The Nervous Breakdown, Part V: The End

posted in: Sicky | 56
Edouard Hamman - Disillusion - WGA11202.jpg
Get this girl some friends and some meds — stat. (Disillusion by Edouard Hamman, ca. 1851.)

 

 

I’m here tonight to share the final stage of the nervous breakdown I experienced early this year. The month-long illness was diagnosed by two medical doctors as a textbook “major depressive episode” and this major depressive episode was the worst thing that has ever happened to me, not the least because it adversely affected other people, too. But, as I can (and should) only speak for myself, I can only share my side of the story. That’s what this is.

This entry is so awfully long but I had to go the distance. We have to reach the bluer skies. I’m ready for those, aren’t you? Yeah.

So tonight, let’s close down the how and the why of the breakdown as best we can on a blog on a Sunday night. It’s as good a place and time as any: Who can totally explain why a black hole opens up in the psyche? How can we say for sure when these mental wounds begin and how long they’ll suppurate before they burst and run and require serious medical attention? It’ll take me a long time to understand all of this, but these installments of the PaperGirl Sunday Evening Post are an attempt. The 300+ pages of diary entries I’ve written in the past four months are attempt. Talking to my shrink is an attempt. Talking to my friends is an attempt.

That’s where I want to start tonight — I want to start with my friends.

In the depression, the days were short and dark. Nights were endless. Hope and vitality trickled out of me by the minute and it was so frightening to feel this and to see it, I was finally scared into asking for help. That’s how hard it is for me to ask for help: I have to be disintegrating before I’ll ask. (Yes, I have learned this is not okay and has to change.) Once I realized I was in fact disintegrating, I texted friends or called friends to come over. I wasn’t going to hurt myself, but I was afraid to be alone. In the deepest valleys of the depression, being alone was the most terrifying thing imaginable because to be alone was to disintegrate for sure; having another human in the room meant I might not go away completely, or as fast. When I asked my friends to come over, even though I was crying over the phone, I tried to make light of things, offering to get pizza and wine or suggesting we go see a movie. Here are a few of the things my friends said to me:

“I’ll be there in an hour.”
“Absolutely.”
“Laura and I are comin’ over, Mar!”
“I love you.”
“Want to join me and Julia at the Field Museum?”
“I’ll head over right after work! I love you! Luke is coming over right now!!”

There was pizza and wine a couple times, but the moment any of these angels arrived in my living room, it was obvious these would not be social calls. The situation was not normal. My friends could see right away this wasn’t hanging out with Mary; this was sitting shiva.

Because no one had ever seen me like this. I had never seen me like this. My friends are otherworldly creatures made of dopeness and love, so when they observed me, they were kind and brilliant in their approach to care for me. These women and men did everything right. They brought me flowers, sewed with me, sent me jokes, talked to me on the phone, watched my favorite movie (Tootsie, duh), brought over — for example — a bag of white cheddar Pirate’s Booty and a six-pack, read to me, stroked my hair as I lay my head on their respective laps. They were brilliant, full of compassion and love for me; they were creative in their tending to me and relentless in their desire to help. But it was very hard to know what to do. Would I know what to do if a close friend literally could not stop crying for weeks? Two of my friends spent the night, sleepover style, during the final, awful week. They were with me when the worst of the panic attacks (I lost count how many), sank its needle teeth into my head and began to eat and pin-pricked every nerve in my body until I shorted out. That afternoon … that afternoon was terrifying for all three of us.

I felt guilty for those panic attacks, for shorting out. I felt guilty I could not entertain my friends, or be there for them. Their lives didn’t stop because mine was falling apart. But at that time there was nothing I could give them. I could only cling to them and beg them to stay just a little longer, which they always did, and without reservation. This neediness added to my sorrow, too, because depression is a sonofabitch. Nothing is safe. It eats everything it can, including good intentions and one’s ability to communicate love.

Remember how I told you there were five things that took me down? I was so busy getting on with the bitter end, I forgot to finish that list. Let’s do that now.

The other two blows to my life were money related.

My business is PaperGirl, LLC. In order to keep my expenses and tax stuff at least a little organized, I have a credit card for PaperGirl, LLC. I have a high credit limit on this card. I pay it off faithfully every month. (I think I’ve missed one payment in four years.) It’s got kind of a high balance right now — but not more than four digits — and it’s this is because I’m waiting on several reimbursement checks. I hate having a big balance on the thing, so I pay it off in big chunks if I can.

