Today’s post is pretty personal. And I’ve debated on whether or not to share this, because of the stigma associated to this subject matter. But I genuinely feel that it is important for people to know they’re not alone. And almost every person I spoke to during my personal ordeal said either “oh ya… that happened to me too” or “oh ya… I know someone who went through that”. And oddly… knowing that I wasn’t alone REALLY made a difference. And it was shocking how many people had experienced something similar, and yet I’d never heard of it (and subsequently was convinced I was dying). So that’s my hope here. To share in an effort to help, even one person, to know they’re not alone. So here goes…
There seem to be two distinct camps when it comes to the subject of depression. One camp, recognizes that everyone feels down now and again… but you just push through it. And if you don’t push through it, you aren’t depressed, you’re lazy. And then the other camp, which recognizes depression as a legitimate illness. More than just “feeling down”. It’s an actual sickness.
My feet were firmly rooted in the first camp. Everyone feels down, but you don’t just sit there… you push through it. And I actually held a lot of anger in me, because I’d had important people in my life struggle with depression, and I could never understand why they didn’t just push through it. Why were they so lazy?
The irony is, that I was, myself, depressed. For years. Like, probably 20. But because of the stigma I held in my own mind about it, I kept pushing.
DON’T BE LAZY.
That was my mantra.
And I became an extremely high functioning, extremely depressed person. And I was so disconnected from it all that I didn’t even know what was happening. I just knew that I had developed major issues with anxiety and that I had to avoid certain situations that were known to cause me anxiety (heights, open spaces, closed spaces, places with too many people, places where I was alone). Which meant that my world was becoming smaller and smaller. And I was getting angrier and angrier. Because I was doing everything right, and yet nothing was making me feel better. So you know what I did?
Clearly I wasn’t doing enough. Clearly I was still lazy. So I added more and more to my plate. There was definitely a satisfaction in hearing “Wow, you’re an animal! Is there anything you can’t do?”, but there was absolutely no satisfaction in what I was doing. I wasn’t enjoying anything. So you know what I did?
And I forced myself to enjoy it because that’s what you’re supposed to do. Push yourself to be happy. And I started putting myself into those situations that caused me anxiety because that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to face your fears, not run away from them. So I started jumping off cliffs to thwart my fear of heights. I agreed to shoot on a boat even though I had a serious hatred of being on boats. I tried to follow my husband on his adventures, even though they took me to places I literally could not handle. But I kept pushing through it. Don’t be lazy. Just do it. And you know what? I hated it. I still had fear. I still had anxiety. And everyone around me was frustrated that I couldn’t push through it. So you know what I did?
And that’s what it took for me to understand what depression was. To feel it in it’s realist and harshest form. The kind that you can not possibly push through. I had a full blown nervous breakdown. My nervous system, literally, stopped functioning. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think. I didn’t feel any kind of sensation… not hot or cold, not hunger or thirst. I couldn’t answer questions. I couldn’t take care of my children. I could not get out of bed.
And I couldn’t stand being in my own skin. My nervous system had become so excellent at producing stress chemicals to help me “push through” it all, that it went into overdrive. It produced ONLY stress chemicals. I was in a state of constant panic. I had, what I can only explain as, an 8 week anxiety attack. For anyone who’s ever had an anxiety attack, that right there is enough. For anyone who’s not had an anxiety attack, I’d like to shake your hand, have your DNA and also punch you in the face. Because fuck if there is anything that feels worse.
My life, very nearly and completely fell apart. My husband had to watch me go through something that non of us understood or knew how to handle, all while still working, completely taking care of our kids on his own, AND having to take care of me. He had no idea what I was going through… and neither did I. I couldn’t comfort him. He couldn’t comfort me. I hated that my kids were seeing me in this state. And after 8 weeks of hardly any sleep, having to force feed myself slices of apple, I was so exhausted and broken down I literally just told him to have me committed and sedated, because I just couldn’t take it anymore.
It sucked more than anything else I’ve ever experienced in my life. And it was also the biggest gift I could have ever been given.
It’s been exactly a year. Yesterday was the anniversary of the day it all fell apart, so that it could be reassembled into a happy life. The anniversary of realizing that depression is real. The anniversary of letting go of anger and really and truly embracing understanding and compassion for really important people in my life, including myself. I’m really only just starting my recovery. I had to physically heal and chemically heal which has taken time (and meds), and then I had to let go of my identity and start recreating myself. I’m still in that process. And will likely be for the rest of my life.
My name is Trish, and I’m a recovering depressed person. And just like an alcoholic, every day I have to embrace the moment and fight my own personal addictions to self deprivation and abuse. I have to watch my thoughts. I have to take my vitamins. And most importantly, and this was like, a MAJOR revelation for me, I have to BREATHE and LET GO.
Because everything will be okay.
So as a 38 year old person, who swore she’d never get a tattoo, I went in and had the word Breathe tattooed on my wrist yesterday (Tibetan calligraphy). Because as the queen of the to do list, I’d usually write my list on my wrist because I’d notoriously lose my lists if not written on a body part. And now, the only thing I really need to do is Breathe. And the rest will all work itself out.
So just know… if you struggle… you are not alone. REACH OUT. You’d be surprised at how many people will say “Me too”…
Lastly, I have to say, I am THE luckiest girl in the world. People came out of the woodwork to help me. My closest friends took such gentle care of me. My husband stepped up in ways I never knew he could. People made me soup, drove me to the hospital in the middle of the night, called and texted to check on me. Watched my kids. Made me laugh. My mom mailed me cards almost every day and talked me down whenever she could. I had so much support. No one knew what to do, and yet everyone did what they could. I could have never come out the other end of this without each and every one one of you. I am so incredibly grateful.