…But I’m Not Sad

by Ginger on March 5, 2012

in I'm a Disaster

When I wrote a few weeks ago about how I felt out of control, I explored the tip of the iceberg that was about to hit me. I talked about how I was unable to complete anything, how I was giving up on my task list, how I couldn’t find the stamina or energy or brainspace for any kind of productivity. I talked about it like that was all it was.

But the reality is, this wasn’t–isn’t–about my to-do list.

For the longest time, I’ve felt…blah. To put a technical term on it. I’ve felt lifeless, uninterested/uninteresting. I’ve felt like the best use of my time is to lump (yes, that is now a verb) on the couch. Even my old standby pleasures (blogging & TV) haven’t been holding my interest. My to-do list is just a symptom of that problem: I can’t get interested enough to do any of the things I need to do. Or I get paralyzed by how much I need to do and how much energy that is going to take and so I don’t do them. I’m unproductive, with no attention span, and feel like even accomplishing the basic tasks of the day is a big enough accomplishment.

Oh, I’ve occasionally wondered if it was something BIGGER than just stress. More than just being tired. In the end, though, I never gave it enough space or attention to really find out myself. I told myself that my problems aren’t that bad, I’m just tired/a parent/making excuses/etc. “It’s nothing that everyone in the word doesn’t go through, I’m just not handling it as well. Snap out of it.”

It wasn’t until I read someone else’s post (posted, by the way, the same day that I wrote about being out of control) that included her symptoms of depression that I really allowed myself to think that this might be more than the typical overworked mom thing. Because I saw myself in her description the way I hadn’t seen myself in a while:

Here are the symptoms of major clinical depression, as I have it, for anyone who might be curious: I get overwhelmed by things, I become very unproductive. I crave repetitive, soothing tasks, or things that require no attention span whatsoever.

When I read that, it’s like a light bulb that had been flickering for a while finally went on. Because all of that? Every last one? That’s part and parcel of how I’ve been feeling for, oh, at LEAST the last 6 months. And to think that that could be more than just stress? That it could be depression? Was eye opening.

But I’m not sad.

Or, at least, not the kind of sad that I apparently mentally associated with depression.

And I’m not having panic attacks.

Because a racing heart and nausea are apparently the only symptoms of anxiety that come to my mind.

In my head, I never made the connection. I never made the connection that everything else, from the difficulty concentrating and completing tasks to the lack of interest in things that I used to enjoy could be stemming from something more than just “stress.” And “parenthood.” It took someone else saying “hey, these are my symptoms” for me to make that mental leap, to think…well…maybe?

The next day I called a doctor. For once, I just did it, instead of just thinking about it. Because I really needed to know. I needed someone else to tell me. I needed the definitive call:

“Ginger, it sounds like you have depression and anxiety.”

And so here we are. I feel like the biggest cliche to ever be created (oh look, another mommy blogger who has depression & anxiety*), but there you go. In some ways, it’s almost *funny* that it turns out I didn’t know I had depression and anxiety. I’ve been reading blogs for a long time, and my first blog addictions were women who were opening up and sharing about their struggles with those exact things. I’ve been reading about depression and anxiety in women & mothers for as long as I’ve been reading blogs, and so the fact that it SURPRISED me? Blows me away.

I’m still working through what this all means. So far, I have a therapist, some techniques to practice for the anxiety, some “homework” like get some exercise, get some sleep, and, (gulp) cut down/cut out caffeine. We’re putting the medication discussion on hold for a little bit to try some of these other things (and while we get to know each other/she gets to know the ins and outs of my head), but it’s a possibility.

But mostly, I’m working through how to take this knowledge and change things. I’m not sure yet, but at least now I know where I’m starting from.

*Edited to add: I don’t feel like other people are a cliche when they go through this. Just in case that’s what it sounds like. That’s just how *I* feel about myself. It’s the same thing I face when I say I’d tell someone who was thinking about death all the time that they should talk to someone, but that never occurred to me. So, it’s just how I’m viewing myself not how I view others. Part of what I need to work on, I know.

