Depression and Stitching Things Back Together

I spent the other morning holding the lead line of my largest horse, an off the track thoroughbred named Vinny, while our vet quietly sedated him and stitched a gaping dermal laceration on his neck.   It was ugly, probably four inches long, and bloody, a surprise when I went out to check the horses.  It’s his second emergency vet visit this month; a few weeks ago he tore open his shoulder open just about six inches below his current tear.  That, plus another “stitch” visit (for one of my ponies, Slash) has made our vet such a common sight for us this month that I’m beginning to feel like he lives here.

I’m still not entirely sure how he hurt himself. Sometimes with horses it’s like that. You just have to concentrate on fixing the issues even if you don’t understand why there was an issue in the first place.

DSC_0524
Vinny

I watched the vet stretch the broken skin back over the tissue on Vin’s neck.  Vin, whose sedation had him happily enjoying the sound of the color orange, barely seemed to notice the curved needle slowly, methodically, putting him back together where he had torn himself apart.

There’s been a lot of stitching around the farm lately: literal and metaphoric.  

I’ve not made a secret of the fact that this last year and a half have been among the most difficult of my life.  I haven’t been entirely open about the fact that this year threw me into the sort of depression I haven’t seen since college and had hoped to never see again.

The last eighteen months have been difficult for me for a lot of reasons, many of them stories that aren’t entirely mine to tell.  I’ve lost creatures who were dear to me.  I’ve had relationships that I believed to be as steady and dependable as the hills turn upside down.  I’ve lost people I cared for. And, for a little while, it began to feel like I would lose myself.

Depression is a strange thing, and a lot of people just don’t understand it. It isn’t just “sad.”  We all get sad, and we all feel depressed sometimes.  But honest to goodness depression takes up residence, moving in as a second occupant in your life, one that zaps you of all the joy you would normally feel.  Days that should be good feel indifferent, and days that would normally be difficult feel impossible.  It leaves you nearly numb to the best of life while simultaneously leaving you raw and exposed to the worst of it, like nerves that have been left open to the air.

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I haven’t had a good day for over a year, but all of the good seemed to belong to a sort of fog that wouldn’t entirely lift.  I spent a lot of time crying, a lot of time talking with friends (while crying), and a really healthy chunk of time talking to a therapist (still crying).

But then, last week, the fog lifted.

I want to be careful here, because a lot of people who are depressed are told to just “get over it” or “think positive,” and I don’t want to contribute to the belief that it’s that simple.  Trust me when I tell you that if a depressed person could just “happy thoughts” their way out of depression, they would.  But I will say that the end of my depression seemed to come from a new understanding of my emotions and thoughts. I began to understand how to not be a slave to them, how to take the negative thoughts off of the endless loop that had been created in my head before they could direct my emotions and thereby control my worldview.  I decided not to give those thoughts the time of day-dismissing them, not repressing them-and with them left the fog.

I cannot explain why it worked this time and didn’t the thousand other times I tried to “be more positive.”  I don’t have a formula.  Despite my Midwestern upbringing with it’s emphasis on hard work and bootstrap success, I would not say that I pulled myself out of this by force of will.

I have never had depression flip like a switch before.  In the past, climbing out of it was slow and difficult, a trail you blaze uphill in a Midwestern heat wave.  

I just know that I was depressed for a really long time and now I’m not.  I know because the numbness is gone.  Food tastes better (or, really, just tastes).  I can see the beauty in small things.  And I can feel things fully, all the way down to my soul.

Guys, today I found myself reflecting on just how stunningly beautiful the color green is and just how delicious raspberry jelly tastes.  It seems ridiculous, but when you’ve been deprived of feeling deeply for this long, when you’ve been numb, you appreciate things that most people would overlook a million times.

This last week has been like waking up, shaking off the dust of a sleep that lasted far too long.  

So why am I telling you this?

We live in an age of Instagram and WordPress and Facebook.  And, because of that, we think we see each other, but most of the time we don’t.  We see the lives of everyone else through a filter, and we see our own lives without one, and we start to think that maybe we are the only ones who don’t have our shit together.  And I don’t want this blog, this space, to be one more place to see through that sort of filter.  Yes, I have a thousand pictures of adorable, fluffy animals.  Yes, I adore this place and this opportunity.  Yes, it’s serene and beautiful and lovely…and a complete and total mess.

