Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Lingering Sadness

For me this year, I felt like I could not ask people to lay bare their stories without doing the same again. So, this is scary. But also exhilarating! And it's because of you all. Thank you for giving me the courage to share my pain too. <3

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What do you do when you’re on the track to getting a BS in psychology, and you figure out you have depression?

People keep asking me what I want to do with my life, if I’m going to use my degree, if I’m going to go to grad school. People keep wondering, and I never know what to say because how can I possibly have a career in the mental health field when I cannot even take care of myself?

At present, I haven’t answered my question yet. I’m more focused on trying to get up the courage to take that step in a better direction. To make that phone call, to ask my mom about insurance/costs, to get diagnosed. But I don’t need a test to tell me what a half dozen psychology classes already have. I know myself well. Just probably not well enough to determine the right course of action.

I’m kind of afraid of the questions I’d be asked. When did you realize you have depression? is at the front of my mind, and it’s unanswerable. I cannot tell you if I’ve always had it. If it was several things all at once, or just the moment in my life that broke me the most. Because how could I have known that the grief turned into high-functioning depression? My dad’s death might have been the catalyst but I don’t actually know for sure. I didn’t realize that the sadness was lingering, that it was becoming so much more than mourning. What I do know, though, is that I had my first depressive episode during my sophomore year of college.

If you’ve been around a long time, you know that was a rough year for me. I wrote about it a bit on the blog, too. My friend group from freshman year kept dwindling, and the person I was closest to had stopped talking to me over text. During that time, it was February and March, two of the worst months for me because of my dad’s birthday (Feb 12th) and my birthday (Mar 9th). There is always a certain gray cloud surrounding that time of year, and it doesn’t help that it’s usually the bleakest part of winter, the coldest, the never-ending cycle of dark days. So, I hid away in my dorm room. I read a lot. I skipped classes when I could, more than I should've. I cried so much. I felt so, so low that it wasn’t even until the summer after that semester was over that I could look back on it and see it for what it was: a depressive spiral that did eventually end.

But it forever changed who I am. Are you sure it’s depression? It’s not meant to be condescending, and it’s not meant to tell you that you’re wrong. I’m only guessing at what a psychiatrist/therapist would ask too. I mean, it’s a fair question, and I would think they would ask. But depression, and any mental illness, manifests differently in people. For me, it’s functional, and it’s not so low that I’ve ever felt suicidal. So, even for awhile, I couldn’t help asking myself if it was really that bad. Like, would going to therapy even change anything? Would taking meds even help at all? I work. I have friends, and I’ve made some new ones in the last few years. I enjoy going out and spending time with people. I eat and read and sleep (most of the time, curse you, insomnia!). I try to find as many reasons I can to smile and laugh.

But sometimes, it takes all of my strength just to get out of bed after I wake up. There are days I don’t do anything. There are days I find it hard to just text/message friends back. There are days where taking a shower or sending an overdue email feels like a win. There are times when my brain convinces me that I’m a burden to the people in my life; it can twist conversations into making me think no one actually cares or wants to be my friend. And I’ve gone through some BAD depressive spirals, usually but not always set off by one thing. The last time was probably after the election, which isn’t even surprising. There was a bit of time in the latter half of February and beginning of March that got really bad too, but not super bad because I was still functioning with life. But sometimes the worst is when I’m just sad for no reason. Like how do I even begin to explain that? That sometimes, my energy is so low that I can’t deal? And I can’t always even tell if it’s my depression or my introvert tendencies or just me being lazy.  But I know that my self-care items (like a Netflix binge and cat cuddles and a good book) just aren’t quite doing it anymore. It doesn’t feel like enough.

I don’t know what I want: therapy, meds, both, none of it? But I want to at least give it a try. I just can’t find the Gryffindor in me to take that next step. I NEED to, but it’s so fucking hard because I still have so many of those negative stigmas attached to mental illness swirling inside my head. Y’all get that, I know you do. It helps to know that I’m not alone. And I’m not alone in real life, either. My mom did ask me if I wanted therapy after my dad died. She gets it. She has her own mental illness issues, so she understands. But I’ve spent so much of my life keeping my feelings in that it’s hard to vocalize them. It honestly sometimes feels like failure, like a weakness. And I know that’s fucked-up, and I’d like to get out of that mindset. That’s another reason I feel at least setting up an appointment is a good idea.

But I’m letting myself be proud of writing this post, letting myself have more time to think about it all. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve wanted to talk about it, but I just could never find the words. And I didn’t feel brave enough. But I want this to start me in a better direction; I want this to help me find it easier to talk about it. For some reason, mentioning anxiety has never been such an issue? I don’t have an anxiety disorder, but (and I’m going to steal a phrase from a friend of mine) I have depression with anxiety sprinkles. Typically, my anxiety only manifests in certain situations, mostly in social ones or with driving. But it’s always been difficult for me to just say the words: I have depression.

Because I do, and it’s not something to be ashamed of or to be on hard on myself about. Depression does not define my life, but it affects it more than it should. And I’m tired of letting it destroy my happiness. So, here’s me pushing back at it. Here’s me fighting the hold it has, taking the power back by giving it a name. There are so many more battles ahead of me, but today I’m going to lift my metaphorical sword and yell, Victory! Today, it’s a win.


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