Part II: I Will Write About This
So I will share. On May 3, 2013, I had had enough. I was sick of feeling tired all the time. I was scared because I was starting to forget things that would usually have come to mind easily and without effort. I was having trouble concentrating or making decisions. And because of my family medical history and my own blood test records, I had come to the conclusion that I had…hypothyroidism.
I told the doctor as much when I went in to see her that day. I said, “my blood tests have been low in the past. You said that we should monitor it, especially if I showed any symptoms.” She asked me to list the symptoms. As I did, she looked at my chart, at my previous test results. Then she started asking questions about my life. Did I have a job? (No.) How much did I get out during the week? (Not much.) Did I want a job and how was the job search going? (Yes, I did, but there are no jobs for me.)
“I’ll certainly send you in to take a blood test for your thyroid,” she said, “but I don’t think that it’s the problem. I think you might have depression.”
I put the “I Can Handle This” mask on. Nodded sagely. Secretly suspected hoped that she was wrong. Agreed to come back the next week.
I went for the blood test right away. I would show her. The test results would be positive for hypothyroidism and I would be vindicated. It wasn’t depression. Couldn’t be depression. Why not? Because hypothyroidism could be “cured” with a little pill every morning. Depression…well, depression is a Mental Illness and can’t be cured. (Or so I feared.)
A week later I returned to her office chagrined. I’d seen my test results online: not hypothyroidism. Okay, then. She was very nice about it (I have found the best walk-in clinic doctor in the world, to be honest). There was no “I told you so.” She prescribed me 10 mg of Celexa and plenty of fresh air and exercise and told me to come back in 30 days.
Less than a week later I was crippled by nausea and diarrhea. (Interesting fact: the human digestive system has the same number of neurons as a whole cat. Your stomach is a cat brain.) Blessedly, it only lasted a few days, which really was a blessing since that weekend I headed to my church’s annual weekend retreat, and really didn’t want to spend it in the loo.
I spent the next month or so doing a lot of thinking. A lot of remembering. Depression. It became clearer and clearer that what I had been experiencing with increasing severity was exactly that. Because there was more to it than fatigue, forgetfulness, and a lack of concentration. I had stopped enjoying the activities I normally enjoyed. I felt terrible about myself. I was sad almost all the time. And although I didn’t want to kill myself, I didn’t especially want to live, either. The terrifying truth was, I’ve been experiencing waves of these symptoms for years, probably since I graduated from undergrad in 2002. But this time it was worse. So much worse.
By the end of the 30 days, I really hadn’t experienced any noticeable changes. She prescribed a higher dose: 20 mg, the standard therapeutic dose. We delayed it a week since I was going on vacation to see my parents and feared a revisiting of the side effects from the month before, so I stayed on 10 mg one more week and then raised the dose.
Gradually, gradually, the lights have been coming on.
I know some people have a bias against medications for mood disorders (or anything, really). I was afraid of the drugs, at first. Afraid that they would flatten my mood. Afraid that I would feel—or rather, not feel, if you know what I mean—like a zombie.
I’m not afraid anymore. Those little pills are a Godsend. I mean that sincerely. They give me the perspective I need to recognize the thoughts that come from depression and to fight back against them. They haven’t yet made me feel especially energetic, but I feel fatigued less often. I am motivated to do things in a way that I wasn’t before (especially exercising, although a recent heat wave effectively put the kibosh on that). I am enjoying activities again.
So I know that this depression thing isn’t going to own me anymore. This morning shows me that I still have a ways to go, but all this writing is calming my heart. I hope to do more of it over the next few weeks, but right now I don’t need to return to the pressure of trying to get a blog post out regularly. I want to gain momentum, but the last thing I need is to introduce a source of guilt to my life right now. For now, the writing should come from the I Want to Create well.
Part I: No One Else Has to Know
There are good days and there are bad days. Sundays are often good now (a change from before the drugs). Yesterday was a Sunday. I actually felt happy yesterday: genuinely, unmixedly happy. I had all these plans to begin writing again today, to share about my depression, to work on my resume, even.
Then Monday morning happened and as I consider writing a blog post that would share about my depression, I am paralyzed with fear. I want to run from my computer, from my thoughts. My throat feels choked and I begin feeling tired again. Sad again. Am I ever going to beat this thing?
Maybe it’s because I want to write something triumphant: “I beat depression. I learned from my pain and now I’m writing again and all will be well.”
Maybe it’s because I know that once I write it down, once it’s published online, it’s out there more-or-less forever. I have depression. Now the world knows.
The clarity I had yesterday has been obscured. Yesterday I could tell you that my depression is a condition that arises from some process or chemical in the body going awry, like arthritis or hypothyroidism or diabetes. I was comfortable with the fact that my brain was trying to lie to me about who I am and that I had the power now (brought to me by citalopram) to combat those lies.
Today I am feeling tossed about by the lies. I will never write anything worthwhile again. I am ultimately uncreative. The doctor said I didn’t need therapy, but she was wrong. I need a therapist, if only to tell me how messed up I really am. Even as I write these things down and identify them as lies, I am fighting the physical expression of the anxiety, fear, and sadness to which the lies are related.
But I guess there’s something else. It’s a little triumph. A whispered, “Ha!” instead of a conquering roar. The lies told me I couldn’t possibly write today. But look at this…339 words and counting. It wasn’t what I planned to write, it may never be published as a blog post. But maybe it will. Maybe this is the way I need to share about my depression: raw and vulnerable, a bleeding out onto the virtual page. Red, swollen eyes that expose to the world the truth about the chaos inside.
I wrote Part I before Part II but offer them here in reverse order for artistic reasons.
TL;DR: I have recently been diagnosed with depression, which is why I haven’t blogged in a long time. I am now taking antidepressants. They are starting to work. This is good.