Our last discussion on depression was the product of trying to find reason after yet another person-of-note succumbed to it. Our last post, which still remains beautifully accurate, was really written in the heat of the moment. We both agreed that we wanted to come back to the subject of depression; to explore it fuller without the spectacle of celebrity death looming over our atmosphere. Despite the infinite nuances and varying degrees of the disease, there is still such a broad, sweeping stigma towards the phrase “mental health” and society is quick to file someone into the “Crazy” folder. It’s brain chemistry, not crazy.
We’ve been transparent from the jump about our own struggles with depression. But, today, we are going to shine light into the corners and throw the curtains wide-ass open and share our individual depression truths with you. Many of our truths are hard to admit, and this level of vulnerability is not something either of us relish. But, we are reminded of author/public speaker Brene Brown (who we’ve mentioned before) and her extensive research into ideas of vulnerability and shame and their intrinsic natures. Crudely paraphrasing, she says we must be vulnerable enough to talk about what gives us shame in order for it to release it’s grip on us. Much like our recent post on Creature Comfort Foods, our hope is that by exposing our depression to the sunlight, we can remove some of it’s power and shrink the darkness.
Our stories and experiences are different, in that EVERYONE’S depression truth is different, but we hope that by sharing our stories someone somewhere will know that they aren’t alone in this.
For me, it became “a thing” my junior year in high school. Whether it was due to a hormonal change, a sudden weight gain, or I was just pre-disposed, I’ll never know. Probably a little from each column.
It always starts with me feeling tired. All the time. All I want is sleep. And, slowly but surely, I start to disengage. Depression lies. It lies to you and it lies in wait. For me, there are very few histrionics, depression is a numbness. An outside-yourself feeling. A fog. Like living underwater. Some things are muddled and fuzzy. Others are sharp and brash. You are a paradox, living simultaneously way outside of yourself, but also deep inside. I have to start triaging my day, my energy, my functions. I’ve lost so many friends over the years to depression induced phone-phobia. Which makes me sad. Being completely dressed for an event that I desperately wanted to attend, but unable to leave the house because of crippling anxiety. Every situation and encounter feels hostile. And it’s scary. It’s scary to you, it’s scary to the people who love you. It doesn’t make sense. To anyone. And, although you may feel isolated, that this is only your problem, your closest loved ones are just as impacted.
And it’s all so cyclical. Everything about it is a self-perpetuation cycle. You’re depressed, so you eat a row of Lofthouse Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies. But now you’re depressed because of the cookies and what they represent about your shortcomings which makes you eat more. And round it goes. As a female of a certain age, I get asked about the status of my womb more than I care for. Honestly, I don’t want to have kids (at least right now) because I’m afraid that I would be unable to take care of someone else. I have a hard enough time taking care of myself. And that’s my choice. Sometime the contemplation of that choice makes me sad which just adds more fuel to the fire. See what I said about it being cyclical?
Often times, those who you think have it super together (not that I think anyone thinks I have it together) are the ones who are tap dancing hardest on the thin, icy surface. What do I have to be sad about? That’s not the point and it’s also not how depression works.
I am kind of a depression scholar. Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, I study it. For me, knowing is half the battle. Of all the things I’ve “researched,” I’ve encountered two things recently that really spoke to my experience, if you are interested. The first was Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and the second being Season 2 of FX’s You’re The Worst.
Although I know The Bell Jar has become almost a stereotypical joke, it was a book I had never read. So much of the first part of the book spoke to my feelings of otherness/outsided-ness and confusion when presented with “normal” behavior. And although, I didn’t relate to taking a bottle of pills and hiding under a house to die, I was shocked at how familiar the first part of her story seemed.
FX’s You’re The Worst is kind of one of the best shows on television right now. It’s pretty blue (so avoid if such things offend you) but so extremely well written. After watching the first season, you feel confident that you know what Gretchen (one of the female leads) is all about: caustic, powerful, spirit-animal material. The second season, among other things, follows her through the ebb and flow of a depressive movement– starting small and growing exponentially unmanageable. It’s raw and it’s one of the most accurate representations of the disease (from my perspective) as I’ve seen.
I was there Leigh’s junior year when it began for her. And that was my first close contact with depression and seeing the potential for it to cripple a person- but, I had no idea that’s what it was and I sure as hell didn’t understand it. I just knew that my best friend would hole up in her room for days on end listening to “I am a Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel on repeat. Oh dear God, it was miserable.
It wasn’t until my junior year of college that I got my official invitation to join the club. By that point in my life I understood it enough to know what it was. I wanted to take a semester off from school to try to regroup and get a new perspective. I was told to get over myself. So, I did- by self medicating and not going to class. And I continued to self medicate for the next decade. And yes, self medicate is my cute way of saying I smoked copious amounts of marijuana. It worked. It did the trick.Weed was my anti-psychotic but it’s only in hind-sight that I realize this. It did then and it does now have a balancing affect on my brain. It calms me down- it takes the edge off.
When I moved to Gulf Shores, my weed consumption drastically declined- it became pretty much non-existent. It wasn’t readily available to me and I just thought giving up weed was just a part of growing up and I was doing my best to grow up. The first 3 years of our lives in Gulf Shores was touch and go as far as my head was concerned. I was grieving my grandmother and in a new town with no friends and my work life took on a layer of anxiety that totally overwhelmed me.
And then Baby Bub came and postpartum was a total bitch. Adding a child to Bub and my mix amped up my anxiety and my need to control every single thing. I was crippling not just myself but my marriage as well. My head space was so cloudy I had trouble telling heads or tails in just about any situation.
Just after Henry’s first birthday, I started taking a doctor prescribed drug in hopes of balancing the chemicals in my brain. And at first, it was so good. I was much less uptight and could let stuff just roll off my back- much like when I was self medicating. But, a year later and I was no longer happy with the effects of the drug I was taking- it was not working any more and it happened in less than a year.
My doctor was not willing to let me try a different drug rather just increase my dosage (again). And after a particularly awful episode, I made an appointment with a new doctor. She put me on generic Prozac. I didn’t care what she put me on. I needed help and I wanted to get the process under way. My original doctor didn’t understand that I was willing to look for that needle in the hay stack if it meant I could clear my head space.
The year and some change that I have been on Prozac has been the best year of my marriage and the best year of head space I’ve had since before Bub and I married. It’s been nice.
We are not the only ones throwing back the curtains. Duchess Kate Middleton championing for mental health of the children of the UK. She is shining a light on the issue of mental health as an adult problem that effects children too. Our girl Oprah is also championing mental health. The February 2016 issue of O Magazine is the first of three issues to feature a look into the world of Mental Illness. It’s certainly a start, but we’ve got a long way, baby.
So much about getting better is about finding the right help. Be it a person, a recipe, a prescription, or whatever gets you through that moment. The point is to live to fight another day. Finding the right medicine (no matter what form it takes) can be like finding a needle in a hay stack. And just because it is working today does not mean that it will absolutely be working a week from today– pharmaceuticals can be finicky. It is a process. And this process changes as you do. Loving and caring for yourself is a life-long journey and (for those with depression) becoming better at early detection and then proper handling of symptoms.
Talk it over with us. Join the conversation in the comment section. What is your depression truth? No judgment here.