Tag Archives: depression

The Benefit of an Emotional Meltdown



“Sometimes it takes a meltdown to cool down.” Evinda Lepins

A recent meltdown I had wasn’t a public scene or even a really big deal around our house. It was significant enough, though, that I realized how important something was to me that I’ve been ignoring. I try to be preventative about these sorts of things, but sometimes prevention doesn’t work because of others’ reactions. My solution sounds something like this until I calm down, “I can’t believe I’ve let this go on,” “Never again,” and “I’m done.”

By my final fit, I’m left with what I used to think was an unusual outcome, but now I’ve come to expect it – an emotional hangover and a spiritual awakening. Like what Terrell Owens said, “Instead of me having a breakdown, I’m focusing on me having a breakthrough.”

Since I grew up in a silent family who shut up about their emotions and shut down everyone else’s, meltdowns ended up being the only way to figure out how I felt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise I married into a family that did the same thing because we’re attracted to what we know. They’re screamers, so I hoped they’d scream about their emotions so I could finally talk about mine. As it turned out, their screaming was also about shutting up and shutting down.

Shy on role models, I eventually learned to appreciate emotional meltdowns for what they were – a gateway to my emotions. Even though I’m still shaken by their messiness and hung-over feelings, and I fear I’ve made things messier instead of mending them, meltdowns haven’t let me down as long as I handle them constructively. I stop looking at what everyone else needs to do and, instead, I look at my part in the meltdown. I get in touch with how I feel and I decide what changes I want to make.

So, what’s actually melting away?

I used to hate to cry in front of people. I still do, but it helped when a friend said, “I love when you cry. You’re melting.”

I knew what she meant. I relaxed a little each time I cried around her. She could see me softening and I could feel it. For years I tried keeping up a happy pretense and a façade of being distant from my emotions by laughing off how I felt and saying, “I’m fine. Really, I am.”

I’m like Elf, “Smiling’s my favorite.” However, weightiness surfaced when I recognized emotions have a life of their own if we ignore them. Instead of being happy like Elf, we numb out with food, zone out on Facebook, and distract ourselves with problems we can’t fix, disturbing news reports, and our own bad habits. Sometimes we want to die when we already feel emotionally dead or our emotions (the ones we think we’re not supposed to feel) feel too out of control. I dislike being called “too sensitive” and hearing I overreact, but I dislike even more not being true to who I am and what’s going on inside of me.


So, I melt.

I ask myself things like: What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What do I need? What do I want to change?

When I ignored the answers to these questions or didn’t bother to ask them at all, I ended up in a depression I almost didn’t survive. It’s like the anonymous quote, “I froze because frozen hearts don’t feel pain.”

I tried to give up feeling pain so I wouldn’t inconvenience others with my emotions. The result of freezing my pain was freezing almost all of my feelings. I was robotic. I went through the motions of life without emotion, or tried to. I felt like one of the walking dead and wondered what the point was of getting up each day.

This is when I had the meltdown of all meltdowns.

“On the other hand, I believe there’s hope, because the breakdown and the repair are happening simultaneously.” Kathryn Bigelow


I cried for two years, or so it seemed. I broke my silence and told a couple of trusted friends about my depression and not feeling anything except hopelessness. I let my family know I felt desperate even though they didn’t want to hear it, not because they didn’t care, but because it was scary to listen to. I contained my meltdowns to our living room and limited the best I could my accusations, name calling, and cuss words. The more I talked, the more I was able to share my emotions constructively by talking about myself and how I felt and my plan for feeling better.

I stopped trying to get a thicker skin and focused on being kind to myself and talking about my pain. I got in touch with what my heart longed for instead of the chaos in my head. I had less severe emotional hangovers and more startling spiritual awakenings. I started healing from my meltdowns because I saw their value and handled them right.

When you melt down, do you know why it’s happening? Do you see its value? Do you ask the right questions? Our emotions and handling them right are key to melting well.

In This Together,

On the Side: My manuscript is about emotions and the value of getting in touch with how we feel. I’d love feedback from you about what to include and about what you’d like to read more about.

Thanks for the images, Pixabay.com.

Giving Voice to a Silent Killer (a blog post about suicide)

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes (Image from iStock)

“A diagnosis is burden enough without being burdened by secrecy and shame.” Jane Pauley  (Image from iStock)

Our phone conversation left me teary. Our daughter said the news about Robin Williams’ suicide scared her. It made her think of me. Her comparison was disturbing, and oddly comforting. If I could choose an actor to be like, it’d be him.

