I’ve been contemplating “outing” myself for awhile now. I have pretty much already done so on Twitter where 95% of my 900 followers are strangers and most of my friends and coworkers can’t find me. A couple of my good friends already know, a couple coworkers I am close to also know, but generally I haven’t wanted people to know. I’ve always been afraid they’d think less of me. Like I had mental issues and put me in the same category as psychos & crazies. And truth be told, I’ve always been afraid to admit any unbalance incase my husband and I ever split up, I didn’t want him to use it against me to try to take my kids away. But here is my official declaration to the blog world (where 85% of my followers are also strangers), I struggle with Depression and Anxiety. This is something I thought was only temporary in the beginning and have been ashamed of ever since I found out it isn’t. But my doctor has been trying to get me to see it differently for awhile now, and with the help of the media spotlight more these days, I think I am finally starting to come around. Maybe sharing my thoughts and difficulties with it can help someone else out there too.
MY HISTORY WITH DEPRESSION
Here is a little background. The first time I was depressed was after the breakup with my high-school boyfriend when I was nineteen. This is normal and understandable. I had thought we would eventually get married and be together forever. I didn’t want to be with anyone else but him. Now he was with someone else already and I couldn’t get him back. I didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. I watched a lot of TV at home where I lived with my parents and played a lot of Nintendo. It was the lowest I ever felt in my life. Until my mom and my sister tried cheering me up by taking me out dancing at a bar. This started my new reign as a fun party-girl. So for the rest of my college years I had a very fun social life with lots of booze and not enough studying, but I was very “happy”. Not really of course, I was just hiding my loneliness and brokenness with alcohol and good times. Just like my father had always done. Only at that time I didn’t know my father had struggled with anything, I thought he was just a fun easy going guy. I was an emotional wreck through college on the inside, on the outside I tried to portray a strong woman in charge of her own life that wasn’t going to let other people hurt me. It was such a lie.
Fast forward to my adult years, I’m married and have a wonderful baby boy, I am honestly happy with my life. Then my Dad goes off the deep end. My parents quit their great jobs in Nevada and move to Idaho to be near me and the baby. My Dad doesn’t go back to work, instead he starts drinking whiskey all day and acting weird. My parents get divorced after 29 years of marriage. Because he has broken my mother’s heart and how strange he is acting, I struggle to keep a relationship with my Dad, who I have always loved, admired, and been so close to. I was Daddy’s girl and now I don’t hardly recognize him. Over the next couple years my father manages to lose all his friends and everything he has worked so hard for his whole life. He drinks himself to death. At the age of 56, my Daddy is gone. Gone from my life forever, and ending on a sour note to boot. I had always thought my dad would live to be old, he never got sick, he had been so healthy and strong. But multiple bad decisions can really alter a life. And I later found in his paper work where he has been diagnosed with spots on his lungs. He had worked in a gold mine where many of his friends were dying of cancer, he assumed he now had lung cancer and instead of fighting it, went out on his own terms. I felt like my Dad had accomplished the longest suicide, in which he killed off every piece of himself that I loved before he went.
It was before my Dad had died, but during my parent’s divorce period, and in between my two children that I was first diagnosed with depression. I was at my annual OBGN doctor appointment, she asked me how I was doing and I just started bawling. I told her how I was so busy and stressed out at work, and mad at my husband for not helping around the house enough, and I felt like I had so much to do I was completely overwhelmed. This overwhelming feeling of having way too much to do made me feel frozen from doing any of it. Then I felt horrible about myself for not getting things done. It was a vicious circle. My doctor handed me a Kleenex, told me she completely understood and that I was clinically depressed. I walked away with a reason I felt so horrible, and a prescription for Zoloft. Which I was only on for about six months or so because 1.) I experienced sexual side effects where I couldn’t orgasm and 2.) We wanted to have another baby.
I was under the impression this depression was a temporary state due to the circumstances in my life at that time and would go away. Unfortunately, my 2nd pregnancy was much harder emotionally than my first. There were times I felt so unloved by my husband, we’d get in a fight and I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry and cry that he didn’t love me. He never really made it better for me, but he never left either.
It was 2007 when my Dad passed away. I was thirty years old and my children were three and one. I had a full time career and was planning a funeral and trying to figure out how to pay for it – we already lived pay check to pay check. Not having a close relationship with my sisters, my mom being in a new relationship, and still having to take care of kids and life, I felt so alone in my sadness. My Dad was gone, but the world kept spinning. I just wanted it to stop for awhile so I could deal with things. Grieving was almost impossible because I didn’t have time.
I had been having horrible lower back pain that the chiropractor couldn’t seem to fix. He suggested I go to the masseuse. As she was giving me a deep tissue massage, she started asking me questions about what had been going on in my life that might have me so tense. As I started telling her the basics about my Dad, I started crying. I cried on that table for the whole 90 minute massage (30 minutes of which she gave me for free because she said I needed it). I loved that lady. After that my back pain was gone. I don’t remember when it was I went back on anti-depressants but it was sometime soon after that, this time going on Wellbutrin.