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicoleandmaggie March 5, 2012 at 3:59 pm

CBT is awesome awesome awesome. (Also the same stuff they teach in Bradley classes for natural childbirth– if it works for contractions, it works for anxiety.) But you definitely have to do the exercises regularly for it to work fully.

Other things that I found out about myself and my body: 1. birth control pills and I do not really get along and 2. a lot of my emotional ups and downs were connected to hypoglycemia. Getting off BCP and moving to a whole grains rather than a low fat diet (and 5 small meals/day rather than 3 large ones) made it much easier for my emotions to be on an even keel centered at generally happy.

Good luck! I like the me without anxiety much better than the me with.

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Lisa March 5, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I completely agree with the hypoglycemia thing. I have the same issue. I’ve started carrying food with me because the smallest, most mundane things will send me into a panic if I haven’t eaten.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

Thank you!

I’ve started with CBT, which I’m finding to help already for the worst of the anxiety. I can see it’s going to be a process though (which I was prepared for, although I have moments of wishing it went faster). It’s amazing to me, even this early in the process, how much of what I’ve been struggling with can be attributed to anxiety in particular, so I think it’s definitely worth the work to get to a me without it.

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Nicoleandmaggie March 15, 2012 at 5:15 am

Luckily CBT also helps teach patience. 🙂

(“Patience? How long does that take?” http://youtu.be/KF6zILkOOc0 )

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Trina March 5, 2012 at 4:29 pm

first *hugs* are in order. Second, I feel almost exactly as you have listed. I have always written it off as too much to do and too much stress. And I know it’s been affecting our ttc efforts.

It’s great you’ve recognized this and can get help. I’m proud of you for writing this because it really is a wake up call to the rest of us that may not know the signs. Also, please don’t ever feel bad for being a “mom stereotype”. Shit happens. No need to feel guilty of it too.
*hugs*

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Thanks friend. I wrote it off for a REALLY long time, but finally had to admit it was more than “just” stress. When your husband starts mentioning things to you, that’s a pretty good sign (at least in my house).

And I figure, I want to be happy. I want my family to be happy with me. That means I need to figure this all out. It’s the only life I’ve got, I want to enjoy it, you know?

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hillary March 5, 2012 at 4:30 pm

Big hugs, lady. Big, smooshy hugs. I have no wisdom to share (as I muddle my way through my own shit) but I can cheer you on from the sidelines. xoxo

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Thanks lady. I’ll take hugs any day of the week!

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jonniker March 5, 2012 at 4:32 pm

No need to feel like a cliche! I’ve been there a hundred times, and yes, CBT is amazing. I did turn out to need meds in addition to it (Celexa) and I am . . . happy. Super happy. I feel like a different person, and when I think about how anxious (NOT depressed or sad! NO panic attacks!) I was, I hardly recognize myself.

There’s nothing cliched about this! It’s you. You’re YOU. If you were physically sick, wouldn’t you fix it? Well, you’re sick, and you’re fixing it. Awesome.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Thanks Jonna. I’m already seeing some difference with CBT, although I think we are gonna bust out the meds conversation a *little* earlier than I thought too. Because you’re right, it’s about fixing it–and if I can get to someone who is happy and not freaking out over every little thing? That’s worth it.

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Cloud March 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I’m so glad you figured this out. I think one of the most insidious things about depression is how it makes it hard for the people who are suffering from it to recognize what is wrong. I hope you start feeling better soon. And if there is anything a local bloggy buddy can do to help, don’t hesitate to ask.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Thanks Cloud. I’m glad I did too–I just kept thinking “oh, I”m just stressed.” But it clearly is more than just stress, even if it’s hard to see the difference sometimes.

So I’m working on it. Because I WILL get better.

