I suffer from depression. This is not news to anyone, I hope. I was first diagnosed in college with depression and generalized anxiety. I realized after some therapy and medication that I had been depressed for a LONG time before that. Since my first diagnosis I have been riding the depression roller coaster. There have been good years, bad years, good meds, bad meds, and a few therapists along the way. I've learned a lot about the disease, about myself and about others.
Depression has taken away a lot. Most recently I can think of a few summers ago when things got really bad inside my head and I lived on the couch. I spent a whole summer watching TV and sleeping to escape whenever I could. The boys and I survived that summer together but I feel like I lost out on what should have been a fun time with them. I lost time with my kids.
I've also lost friends because of depression. I withdraw from people and social situations when I am down and a lot of people take that personally and pack up and move on. It's not personal, I promise. If I could convince myself to get up and go I would be out there with you having fun but there are days (and weeks and months) where it takes every fiber of my being just to function. Sometimes I do the dishes and need to nap after because I feel so overwhelmed. And sometimes I am so overwhelmed by the list of things I need to do that I can't even find a starting place and I sit paralyzed.
Depression has taken away opportunities to do new things. It convinces me that new is bad and same old same old is good. It convinces me I am not good enough, smart enough, able to do whatever it is. It convinces me that failure is imminent and I'd be better off not even trying.
I could go on and on about things that depression has taken from me. The list, in my mind, is endless. Depression is this silent disease that not many understand. Suffering from depression is not easy, there's no quick fix and some people are never the same again. If you are one of those people that think depression is one of those "crap" diseases and isn't real and that people need to just suck it up and get over it then you should know, I used to be you. I was you until depression took over and I can't get over it. No amount of sucking it up and putting on a happy face makes it go away. It can hide it, sure, but it will always be there.
For me, depression is a roller coaster. There are highs and lows and they can last for any amount of time. That always makes me question if I am bi-polar but so far no mental health professional has thought so. I've tried anti-depressants; Lexapro, Zoloft, Serafem, Prozac and Effexor XR just to name a few. My favorite was Zoloft and I will forever chase that high. I remember starting the Zoloft and waking up one day and feeling good. I can remember it clearly and the sense of relief I felt that I felt better was sensational. After some time though, it wore off and no increase in dose brought that feeling back. I've never found another medication that had the same result. My most recent medication was the Effexor. It was awful. I was on Effexor the summer I lived on the couch and the withdrawal side effects from it are similar to hard core street drugs from what I read and hear. My doctor actually put in my medical chart that I am allergic to Effexor because it made things worse and not better but it was so bad I couldn't even see it happening. I tapered off of it but was still incredibly sick for a long time. Coming off the Effexor scared me and scarred me. I haven't been able to try another anti-depressant since because I cannot go through that withdrawal again. I also fear that nothing is going to help and trying something else only to be disappointed in the results sounds too painful right now.
There are some things that depression has given me though. I am a more compassionate person because of it. People with depression, and yes, they are all around you, do things and say things they don't mean. That summer on the couch I sent Aiden off to a birthday party/small friend outing and forgot to send the present. Embarrassed, I was going to drop it off at the child's house later but then couldn't because I couldn't handle the face to face social piece so I mailed it. I never did hear if they got the present. That is SO unlike me that it hurts to even think about. I am generally very organized and together and I know that poor kid was probably sad not to get his present that day. But, now I know when things like that happen to us/me that there are many, many reasons why it could be so. I'm not as hard on people as I used to be and my expectations are definitely lower. Everyone is fighting some sort of battle and who are we to judge?
Depression has also given me a different perspective on life. A lot of my life/time is spent feeling sad and numb but those moments that take my breath away are even more important now. Even when I am feeling sad I can see the moments that are important and I try really hard to be in the moment and savor the details. It happens most with the boys. I know they are growing up faster than the dandelions in the front yard and I know that even though I am depressed I want to see and feel these moments with them and be able to remember them long after they've packed away their stuffed animals and baseball cards and headed to college.
This depression and anxiety thing, I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I wish there were a magic wand and I could feel happiness again. I wish I could get back time I've lost, I wish anxiety didn't paralyze me, I wish that sleep didn't seem so good all the time, I wish more people understood how hard it is every damn day.
**I am in no way an expert on depression or anxiety but please feel free to ask questions/comment below.
*** If you have time check out this blog about depression as well....it was well written and hit home with me. My fish are dead too. Hyperbole and a Half