This credit card is my only credit card. It has my name on it and my business name on it. Outside of that, I have two debit cards. I have one store credit card. That’s it. Pretty tight, right? Pretty buttoned up?

Fun fact: If you have a credit card for your business, it does not count toward your personal credit score. Did you know that?

I didn’t know that. But I learned it when I applied for a mortgage to get a loan to buy a condo that would let me have my dog. The credit people were like, “Uh … so, you don’t have credit.” And I was like, “Uh … yeah, I do.” When I looked at my credit score, though, my credit card was not factored in. Because it’s a business card, it doesn’t count toward my credit. Even though my name is on the card. Even though my business is me and I am my business.

Without a personal credit card, one that just says “Mary K Fons” on it, not “Mary K Fons PaperGirl LLC, guess who got denied for a mortgage? Upon getting this news, I knew I was trapped for probably an entire year. A whole year more before I could have a puppy, a whole year more in the same space, in the building that broke my heart. It would be a year because I’d have to get a dumb (and “high-risk”??) credit card and “build up good credit for a year” like I’m a freakin’ 20-year-old undergraduate. I felt sick. I felt like a fool. I felt like total and complete idiot. And I wasn’t goin’ nowhere.

Dog. Breakup. Doctor. Money. Mom.

Details about that last thing, that fifth thing, that Mom thing, are absolutely nothing I’ll be going into. All I can tell you is that Mom and I had a fight. We never fight. Ever. We have never, ever had a fight. And then we did. And that was the last thing that happened that sent me down.

For two weeks — whether or not my friends were with me — I could not stop crying. I’m telling you: I was physically unable to stop crying. The tears would recede for a little while but then I’d shake my head and put my hand to my forehead and cry, and cry, and cry. Sometimes I could talk. A lot of times I couldn’t. There were periods during the breakdown when I just stared into space with tears rolling down my cheeks. One of the scariest things is that after a while, none of the circumstances that had brought me so low were front of mind. After awhile, I wasn’t crying about Philip Larkin, or the doctor, or the money. I was crying because … oh, my god. Oh, god, it was all just so sad. All of it.

The bottomless sadness of being alive. The death that waits for each of us. The despair in despair itself wasted me. Joy was something that existed on a distant planet. Sadness made me sad. Being sad about the sadness made me sad. And so I went down, and down, and down, and then, when I did not think I could go down more, I would remember that I was trapped, because of the money thing, and I would go further down. Or I would think of the fight and I would go further down. And I would think, “If Philip was here and I could pet him, I would be okay.”

The sadness monster was eating me alive. I have never felt anything more painful than that.

Next week: How I’m doing now — so good!! — and what medication I’m taking.

Love,
Mary

56 Responses

  1. Ginger Witzlib
    | Reply

    I suffer with depression myself. I’m glad you are doing much better.

  2. Lori Walter
    | Reply

    Mary,
    Although I don’t know your depth of depression, I’ve experienced my own. The fact that you are at a point where you can take the effort to describe it shows me that you are on an upswing. Hopefully, the help you are getting will continue to lift you out of the hole you were in.

  3. Vera
    | Reply

    Mary, you have such a beautiful spirit. I’m glad you reached out for help. God loves us in all of our moments. Wishing you peace and Grace.

  4. Donna Monti
    | Reply

    I have such empathy for and admiration of you. Brené Brown says we need to show up. You, dear soul, are the embodiment of showing up. “There’s something divinely healing about allowing ourselves, our lives and everyone around us to be real instead of perfect.” (P.Boynton)
    Your life is real. It’s messy…like mine. I wish you peace and the continued blessing of having good friends who show up too. ❤️

    • Jo
      | Reply

      Oh poor dear heart, I hope you see sunlight soon. Please know we are putting an extra For you. On a side note, I received my Make + Love Quilt book in the mail and just brewed a coffee. Settling in now. Take care.

  5. Debbie McMullin
    | Reply

    Mary I am praying for you. I have just recently gone through much a similar thing. It has been very scary to be so out of control and lonely. Thank goodness for our friends and good doctors. I’m getting better slowly and so will you. Hugs.

    • Sondra
      | Reply

      Prayers for you Mary. Depression is a real thing and very confusing. I have been there only once but I don’t want to go back. You can and will come through this and use what you learned through these very hard times. Missing you on TV at the Fons and Porter show. You were such an inspiration.

