I felt it starting to creep up on me Tuesday. It is now only Thursday, but it feels like weeks have passed and I’m terrified that it isn’t going to go away. I live with an anxiety disorder that is, in its constant state, fairly mild. True clinical depression didn’t hit me until I was just starting my 30’s, and as much as I’d been through previously, I am grateful for every one of the days I lived before it did. Because once that dickbag moves in you no longer have total control over what any day is going to look like, not for the rest of your life. Before depression if something bad happened I got sad or angry. If something good happened it made me happy. Whenever I made a mistake I did what I could to fix it, and then I moved on. If I was ever depressed it was because I was going through something super fucking depressing.
I’ve always been the type of person who appreciates everything they’ve got, while they’ve got it. If I learned anything growing up, it was to be grateful. Although it was used as a tactic of abuse in my house (“How dare you complain that your stepdad screams and swears at you, you should be grateful you have a roof over your head” etc.) it actually ended up accidentally having one positive effect on me in the long run. Since I was constantly having all of my privileges shouted into my face I was never allowed to forget any of them for a second. Because of that, being aware of my privileges and luxuries as an adult is second nature to me and I am grateful for that self-awareness, even if it came at a cost. When I was at my healthiest and most fit, I felt healthy and fit and enjoyed the hell out of it. Whenever I met a goal it was never “Okay but you still need to be thinner/better/faster” it was “Damn- I kick ass and I look great doing it!”. When my brother died I felt a lot of things, but one thing I was completely spared was the regret of things unsaid. My brother and I said I love you at the end of every conversation. We hugged every time we saw each other and we talked for hours about everything. While he was in the Army he sent letters to me at least every couple of weeks and after he came home we talked almost every single day, right up until the end. When he died if there was one thing I could be one-hundred percent certain of, it was that he knew how much I adored him and that I never took him for granted. I was destroyed by his death, but I did have the small comfort of knowing that there was literally nothing more I could have done to ensure he knew how deeply he was loved.
So, depression. Yes. Once it hit in my early 30’s I thought it was again only situational. After all, I was going through a really shitty breakup. But then it didn’t leave. And as my situation improved, it had the audacity to get worse! I did not understand how that was even possible. I had everything I needed and all of a sudden it didn’t matter to my brain anymore. I tried lots and lots of different meds, none of which helped, but with time and luck I eventually crawled out of the pit. I’ve been progressively getting better and for the past year or so I would even go so far as to call myself optimistic, and mostly content. No more meds. Then a couple of months ago something amazing happened. I switched psychiatrists (I AM SO LUCKY TO HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE! …see? I can’t shut it off.) and my new doctor asked me to try a med I had never tried before. It was a completely different class of drug than all of the different SSRIs doctors had thrown at my brain-wall in the past, hoping one of them would stick, but I was still terrified. I had fought so hard to get back into a decent headspace and what if this pushed me backwards? But he seemed sure that based on my symptoms it stood a good chance of helping me get even better, and I decided to trust him.
After about two weeks the drug kicked in and I suddenly realized that I hadn’t been happy in years. For a few days I was worried it was a symptom, like a sort of mania, because suddenly I woke up with energy after 8 hours of sleep instead of waking up exhausted after 10+. I also didn’t lay awake fighting horrible anxiety every Sunday night then wake up practically (and sometimes actually) crying every Monday because the week stretching out before me was too overwhelming to contemplate. I remember the moment I caught myself singing along to the radio in the car. I used to do it constantly but I hadn’t in years. I never even noticed that I’d stopped until I started again. I wanted to send my doctor a fucking pony. Because my depression had been so hideously awful, I had mistaken the last year or so of not actively being miserable as happiness. But the truth is, I had forgotten what it felt like to be in a truly good mood. The most I ever felt was okay. Now I had gone from busting my ass to be mostly okay to effortlessly feeling happy.
Then two days ago, a chain reaction was set off and I am again feeling depression trying to get its gross, clammy hands on me. If I were not prone to depression, it wouldn’t have progressed beyond the first stupid thing, but I am and it did. For whatever reason I’m feeling the need to document what this sort of spiral looks and feels like, even as I am in the middle of it. Maybe it will help someone else, or if not then hopefully at least me. Because let’s be honest- we mostly write for ourselves.