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Cheryl March 5, 2012 at 4:45 pm

I so get it, I get it, I get it, I get it.
For a long time, longer than I care to admit, I also believed this: “It’s nothing that everyone in the word doesn’t go through, I’m just not handling it as well. Snap out of it.” Snap out of it doesn’t work. There’s no magic moment where you just decide to feel better. (Trust me, I’ve tried to find it.)
I still haven’t talked to a medical doctor, though I have talked to a counsellor and I have a lot of strategies for making each day better. It’s always a battle but at least I’m trying. And you’re trying too. You’ve taken the first and probably hardest steps.
If you need anything, you know where to find me!

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Thanks friend. It was SO hard to get past feeling like it was just “normal” that I wasn’t handling well. That’s one of the worst parts to me. I’m just glad I finally, finally decided to at least ASK whether it was normal or not.

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Melissa March 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Ginger – I’m SO PROUD OF YOU! I’m so glad that you were able to connect with someone else’s words and TOOK ACTION! So many more people will be able to connect with what you’ve shared above so bravely. I’m here for you as support if you need it – I’m sending hugs and cheers your way.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Thank you my friend!

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drhoctor2 March 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm

I’m glad you’ve gotten a handle on this..I wish “sad” wasn’t associated with depression it rarely feels sad in my experience. It’s more like feeling nothing, numbed out and disinterested. Please don’t let the cliche thing shame you. Clinical depression is a disease…same as gout or high blood pressure…I know I had a difficult time accepting that I needed meds and I’d like to slap myself for that arrogance…I wouldn’t feel badly about taking other pills for a disease. And I can’t imagine why I thought I “should” be able to regulate an imbalance of chemicals in my brain. Ahhh, stigma.
Here’s to feeling like yourself again soonest. You have my best thoughts.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:45 pm

It was so hard to get past the “sad” description in my head. But man, it’s all the rest. Although at one point I actually told my husband, “but I’m not sad” and he said something along the lines of “but you don’t have any interest in anything, you feel completely disconnected, and you would rather just sit and stare into space than do anything. And that’s…happy?” So it may not be sad in the “sit in my room and cry” sense, but there’s definitely no joy.

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Erin March 5, 2012 at 5:49 pm

It’s very brave to admit this, my dear. I’m glad that you’re dealing with it, head-on. You’ve always struck me as a take-charge kind of person, so it doesn’t surprise me that you would deal with this exactly as it should be. The depression description fits me as well, and I’ve known it for years, but it comes and goes so I pretend it doesn’t exist. Don’t tell anyone. 😉 Me not dealing with it fits my severely procrastinating nature. For what it’s worth, I have heard that exercise has been shown to be more effective than medication when it comes to depression. I can’t speak to that, since I avoid exercise like the plague. Wishing you all the best.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Right now, I’ve been feeling anything BUT take charge, but I did figure that if I was unhappy, I needed to at least try to get un-unhappy. So off I went.

Right now, I’m doing therapy, exercise (ugh. I avoid it too, but if walking the dog for 30 minutes will help, I guess I’ll get off my butt), sleeping (or trying), and some diet stuff. We may get to medication, but I also think it’s going to end up being a mix of things no matter what.

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Ashley March 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm

“oh look, another mommy blogger who has depression & anxiety”

Totally made me laugh, I won’t lie. 😉

As the wife of a psychologist, who hears ALL THE DAMN TIME about what a shame it is that there’s a stigma to mental health counseling, I am so, so happy for you.

Also, there is nothing wrong with medication (at all! Yay meds!), but I think it’s great you’re pursuing other avenues first – just because sometimes medicating too soon can mask some real progress you might make. But, again, nothing wrong with meds!

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:56 pm

Thanks lady. I’m trying to do everything I can–I’m even cutting back on caffeine! That’s how much I want to be better!–because it’s worth it to get better. I may get to meds, but figure I’ll start with the other stuff.

And I will say this: I have ZERO issues with admitting this, talking about it, or owning it. I don’t feel a stigma (maybe that whole reading blogs thing? Cliche and stigma are TOTALLY different in my mind ;-)), but I totally understand how others feel there is. I just wish there wasn’t because everyone should feel comfortable enough to say, “something’s not right, and I want to make it better.”