I’ve tried to write about all of this a dozen times in the last eighteen months, and I think I’ve touched on it here and there, but I couldn’t really find the words.  Maybe because of the numbness, maybe because of fear.  (If I’m being honest, this is a scary thing to hit the publish button on…)  Likely because it came hand-in-hand with a hefty dose of writer’s block.

But here it is: If you feel like your life is in chaos, I can promise you that you aren’t alone.  If you’re depressed, you’re not alone. If every single day feels like walking through quicksand, I’ve been there. If you’re looking at your life in disbelief, wondering how on earth you got here, I understand.

You are not alone, and it gets better.

I remember having lunch with a dear friend a few months ago and learning about some of the struggles she faced in high school.  I was stunned by what she told me.  Flabbergasted by what she had suffered through alone.  She didn’t have to be alone.  I was only a phone call away the whole time, but she didn’t pick up the phone.

Depression is bad enough all by itself.  It can be isolating, and it does a really good job of making you feel unworthy of love and light.  And the more you pull into yourself, the worse it gets.  It’s not a mood.  It’s a disease.  And isolation and loneliness are symptoms.

If I learned nothing else in the last year and a half, I learned this: Reach out. 

Glennon Melton of Momastery.com (one of my Yodas these days) says this:
“Sometimes life’s load gets too heavy and hard for us to carry alone.  I don’t think the hard is a mistake.  I don’t think the hard means we’ve done anything wrong.  I think the hard is purposeful, so that we’ll need our sisters.”

Sisters, brothers, friends…we need our people.  None of us are without struggle.  None of us can do it alone.  We all need each other.  Especially when it feels like the best course of action is to shut down into yourself.

walk to the barn

Vin’s stiches came together beautifully.  Then he came out of the sedation slowly.  Today, my herd check revealed that his neck is healing well; I’m not sure there will even be a scar from this wound.

It’s amazing, the things that can be stitched back together.

 

 

 

The Seven Emotional Stages of Hauling Water

For many of us in the Midwest, El Nino has been a kind and benevolent overlord this winter.  Sure, he brought with him some scary-ass storms and some flooding (more towards St. Louis really, but the Illinois River is pretty freaking high for this time of year), but he has also kept the frigid temperatures away…For the bulk of this season, I’ve been reveling in 40-50 degree days.  With the memory of the Polar Vortex  and it’s negative thirty degree windchills of a few years ago still fresh in my mind, that’s basically t-shirt weather.

(Images from the Polar Vortex)

Until this week.

This week kicked off our first round of single digits and negative numbers, and while no one I know likes those sort of numbers, it’s especially vexing for those of us who take care of livestock.  For me, extreme cold means that I spend about twice as much time outside every day.  My aging herd of llamas is locked in to the barn with their heat lamps.  When they’re locked in, they eat more.  They poop more.  They some how dirty their waterers faster.  Plus, I’m pretty sure they get super bored and annoyed with me.  (How dare I shut them in to prevent frostbite and exposure???  I am SO rude!)

All of the creatures, from the 4 lb chickens to the 1200 lb horses, require more care and more clean up when the weather is this wretched.  I feed more.  I clean more.  I go outside more often, and I stay there longer.

Most of the time, I don’t really mind.  It’s part of this gig, and I usually see it as an unfortunate but fair trade for my wonderful spring, summer, and fall days out here.  But there is one event that can turn it from generally unpleasant to downright nasty: Freezing Water Lines.

Continue reading “The Seven Emotional Stages of Hauling Water”

2016 with Blue Skies Ahead

Happy New Year Everyone!

January 1st of 2016 surprised me with a nearly perfect blue sky.  Having spent weeks overwhelmed by my Season of Gray, the blue sky was the perfect antidote to my melancholy, and, in my own humble opinion, barn chores under the blue sky were the perfect was to start the new year.

First thing, I wandered out to one of the back pasture to check on a tree fall that one of my neighbors reported to me.  Their tree; our fence.

It pretty much destroyed that section of fence, but it’s so big that no one is going anywhere over, around, or through it.  I don’t have to worry for a while.  (I told Jeremiah that we should chainsaw it in interesting ways and leave it as fence…easier than hauling it out.)

Continue reading “2016 with Blue Skies Ahead”

Thanks for a year of almostfarmgirl!!! (And my trip to Costa Rica)

Hi Everyone!

It seems I’ve been gone for two whole weeks!  Weird.  And unintended.