Monday started out strong. Work was fine, class was great. I am still acing my way through a program I’ve wanted to complete for ages but wouldn’t have had the energy to even attempt until this past year. I love it. I only have one more course after the ones I’m currently in then I am a certified crime scene investigator biiiiitches…. Tuesdays I don’t have class so I go to the gym after work. Except this past Tuesday I woke up feeling anxious and very blah. It was most likely due to the fact that I’d stayed up far too late the night before reading Harry Potter, but the fear that it was something worse started nagging at me. I shut the fear and anxiety up with Xanax, which in turn was probably the reason that I was much more tired than usual by the time I got to the gym. I only managed 30 minutes on the elliptical- usually I do 60, at least. That’s when I started to inwardly panic. My depression was coming back, that was why I was exhausted. I knew this was all too good to be true. I went home and ordered pizza because why bother when I already fucked up this week. The next day, feeling sad and gross, I phoned it in at work (because I am clearly also a shitty employee) and afterwards proceeded to do what I always do when I panic – go home and drink. After that I went to bed and had a series of the most horrific nightmares I’ve ever experienced. I realized I was dreaming and tried to jerk myself awake multiple times to get away from them, and finally succeeded about 3 AM. I scrolled through my phone for the next two hours afraid to go back to sleep. I finally fell back asleep around 5 AM and the exact same nightmares did indeed come back. When my alarm woke me up at 7 AM this morning I was grateful to be away from the dreams that not even Stephen King could have thought up, but terribly exhausted at the same time.
So now I sit here with a familiar fog around my head and utter sadness in my heart, for no reason. Logically, Tuesday should have gone like this: “I was tired but still managed a respectable, half-hour workout- good for me! I should go to bed early and start fresh tomorrow.” The End. And I even KNEW that. But I didn’t feel it. My brain is currently telling me that I am a terrible, lazy, mediocre human who doesn’t deserve to have the job that I have (not that I enjoy it or anything, but it’s not miserable and it pays the bills so I’m lucky to have it), and who is very, very alone. I know that my brain is lying to me. I know that I am the same person I was on Monday, when I was proud of my performance at work as well as the A I got on a test that night, but it doesn’t matter. Because I’m not. Monday I was a fairly young woman with a lot of amazing friends, working hard to achieve her goals and headed in the right direction in almost every way. Today I am too old to be starting a new career, too fat to be loved, and the thought of inflicting my presence on anyone else, ever, seems terribly rude of me. Today it feels like I have felt this way forever and that the feelings are back to stay. I will be fired soon. I will be in debt forever. Even if I complete my certification program I will never find a job because my background check will reveal that I’ve sought treatment for mental illness. Everyone can tell just by looking at me that I’m not “right”. I’m not normal. Everyone in the office is chattering about what they are having for lunch and I am sitting at my desk trying not to throw mine up.
I hope that tomorrow is better. I just keep repeating to myself that it’s only been two days and my asshole brain is overreacting. Depression lies, depression lies, depression lies. How many goddamn times have I said that to other people? Yet here I sit, unable to believe it myself. Maybe sometimes it tells the truth. Maybe no pill will ever help long-term. Maybe nobody really knows how brains get broken, and psychiatry is a pseudoscience where well-meaning doctors take shots in the dark over and over again until either something helps or the person dies.
I am usually not the type of person who is helped by quotes or mantras or affirmations, but there is one that sometimes helps a little. I’m going to read it over and over again and if nothing else it will give my brain something else to do besides telling me I’m awful. And if depression truly has come back to stay, at least I have the comfort of knowing I fully appreciated every single day it was absent from my life.
“Days of sadness feel like they’ll never end, that they stretch out into infinity. But they never do, you know, and we grow strong again.” – Author Unknown
P.S. One thing that literally always makes me feel at least a little bit better is remembering that David Tennant exists and then staring at him for a while, so I’m adding this for good measure.