That’s enough you guys, heads out of the gutter.
Let’s play spin the wheel of mental disorders! On the wheel we have Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression, PTSD & Generalized Anxiety.
OK now go ahead and spin and if you land on my mental disorder, you win a toaster.
Spinning, Spinning, Spinning, Spinning, Spinning… And it lands on…
All of them, DUH.
Let’s get a few out of the way with quick explanations. I was born in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. My therapist maintains that this is not possible, but I maintain that it is. Some of my earlier memories are of panic and shortness of breath when outside of my comfort zone. This has lasted my whole life. It ebbs and flows, but always remains. Do your best not to sit next to me on an airplane.
PTSD. Let’s file this under ‘No Shit, Sherlock.’ Breast cancer at 35, no warning signs, caught on a fluke, mastectomy, chemo, other surgeries and infections. I think you guys get this one.
Seasonal Affective Disorder for me is less ‘darkness and cold’ and more ‘bah humbug.’ I was also born a curmudgeon (my therapist would like me to state that this is not true, but, um, it is). The holidays make me sad. I don’t know why, but as everyone else ramps up the joy, I slide into a misery foam pit. The darkness doesn’t help.
Now to the Big D, Depression. I haven’t been sure that I would be able to/would want to, write this blog post. It seems altogether too personal. But then I remembered that I have posed nude with drains hanging out of my body for this blog and remembered that people will read this and commiserate so, here we go.
I started to feel myself sinking a few months ago. I hover at 48-63% joy under normal circumstances so I didn’t have too far to fall. It is entirely possible that the fall into depression started when I began processing cancer with my therapist, but who knows if it would have crept in regardless?
I started noticing that I was feeling far less social than usual. I was becoming irritated at a much faster rate than normal. My goal for every day was to slink through and get to 8pm when I could sit in quiet darkness in my bed. Depression was painting a pretty clear picture for me.
Last week during an argument with my husband, I was saying (maybe screaming), that I needed him to help me be happier, to which he replied: ‘How can I help you do that when you are too miserable to even be around?’
The worst part was that he was right. Yes, it sucked to hear from him, but he is an eternal optimist and dealing with me during a depression is just outside of his pay grade.
I fell apart. Weeping, gasping for breath, rocking on the floor. Unfortunately, my modus operandi is to flee. To get out of the situation by literally exiting the building. My terrifyingly cunning brain was able to hatch an entire Ocean’s Eleven escape plan within seconds. I asked for my husband to give me a little time alone and had packed a comprehensive bag and had tiptoed out of the house within minutes.
I didn’t know where to go. It was 10:20pm on a Thursday. I pulled over to think about it and quickly decided that what I needed was peace. I drove to a local hotel and checked in, probably presenting like a very rundown runaway.
I spent the next 36 hours in a hotel room that I never even saw. I didn’t see it because I never turned on the lights or opened the curtains. All I ate was half a hamburger that whole time. I lay in bed and either slept or cried. The whole time.
This is not at all a logical coping mechanism for a mother of 3 young kids whose husband is in the busiest time of the year at his place of business. But it was all I had. It was truly the only thing I could imagine doing. And you know what? When I was there, even though I may have been crying, I was content. Really content. The most content I had been in weeks (months?).
When I got home Saturday morning, I lost my shit yet again. So much so that my husband wasn’t comfortable leaving for work without my mom AND sister in the house. Thankfully they came with haste and I spent an unknown amount of time sobbing into my sister’s lap on the basement floor. I was allowing in very dark thoughts like, ‘Maybe my cancer was supposed to kill me. Would everyone ultimately be happier if I was gone?’ This was my rock bottom.
During this episode I was in touch with my therapist and my psychiatrist. They covered all the bases, reminding me to go to the ER if I felt at all like hurting myself, etc. The psychiatrist upped my dose of anti-depression meds and they both started suggesting out-patient treatment programs.
4 days have passed since the acute phase of this crisis ended. I feel much more even which I associate with the up-tick in drugs. I also think I am emotionally tapped. I also think (fear) I am reverting back to my laser-sharp skills of burying the feelings because I just have to function for my children.
The question is, what is next? I am exploring out-patient depression programs, but this is A LOT of work which exhausts me. Calling these places and telling your whole life story over and over has become too much.
For now I just need to be extremely present in my feelings and trust that my support net of family and friends will be here if I need them. My mom is obviously very concerned about me and said to me today, ‘If you need to go to France for 3 weeks, we will make that happen.’ Hmmmmm…
I decided to share this with you because my stories don’t always end with a silver lining. This one surely doesn’t. Depression is real and depression is excruciating for everyone involved. I am muddling through finding my way, but for now, I am allowing myself to just be (insert: weepy/destitute/overwhelmed/melancholy/pissed/________). I will lean on my people and find comfort in knowing that I can just be.
If you are reading this and are suffering from depression, know that I walk beside you. We don’t walk alone.