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Michelle March 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm

I’m glad you found that post when you needed it. Really. It’s so difficult sometimes to look from the outside in to ourselves.

And I’m glad you found a doctor and are …. what’s the word I’m looking for here? … self-aware (?) enough to get help.

Hugs, girl.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Thanks my friend.

And I’ll take all the hugs I can get–I’m fairly certain they’re part of my (self-prescribed) prescription for getting better 😉

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emily @ the happy home March 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm

i so appreciate you writing this. <3

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Well, beyond the whole “I write my brain on my blog” thing, I did figure that there may be other people who might relate. And not that I think people should take my blog post as something to self-diagnose, but if it makes someone recognize something familiar (like I did with that other post), something that makes them look a little deeper or call a doctor themselves…that’s worth something too.

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San March 5, 2012 at 7:46 pm

I think a lot more people struggle with this than we know. It’s great that you’re so openly writing about it, because maybe somebody reads your words and makes the same connections…. and that would a a great leap.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm

I was lucky enough to see myself in someone else’s blog, enough to start asking questions. If anyone gets that from my blog? That would be an awesome way to pay that forward!

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clara March 5, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Cheezy hugs to you.

Maybe the reason there are so many “mommy bloggers who are depressed” is because there are so many mommy bloggers who are bloggers: ie: talking about stuff. Putting it out there in the world for other people to find and commiserate with and take strength from. Something to be proud of, in other words, not a cliche.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:05 pm

You always have the best comments Clara, and you’re absolutely right. Thank you for reminding me that talking about it isn’t cliche. It’s something that helps (and maybe not just me).

And, I’ll take all the hugs I can get (and mmmm, cheese!)

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Megan March 6, 2012 at 12:40 am

I don’t know what I could add to the conversation here, but I want you to know that I am glad you are taking care of yourself. I can relate to this a bit, and you’ve got me thinking some things out. Always a good thing!

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Thank you my friend. And if this makes you (or anyone else) think through things…well, then that’s DEFINITELY a good thing.

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Jocelyn | ScooterMarie March 6, 2012 at 10:09 am

So sorry to hear the diagnosis, but I’m really glad you did figure something out. And you are totally NOT a cliche! You are wonderful, and we’re all out here to help if you need it. If not, we’ll simply continue reading along and pulling for you every step of the way. 🙂

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Your comment has made me smile more times than I can count. Thank you so much for your support and for your kind, kind words!

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Chuck March 6, 2012 at 11:04 am

You go girl. We all suffer some form of depression from time to time. Depression is to the mind what a temperature is to the body. It lets us know that there is something there that is not healthy. CBT can help us discover what is in our thinking/believing that may be causing the depression. Sometimes medication is needed (like an antibiotic is to an infection) to help us find that chemical balance to help us work through the issues. I’ll be praying for you as you journey through this time of becoming healthier in mind and emotions. Love you.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

Leave it to you to leave the perfect analogy Uncle Chuck 🙂 I’m glad to know so many people are supporting me as I work through this! Love you!

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Jamie March 6, 2012 at 6:04 pm

I think it’s pretty awesome that you had to find answers, and not only that you’re working through it! I admire that.

I recognize I have anxiety but as far too afraid to see anyone about it… something I’m working through as I type this 😉 perhaps it has something to do with the anxiety too???

But just know, you are far from alone. My SO has clinical depression and anxiety, and it’s been a huge learning curve for me. And ironically I wrote a letter to Depression today in my blog.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Oh man, picking up the phone to make the first phone call was SUCH an anxiety ridden thing. I’m obviously glad I did it, but I swear it took 3 hours for my fight or flight response to calm down.

Maybe a perfect sign that I needed to talk to someone?

