other laugh, huh?

    You’re helping someone by telling your story. It’s so hard and so many people feel so alone. It takes courage to tell some parts of our stories, but it’s so worth it.

    I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Thank you for writing this.

  • I prefer winter as well…maybe because I can’t rock the bikinis and booty shorts everyone else does? πŸ™‚ I think the heat just drains me, and I find myself just wanting to lay around doing nothing. I love Fall & Winter! The weather, the holidays, getting back into a schedule…bliss.

    You are very brave to post this. I think it’s amazing that you can be so honest, even when it doesn’t paint the prettiest picture. Too many people only post the happy, sunshine-y stuff…blech. Good job keeping it real. You will help a lot of people with your honesty, especially me. I wish I could help, but all I can do is pray for you! I wish you all the best dear!

  • Thank you for sharing this post! When I met you online you were still in GA and very talkative. It’s been one thing after another for your family and with the stress – you are so strong to get through and be pulling yourself out. That shows great strength. It takes courage to not just throw in the towel, especially on marriage and I’m impressed with you that you are working on it all! You are an inspiration, Nicole!
    I, too, thrive in the fall and winter months. Have never been a summer person, so I can relate to that excitement and motivated feeling you get when the days get shorter and darker. People always say that’s odd but I’m glad to see someone else feels that way about fall/winter, too.

  • Nicole,
    I’m so glad to hear things are looking up for you!!! I’ve been worried about you but I know you are a strong and powerful woman and you can get through anything you are given, especially when you have faith and act upon it. Although I’m opposite from you regarding the seasons, this truly has been “The Summer of Hell” for both of us. We’ve said before that our circumstances may be very different, but we have experienced many of the same feelings. Know that you are not alone and that I understand and am here for you. And congrats on the 25 lbs!!!

    I LOVE you to PIECES!!!
    xoxoxo

  • Silvie

    Wow, you are so brave to post about your personal life in such a way! I am glad that things are going better now for you. Reading this post makes my blog posts so without content….

  • Glad to hear you are doing better Nicole. I hope to see you back blogging more, I’ve missed reading your blog! Your blog was probably the one that inspired me most to start writing mine last year. Here’s hoping you are on the other side of the storm now and that the rest of your “flight” is all calm skies πŸ™‚

  • Nicole,

    Having just posted about my own battle with depression after the birth of my baby son, I admire you greatly for writing what you have. It sounds like you’ve been to hell and back. Well done for surviving it! You’re a strong woman, I have no doubt.

    x

  • good for you, nicole. good for you for finally getting it out. i know how much you’ve struggled to get your feelings out this past summer, and i’m so happy for you that you’ve been able to do it here. i’m sorry we didn’t get to hang out that much at blogher–it seemed like every time we saw each other, you were with a bunch of people, or vice versa.

    keep working on making things better, i know you can do it.

    xo

  • I am glad that you are getting a little sunshine through the dark.

  • Rebecca

    thank you!

  • Nicole,
    I’m so sorry that you have to deal with this! You are one of the strongest people I know. You have had to go through so much, but you always pull through. Hopefully now that Fall is here, things will continue to get better for you. Congrats on the 25lbs! That is so awesome. Keep up the good work!

  • I do think the seasons have a lot to do with depression. I hope you really are out of it. I’m proud of you for your weight loss!

  • I was thinking about you the other day…I’m so happy you’re doing better.

  • It’s good to see you back on here. I hope this Winter is the best yet! You deserve a little brightness in your life.
    Thanks for sharing your life with us.

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