  6. Judy
    | Reply

    Mary, I admire your courage to “out” a major depressive episode!! Others who have been in your situation will be given courage too, to seek help and know they are not alone.

  7. Naomi Champagne
    | Reply

    O Mary !!

  8. Tony Bingham
    | Reply

    Should I send the Barbie Dream House along with all the love?

  9. Anita Brayton
    | Reply

    I’ve read all of your blog posts. I admire you so much for being able to articulate events. “There, there” and a cup of tea is about all I could offer you at your lowest point. I hope future retrospective posts will tell us, friends of someone that going through a really tough time, what we could do to help. I suspect by making this episode(s) you have helped someone else.

  10. Darlene
    | Reply

    I had a major breakdown about 20 years ago after a series of bad events. I had to give up custody of my young daughter and she did not come back to live with me for 5 years (not because I was still ill but other circumstances). It was a solid year before I recovered enough to start being out in public and years of working hard to keep drama out of my life so it won’t happen again. What really saved me was quilting. At first by myself….then a few classes….then joining a guild and now that my husband is retiring, we moved to Quiltcity U.S.A. Please take care of yourself and know there may still be ups and downs. I am not sure this will never happen again….although I would assume. It as bad since I am on good meds….. but I am learning how to enjoy life. Thinking of you and glad things are going in the right direction

  11. Sue
    | Reply

    Depression is an ugly thing. I don’t think any two are the same. But I have had the “cry” it’s just so painful. Wish I was a wordsmith. I’m not.

  12. Colleen Sain
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing. Depression is too often a private disease that needs to be talked about. Many of us who suffer from it suffer in silence and often in shame. I am grateful when someone shares their experiences during a depressive episode because they are sharing something I can relate to. I too take medicine for depression and anxiety. I still experience anxiety attacks. Thank you!

  13. Kim Bourgeois Landry
    | Reply

    Mary, I wish I had something profound to say. I don’t, I’m just sending you a big hug and a warm smile. Thank you for sharing with us.

  14. Laurie
    | Reply

    Thank you very much for sharing.

  15. Britiney
    | Reply

    I’m so glad you’re doing better. And sharing your story will most certainly help someone. All the love, Mary.

  16. Jeanne Brinkman
    | Reply

    Brave and good soul……… you are an inspiration ❣️❣️❣️

  17. Kathleen
    | Reply

    Love you.

  18. Claudia W
    | Reply

    I love you. I love your honesty. You have most likely just helped hundreds of people who suffer and don’t know how to ask for help. Thank you!

  19. Kathleen Callahan
    | Reply

    Mary, I’m so glad you got help and are doing well. I’m also glad you had such good friends that would come and spend time with you no matter what. I imagine it was hard for them too. Thankfully you are in a much better place now

  20. Becki Morrison
    | Reply

    Writing about it is cathartic, as you obviously know. And it helps me to read about your journey, so in a way, you are healing your readers as well. I’m so sorry you had to go there…but thank you for sharing.

  21. Pam Williams
    | Reply

    Dear Mary: I have undiagnosed depression and I take a Zoloft generic. I have a happy life. My new husband is kinda retarded but he does so much for me because I work full time at a law firm, am taking a Master Garndner’s class, and am making a small quilt for a show in Memphis called Stitched, and also getting aready to sew a few baby Quilts for Artwalk at the end of the month. All these things are happy beautiful nice comforting etc. fun. But there are some days that I cannot organize myself to do anything. Depression is a prison. But thanks to medication it is temporary. I hope you feel the support out here from your fan club! Best regards. Pam Williams, Memphis

  22. Lindsey
    | Reply

    Hugs!

  23. Sara F
    | Reply

    Your courage as you heal will be an inspiration to others in similar situations.

    • Susan
      | Reply

      I hope you and mom have made up. That is the one thing you absolutely need.

    • Ivette Ramos
      | Reply

      I had a dark period of depression in my life, too. It taught me a lot about celebrating every little positive step I made. Each night I would read a positive meditation before going to bed. I took up walking which led to regular exercise. Baby steps and taking joy in simple things. It eventually passed and I’m in a very different place now but will never forget that time. I hope your journey moves forward to a good place. I’ve always admired you for your authenticity and talent. Sending good vibes your way.

  24. Pamela Barnes
    | Reply

    hugs and support <3 forever your fan

  25. Li
    | Reply

    Reading these posts it just makes me reassured that you have always known how much your mother and family love you.