In the aftermath of his death, Robin’s family, friends, and colleagues confirmed his kindness over and over by posting on Twitter things like, “A gentle spirit,” “Nicest guy I’ve ever worked with,” and “Robin had time for everyone.”

His roles in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Dead Poets Society were too convincing to be called “acting.” So was his performance during Good Will Hunting when he compellingly repeated to Matt Damon, “It’s not your fault.” (It’s a powerful clip if you can get past the language. I could.)

I went back several times to the theater with a handful of tissue to hear him tell me that same thing, “It’s not your fault.” I’d sit alone on the back row during afternoon matinees and sob. I’ve since watched the scene on my laptop hundreds of times.

Even though I knew why my daughter was afraid (she knows I mask pain with humor), Robin Williams’ death isn’t the one that terrified me. It was Harriet Deison’s suicide that kept me awake at nights.

After reading every article I could find on her, I’d imagine talking her out of driving across town in her Lexus to a gun shop where she shot herself inside her car. I’d imagine our conversations about hiding how we felt so others would think we were okay because we wanted desperately to be okay. I’d imagine helping each other step outside our depression and into the Light. I still wonder why this beautiful 65-year-old woman, a preacher’s wife at a prominent church in Texas, committed suicide four days after Christmas. I wonder why her husband, her daughters, and her grandchildren weren’t enough to help her choose life.

But, then, I think maybe I know.

My husband and I call it “The Dark Place.” It’s where I’m convinced family and friends don’t want to hear about my despair, but I’m desperate to talk about it. It’s where I beg God to show up, but he’s quiet, almost like he was never there at all. It’s the place where I’m overcome by pain, yet the pain of suicide seems practical and peaceful. The dark place is not just my closet where I curl up, it’s the thoughts I curl up with … the ones that say, “It is your fault.”

Until the movie Good Will Hunting, I couldn’t put into words what was wrong. The “it” (that I didn’t want to be my fault) was not being able to fix or fit into my family of origin. The “it” was not feeling safe and protected because I wasn’t. The “it” was having emotions that overwhelmed my family and me because none of us wanted to face what had happened and what was still happening.

The scariest part, even when it hurt, was I couldn’t stop living up to my title from high school as “Most Dependable.” I took responsibility for my family’s insanity because they wouldn’t. I also kept it a secret because maybe they were right, maybe it was my fault.

After Mom threatened me with boarding school because “all you do is cry,” I tried to stop feeling and talking about my depression and fear. I tried to stop making a big deal out of nothing (like sexual abuse) and taking things personally (like Dad staying away nine months out of the year). I tried to convince myself it was safe to love and lighten up even when my uncle who abused me ended up in a padded room at a mental hospital. But I couldn’t do it. Death sounded safer than life and suicide seemed the only way out since I told myself I was too unstable to leave.

Get over it. Yeah, I tried that too.

Here’s where I’m supposed to neaten up my blog post, let you know God’s the answer (he is, but I’m not preaching because talking-tos didn’t help me), and tell how I stopped wanting to kill myself. Like my daughter says about solutions, “I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it.”

I can offer some hope, though. Robin Williams and Harriet Deison saved me a little bit. My kids, my husband, my friends, and even my family of origin saved me a little bit. Most importantly, I’m saving myself a little bit by writing blog posts like this one. I hope if you’re in a scary place, this blog post saves you a little bit.

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes

Is there something you need to share or something you need to do to save yourself? If so, it may save others a little bit as well.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – To heal, we must allow ourselves to feel. And some of us also need to talk about the feelings even if others don’t want to hear them. And this, my reader friends, is why I write. Thanks for letting me talk.

Click the link for an inspiring article and video sent by my daughter right after Robin Williams’ suicide. Going Public with Depression is by CNN’s Kat Kinsman.

Click the link to read the obituary of Harriet Deison.

Click the link to read a compassionate account by Steve Blow of Harriet Deison’s life and death: For Harriet Deison, a life to admire gave way to a death beyond understanding

What Died? (more about suffering, more about acceptance)

“There’s nothing more depressing than having it all and still feeling sad.” Unknown  (Image from iStock)

“There’s nothing more depressing than having it all and still feeling sad.” Unknown 
(Image from iStock)

I’ve spent nearly a decade grappling with Dad’s death and with the death of thoughts that I had control over my now 36-year marriage. Both losses left me feeling lifeless.

