As I mentioned in my last post, I have struggled with depression. This is something that I have been wondering about posting, questioning if it’s too personal, but I guess I feel like I’m far enough removed from it now to talk about it. I don’t claim to know everything about depression and from people I’ve talked to, different people experience it differently. I just want to share a little bit about my own experience.
My best friend once told me that she didn’t know how depressed she was until she started feeling better and could suddenly compare how she was feeling now to how she felt before. How had she not seen it? She compared depression to blindness. It blinds you to life, to feelings, and to yourself, which makes it very hard to self-diagnose. And that’s how I feel now. Looking back, I can clearly see that things were wrong. I can see how bad things were and how miserable I was. But at the time, it just seemed sadly normal.
I read the blog Hyperbole and a Half. The author, Allie, struggled with severe depression for about 2 years and wrote about it and illustrated it on her blog. Right after Tij and I moved to Las Vegas, I re-read her experience and a light bulb went off in my head. I understood exactly what she was saying. I got it! And someone else got it too! I made Tij read it and I tried to explain to him, that that, what Allie described, was exactly how I was feeling. (I highly suggest you read it here. Even if you don’t have depression yourself, you probably know someone who does, and this post may help you understand it or relate to them better.)
Allie breaks up her depression into two parts. Part One was largely characterized by floods of negative emotions and abusive thought-processes including: apathy, self-loathing, bullying herself, guilt, and shame. Part Two: not caring about anything, total detachment and boredom with life (AKA: a meaningless void of nothingness). I think my experience was probably more similar to what she describes in Part One. My life turned into a ground-hog-day-like-existence of disappointment, stress, and self-loathing. I remember once hiding behind the island counter and dry heaving/sobbing as silently as I could for about 2 minutes. (I was at work, nanny-ing, and didn’t want the girls to see me.) I was just overwhelmed by a huge wave of vague, inexplicable stress and sadness. Then I took a deep breath, got up off the floor, pretended like nothing had happened and took the dog outside to play fetch. I spent a lot of my spare time sleeping as a way to cope with the fact that I absolutely hated my life. I did experience some of that detachment that Allie talks about, especially with family and friends. I think that’s part of the reason why I basically made 3 friends in the whole 2 years we were in Salt Lake. Socializing was absolutely exhausting and it didn’t make me feel any better about myself. I avoided going to ward activities. I even avoided Tij sometimes. I was hyper-critical of myself, and felt worthless, pointless, and hopeless.
And why did I feel this way? How did this happen? Depression can be caused/helped on by lots of things: certain medications, stress, genetic predispositions, chemical imbalances, etc. It’s hard to really pinpoint exact causes, but I believe mine was probably triggered by huge life changes, accompanied by no support system, and helped on by constantly high levels of stress. I got married at 19. And while I certainly don’t regret it, it was definitely difficult. I was the first of my friends and family to get married. It was incredibly isolating. At this time my parents had separated and begun a 6-year-long process of are they/aren’t they getting a divorce? My younger sister was in Hawaii, a 4-hour time zone away. I went back to university and pushed myself, going to school year-round so that I could graduate before Tij left for graduate school. I felt lost, directionless, and confused. Throw in a few crappy jobs, being close to broke, and it’s not terribly surprising I struggled. (Note: I am not blaming anyone. Not my husband, or my friends, or my family. I am simply trying to state circumstances and think things through.) Depression is tricky. It kind of just does whatever it wants. Shows up when it wants, stay as long as it wants.
If you thought this post was, well depressing, my next post is about feeling better and moving on with my life. Come back tomorrow for the second (more uplifting) part of my journey.
Thanks for listening. It is incredibly therapeutic to talk about this. And that is partly why I’m doing this. I don’t ever want to go back to that place and talking about it and understanding it is part of the process of healing, at least for me. And I dunno…maybe it can help someone else? I really feel like Allie speaking out about her depression has really helped me with mine. All I can say is, if you are struggling, ask for help. Talk to someone. Start the ball rolling. Depression may go away on its own, but it might not. And what if it gets worse? Get a support system, see a therapist, check out your medication options, center yourself spiritually, read good books, see a doctor. Just do something. Don’t suffer in silence.