On Depression

I read this article (http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/personal/09/14/tf.tell.them.i.depressed/index.html) today on the authors struggles with depression and talking about it. It starts off from the angle of her saying too much to her boyfriends parents, but quickly goes into the stigma she feels and has felt over depression. I'd like to chime in a bit on this one because it's something I've actually experienced a lot of. There was a time in my life when I was in denial of my own depression, I certainly wouldn't have told any one else about it.

For a long time (18 years?), I just thought that I was the way I was. I was sad because life sucked and nothing was going to change that. There was no happy pill; life just sucked. I certainly didn't need a therapist -- I wasn't "crazy." But we all know I eventually did seek out a therapist. It took a lot of convincing from a friend I trusted. I wanted him to help me, but he couldn't and he wanted me to find someone who really could. I remember being in the garage and making that phone call -- it was terrifying. But I called and found out what my insurance covered, I found out who it covered, and I made an appointment.

I went to great lengths to keep this secret from everyone. (Did you know you can stipulate that they not call or mail you? You can make it 100% secret. I was living with my family when I first went and no one ever found out.) No one knew I was depressed, suicidal -- they weren't going to know about a psychiatrist either. And most of you know the story of that first therapist. After three appointments he wanted to send me to a dermatologist for my (not bad at all) acne and a weight loss doctor because that's where all my problems came from. Then I got mad, left and barely made it to the car before I had a breakdown. I stayed in my bedroom and cried for three days. And I didn't go back.

Now that doctor did have a slight point, what I talked about the most was my weight and it was the most superficial symptom and cause of some of my depression. But it was not the root cause and he was still a stupid jackass to tell a suicidal person they need to lose weight because the world doesn't see "THIS" as attractive. (Yes, he said that while motioning over my body). And because of this idiot, it was years before I sought out a therapist again. I highly regret that -- those are years I lost. But eventually I got so low that I went back to the medical profession for help.

The second time I accepted that I might need medication -- just to get me through the beginning part. I saw a therapist every Monday and a psychiatrist monthly to adjust my medicine. At the time I thought it was the dumbest thing ever. She had me doing "homework" you'd give a kindergartner to learn about feelings and self esteem. Yes, some of it required crayons. But basically that's where I was emotionally, that's where I had to begin. I was a child emotionally who had never learned how to deal with emotions -- only I was an adult -- a very unhappy one.

I took 3 years of therapy before I made any recognizable progress. But I did. I took control of my life and lost weight. I've since switched doctors and therapists many times, but I still am highly medicated. I always will be medicated. And I have faced people who did not understand.

I remember standing in my brothers kitchen when I admitted I had struggled with depression for years. He didn't believe me. I told him that when I drove home for weekends with the family, I had to pull over at a gas station to throw up at least once along the way. He still didn't fully understand or accepted it. My mom was a gradual thing. I did not have a good relationship with my mother back then. We've obviously come much closer to the point where we speak every day -- but it took her years to even come close to grasping that I had a problem.

I remember buying her a book on codependency and begging her to read it to try and understand what was going on in my head. She never did. She, like everyone else, still hasn't figured out exactly what my malfunction is and how deeply it has affected my life. How I could just fail out multiple semesters of college for no reason. How I can still fuck up college so badly (I had an anxiety attack about school, just last night, actually - complete with crying). For a long time I couldn't even talk to her about it because she felt it was her fault. So there's a nice guilt trip. But she tries and she's come to accept it. And we can now talk openly about it and she is supportive.

I no longer make my depression and anxiety issues a secret. I've been blessed with friends who are supportive and have even found fellow therapy goers. Most of the men I've dated have been supportive at first. But every single one has questioned my need for the medication -- especially long term. They have all had one point of questioning the need.

Newsflash: I'm not crazy and trying to kill myself because I'm medicated. I have the ability to be happy because I am medicated. It's like saying you don't need pain pills because you aren't in pain anymore to someone whos hooked up to a morphine pump.