Also weird?  It’s been just over a year since I started almostfarmgirl.com.  Since then, almost 200 of you (between Facebook and WordPress followers) have started following this crazy ride on the ranch, and I am so thankful to each of you.  (I’m especially thankful to those of you who interact, and who I’ve gotten to know a little bit.  You guys know who you are.)  I just paid for another year of hosting, so here’s to the start of another year of this blogging adventure together.

To celebrate a year of blogging, I went to Costa Rica for a week.

Actually, that’s a lie.

I went to celebrate my sister’s 30th birthday.

You see, for Christmas this year, my mom gave me and my sister a trip to Costa Rica; she had earned the trips in her independent consultant work with Norwex, a company that specializing in environmentally friendly cleaning products.  (Just FYI, their dusting mitt is awesome, and I have never found a better way to clean windows and mirrors than with their enviro cloth and polishing cloth.)  She chose to give the incentive trips to my sister and I, partly because Chas’s 30th fell just on the other side of the trip.

So we traded this

The woods are lovely dark and deep

For this
Costa Rica

Between seventy-five and ninety degree temperatures in Costa Rica.  Between 20 degrees and negative twelve degrees back home.

I did feel bad leaving Jeremiah with the ranch, but I loved seeing the rainforest, and volcanos and the ocean.

Volcanos in the distance
Volcanos in the distance
Waves breaking on the beach
Waves breaking on the beach

I was playing in the surf wearing SPF Vampire to protect against the tropical sun…

Playing in the Surf
Playing in the Surf

Costa Rica

And my poor husband was shoveling the barn out of nearly a foot of snow.

Guys, I actually zip-lined through the Rainforest.  I saw Scarlet Macaws, and a Toucan, and Iguanas.  And I barely got sunburned at all, which is kind of a miracle.

Costa Rica

Swim up bar!
Swim up bar!
How cool is this tree?
How cool is this tree?

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Chas and I toured an organic coffee plantation.  (Seriously, don’t take your morning cup of coffee for granted; it’s loads of work to get it in your cup.)  We spent five days in Central America on the Pacific Coast and somehow managed the escape all but the very last harsh winter days of the season.

At the Rainforest Gala
At the Rainforest Gala

We spent our last night at the Norwex Rainforest Gala, before packing up and heading back to the states.

And, one delayed flight, one missed flight, one redirection to Chicago, one lost bag, and a three-hour car ride later, we made it home safe and sound…and completely exhausted.

I was ready to be back home.

2015-03-13 10.02.35

Because as awesome as that trip was, there’s nothing quite like watching my ponies and alpacas grazing from my kitchen window.

Thanks again for a great first year, everybody!  And, as always, thanks so much for reading.

Wait…What? An award…? I would like to thank the Academy…

liebster2

Thank you motherhendiaries for nominating me for a Liebster Award for new bloggers!  I knew the Master’s degree in English would pay off someday!  Wait until I tell my dad!   Actually, kidding aside, it is a really nice gesture that I truly appreciate.  It’s nice to have readers, even if it is only a few of you.

This award is a bit like a chain letter.  Best part is that I get to pass it on and nominate others.  With that in mind, here are a few blogs I read that all of you should check out.

1. Bethany Suckrow – this girl is one of my favorite bloggers to read.  Writing about life and spirituality, Bethany touches upon some very serious issues in a very accessible way.  She and I went to college together and were casually acquainted.  I wish we had known each other better back then.

2. Agirlandherchickens – Ok – Motherhendiaries nominated her too, but that doesn’t mean I can’t also, does it?  Either way, this blog about farm life and chickens is a fun, often informative read.  I really enjoy it.

3. Fullcirclefarm – Writing about and photographing farm life, Full Circle Farm is a lot of fun to follow, especially if you like beautiful photos of cows and chickens and produce.  (I really do…)

4. BeeHavenAcres – The Bee Maven has a lot of followers, but it doesn’t look like she’s broken 1000, so this still counts.  Farm life blog with lovely photos and adventures in turkeys and chickens and everything!

Technically, this is supposed to be an award for blogs with under 1000 followers, but while I’m linking to wonderful blogs, consider checking out this one as well.

 DIYDiva -I LOVE this blog.  It has a strong female, powertools, a place in the country, and farm animals.  And, unlike many of us “farmbloggers” this girl isn’t originally from the country.  It’s fantastic.

So there’s my list.   And below are the questions Motherhen sent me, along with my answers.  Enjoy!