When friends said grief takes time, I nodded. However, I knew this was more than being sad that Dad was gone. It was also more than letting go of the control I tried to have over my husband. Something else died and it scared me that I didn’t know what it was or how to revive it.

I prayed every single day for more than three fourths of those years.

I prayed for energy and motivation to write and exercise and live life as it came. I prayed to focus on myself instead of staring at what others had done to me. I prayed to know what died so I could begin accepting it was gone and move beyond days that were dark and heavy.

Prayer didn’t work (meaning it didn’t make the pain go away). 

Neither did gratitude lists that included seeing my first article published, celebrating our children’s wedding and engagement, and sharing a precious granddaughter with the world. The more good that happened, the darker and heavier I felt for not feeling grateful.

Neither did advice about my attitude, attempts to diminish my pain in the light of others’ more devastating pain, or my own self-contempt for not being able to shake depression.

And neither did attending church, reading positive passages, or talking to family and friends who looked sympathetic, but confused. Their expressions said, “Now, tell me one more time why you’re feeling sad and lost?”

I almost stopped trying to explain because I didn’t know myself what was happening. That was, until I tried one more time.

“Nothing’s motivated me like trying to get it right with you and Dad,” I said to my husband. “Sick as it sounds, struggling for your attention and Dad’s approval got me out of bed every morning.”

He heard me. 

I heard myself.

Since burying my dad and my marriage (as I knew it), I’ve been missing my sickness. I wrote in my last post that suffering serves a purpose, but suffering is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Instead of learning and being changed by suffering, then moving on, I’ve tried to revive it by staggering too often into the past, flirting with fear and self-doubt, and throwing pity parties. Not that I’m saying this party girl is finished, but I’m over-the-top relieved to know what died – my suffering that masqueraded as purpose. When I’m ready, life is waiting.

And so is more suffering and I’m okay with that.

Are you smack dab in the middle of your sickness, your struggles, and your suffering? Are you feeling more dead than alive? I hope this post offers some answers, some optimism, or at least lets you know you’re not alone.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It takes what it takes for each of us. I’m grateful to be at another crossroad where I have insight and hope and choices, and, yes, awareness that there will be more suffering.

On the side: In hindsight, some of the things I listed – prayer, gratitude, church, reading, and sharing with family and friends – did work (meaning they made my days feel gentler, they moved me forward, they grew me up), just not as quickly or as dramatically as I wanted.

Here’s additional reading about suffering from A Holy Experience, “The 1 Unlikely Secret to Hold Onto When You’re Sad.” 

Depression: A Waste of Time? Or Worth the Time? (depression, part 3 of 5)

“That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.” Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation, Artwork used by permission from artist Kelly Rae Roberts

“That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.”
Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation (Artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts)

If you asked me about the pointlessness of depression several years ago, I would have said, “Depression is a total waste of time, so get over it.”

But not now.

Without depression’s help, I’d likely be stuck in my past. Stuck in pain. Stuck in a life I hated.

Depression felt so bad it forced my hand and forced me forward.

Going through it reminds me of the chant I taught my kindergarten students when I wanted to settle them down between activities. Seriously, what kept coming to mind was The Bear Hunt.

The kids would follow my lead. We’d tap our hands on our legs twice, then clap our hands in the air twice and do it again, all the while chanting, “We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going on a bear hunt.”

Once we were on our imaginary trail, the obstacles appeared. We’d act out whatever it took to go on. 

“Oh, look. There’s a lake up ahead.”

“We can’t go around it. We can’t go under it. We’ve got to swim through it.”

They and I made swimming motions until we were through the lake, then we’d repeat tapping, clapping and the verse that said, “We’re going on a bear hunt.”

During our treks in the dark woods, we went over bridges, around quicksand, and through tall weeds. The bear ended up back in the safety of his cave.

Depression seems about the same. Slogging through my emotions, I think, “I can’t go around this. I have to go through it.”

Going through depression has been the only way to settle me down. Prior to now, I ran and ran and ran.

I feel strangely comforted by finally taking depression’s path. Learning its lessons is more poignant than I could have imagined.

Here are a few from a list of 53 I found written in a journal I kept during my lowest months.

