Depression seems like such a secretive disorder. It doesn't always make itself visible at first glance. In fact, most of the people I interact with on a daily basis don't even realize this about me, but, I suffer from depression. It used to be something I tried to keep hidden. I have finally realized that there is nothing to fear. There is nothing to be ashamed of. This is part of who I am and likely part of who I will always be. Hindsight is often 20/20, and I saw a lot of signs when I really started looking back. If you're struggling at all, I hope I can help.
When I was in high school, I was happy. All the time, happy. The exception was my sophomore year when I had my first brush with depression. It was pretty mild as depression goes, but it was there. I was a typical teenage girl. I knew everything (or so I thought) and I had the usual stress that most teenagers had. Dating, acne, braces, just being awkward....you get it. I had awesome friends, though. Many of them I still count among my friends today. It only lasted a little while and I found my smile again with minimal effort.
I graduated. Got a job. Got married. Had a baby (not all in that order). Things were going well for me. We had a beautiful little house to match our beautiful little daughter, and some money in the bank. For being 21 years old, I was pretty well set. Then I found out that I was likely going to lose the job I loved and worked hard at. Then my grandma passed away leaving an ache in my heart that I can still feel almost 9 years later. Then our landlord had to sell our house and we were faced with having to move. It was a lot in a short period of time to take. I started doing these strange things. Nothing scary, just sort of strange. If I was feeling nervous (which was almost all the time at that time) I would brush my hair to calm myself down. And sometimes I would pace around the house while doing so. I was also putting on chap stick as if it was oxygen and without it I would parish. My mom noticed these new quirks and my compulsive question asking.
"Do you think?" "What if this happens?" "What am I going to do if..." I will admit that I was driving my family absolutely crazy. One minute I would be frantically asking questions that no one could possibly answer, and the next minute all I wanted to do was sleep or cry. I felt tremendous guilt because I knew that I was unintentionally cheating my daughter out of the mom she deserved. I was closed off and I became really introverted. This was very unlike me because in high school, I was very outgoing and had many hobbies. I loved life. Suddenly I didn't really love life any more. I didn't get excited about much at all.
We needed to move so we found a house in our price range, made an offer, and it was accepted. We closed in about 3 weeks and began moving. My mind was busy and I had things to focus on. I was excited to own a home. A little scared, but excited. I annoyed plenty of people through that process as well. It gave my family a little bit of a break, which they welcomed, but it was surely hard on our realtor and our mortgage loan officer. I would call them randomly with ridiculous questions. I was positive the loan would fall through. Why? I dunno. I was just sure it was going to. I took to the internet to research and find people who's home loans had fallen through at the last minute. I started grilling my dad about possibly financing the house in his name should something happen. (We had spotless credit at the time. There was no reason in the world the loan would have fallen through). We had to have several inspections done on the house before the closing date. I became an expert on everything from termites to well problems to haunted attics. I needed every single possible contingency thought of and prepared for. How could I sleep if there was a ghost living in my new house that would possibly drive the value down, trashing the loan to value ratio and then causing the loan to fall through? And if it was haunted and we didn't find out until after the fact, what could I do to make sure the ghost was friendly and if it wasn't, how was I to get rid of it? You get the idea. I spent many nights not sleeping. In short, I was a basket case. The hair brushing and chap stick applying was at an all time high. Why was I like this? I had moments of wondering that. When that started, the fear began to sink in. I felt like I couldn't trust anyone to stay in my life. I was annoying. I was insecure. Surely my husband would tire of it. My parents would change the locks on their door and I would have to call ahead to go home. This gave way to a whole new set of racing thoughts. I created things in my mind to worry about. I had a sense of impending doom and I had no idea what was bringing that to me.
It was the anxiety. It was the depression. And I had no idea what I was facing.
