Hannah Bunker »

The Ugly Cave


For two months I intentionally closed my laptop and stopped writing. All in the name of survival.

Most of 2014 I was bombarded with stuff. Not all bad, mostly good. But stuff nonetheless. Physical stuff making my house a complete wreck and cluttering my inner-self. I became a mom in two weeks and was bombarded by learning how to navigate parenthood and keep two babies thriving. Bombarded by work. Bombarded by clients. Bombarded by lists. Bombarded by guilt for not finishing the book that was almost done in 2013. Bombarded by failure for not following some life-long dreams. Bombarded by navigating self-employment and its responsibilities. Bombarded by major life decisions. Bombarded by self-loathing for not having the capacity for writing here when all I want to do is write all the feelings.

Gah, those feelings!

I was so bombarded that one night a few weeks ago I had a panic attack so fierce, I thought I might have to go to the hospital. Like, “stick a needle in my butt to sedate me” kind of panic attack.

Sometimes real life behind the blog and Instagram is ugly. But no one talks about the ugly. I mean the “snot on my face, tears in the carpet, scream-crying into a pillow” kind of ugly. It’s the elephant in the blogging living room. We want to keep our spaces pretty and styled for a pinterest-worthy space. We don’t want to really go into the caves of the ugly because that’s too vulnerable and messy.

But I want to because there’s someone out there sitting in that cave who needs to know they’re not alone. I’ve been sitting in the cave next to yours. *waving* Hi, neighbor.

I was laying on the floor of my closet, sobbing and heaving for air after having collapsed and crawled there for some sort of escape. Why the closet? Maybe I was looking for the wardrobe to lead me to Narnia. Who knows. But I was desperate. Desperate for air, for space, for a season to just feel like me again instead of the Hannah that everyone needed me to be.

Ever have a panic attack? It’s like trying to take a breath after jumping into ice water. You can’t breathe because you’ll drown. In 2014 I was thrown into the ice water forced to become acclimated to being the Hannah of many hats.

And I was all out of hats.

The noise was so loud. The pressure too much. There was no way I could give my 100% to everything all the time – mom, wife, employee, blogger, writer, dreamer. I constantly felt like I was letting everyone down around me. I hate letting people down. And what made me feel like a failure was I wasn’t taking on any extra loads; this was my daily life that was eating at me. The life that had to happen to survive. Something had to give for a season so I could breathe. I had to scrounge around for something I could pause.

So I temporarily closed my laptop. I gave myself permission to not feel obligated to write. It’s the area that had room for flexibility. My children still need me. My husband still needs me. I still have to work.

I felt like for all of 2014 I had run a marathon that wasn’t ending and I needed to stop and train for the next stages. Whatever those next stages would be.

That panicked night, I fell asleep on the closet floor. I don’t know how long I was there.

When I woke up I stayed in a major depression for weeks.

I stopped every ounce of creativity just to meet the daily demands. Just making it through the day-to-day routine took every ounce of my energy and in turn, spiraled me into depression.

Let’s talk about the cave of depression. Have you ever been there? It’s dark. It’s cold. It’s lonely. And I imagine it smells like moth balls.

Depression is a miserable place. A place where you slap on a smile in public and sob into your pillow in private for what seems like no reason at all. And UGH, how stupid does that make you feel? A place where a perfectly healthy body aches. A place where even when circumstances are good with a roof over your head, food on the table, healthy family, loving friends – depression makes you lose that perspective. A place that makes a perfectly sane person want to take a permanent nap to escape. And no one knows what you’re going through because you have no words to articulate how or why you’re feeling what you’re feeling. Even now, as I feel better, I still feel like an inarticulate emo trying to talk to you about it.

Because depression lies and tells you you’re all alone and there’s no hope.

I can’t even tell you how I’ve made (am making) it out. Jesus? Duh. Sprinkled with some grace. And perspective. And some Vitamin D, B, and St. John’s Wort. (a terrible name for anything)

But here I am. Huddled on the couch during nap time with my coffee next to me and laptop open, clacking away.

A step.

I’ve gained a small amount of control. I feel strength enough to guard the door to keep most of the “Bombards” from barging in on their own. Instead, I’m the one giving them permission whether or not they are allowed into my space.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the demands but I’m starting to feel like Hannah again. It’s a process. But I see the sun peeking into the cave.

  • Katy - Hannah, thanks for taking that step. Our family loves you and is interceding for you – we’re with you in that cave. Hugs! ReplyCancel

  • Tiffany - Praying for you sweetie. Depression is no joke. It’s scary. And joy sucking. I’m so glad you’re feeling a bit better. Praying God will surround you with His goodness and peace in the days ahead. ReplyCancel

  • Natalia Guzman - AMIGA,
    Having been a single mom since Eddie was nine months, I can totally empathize with you. Thank God for family, both biological and church family. But God, child, I too would have wanted to escape forever. His mercy endureth forever.
    Been missing your wonderful and humorous words. Glad you’re back.
    ♡ youReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth K - Hannah, sweetheart: thank you for your honesty. Sending love and light into your cave, and maybe some 64-packs of sidewalk chalk for when you’re ready to art up those walls again. <3ReplyCancel

    • hannah_bunker - Thanks, Keel. Sidewalk chalk always cheers me up. 🙂 ReplyCancel

  • Nike - Oh, hi neighbor. I didn’t see you over there. I’ve recently crawled by into the cave of depression and am trying to claw my way back out. Have you read “Talking to Depression”? I believe it should be on everyone’s bookshelf or night stand. It helped me tremendously and those around me during my dark period. That we’re alone in the greatest lie depression tells us. I’ll hold your hand, you hold mine. <3ReplyCancel

    • hannah_bunker - I haven\’t read that. I\’ll have to add it to our book list. No joke. Aaron keeps a list of books to buy and read. It\’s going on there. ReplyCancel

  • Cyd - Hi Hannah! Loved your blog post today! I love your quirkiness too, and your writing style. It’s still there and always will be there. You haven’t lost it….it’s just waiting for you to get over “the hump”. I see it coming back already. You’re speaking my language girl. I get where you are coming from with the panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. Our situations may be different (my case/your case) but depression (and the butt load of baggage that comes with it) is still depression. Anxiety is still anxiety; and panic attacks are still panic attacks. I am so sorry that you had this experience. At the same time, I know first hand, the sunshine, freedom, and joy that is waiting for you just outside of “the cave”. You see, I too have a cave. I call mine “my cocoon”. It’s a hard place to be; but, when you’re in the moment, it’s the ONLY place to be. It’s a SAFE place to be. By golly, it stinks in there, but it’s SAFE. It makes NO sense at the time, and you want out so badly, but it’s still the safer of the two options for the time being. Good for you for shutting your computer (as hard as it was), and good for you for opening it back up again (as hard as it might be). That’s what I’ve come to know as a technique called “opposite action”. If/when you may be open to it, I would love to share with you. I have learned (over the last year and a half) techniques to deal with the very issues you wrote about today, and I don’t mind sharing because they have helped me so much with the very same emotions. Although our situations are different, the emotions are the same. I understand now ways to deal with the unexpected emotions when they come up. I’ve learned ways to safely venture out of my “cocoon”. Now you’ve inspired me to do a blog project that I’ve been putting on the back burner. So thank you. And P.S. I’ve been on the closet floor too – just want you to know that you are not alone in there. Love you girl. Strong girl <3 ReplyCancel

  • Kasey - Hugs. ReplyCancel

  • Erica - Thank you for writing this. 🙂 ReplyCancel

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