Once on Wellbutrin I was finally productive again, having the energy to cope with housework, and I lost over 20 pounds – the first 15 pounds without even trying. I then started exercising for the first time in my life and got in really good shape for a while. There were no sexual side effects with this drug and it made everything better. I finally felt normal. But I cannot forget to take it because even missing one day makes the day after that miserable where I am so irritable and cranky and angry, a raving lunatic. I’ve been on this for a few years but my husband always thinks I should go off it saying I should be strong enough mentally to control my own feelings. Well isn’t that a lovely comment to make me feel like shit. You’re saying I’m weak minded? But I have many new things in my life that make me happy now, new ways to cope like reading, writing, and working out. I am also on cloud nine about getting to meet the young girl I donated bone marrow stem cells to. I feel happy so I ask my Doctor if I can go off the medication. She says we can try it and puts me on a schedule to wean down slowly. I go from 300mg to 150mg for awhile. Things are still good. I then go down to 75mg. Things are still good. And then I’m finally off the anti-depressant. (2013)
Things are ok for a couple months. I feel more sentimental again like I used to, the husband I are getting along well actually. I feel more vulnerable and sweet with him now. I don’t think much has changed with the kids, I am not yelling more than before, I think I am doing good. But then I notice people at work are pissing me off easily. Work starts to get really stressful with more and more stuff thrown at me. I can’t handle it as well. Some days I feel like going in the bathroom to cry, but I buck it up until I get home. I have to act strong in this job where all my competition are men. I am trying my best but I just don’t feel strong and stable like I used to. I feel like I can’t control my emotions which is making me say the wrong things at work sometimes. And as always, the more stressed I get at work the more snippy I am at home too. The part that isn’t helping is the things I thought would keep me happy like exercise, reading and writing, I no longer have the energy or will to do. So I go talk to my doctor. I feel really disappointed in myself because I didn’t want to be dependent on medication for the rest of my life. I had felt that I had matured and gotten so strong over the last few years that I cold handle life, but now it feels like it wasn’t really me that is strong, but the meds that make me that way. Without them I am still too emotional, insecure, empathetic, overwhelmed and irritable. I tell this to my doctor, who has also been doing a study on depression. She tells me not to look at it like that. In some people the chemical balance in their brain is just off a little and it requires medicine to balance it. We cannot help it, it is nothing we are doing wrong. She says it is a sickness. “If you had cancer or epilepsy, you wouldn’t try to deprive yourself of the medicines you need would you?” I say no. She says I just need to stop being so hard on myself and think of it differently. If my husband tells me I should be able to control my own emotions tell him to go to hell, its not that simple, it is my brain. I tell him exactly what she said.
So I leave with a new prescription and these two thoughts: 1.) I can’t control it by myself, it is ok to be on the meds. 2.) I have to admit I have a mental health issue.
THOUGHTS & REVELATIONS
Here’s the problem with admitting my mental health is not 100%. It still feels shameful. I always valued my brain. I’m a smart girl. I feel I am a smart person that makes overall good decisions and has a great sense of right and wrong. I don’t want to be classified in with people who shoot up their offices or schools. I don’t want to be thought of as someone who would hang myself or overdose on pills in a bathtub, or needs to be watched. Because that is not who I am. On or off the meds, I would never. I am only an over-sensitive emotional wuss. So obviously I still have a stigma about it too. But here is what I think… (completely un-medical opinion of course)… I think that, like Autism or Aspergers, there are different degrees of depression. I think I am a “high-functioning” depressive. Meaning I still hold down a successful job, I don’t call in to work due to my depression, I don’t spend days on end in bed, or ever have thoughts of hurting myself. I go to work, I take care of my kids, I have a great social life with lots of friends, I do everything a “normal” person does. I just have some bad days now or then where I don’t feel like doing anything or being around anyone, I don’t feel like cleaning my house, and I may dwell on the past tragedies in my life more than other days. And most of the time even on those days I still do “life” anyway and I make it through. But often when I am “made” to do something I don’t feel like doing on a dark day, I turn angry. When I am on antidepressants I feel like I am a stable, strong woman who can do anything. I can easily separate business and pleasure. I can be rational and calm. When I am not, I cry a lot more and have more insecurities, letting other people’s emotions and problems effect me more. I let emotions rule me and have a harder time staying calm. But just to be clear here – I am talking about words and the way I communicate, not physical violence.