And I will say, I’ve been talking to someone for about 4 weeks now, and I’m already seeing some positive changes in the anxiety. It’s definitely helping (if that gives you any small desire to maybe call yourself), and I’m just starting the process!

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Christine @ Love, Life, Surf March 6, 2012 at 9:42 pm

When I started reading your post, my first thought was, “Wow, she’s totally gotten into my head again” and lump is the best way to describe it. I haven’t been able to pin point how I’ve been feeling but you sum it up as does the symptoms of depression that you quote. Hmmmm, should that be telling me something? In all seriousness, I’ve had the suspicion that it’s more than just being tired/busy/mom/etc. for me but part of me is still afraid to admit it and what that all means.

I really admire you for writing this and sharing this. I do hope that it sheds a bit more light on the issue and raises awareness. I hope that it helps knowing where you are starting from and take it one step at a time from here. You are not a cliche. You’re human.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:23 pm

Thank you so much for the support and kind words. It all helps to reinforce that I made the right choice, you know?

I can totally understand the fear of admitting it and what that all means. For me, it wasn’t a fear about what it said *about* me, but there was fear about what I’d have to do. I mean, given that part of my problem is a massive inability to do simple tasks, the idea of the work involved in getting better? Exhausting.

That said, I decided that my son, my husband, my friends and family deserved a less anxious/depressed me. And I only get this one life, and I don’t want my memories of it when I look back to be the equivalent of…”meh.” We’ll see if I get there, but I figured I was going to at least work at it.

I hope if you’re feeling any questions about what it is for you, that you get to a point where you’re comfortable trying to get answers. If I deserve it, so do you. 🙂

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Elizabeth March 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm

That first phone call is the hardest, and I’m so glad you’re taking steps toward making things better for you. Clearly you’re not alone, and it’s a wonderful thing that this huge community shone a light where and when you needed it. I hope this therapist is a great fit for you–I think it’s great that you’re going that route first.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Thank you my friend. I’m so glad to have support (in real life and virtually too!).

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The Writing Goddess March 8, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Ginger – hugs first. Then applause.

I think we tend to be so hard on ourselves, when there’s this disconnect between what we THINK we should feel, and what we DO feel. Blame ourselves, think WE must not be doing something right.

Bearing children, raising children is HARD on the body. Throws our hormones and chemicals out of whack; often our sleep is inadequate or disjointed, so we get more out of balance. Doesn’t mean we’re weak, means we’re HUMAN.

Kudos to you for recognizing it and taking steps to address it.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Thank you, thank you! For your support and hugs and applause, but also for the rest of this brilliant comment.

This in particular:
“I think we tend to be so hard on ourselves, when there’s this disconnect between what we THINK we should feel, and what we DO feel. Blame ourselves, think WE must not be doing something right.”

That’s exactly right. That’s exactly what a big part of the problem was. It took a lot to move past the idea that I wasn’t dealing with “normal” things the “right” way, and into the idea that I needed some help.

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Hope March 10, 2012 at 5:40 am

*hugs*

Realizing that something’s wrong and taking that first step to do something about it is a huge hurdle that you’ve overcome. For me, in times in the past when I’ve suffered from depression, the longer I let it fester the worse it got and the harder it was to get rid of it.

I’m so glad that you figured it out. Now you’re going to feel so much better!

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:31 pm

Thank you so much for the love and support! I’m astounded by how much better things already are, in even a few short weeks of talking to someone. And I’m even MORE astounded looking back to see how much it had spiraled in a short time. I’m glad I got help when I did, because I can’t imagine how ugly it could have gotten unchecked.

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Maribel Reyes March 10, 2012 at 7:36 am

I am glad you found a therapist and you are working on your homework. I know people very close to me with depression and have never dealt with the reality, they always say “oh it’s silly” and are always in denial. The fact that you are working on it is huge! it’s big step one that many don’t take.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:33 pm

I can’t imagine ignoring it now that I know what it is. But I also know (now) that I was missing it for a good long while. I wish I could go back and make myself see it sooner, but since I can’t, I’m glad I have the chance to make it better now.

