Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Face of Depression

I have thought about writing this post so many times but never could get up enough courage to do so.  It took me a week to write it and it basically crippled me from doing anything once I started remembering some of the things I push way back in my mind.

Depression is an illness that is so often viewed as dishonor and as a weakness.  As a society we tend to hate the things we don't understand and unless you have been depressed, you may not ever truly understand.  Let me tell you announcing to the world that I suffer from depression is HARD. What will you think of me?  I don't want sympathy. I just want you to treat me the same way that you normally do.

A brave friend on Facebook posted an article about Postpartum Depression last month and confessed to her depression and said "I can understand how people don't know how serious it really is because I still know how to smile when I need to." - She posted again today about her struggles of finding help and that is when I knew I needed to complete this and hit that PUBLISH button. 

What she said is so true.  It is so easy to smile and act as expected.  This is really hard for me to write about, but I am writing this thinking that if it helps ONE person out there to know they are not alone, then it is worth it.

There is so much anxiety swirling around in my body as I type out that I battle depression every day. EVERY SINGLE DAY.  There are some days when I give up the fight -like evenings when I don't have my son and it is quiet and depressing and there are no Legos to step on...yeah, I pull the covers over me and go to bed. I am late almost always. It isn't always poor time management, sometimes I just cannot get out of bed.  When I can't get out of bed at all, those are the days where I am so unbelievably disappointed in myself that I feel like I am a waste. Would I ever kill myself? No. I couldn't, not now.  I have a kid and a house and other responsibilities.  Now, 20 years ago? Maybe. Maybe if I didn't have the support network that I did things would have been different.

Do you know what depression looks like?

It looks like this.
I first encountered depression in my early 20's.  I think dropping out of college, getting a full-time job, living on my own, going back to a relationship with the old High School boyfriend that I KNEW was a bad idea...yeah, when that relationship ended (surprise, he cheated on me in my home, who knew that would be the type of man I would marry <can I insert an eye roll here?>) and the "oh crap, this is my life" set in, that's when depression found me. I climbed out of that pretty quickly but that is the first instance I can remember where I felt that way. There was another instance in my mid 20's. I am guessing something happened that was a trigger.  That instance is when I was prescribed medication.  I didn't stay on medication for very long.  I thought I didn't want to be dependent on medication to feel better or I guess not feel at all.

I was great for so long. I thought those bouts with depression were over with.  New home, new marriage...then I started feeling horrible.  It turned out I was pregnant.  I ended up having the most miserable experience of my life. Not only was I pretty much alone because my husband at the time worked nights, but I was sick every single day all day long (Hyperemesis Gravidarum - sounds like a magical spell in the world of Harry Potter, right?).  I spent my pregnancy never connecting with the fact that I was pregnant because I was trying to do the best I could at just surviving.  I just never thought about the child growing inside me. I had it in my head that I would miscarry or something would go horribly wrong. I was hospitalized twice for dehydration because even though I was on Zofran, I just could not keep anything down. I ate only things that were easy to throw back up.  I basically went to work to a job I hated and came home to sleep. I never saw my husband. I was going through the most horrible time of my life and he wasn't even there to see how bad it was.   I was not prepared for the day that I went to the hospital and ended up with a child in my arms.  The nurses were concerned because I was not holding my son at first and didn't seem excited.  They knew something wasn't right but they didn't know that I was just in a sort of shock.  A "what do I do now?" situation because I did not picture that end result.

From then on I did not have time to deal with my depression.  I put on that smile and did the things I was supposed to do.  I am sure I had Postpartum Depression but I sure did not have time to deal with it. I know I felt overwhelmed and was operating on zero sleep most times.  I remember saying out loud to someone that I could see how women lose it and strap their kids in the car and drive into a pond.  SHE FLIPPED OUT.  I was yelled at to never say anything like that.  I didn't say I was planning on doing that, I could see how it would happen.  That was my moment of reaching out a little to say I was overwhelmed and I was yelled at.  So, it was clear that I was on my own.  On my own totally with everything going on inside of my head.