Another reason I think there are different degrees of depression and anxiety, is my sister-in-law. We had a very honest conversation last time we were together where she opened up to me about her anxiety issues. She recently spent about a month at some place in Arizona that helps you learn how to deal with your anxiety. I always thought kind of badly of her that she didn’t keep a job for more than a couple months. And I often wondered if she had a pain pill addiction or something because when she’d come for the holidays she’d spend most of her time sleeping instead of visiting with the family and often seemed “drugged out” (slow & hard to think). Now I know she was probably on Xanax or ones of those that makes you sleepy. I can only take half of one or I pass out, and I don’t like taking them because they make me feel dopey. So do I think poorly of her now? No. I know what it is like to struggle with anxiety. But I definitely have never had it as bad as she does. Like I said, I’ve never let it effect my going to work every day and bringing home a paycheck. So if there was some scale out there, I would be high-functioning, she would be lower-functioning. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it is in the chemical/hormonal balances in her brain and nothing she can control. She is a very sweet and kind person who tries her best. I am not trying to say that some people are “better” than others, but I do think a scale of degrees of depression or anxiety would be helpful in the medical community and in studying depression and anxiety. Does it progress and get worse as we get older? Or do we usually stay at what ever level we are at? These would be good things to study.
Another revelation I had in recent years is that there is obviously a family history. No one talked about it, and maybe they don’t even notice it themselves, but now I do. The more I learned about my Dad the more I realized he had a lot of demons and struggles with depression, but he always self-medicated with alcohol since he was a teenager. He had lost a brother in his teens to illness and later had a sister who killed herself. How could he not have sadness in his life. Yet he always seemed so happy. On my dark days I would be angry with him and curse him in heaven that he got to cover up all his feelings with booze but I have to feel everything and it wasn’t fair. Other days I realized I was the strong one, winning, for not turning to bad temptations to deal with it. As my paternal grandma got sicker with age and health problems she started having anxiety attacks. And I’ve always known my mom gets the blues every winter until the sun comes out again. Maybe I never would have been able to escape it, even if my parents hadn’t divorced and my Dad hadn’t died. Or maybe experiences tip the scales? I should read more about it, but I haven’t.
It used to piss me off so badly if I was mad and my husband would say “did you forget your pill today?” NO, ITS NOT THAT, MAYBE ITS BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T DONE THE DISHES IN TWO MONTHS AND IT ALWAYS FALLS ON ME! AND YOU EXPECT ME TO DO EVERYTHING! (Oh yeah, and I did forget my pill so I will go secretly take that now instead of admitting to it.) This used to be our pattern. Now a new thing I am trying within my household to prevent blowups, fights and hard feelings, is when I am having a “dark day”, as I call them now, I will tell my husband. I used to try to hide it so he couldn’t hold it against me. Now I just tell him, “I’m having a rough emotional day where I just don’t feel myself. So if you could be a little more gentle with me today I would appreciate it.” I notice when I do this, he does kind of give me a break and also steps in with the kids more to keep them from driving me nuts. So as much as people like myself hate admitting our weaknesses, I think it is helping and will maybe help others understand me better too.
There are a few things I would like people who don’t struggle with depression themselves to know. When treating depression, everything feels like a tradeoff. When I am on my Wellbutrin, I can only feel three emotions: happiness, anger and neutrality. When I am not on anything, I feel everything! Every emotion you can think of – the good and the bad – and lots of passion. Remember when I said my husband I got along better when I was off the meds? It was because I was more vulnerable with him and wanted to talk about my feelings with him more. Not that he likes talking about feelings all that much but I was more open and a little less independent. I didn’t have so much anger in my tone. BUT at that same time, I was not coping well at work. I have an awesome new position where I love my boss and I get paid a lot more, and I want to keep it. I want to improve our financial position in life and this job helps me do that. Not being able to keep my cool in stressful situations at work was worse to me than being irritable with my husband, who isn’t going to divorce me. It was the scale of being likeable to one person -versus- being likeable to everyone else. So unfortunately the husband lost. The other tradeoff is often sex. A few months ago I also started taking Citalopram (Celexa) for the anxiety I was feeling at work. I take 10mg of Citalopram at bedtime (because 20mg made me feel too zombie like) and my 300mg of Bupropion (Wellbutrin) in the morning. Even with dropping from 20mg to 10mg I still have no sex drive and no orgasms. This would be great if I was single. But it is a little hard on the marriage. I haven’t yet decided to stop the Celexa in favor of my sex life or not. There are many things that could be contributing factors right now that might still be factors even if I stopped the medication – 1.) I’ve recently become pre-menopausal, 2.) my husband’s weight has become an issue in the bedroom and 3.) Sex just isn’t that important to me in this stage of my life right now. So I am in a holding pattern right now before I decide on which tradeoff is going to win here. I just want to be the best mom I can be, the best me I can be, and the best at my job I can be. I guess at 39, being the best sexual dynamo is not on my priority list. Much to my husband’s dismay. He wishes best cook & sex slave were on top of my list.
So this is what goes on with me behind closed doors and this is what I feel. I hope I have not offended anyone here because that is not my intent, just how I feel about my own situation, maybe some others might feel the same way and some will feel differently and we all have those rights – how we feel is how we feel. Sometimes a different perspective from someone else helps me open my eyes to different possibilities, be more understanding and change my view point; other times not. But maybe the more we discuss it, then the more we can break down the stigmas that even I myself carry and am trying to get over. Best wishes and love to all.