  26. Karen
    | Reply

    While I wouldn’t wish the depression that you experienced on anyone, I am so, so appreciative that you are able to share a bit of the ordeal with us. I have friends and grandchildren who battle depression for a variety of reasons, and they are not nearly as able as you to describe what it is like for them. So from you I get a hint of the depth of their pain and what I can do to support them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
    And congratulations on being on the upswing! I applaud the work and resolve you have shown to get there! We “PaperGirl Groupies” have been so worried about you and are elated that you are back, baby, with bells on!! Love ya!

  27. Kath Hendry
    | Reply

    Dear Mary, I wish you peace and understanding and growth and joy! I thank you for articulating and sharing your pain. It will educate some, and give hope to many. Someone somewhere said “only connect”, which mantra I adopted. Misery doesn’t love company, not really, but at least for me, misery abates with connection. I wish you love.

  28. Teri
    | Reply

    I know exactly how you feel. I have been progressively getting worse since the end of September when my husband had a major health crisis. 4 months in the hospital and trying to be optimistic for the kids (adults) has been devastating. I, like you, can just sit and tears roll down my face. I am trying to function but it gets harder and harder each day. I don’t know where to turn to so thank you for posting your journey.

  29. Peggy
    | Reply

    Dear friends, if you are depressed —

    (you’ll know it if you are, even if it has never happened to you before — it’s not like a passing case of the blues — the bottom drops out, and you can barely function, and you see no future, no point) —

    GET TO A MEDICAL DOCTOR ASAP

    You are not going to snap out of it. Even if you have no prior history of depression. Your brain has gone into freefall, from cumulative stress, a sudden calamity, or even a sensitive nature in a state of Overwhelm.

    A MAJOR MEDICAL ASSIST & ONGOING SUPPORT IS REQUIRED

    If you feel like you don’t want to live another day, call 911, and tell them to come get you.

    Did I leave anything out? I wanted to be brief for anyone reading who might be too sad to process more than a few words.

    If you suspect someone you love is depressed, HELP THEM GET HELP ASAP.

    Love to all. It’s a beautiful world, but a hard one too, take care of each other. Take care of yourself.

    • Veronica
      | Reply

      Coming to this after a few weeks Peggy , but wanted to say Thank you – it’s a really great Post. x

  30. Judith Beard
    | Reply

    It will get better.

  31. Brenda King
    | Reply

    Dear Mary- I’m so sorry you have had this painful experience but glad you’re on the up-swing! My entire family suffers from chronic depression most of the time, which can get better or worse at any second. I am sorry for the many things that tipped you over. Seems like a great load, all at once! You didn’t deserve them, but they piled up on you. You are a gifted, smart, sweet, kind, and talented human. You have so much to offer the world, and we love, admire, and need you so much! I know you will continue to heal and rise from the ashes of life. You’ll fly again, our Phoenix! Take extra special care of you, and know we’re all pluggin’ for you! BIG HUGS! Brenda, Bend, Or.

  32. Robyn
    | Reply

    I have followed your story marvelling at its depth without naming people as you went. While I don’t want to appear facile, I really want to say I am enjoying the journey. It is an utterly bizarre way to phrase it, I know. But your honesty has been refreshing and I am hopeful that next week is about your moving towards better health. Compassion for someone suffering a mental illness should be no different to any other health problems we encounter in our lives. Without knowing you personally, I want to number you amongst my friends as a shining light. I feel like I am awaiting an update from a friend on how they are doing, and I treasure my “luck” in coming across your original post about your health. Thank you and hi from Melbourne Australia.

  33. Georgia
    | Reply

    Thank you for having the courage to share your heart breaking story with us. Not to mention so eloquently! Love you, Mary.

  34. Nadine
    | Reply

    Mary- wow! All I can say is that my heart wants to reach out to your heart and give it a huge loving squeeze. Depression is a terrible monster. I am so sorry you went through all of this. Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers

  35. Barbara
    | Reply

    Hugs!! Been there! Feel I am half way there again but am counting on the experience of the last to turn me around.
    The sun is always brighter after a downer.
    Hang in there!

  36. Patricia Gottshalk
    | Reply

    I continue to be in awe. Honest and powerful, worthy of tears on the keyboard.

  37. Ginny
    | Reply

    Mary – Depression is so real! Being able to say “I suffer from depression” is a big big step. Panic attacks are real too. A lot of people don’t understand them / or don’t believe they are real. As a nurse, I have witnessed my best friend have panic attacks, gone to the hospital with her, explained to the doctor , etc… You are so brave to bare yourself to us. I wish I could reach out and hug you. Depression can also be a genetic. Some people hide it very well. I know I thought I did. Thank God for medication that helps depression! Love you girl.

