I haven’t wanted to write about my depression, mainly because you guys don’t come here for that. You come for the ribs and pies and Meatless Mondays, which are way more fun. But reading about someone else’s depression helped me see mine, so maybe this will help one of you.
First, read what I read: Allie Brosh’s brilliant posts, “Adventures in Depression” and “Depression Part Two.” (Even if you don’t feel depressed, check out her her blog, Hyperbole and a Half. It’s genius.)
When most people hear “depression,” they think about those prescription drug commercials where there’s an adorable sad-face ball bouncing around or everyone’s in their PJs, staring out the window, looking vaguely constipated. You think, “That couldn’t happen to me. Those people just need to put some clothes on and DO something. And have some fiber.” Then they’d be right as rain!
How I wish it worked that way. Unfortunately, depression isn’t like syphilis. Even if you don’t engage in risky behaviors, like wearing pajamas and avoiding prunes, you can get it. I didn’t think it would happen to me – a basically happy, optimistic person – until it did. It settled into my chest so gently I didn’t notice it at first, and then it started sucking the life out of me, like one of those leeches going to town on Gendry in “Game of Thrones.” It turned me into the harshest judge of myself, ruling that everything I’d done and everything I was doing was pointless – especially routine things, like laundry or taking a shower. When your brain is making you hate yourself, the last place you want to be is naked and alone, with nothing to distract you from your thoughts.
Especially when your thoughts are a lot like this:
Sometimes it seemed like the sadness was turning my brain into a colander. I couldn’t hang on to ideas long enough to read a magazine article or remember a three-item grocery list. It would take me hours to write anything. Then the panic attacks started. Imagine if you were an exposed, vulnerable human walking down a street lined with zombies, and suddenly all the zombies sensed your presence and started making a beeline for your brains. That’s how I felt walking into Walgreens. I couldn’t even get the mail.
It was devastating. My life just kept getting smaller.
Jeff wasn’t oblivious – I couldn’t hide that I’d “forgotten” to make dinner again or to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer for the third day in a row – but he couldn’t really help me, because he didn’t have all the information. When he asked me how my day went, I wasn’t exactly volunteering that I couldn’t remember anything I’d done or that I was wearing the same black yoga pants for the third day in a row. (They all look alike.)
Besides, I didn’t know I needed help. I kept thinking the sadness would go away, and it did. It turned into numbness. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to see anyone. I wanted to be invisible. I wanted everyone and everything to stop needing me, including Henry the Wonderdog.
But I didn’t get that this was depression until I read Allie’s posts. Then I knew, that was me. That’s what this was.
I dreaded making the appointment – no one WANTS to be mentally ill – but my doctor was great, and the medication seems to be working. (Not everyone needs it. I did.) I was afraid it would make me feel manic and crazy, but the first week, I couldn’t get enough sleep. Then it started helping me remember what it feels like to be me. Smiling. Reading. Making up “good morning” songs for my dog.
My routines are still a little shaky, but I’m getting excited about things again. And I can strut to the mailbox like a boss.
If any of what I’ve described sounds familiar, please know you are not alone. Talk to your doctor. And please, don’t hide inside and let your life shrink. You have something the world needs, you badass unicorn.