  • They (whoever I feel like blaming today) may be responsible for all my problems, but the solutions are up to me.
  • Staring at a problem makes it bigger.
  • One small step makes a big difference in changing my direction.
  • Relationships feel safer when I focus on myself and say “I” instead of “you.”
  • Finding a period is hard for me, but necessary. I talk too much and explain too much. Rather than trying to be understood and approved, I’d be better off being quiet and ridding myself of self-doubt.
  • It’s okay to feel my feelings even when others don’t like them or they disagree, as long as I don’t react which means taking my feelings out on them.
  • Lots of times, dreams come full circle. Having dreams for my family and friends is okay, but the only vision I can make happen is the one I have for myself, which then sets a dreamy example for others.
  • I’ve waited to get on with my life until it’s straightened out, but life only straightens out when I get on with it. Sometimes “getting on with it” means stopping, like I mentioned in Stopping For Help (depression, part 2).
  • Other people’s unhappiness, anger, and negative reactions are not my fault. Neither is the car pileup in Texas or the colossal blizzard of 2011 that paralyzed New York City. When I take too much responsibility for everybody/everything else, I’m overwhelmed to the point of not being responsible for my own physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
  • I’m merciful with others and their circumstances, whereas, in the past, I felt judgmental and insinuated they get off the couch and get over it. I’ve learned compassion.
  • Quiet acceptance makes most things easier.

Who or what has been your teacher? What have you learned?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Mostly, I acknowledge it has taken this much pain (the pain of depression) to get me to a safe place where my heart is softer and I’m compassionate and available. The insight gained from depression made it worth going through.

On the side: Click to view more artwork by Kelly Rae Roberts.

Related posts:

What’s Your Secret? (depression, part 1)

Stopping For Help (depression, part 2)

The Cure (depression, part 4)

We Need To Talk (depression, part 5)

Stopping for Help (depression, part 2 of 5)

“We run fast from sadness and anger because of their bad reputations, but why? They’re emotions the same as joy and serenity.” S. Kim Henson (Photo by S. Kim Henson)

“We run fast from sadness and anger because of their bad reputations, but why? They’re emotions the same as joy and serenity.”
S. Kim Henson (Photo by S. Kim Henson)

According to Merriam-Webster Online, depress means (de) do the opposite of (press) steady pushing.

In other words, stop pressing on.

I never thought to break down the word until I was in the middle of my own breakdown, which gave me plenty of time to think.

Depression, especially during its lowest point, naturally shuts down our bodies, minds and spirits to some degree. It seems a defense mechanism because we won’t willingly stop.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s the purpose of depression.

However, people are quick to point out depression is a waste of time. Until my last bout, I would agree, which is one reason I hid it. Even the slightest sign of feeling sad, I berated myself and said, “Not again.”

Family and friends ignored undesirable emotions in general. When I tried to talk about mine, they suggested a quick fix.

The problem is, emotions are for feeling, not fixing.  

Their advice echoed what I told myself for nearly a decade after I identified my depression. I tried to figure out what to do to put to rest my uncomfortable emotions. Stopping to feel them never crossed my mind.

Without realizing it, I set out to eliminate a chunk of feelings most of us label negative.

“Keep smiling. Fake it till you feel better.”

“Try harder.”

“Do something for someone else.”

“Go to Jesus and let him heal you. Pray more.”

“Get to work. Find something meaningful to do, then you won’t have time to be depressed.”

We joke now, but it wasn’t funny the day friends suggested yet again I keep a gratitude journal.

“I’m grateful I don’t have to be grateful for anything,” I said.

I sounded angry and probably was, but more than that, I was exhausted from searching for ways to get over feeling pathetic and apathetic. And tired of counsel that didn’t work, and discouraged over hearing it from people who hadn’t been where I was or weren’t admitting it.

I wore myself out acting happy, all the while I spent hours and days where I felt safest, in a closet/laundry room with the dryer running to cover my crying.

Like Ecclesiastes 3 says, it was “a time to give up.”

I’m not suggesting you quit your job to curl up in a closet and wallow, or alienate from family and friends because they don’t understand. However, in the course of my depression, I did both and both proved necessary.

I wonder what would happen if we stopped on our own, or at least slowed down, and gave ourselves permission to feel? If we heeded forewarnings like exhaustion and discouragement, and depressed voluntarily?

What’s stopping you from stopping, or at least reducing your pace?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – To overcome depression, I gave almost every suggestion a try before I tried stopping. So far, it’s been the most helpful. Stopping to acknowledge depression. Stopping to share and write about it. Stopping to feel it.