  38. Bari Newport
    | Reply

    Been. There.
    But hate that you are.
    I only want happiness for you.

    …and I’m thrilled to read that you are getting a puppy. (credit score be damned. you’re getting a puppy)

  39. Pauline
    | Reply

    My heart breaks for you. Reading about this chapter in your life brings tears to my eyes and reminds me of a period my very closest friend went thru a couple of years ago. She could not stop crying and everything was falling apart. As a friend, you want to fix it, but I realized that just being there for her was the help she needed. I’m only telling you this story, because she recovered and hasn’t had an episode since then. She had to make changes in her meds, which is always the hardest to get thru, but I’m hoping that the same is true for you.
    I’m a little worried about you, because you haven’t posted since April 14th! I hope you’re doing okay!

  40. Monica
    | Reply

    Hi Mary. I want you to have a puppy! It’s my understanding that Churchill Mortgage will manually underwrite loans (which is what you need if you don’t have a credit score). Hope this helps you get your new place that allows dogs. Hugs!

  41. Susan K
    | Reply

    Miss you Girl! Hope all is going well.

  42. Nancy Horton
    | Reply

    Mary, we need to hear from you! we miss your wonderful spirit and your creative writing!! take heart, dear girl, and be refreshed

  43. annie
    | Reply

    I hope you are busy with moving and a new puppy which keeps you from getting to your Paper Girl blog. You are missed and worried about!

  44. Kerri Arredondo
    | Reply

    Hi Mary! So, I met you in Paducah & didn’t even know you. I received my 1st copy of Quiltfolk & saw your whole name. I was surprised because I had heard that name before but it was about a gal & her mom on TV. I did a quick web search & found your blog here on the interwebs. I was in the company of a “famous girl” during a photo shoot at the Paper Pieces sip ‘n’ stitch & didn’t even know it! What a fortunate series of events that brought me here. Even “famous” people have serious struggles & can find strength in sharing! Your story here resonates so closely to my own struggles recently & quilting has been my barometer. When I can’t even get up the energy or desire to quilt, I know I’m in a low place. Praying for your comfort & peace of mind! You got this!

  45. Lori Avant Frank
    | Reply

    Mary it DOES get better. I can never force myself or will myself to feel better. Bringing a needle with silk ribbon thru fabric makes me fell better. I wish I could bring you a magical pot of my southern sweet mint tea when I come to see my daughters play in Chicago. What I can do is pray God can warm and thaw your heart like a Daddy that takes dried up playdough that a child stubby fingers cant mainipulate… and works it and mashes it and it becomes pliable, shapable, useful, beautiful. Your story has great purpose right where you are! Thank you for being brave enough to share it.

  46. Anita
    | Reply

    I hope you are doing better and the new meds are working. I picture you settled n a new home with your puppy. Your writing is missed and you are worried about. Thank you for sharing your journey, it will help many others.

  47. Wilma Bland
    | Reply

    Mary —just missing you and trusting, like Annie, that The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow… meanwhile I will picture you snuggled up in a quilt, sipping a hot toddy –come on, Girl, I live on the edge of the temperate rain forest about a half hour from the ocean and I can only describe the weather today as San Francisco fog. My hot toddy is mainly hot and no toddy. Water and lemon and honey. Out of Market Spice Tea from Pike Place Market in Seattle. Getting some Quiltfolk reading done.

    • Mary
      | Reply

      It’s hard to read comments like these. I’m trying. I swear. Oh, the Wandas and the Anitas and the Suzans and all the “s” women (and a few men!) who I love so much through this blog. I’m climbing back. It’s one foothold at a time. I’m coming. xooxox Mary

      • Veronica
        | Reply

        Take your time , sweet Soul. Nature never , ever stays the same. It is always slowly changing , & so are we , as part of Nature. Even if all you do , is Nothing.
        Let life happen for a while , & rest . Body & Soul.
        This mending & healing should be very slow & very gentle, Mary. That way , it can become something stable & strong. It took a long time for this breaking to happen. It really should take a long time to heal & mend , as your Spirit slowly builds again. . A beautiful Mary Spirit. It’s all there , Mary. Just worn out , right now. xx

  48. Suzan
    | Reply

    Mary where are you?

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