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Craftwhack March 10, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Oh, yes. I know that feeling of wonder at realizing you understand how you are actually feeling and what may be going on in your brain. It’s not quite a relief, perhaps, (but maybe a little bit of a relief.) You’re doing great. I’m completely impressed that you just took control of the situation right away. I honestly don’t think most women in that situation would act that quickly.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Once I figured it out, (or started questioning it, really), I just wanted to be better. I think my desire to be better overwhelmed my typical “don’t call a professional unless it’s an emergency” tendencies. Once I figured out something was up, I didn’t want to keep being this way.

And it IS a little bit of relief. Like…oh, THAT explains SOOOOO much! (Although, now I just have to be patient and do the work. Which, you know, now that I know, I want to be better RIGHT NOW!).

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Kim March 12, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Good for you! Not good that you’re depressed & anxious, obviously, but that you realized it & are working on it. As women, it’s one of the hardest things for us to do. I’ve gone through this, everyone I know has gone through this, especially my friends with kids. You’ll get through this. A good friend told me once, you won’t notice that therapy makes you different (read: better), but everyone around you will & that’s when you know it’s working.

Cyber hug!

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Thank you–I’m taking all the hugs and support I can get!

It’s so hard sometimes to acknowledge as women that we’re not perfect, that we’re not able to do everything, that sometimes we need help. I’m so, so grateful that I know so many people who have gone through this because it made me perfectly comfortable asking for help once I figured out what was going on.

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Rachael March 13, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Why is it still so hard to talk about this stuff when it’s something so many people experience? I had a similar experience in that my depression is largely anxiety based and they are tied so closely. I remember how much it hurt, how weird and sort of ashamed I felt, and how scared I was when I finally made an appointment with a doctor to talk about this. That was 10 years ago. I feel like it’s mostly in control. I’m glad you found help, and that you’re doing something, and I really hope that you start to feel better soon. You deserve it, we all do.

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Ginger March 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Thank you so much. Once I worked out that there was a problem, I knew I deserved to get better. I want to be better for me, for my kid, for my husband. I know I can’t do it alone, and I’m so, so, SO lucky to have the support of my family (and my online family. Clearly.).

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Classic NYer March 24, 2012 at 11:07 am

I totally hear what you’re saying, because I had a battle with depression some years ago (which I thankfully won). And I didn’t understand it completely, because I rarely felt “sad”…

I know I’m a little late with this response… I hope you’re feeling better by now.

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Perpetual Breadcrumbs March 29, 2012 at 5:17 am

Hey lady, sorry I am only getting around to commenting now, because this whole time I wanted to say how happy (weird word in this context, but proud seems to motherly, ha!) I am for you for taking that first step. It’s the scariest, and no one can do it for you. I hope you feel better and better and the weeks go by.

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Alyssa May 2, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Just wanted to say thanks for this post. I read it and saw myself in your words.

It took a long time, but I made a call. And yesterday, I met with a doctor. I was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

I have a long way to go. But last night, I got the best night of sleep I’ve had in months.

Thank you.

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jared May 19, 2015 at 8:24 pm

So, I am not a mom. I am not female….But I googled some of symptoms I have been struggling with for awhile now. I however am a dad of 2 babies. (One is 26 months old and the other 15 months old.), am a social worker that helps with families and students with all sorts of things from behavioral stuff, housing, finances, or whatever they need help with, and I am starting my own organziation. Wth all the excitement of life I still feel so lethargic, uninterested, I can not finish a task, simple things to with clients now seem impossible, can keep with a schedule at all, and socially have zero interest to keep up with my best friends or parents.

Even with being a social worker this blog has helped me face the reality that I am dealing with depression… not sadness but depression. It kind of sucks to say that. I thought to myself… “of all people you should know how to get yourself out of this funk” I guess I am needing an outside source for this help.

Thank you for telling your story. It had helped me tell mine and be honest with myself.

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