"You are a high functioning manic depressive" - my therapist, two years ago.
Nailed it. Totally nailed it. How on earth did it take almost 20 freaking years to know this about myself? Crawling into a hole several times a year for three or four days...and it never occurred to me that I might suffer from depression. Instead I thought:
1. I was subconsciously sad about the deaths of my mother and brother (which of course is partly true).
2. I was lazy (because I stayed in bed).
Most people don't really know this about me. Well, that's not true. Since my divorce, I have actually been very vocal about it with friends and family. And, I am pretty sure my dad, sister, Dan, and Seja probably knew in their own ways all along (it's hard to cover these things up when you live with someone). But before that, people in my life probably had no clue. I've received the following comment a zillion times: "You are always happy." The comment never bothered me; it actually made me quite proud. But being happy all of the time is not something to be proud of. In most cases, it probably means you are ignoring or suppressing the sad-mad-angry-etc side of you. That side is so important.
I began seeing a therapist six years ago when I left my career working with kids. I was distraught; I absolutely loved my work. I remember at my first session, my therapist asked me to tell her why I was there and then to give her a little background about myself (family, hobbies, etc). I didn't mention family (except for my husband), which she caught on to. She inquired and I said, "I am very close with my sister and father. My brother and mother both died when I was a teenager. But, that's NOT what I am here for." And it truly wasn't. She respected that and never brought it up again. She let me open that door when I was ready (which I did).
The pivotal point in my depression discovery was when I got pregnant. I was in utter despair. I can't explain why; I didn't know why. It was bad. My OB/GYN said that this is quite normal and she recommended a mild antidepressant. It helped. A lot. But... I truly thought it was a pregnancy thing.
Fast forward four months later (May 21 to be exact- all the bad things that have happened in my life have occurred on the 21st), I found out my husband/best friend/soulmate was gay. Whoooooooossshhhhh. That's the sound of my downward spiral. It was harder than anything in my life, but this time I was proactive- crying, therapy, medication, doctor, leaning on family and eventually friends, etc. In August, I had my darling baby girl and they doubled my medication without discussion to prevent postpartum depression / a total breakdown. My doctor told me to stay on it for 6 months and then we'd talk about waning. Before I could reach that six months though, I hit another bottom...further down.
An important side note during this part of the timeline: I was/am an avid reader of dooce.com, a blog written by the articulate, funny, honest Heather Armstrong. You've probably heard of it, as it is world famous. But if not, check it out. Anyway, I recalled reading her posts about depression. I went back and read all of them. I won't go into her whole story, but she basically gave me three things: the ability to recognize I suffer from depression, the knowledge/advice to get and use help because it exists, and you are no less of person for suffering from depression.
Back on track... They added another anti-depressant to my current one and I felt better almost immediately. It was probably partly because of the medicine, but I think it was mostly because that was the first time that I admitted to myself that I suffered from depression, that it wasn't going to go away, and that I needed help...forever.
I went to see my therapist and I remember saying, "I think I suffer from depression." She smiled and said, "you are a highly functioning manic depressive." And I smiled and said, "you're right." I instantly felt lighter.
I still have episodes, but they are fewer and less intense. I am still on the same medications and will probably never go off of them. I continue to see my therapist, but really only on a "as-needed" basis.
Ok, so I write this post for these reasons:
1. To remind myself that I will get through it
2. To document my experience for my daughter
3. To thank the people who "saved" me: my dad, my biological sister, my OB/GYN, my therapist, my boss, my crew of sisters (they know who they are), an old high school friend, Heather Armstrong, my ex-husband, my daughter, my boyfriend (wow- how lucky am I??)
That's pretty much it. I only have a handful of readers, all of whom probably know this stuff about me.
So, there it is... the depression post that I've been meaning / wanting to write for a long time.
Stay tuned for the upcoming, uplifting (ha!) "divorce post" and "my thoughts on suicide" post.
Love to all.
ps I shed many tears writing this. Happy ones.