All hell broke loose one morning in January of 2006. I was fine (as fine as I could be at that point). Julie and I had started the morning with fruit and yogurt and were getting ready to spend some time together playing and suddenly that sense of doom fell over me. There was tightness in my chest. I was having a hard time catching my breath. I became dizzy and sweaty. I was 22 years old. I couldn't be having a heart attack? I sat down and tried to catch my breath. Julie toddled over to me and wrapped her little arms around my neck and said, "Mommy sick?" I hugged her and found some comfort in that embrace from my sweet 2 and a half year old. My eyes filled up with tears. Why did I feel this way? I knew I had to do something. I called my husband at work and within about 5 minutes he and my dad were both in my living room. By this time, I was laying in a fetal position on the sofa clutching the stuffed sock monkey I had played with as a child at my grandmother's house. My breathing was rapid and irregular. My whole body felt so tight. Somehow, my husband managed to get me into the car and we drove to the emergency room. I didn't want to go there. I didn't want anyone telling me that I was crazy. Was I crazy? I had no idea. I felt helpless.
The doctor in the ER asked me a series of questions. He asked my husband questions, and then he asked him to leave the room. I left with a prescription for Paxil. I have to take a pill to feel normal? That didn't agree with me. But at that point I was willing to try.
It took a few weeks to take full affect, but when it did, I was a new person. The next few years were pretty uneventful and the medicine continued to help. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I had to go on a new medication that was less risky for pregnancy, but the transition was smooth and everything was well. I had basically no problems with depression for the next few years. My work with the fire department was rewarding and I was enjoying it so much. Sure there were a few calls that hit me pretty hard here and there, but I handled it.
Or did I?
I noticed that I could actually feel my serotonin dropping. I could be going along doing just fine. I had patience. I had security. All was well in the world. Then ten minutes later, I had despair. I was going to lose everything. This sense of impending doom was so strong that it brought that tightness back to my chest. Sometimes I could reign it in on my own by listening to music (Alexi Murdoch got me through a lot). I began practicing yoga and that did help, but still. Something wasn't balanced. Whatever challenge faced me seemed larger than life even if it wasn't. Again, preparing for every single possible contingency was a must. The only way I would feel better was if all of my bases were covered, and even then sometimes it didn't feel better. I began to feel undeserving of everything. If someone genuinely liked me because they knew who I was on the outside, I quickly had to make sure that they knew I wasn't worthy of their time. I wondered if I ever could truly be loved by anyone for just being me. If they saw my heart would they see too much? If someone said I was beautiful, I wouldn't believe it. If a friend said they loved me, I doubted. Why would anyone love me? I was so convinced that I was nothing special and even if other people didn't think so, I had to find every negative detail I could and present it to them and if they still accepted me then maybe they were genuine. Until the next day when it began all over again. I didn't trust people, so I pushed them away. I began to see the Wallflowers song "I Wish I Felt Nothing" as my anthem. I felt so much. I felt emotions from the deepest depth of my soul to the surface of my skin. There was no emotion that I didn't feel. But as the song says, when you're alone, it's better cuz nobody leaves you. When no one's your friend, it's better cuz nobody needs you. So you turn your back on a world that you could never have. Cuz your hearts been trapped." No matter what anyone did to let me see that they cared about me, I shut it out. In my mind, I was the girl no one wanted. I was the girl with nothing to offer. And without even meaning to, I became that girl. A good friend told me once, "I wish just once, you could see yourself through my eyes. You wouldn't ever feel this way again if you could." I was touched. And then I went on a full on sabotage of that. I saw someone who loved me. I wanted to accept love, but I just couldn't. I was so afraid of taking it in and then losing it and feeling heartbroken that I had to sabotage it before it could touch me. I began to spend 90% of my time being the woman I made up in my head. When I would get called out on this, I would get defensive. Then I stopped and really looked at myself. Why was I refusing to let the woman my family and friends know and love be happy?
That question, my friends, is to be continued. I'm on a quest for inner peace. I'll find it. I have faith. The journey will likely be long and tiring, but I will find it. I do good things. I am a good person. I deserve to be happy. And I'll get there in my own time. Taking it day by day...minute by minute if need be, I'll get there.