Monday, June 23, 2014

The Big D

Most people seem to think that depression is something that weak people deal with and wonder why they didn’t just pick themselves up, get over it and get on with life. And I thought those things even though I have battled depression most of my life. Yes, I saw and often see myself as weak. I often wonder why I can’t just pick myself up, get over it and get on with life. Most of the time, I mask it. I hide it and I think that most people would be surprised to know that even in the happiest of times, it is something that has lurked beneath the surface. I have written about it before. Loneliness, isolation and the other feelings that come with it. At least in my case. I hid behind myself for a long time. I hid behind clothes, travel, restaurants and whatever else I could do to hide what I was going through and numb what I was feeling.

One of the things I hate most is when people say they wish they had my life. Really, they don’t. I have done some amazing and wonderful things in my life but to have someone’s life means having it all, not just the shiny things. But the truth is, even in the midst of all those wonderful things, there were times I felt so low, I just wanted it all to end. There would be weeks and months where all I thought about was ending it, yet I would put on a bunch of designer clothes, go to an upscale bar, drink champagne and pretend like nothing was wrong. Then I would go home and cry. I know people saw that side of me and thought I was just materialistic or pretentious. I wasn’t. I was miserable and those were my drugs of choice. I didn’t understand what was happening. I could see my life, see all the amazing and incredible things I was doing, but emotionally I felt disconnected, alone and afraid.

These days, everything just feels so heavy. Even the air seems thick and hard to breathe sometimes. And this second stroke has knocked me a bit sideways. I don’t know why, but getting “over” this one just feels so much more daunting than the last. Maybe its because there is nothing I have to do. I don’t need to learn to walk again, I don’t have anything that is consuming my time or my energy so it’s all spent thinking. I spend most of my time feeling down. I wake up crying. I don’t know what is really wrong. I can’t put my finger on any one thing or even any few things. It just seems to be everything and nothing all swirling together. I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t really want to see anyone, not even the people I like and love the most. I know I need to, and I force myself because I know what I’m feeling is not only unhealthy, it has the potential to be dangerous.

A week ago Saturday, I was invited to a small dinner thing at my friend John’s house, the same John who spent hours with me in the hospital and whose house I stayed at the first few days after I got out. I got up, I got dressed and then I sat on my bed. I didn’t want to go. My phone lit up when he called, but I didn’t want to answer. I didn’t want to talk. I wanted to stay home, alone and quiet. But I went as I knew that if I didn’t, he would come over. It turns out that when I left, we just missed each other. He and Leanna, the other friend invited to the dinner, were worried and wanted to make sure I was ok. It was really a nice gesture, but it also made me mad. That they would think just that because I was late, there was something wrong. But there was something wrong. Something really wrong. It made me sad and angry at myself for being a problem to anyone else. I feel like that a lot lately. I am so tired of feeling like I have a black cloud over my head that I bring with me everywhere.

In the past, there was always something in me that believed I would make it through. Even when things got bleak, I had a sliver of belief. This time, everything is just too huge. Too daunting and I don’t know if I have the belief this time. I can’t see the silver lining lurking anywhere. And I feel like not only do I not have the energy, I don’t know if I have the desire. I’m not sure I have it in me to do all this stuff again, to battle everything again, to keep fighting and fighting something which just doesn’t seem to change. I’m tired physically, emotionally and I feel like I am suffocating under the weight of it all.

So I made the difficult, yet obvious choice to seek professional help in dealing with all of this. I had my first appointment last week and I thought it would just be talking about the stroke and what to do to get through the aftermath and get my life back on track. It seems it is not quite that simple. She ran me through a battery of questions which covered two sides of a piece of paper. After we finished one side, to which I answered yes to almost everything, she put the paper down and told me there wasn’t really a need to go further. It was blatantly apparent that I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, probably starting from the time Rich, my step-dad entered the picture and compounded by the strokes.

That, she said would explain the depression and a lot of the other things I have been dealing with even though I never understood why I was dealing with them. And I guess with PTSD, things just keep getting added to it and it just keeps growing. It wasn’t the news I wanted, but I now have some sort of answer, something that explains what is going on and now I have something I can work towards dealing with and hopefully getting over.

I debated writing about this and making it public. There is a lot of misunderstanding surrounding depression. Many people believe depression is just sadness. It would be easy if I were, but it isn’t. We don’t need cheering up. Jokes and motivational quotes don’t help and getting our mind off of it doesn’t really do much. If it were that simple, I would have been over my depression a long time ago. There is a lot of shame and other really difficult feelings that come with depression. That is why most of us try to hide it. It is excruciating to expose it and people will more often than not shy away as though it is something they can catch.

But like with the stroke, I am deciding to be honest about it in case there is someone who reads this who is dealing with it and doesn’t really know what to do. I don’t know what to do, but am taking it one step at a time and just trying to document the whole thing. And while I know people mean well when they say things like “It will get better” or “hang in there” or anything along those lines, they really don’t help. In fact, for me, they often make me feel worse, wondering why I can’t just pull it together and get on with my life. What does help, is just if people listen. Hugs help. Not judging helps. Just being there and being a safe place helps. 

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