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.  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.  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.

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