And I don't know exactly why I'm writing this -- but I hope that somewhere out there someone is reading and seeing themselves in this post. I know reading Dooce.com and her struggles has helped me be more accepting of my own. I know that when I find out someone I respect goes to therapy too, it makes me feel understood.

But most importantly, I know that when I lived in a black hole, I could not fathom a way out. What kept me going through crap a lot of days was knowing that if tomorrow was any worse, I could just off myself. Thats how depressed I was. And for that person reading who still doubts, here's something only about 3 people know -- I was a cutter. I've never admitted that publicly. I literally hated myself so much and was in so much agony that the only way to make myself feel better was to physically hurt myself. After all, physical pain is easier to deal with than emotional pain, not that I knew how to handle the latter. But there's hope!

After lots of therapy (I still see my psychiatrist regularly), I've come to where I am. I find true joy in some things. I'm literally HAPPY sometimes. I know, right? But I am. I'm still sad a lot, but there are times when I'm genuinely happy. I can enjoy things. I can relax. I can go months without an anxiety attack. I can forgive. I can let go of hate and resentment (sometimes ;) ). I can have a really shitty day without wishing for death. In fact, I don't want to die. How awesome is that? 10 years ago, or even 6 years ago, I'd never have thought this could be possible.

I have a cute apartment where I live alone with my two cats. I date people -- occasionally even finding someone I'm really into who likes me back. I have a great job which sometimes makes me unhappy, but I wake up and go every day. I have FRIENDS. Holy shit, I have wonderful friends. REAL friends. Friends who give a shit -- friends who notice and care when something is wrong. Friends who fully accept me for who I am. Friends that will move furniture! Hell yeah, how awesome is that? And I don't have to fake.

I'm a brutally honest and real person for a reason. For years I couldn't be honest. For years I faked a smile. I hid myself. When I laugh now I really laugh. When I smile now -- as rare as it might be some days, it's because I'm genuinely happy. People who know and like me -- know and like me for exactly who I am. And there is NOTHING better than that. It's fucking awesome.

So to whoever needs to hear it -- there's hope. No matter how shitty you feel, there is hope. And to the person who needs to hear it -- you CAN be accepted for your true self. Perhaps I'm the one who needs to hear that one most of all. In fact, maybe I'm the one this post is for. But it's true. Even when I forget, it's true.

As Stuart Smalley said: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

And to my friends who read this blog, thank you for being an enriching and wonderful part of my life. You'll never know the impact you just being there has had. Thank you.


Blogger Lemming Leader said...

I hope that one day I can make as much progress as you have.. So much lately feels like I'm just going through the motions. Logically I know I don't have anything to be sad about and that just makes it so much worse.

You're an awesome person.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

I'm still in that mode a lot. I still get anxiety attacks on occasion and I still get depressed. In fact, I'm going to let my psychiatrist change my meds when I see her next month -- because I'm still not where I should be.

And yes, when there's nothing you can point to and go "this is why I'm depressed" -- thats the worst. People just can't understand. I'm so sorry you have to feel like that right now. I spent so much of my life there. Hell, I was there like 2 weeks ago. It's always an ongoing struggle.

Keep going though -- because there will be a better time. We might never get to the psyched about life part, but we don't have to live in a shit hole of self loathing.

I read your post the other day about depression (I follow you on RSS), maybe you should go talk to someone. I still see my shrink at least every three months. Lately more so because I've been depressed recently. Depression never goes away -- and the lower you let yourself get before getting out of it -- well the shittier you have to feel.

If you're so upset for no reason, thats not the way you should feel. That's not the way God or anyone who cares about you wants you to feel. Hell, I don't want you to feel that way and I don't even know you.

I'll say a prayer for you, OK? And you can email me directly if you wanna or need to talk. I promise I don't mind and I can totally relate. I've been crying in the middle of the floor for no reason too. And it sucks. My email is in the links at the bottom of the page -- and it forwards directly to my main email, so I'll see it.


8:13 AM  

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