My marriage was not great.  I used to think it was just because of the opposite shifts we worked and us being basically single parents in our situation. Seeing each other on the parking lot of my workplace to pass the baby so he could go to work, seeing each other while we sleep, and having an evening or two together just really is not enough when you have a newborn in the mix.   While I retreated into my own head, my husband was escaping in other ways.   I had suspected the cheating so many times and confronted him.  He always was able to make me feel stupid for even suggesting it and there was always an excuse for everything. He had his own mental issues (I am not a Doctor so I cannot diagnose but let's just call him a Sociopath).  God, even that day when I found the "I love you goodnight" texts between him and his girlfriend that sparked me kicking him out, I was the one that was stupid and wrong.  I was making too much out of nothing and he continued to deny the affair long long looooooong after I had been reading all of their chats.  Yeah.  I read all of their chats.

He is not the brightest and when you let your wife know your email password, she has access to your hangout chats.  Hangout chats that go back several years.  Hangouts where you can read him calling you names to his girlfriend.  Hangout chats when you are on a family trip visiting family and there is no reception and she flips out because he is not messaging her.  Hangout chats where they arranged times to meet up to have sex at work and after work when he was supposedly working overtime. Hangout chats your wife can read while you are separated and when you text your wife you want to do therapy and work things out and then chat with your girlfriend about how she needs to go with him to pick out the new furniture for his apartment because it will be hers too WITH THE MONEY BORROWED FROM HIS 401K AND DEPOSITED INTO OUR JOINT BANK ACCOUNT...yeah.

So not only was I dealing with the end of my marriage and trying to figure out how in the world I would co-parent with someone I hated so much, but I read all of those hangout chats.  All of the ways he put me down, all of the times when he described a fun family day and reading it where you are not part of the story, that is devastating.

While reading those chats opened my eyes to where I would never be manipulated into believing any further lies, it was also damaging.  There were so many things that I shouldn't know and knowing all of those things and the zero fvcks that were given in regards to me, well let's just say it leaves you feeling a bit hollow.  If you already have low self-esteem, all of that does not help one bit.

I have depression from that.  Not from him but I think because things did not go the way they were supposed to - I had never planned on being a parent and now I have to take care of everything, like REALLY take care of everything. Also depression because I wasn't valued as anything.  I did not mean enough as a human being, as a spouse, as a person who made his freaking dinner and did his laundry, I did not mean enough as the mother of his child, I did not mean enough to be respected as anything. That is depressing. To give so much and be valued as so little.

I did start seeing a therapist after that.  Well, I started taking my son to make sure I wasn't screwing anything up with how I as handling everything. Then I started going by myself.  I need to make an appointment and talk about some things but she agrees that I have my head screwed on pretty good and would never do anything to hurt myself or my son.   I think ultimately that is where you have to look and see if the person with depression is going to harm themselves or others.  I do my best to be as happy as possible around my son.  I try to embrace my freedom, my creativity, and my personality but sometimes I lose grip on it.  When it is winter, it is a struggle.  When my child is with his dad, it is a struggle. If money is tight, it is a struggle.

If you have NEVER had depression, you have NO IDEA.  You cannot just "snap out of it" and the feeling doesn't just go away.

If you know someone with depression, please google "what to say" and "what not to say" - there are a lot of helpful articles out there.  Saying the wrong thing while someone is having a battle can hurt the fight. I am not an expert but I imagine that everyone is different with what might trigger that bout and what helps to get over it.  I need hugs.  I need to know that I am not worthless and I need hugs. Also I think if I had money I would have some sort of shopping addiction.  This is why I know I am not too far into it because I recognize I cannot afford a shopping addiction and I "pretend shop" - also my part-time job I get to spend real money so that helps.

If you are depressed and you want to talk to someone find a therapist.  It does really help to work through things.  If that isn't an option and you don't know where to turn, you can start with your state's website.  There are a lot of mental health services out there and someone can point you in the right direction. If your depression effects your life making you unable to work, there may even be assistance for you.  I wish this was something that was easier to find and was freely given.  Mental Health is something that kind of takes a back seat in this country until something happens that is newsworthy.

I will tell you what works for me and helps me keep my shit together (most of the time)-  Being thankful and looking for that silver lining. There is almost always a bright side to the situation.  Even on my worst days I will pass by a funeral procession and think "well, at least I am not that guy" - there is always something positive to be found in that crap avalanche that sometimes happens.  Sometimes I have to really dig to find it.  Sometimes it feels like you are being kicked when you are already down and sometimes there just isn't the energy to dig .  Those are the I stay in bed all day and mostly sleep, sometimes Netflix is my friend.  I know I will creep back out.  I know I will pull myself up eventually.  I know I will be fine.  I know sometimes it takes a day.  I know sometimes my hormones make the struggle harder.  I know I am not alone.  I know I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.