Somewhere along the way a deep and ugly depression settled into me. It came on the way a spring storm arrives, teasing for a little while before becoming violent and ugly. This depression was unlike any I’ve seen of late, possibly since adolescence.
There are obvious situational causes for my abysmal state. Wading through life post-secondary infertility; trying to reimagine all of the dreams I had planned for our family. Adding insult to injury in a way that is unintentionally very personal, is a new pregnancy announcement or birth announcement every single day. It’s a strange place to sit, being sandwiched between trying to force yourself to feel joy and being filled with a green-eyed jealousy that rattles deep within your bones.
Unplanned pregnancies are the kind that cut the deepest. Contrasting, a miscarriage makes me mourn as if the loss was my own. I’ve found myself distancing myself from my pregnant friends – turning down lunch invitations, hiding them on Facebook, unfollowing them on Instagram, and rolling my eyes at shower invitations.
Even I am disgusted by my self-interest.
I have been thrashing around in self-hate. Crying when sleep won’t come, finding myself rising in the morning out of pure obligation only, yelling at my beloved mom, refusing to communicate with my husband, avoiding the gym, restricting calories followed by binging, and weighing myself more often than advised, even buying a scale after years of vowing to never own one. My brain has been in control. But not my normal brain, my depressed brain.
In the wake of recent celebrity suicides, information regarding depression has been flooding news feeds. Knowledge is powerful, but what these lists and articles fail to articulate is that when the depressed brain is in charge, it becomes impossible to ask for the help you don’t feel worthy of receiving. Your realm of possibilities, of ways of recovery, or even the ability to imagine happiness becomes so minute, that you don’t even realize you are suffering from debilitating tunnel-vision, complete with blinders.
When my depressed brain is driving, I become more realistic and much less optimistic. Realism is not, in itself, bad, but when paired with depression, it is difficult to differentiate between what is truly real and what is perceived to be real. My depressed brain tells me truths like I’m an awful mom, and I’m a terrible wife, and I’m not a good friend, and I’m a horrible sister, and I’m a wretched daughter, and I’m ugly, and I’m fat, and I’m worthless, and I don’t deserve to be loved, and the people in my life would be better off without me, and I’m stupid, and I’m a dreadful writer, and my friends are only pretending to be my friends, and my back injury will never heal, and this weight I’ve gained from the infertility treatments will never be shed, and I have been punished with a dysfunctional uterus because I’m such an evil human being.
It’s quite foul, that depressed brain.
Mr. B has seen small bouts of mild depression in me, but nothing like the last few weeks. He wasn’t even aware of what was happening, because I refused to talk to him. It’s embarrassing – there are starving people all over the world, people whose families have been murdered, houses burned down, children kidnapped, careers lost. It feels ridiculous and petty to be consumed with a torturous sadness, when I am surrounded by people who love me, have a roof over my head, and food in cupboard. It wasn’t until I was sobbing in bed that Mr. B realized I wasn’t being a wretched bitch because I wanted to, but because I was drowning in self-loathing and was not in control of my brain or my thoughts.
What is worse than the suffocating sadness, I think, is when the numbness settles in. When the need to scour every surface with bleach and peroxide turns into dishes piled everywhere, and the compulsion to get out of bed ten times to check that the empty hangers in the closet are still, in fact, organized by color becomes a need to sleep 18 hours each day, and the insatiable restlessness turns into a body exhausted with ache. When frustration turns to indifference, joy turns emotionless, when laughter doesn't seem conceivable, when sadness is a waste of energy, when worry turns to hopelessness, when there no longer is any life behind your eyes; that’s the vilest part of it all.
Paired with being gifted depression and anxiety through genetics, I also have in me a heel-digging stubbornness. So when I was urged by my husband, my sister, and my mother to contact my doctor and possibly a counselor, I decided the right thing to do was to wait it out. Because logic is also a strength of mine.
It is important to understand, when you are struggling with depression, is that rabid rodents are persistently clawing away at your rational brain.
No awards for toughness are given when it comes to fighting mental illness alone. No one claps for you when you stop taking your medication – alternatively, they likely notice the difference in your mood and attitude before you. And no one condemns you for contacting your doctor, asking for help, increasing your anti-depressant, seeking council. What has become clear is that when I am miserable, my family is suffering ten-fold. When I hate myself with an unsurpassed vigor and passion, my husband and son are forced to live in an environment that is toxic.
I wish I could say that it’s easy to stop drowning and begin breathing, but finding the exact treatment (which may or may not mean therapy or medication) can take time. When you find what makes you smile again, what helps you feel hope and joy again; when you find that one thing – whatever it may be – hold on to it. Because there will be days that will threaten to drag you back down and you will feel the darkness of depression beginning to swallow you whole. When you are seeking treatment and/or medication, and you have your something, those dark days will be so much easier to combat.
But it’s so worthwhile. You are worthwhile. It is so valuable to live your life, to participate in your life. Whatever the cause, environmental or biological, there is help. There is hope.
Thank you for keeping me In Good Company.
If you think you might be suffering from depression, please seek help at one of the many resources available, including, but not limited to:
24 hour National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)