The “D” Word

Dentist. Dandelion. Doorbell. Dumbass. Delicious-Double-Stuffed-Oreos. 🙂

The list of D-words is virtually endless so I’ll cut to the chase – Depression.

A few months ago I went to not one, not two, but three highly qualified physicians and specialists because I was SURE something was wrong – hormones, endocrine system, thyroid, something. We ran every test, and every test came back “normal” – which, for the record, really pissed me off. The doctors were kind, patient and truly wanted to get to the bottom of my concerns but we just couldn’t pin down an answer. I vividly recall sitting in my doctor’s office one afternoon when she gently asked “do you think this might be depression?” I looked at her, somewhat perplexed, and said “absolutely not, this doesn’t feel anything like it did before…it can’t be…it just can’t be.” She smiled, nodded her head and we kept searching for the cause. After a few more tests and few more within-normal-range results she suggested we try the low-dose, widely utilized antidepressant that I’d been on previously.

Cue SHAME. Washing all over me.
Like a knife to my heart, panic and fear set in quickly. What would people think if I told them? How would Blaze respond? How did this even happen? What would I say is the cause? What the actual FIRETRUCK is going on here?!

Just the thought that I might be battling depression again left me confused, not to mention, embarrassed. I’m literally living my BEST LIFE. How could this be? I’m happy – truly, for the first time in what feels like forever I’m content, I’m fulfilled, I’m good – soooo good.

Somewhat reluctantly, I told the provider the medication was worth a try. Honestly, I’d done the work. I’d coached myself and worked with another coach, I’d evaluated my priorities, practiced gratitude daily, and obviously we’d exhausted all other means of testing to determine if something else was the culprit. This was where we were.

The National Institute of Mental Health provides the following, fairly comprehensive, list of signs you might be struggling with Depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts or attempts of death or suicide
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems

Years ago I could check off every damn one of these. It was Messy. The Messy Middle is the spot between a hot-dumpster-fire and a wholehearted-woman, and also where shit really hits the fan. I had most assuredly been a hot-dumpster-fire (for a while) but in conjunction with a lot of hard work and coaching, my primary care provider and I worked to find an appropriate medication to improve the way my brain uses certain chemicals that control mood and stress. Coaching gave me tools to reframe and overcome the nasty thoughts that created completely unnecessary pain and strife for many years. And I truly believe that the medication provided the boost I needed to clear my head and get past the heavy, dark feelings that had held my sense of peace and joy hostage. The combination of coaching and medical supervision of medication was exactly what I needed during that time.

But that was a lifetime ago.
I thought I was cured.

In hindsight, it was there, it just felt differently this time.

Road rage – Look, I know I cuss a lot, it’s generally just a sentence enhancer, however, I found myself going seriously postal on people for the smallest things (although I would be most grateful if y’all would start using your damn blinker, kk, thanks).
Short temper – I was snappy at people for no reason, in a shitty mood and, my face gave away exactly what I was thinking which was usually not very nice.
Complete inability to make a decision – Because truthfully I didn’t care, nothing really mattered.
Isolation – Canceling plans or making up a reason I was too busy and couldn’t make it out, even with my closest friends.
Mental fog – Like the beginning of a bad head cold, you know, that point where you’re not really sick but you’re also not 100% and everything feels fuzzy… and hurts.
Crying – I don’t really cry. I mean, I do every single time I watch The Notebook but who doesn’t. I’m talking about crying in the car when a song comes on. Or crying in the shower because you can’t seem to get motivated even to go do something fun.
Lesson: Depression has a funny way of kicking your ass.

I had a big ‘ol pile of shame built up and we all know it’s WAY easier to keep that shit on lock-down so I didn’t mention ANY of this to Blaze until I’d been taking the meds for ten days. I’d also made up a big (very untrue) story in my head about how he’d FOR SURE question the need. Question what else was going on. Question how or why I was feeling this way. Question if this was the right decision. Questions – Questions – Questions.

In my head it was super-dramatic and like any good probably-would-have-made-a-great-lawyer-type-A-person, I had a veritable file cabinet of “proof” and information available should I need it.

When I finally put all the armor on and was ready to tell him I decided to do it over dinner at home. As with every other conversation I’d ever had with Blaze he looked at me softly, took my hand and said “okay, well that sounds like a good place to start. Is there anything else we need to do… how can I best support you?” And the single most heartfelt response one could receive, “I’m so sorry, I know this can be really hard but I’m here for you.”
Lesson: Don’t make up stories about how other people will react. Trust me when I tell you they are almost ALWAYS wrong.

BONUS LESSON: Talk to yourself like you would someone you love. Kindness is the greatest love you can show.

A few weeks later the fog lifted, the sun came out, I felt lighter, more clear and I hadn’t cussed anyone out (who didn’t already need it) in days. It’s taken some time but I’m finally getting back to myself.

If I had to guess I’m not the only one who has faced the challenge of Depression, or will read this post and recognize some of the signs in themselves. Why do we continue (myself included) to keep Depression and our battles with it hidden? Why is it so damn hard to just say “hey, I’m totally struggling over here.” Why is it that we stay quiet and try to figure it out alone? Why do we fear judgement more than being vulnerable? Why do mental health problems continue to rise and we continue to pretend they aren’t there?

I want you to know you aren’t alone. This isn’t easy. It’s absolutely scary. It’s also a journey that you need strong and understanding support throughout. I get it. I’m not a doctor, nor will I suggest a specific treatment. I’m telling you my story and asking you to be vigilant. Apparently you aren’t cured, and it’s not always the classic symptoms. Just because everything is going really well in your life doesn’t mean your brain is operating at the optimal level. Most importantly, IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY but do me a favor and tell someone. If you’re worried about other people’s opinion remind yourself that it’s actually none of YOUR business what they think of you. You don’t control their thoughts, opinions, feelings, decisions, reactions or anything else for that matter. If somebody wants to get all Judgy-McJudgerson on you, feel free to have them call me. I’ve got your back on this one.

I have depression. But I prefer to say “I battle” depression instead of “I suffer” because when depression hits, I hit back.

xo
-E

Showing 2 comments
  • Beth Rasmussen
    Reply

    Bravo, My dear friend! I battle chronic depression and you’ve done a great job illustrating the huge battle that goes on in our minds. It doesn’t matter what our circumstances are…brain chemistry has shitty timing. But that’s just IT: chemistry. NOT me, NOT you. It helps me to remember this on those darkest of days. And, there is always help. You are a strong woman and a fine example of honesty, integrity and transparency. So proud to call you “friend”. (I’ll start the coffee😊💖)

    • Erika Anderson
      Reply

      Ohhhhhhhhh you have no idea how much I need some of your coffee my friend!!!! You’re so right, it’s chemistry. I can’t explain why this happens any better than I can why we continue to recognize daylight savings time – it’s stupid but it’s the way it is and we learn to adapt to the new reality one day at a time. It helps to have a strong support system around you who will listen when you need to talk and will pull you out of the house when you need to get some fresh air. Together we will rise up together. And together we’ll be stronger because we talked about the things that are hard. Keep battling my friend – and know that we’re here to help if you need it!! xo

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