Related posts:

What’s Your Secret? (depression, part 1)

Depression: A Waste of Time? Or Worth the Time? (depression, part 3)

The Cure (depression, part 4)

We Need To Talk (depression, part 5)

What’s Your Secret? (depression, part 1 of 5)


“Our secrets keep us sick.” Anonymous  (Photo by Jeff Watkins)

The first time I admitted my secret, I was in a spiritual meeting with several women friends who nodded while I shared five minutes of my story. Until that morning, I labeled my depression a funk, feeling kind of blue, being down and out, a gloomy mood.

I joked about being stalked by the Zoloft cloud. Laughter is healing, but I wasn’t able to laugh away depression. I kept hearing “You have to feel to heal.”

I was feeling, although not like intended by the quote.

I felt ashamed. I hated being depressed.

My life is too good for this, I thought again and again. In fact, I thought a lot of stuff … God can’t be happy I’m squandering away my time feeling sorry for myself … the situations I blamed for feeling sad are long gone, so get over it … and for goodness sake, get some exercise beyond dragging myself to the shower.

The hardest part was guarding the secret. My husband ignored it because he was afraid. He couldn’t fix depression like he had our squeaky front door. I didn’t let our kids know because what could they do? Friends didn’t need to know. After all, whining wears a relationship out pretty fast.

All this convincing kept me quiet and isolated.

This also happens when you’re drinking five, six, seven drinks every night, knowing you can’t stop. Or you’re married with kids, but fantasizing about a coworker. Or hiding candy to eat alone when you’re already concerned about your weight. All the while, the secret gets bigger and darker and more deadly because we’re slowly dying from it.

We’re in this together … it’s called being human. Find an emotionally safe person and say your secret out loud in front of him/her, just like alcoholics at 12-step meetings say, “I’m an alcoholic.” Though we can’t fix each other, having a loving witness to our pain Helps. Heals. Frees.

When I finally told, most friends said it couldn’t be so. I was the happiest person they knew. I’m grateful they didn’t see me as Eeyore, but also grateful to no longer be hiding out with my secret. I want to actually feel happy, not just fake it.

To get better, are you willing to share your secret?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – The more I admit my depression, the less I feel depressed. I think it works that way with whatever secret we disclose.

On the side: If you think you don’t have anyone to tell, feel free to send me a message @ skimhenson@earthlink.net. You might be surprised how good it feels to write it down and share it with someone who cares. Promise it’s just between you, me and the delete key.

Related posts:

Stopping For Help (depression, part 2)

Depression: A Waste of Time? Or Worth the Time? (depression, part 3)

The Cure (depression, part 4)

We Need To Talk (depression, part 5)

Check out more of Jeff’s photography @ http://jeffwatkinsphotography.wordpress.com/.

Blogging Through Life, the restoration of a family


“That’s human nature – the ups and downs.”
Jami Gertz

August 14, 2010 was the first day since my blog’s start-up that I didn’t have one single online visitor. Not one. Zero hits for 24 hours.

I checked back two days in a row, as if viewers may use time travel and return to Saturday. No luck.

To top it off, I took it personal. The dip in my blog visits looked strangely familiar. It took me back to lows in my life I never want to revisit. Lows that seemed in contradiction to my favorite Bible verse.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” [Jeremiah 29:11 NIV]. One of my all-time favorite verses, yet it seemed a far cry from our family.

Everything I planned for my husband and kids started unraveling. Friendships were on the outgoing tide. Career changes were scary, and I wasn’t sure the new ones were financially sound.

It felt something like a terrorist attack, really.

That was, until I figured out what God was up to. He was renovating.

Why didn’t he just say so?

Actually, in Jeremiah 30, he did mention it, “Restoration is promised.”

God was talking about Israel, but I took it to heart for our family. He was hard at work ripping out pride, positioning reinforcements, and rebuilding faith. He tore down walls of resentment and, in their place, installed acceptance and forgiveness. The additions include safety and maturity, although he’s having a time aligning each of us to our new structure. We’re a tough crew with which to work.

Like any remodel, things got messy.

Plus, fixing up happens in stages. It’s taken longer than we planned. Some days it cost more than we were willing to pay, which made it take even longer. Some days frustration was high and progress slow. Some days we felt like giving up and selling out.

Through it all, though, we’ve hung together and done our parts the best we can.

Like any remodel, things got better.

Where are you? Living the remodeled life or feeling like a gutted fixer-upper?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I didn’t even know our family was up for a renovation, not until we were smack dab in the middle of the mess. In hindsight, we were looking pretty unsightly. I’m indebted for the vigilant upkeep on your part.

On the side: As for me, I’m hammering away at a keyboard, trying to follow God’s updated design.