1. Why did you start your blog, and why did you choose this name?

I started my blog for several reasons.  One, having decided that I won’t be teaching after the completion of this semester, I knew that I would soon be missing my creative outlet.  (And when I don’t have one, I get cranky.) Two, I have people ask me all the time “are you writing this down?” when my husband or I tell stories about our lives.  That led me to believe that at least a few people might be interested in our little corner of creation.  Three, so much is going on in my life right now.  It’s insane, but it’s also wonderful.  I’m a little afraid that I will forget some of the special parts.  Now I have a record.

As for the name “almostfarmgirl,” it’s actually the remnant of an argument that my husband and I had maybe a year or two ago.  We were on the way home from a particularly rough day of shoeing.  I had tagged along to help him, but we had encountered horses crazy enough to make me uncomfortable.  The thing is, most of his past relationships involved other equine professionals, and when I couldn’t handle the especially naughty horses (rearing, charging, attempting to run us over, etc), he was frustrated.  As we drove home, he informed me that he considered me an “almost farm girl”; a real farm girl would have had a better handle on the insane horses.

I was livid with him at the time.  The expectations seemed pretty unfair, and I also felt as though the name completely dismissed my 15+ years (now more like 20) with livestock.  (I have spent way too much time getting up early to clean stalls to be an almost anything!) However, after a while, I guess embraced the name (even though he never called me that again and now claims to have no memory of the whole incident).  Honestly, with a background in llamas, I’m used to people thinking I deal with “pretend livestock.”  In a way, I’ve been an almost farm girl most of my life.

(Side note: I almost named this blog “Confessions of an Almost Farm Girl.”  I always figured that if I ever wrote a book about this crazy life of llamas and horses and…insanity, that’s what I would name the book. (Kind of catchy, right?)  I still might write that book one day I guess, but I more and more feel like this insanity is better suited for the anecdotal nature of a blog. Also, “confessions” seems a little dramatic…my biggest confession right now is that I sometimes teach class at one of the top rated universities in the Midwest wearing barn shoes…and sometimes I track llama poop into the classroom.   Also, I realized that Confessions of an Almost Farm Girl loses something in translation when it becomes confessionsofanalmostfarmgirl.com because the words can also be split up as confessions of anal most farmgirl…which I’m thinking is a different subject matter entirely.  Though, come to think of it, I would probably get more search hits…)

2. What is your idea of the perfect night out?

Wine.  Stars.  Good company.  No mosquitos (or, alternately, enough wine that I don’t care about them).

That covers the basics, but, if you’re asking…and you’re not…my favorite date night event is our annual (or biannual) moonlight cruise on the huge, authentic paddlewheel ship that is docked nearby.

3. What is your favorite article of clothing and why?

So, I have this black tank top from Wal-Mart, and it’s pretty much the best piece of clothing I own.  It looks good from all angles; it fits perfectly, and it doesn’t change size in the wash.  I think it cost $5…

4. If you were a pizza, which one would you be?

Is there one that doesn’t go straight to the hips?  I want to be that one.

5. Name your top 5 all time favorite guilty-pleasure songs.

Can I be honest and admit that I really like the song “Bad Touch” by the Bloodhound Gang?  It’s kind of hilarious.  After that “guilty pleasure” song, trust me when I tell you I don’t need more…

*COUGH* 2. Backstreet’s Back (Backstreet Boys) 3. Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy (Big and Rich). 4. Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert…also almost anything by her or the Pistol Annies)  5. Before He Cheats (Carrie Underwood).

6. If you could choose to live on any island, which would it be and why?

I haven’t been to many islands.  I’d name some random tropical one, but hurricane’s freak me out.  Prince Edward Island is too cold…  Can I go with England?  Or is it weird to call that an island?  I was a fan of several of the Greek islands I visited…

This question has generated far more questions than answers…

7. What is the farthest you have travelled? What brought you there?

I’d have to look at a map, but I’m pretty sure the farthest was Athens.  I studied abroad in Europe during my junior year of college.  I made it as far as Greece during a break from classes.

8. Beatles or Stones?

Beatles.  No question.

9. If you could be any breed of chicken, which one would it be? Why?

Gold Laced Cochin – Because if you’re not going to be smart, you had best be pretty.

10. Who do you want to be when you grow up?

Trick question.  I don’t want to grow up.

11. How much wood does a woodchuck actually chuck? (It’s one of the burning issues of our time…I can’t believe no one has ever properly answered it, but go on… have at it!)

Sadly, the woodchuck no longer chucks wood.  We had to shoot him last fall…

(Little bastard wouldn’t stop digging “leg breaking” holes in the horse pasture.)