Monday, September 9, 2013

It's Not Always About Your Attitude, Not When You Have Depression

How do you dull the ache in your chest when you don’t know why it aches?
Can you fill the loneliness in your heart when you don’t trust anyone enough to let them in?
Have you ever cried for hours without knowing why?
Have you ever felt overwhelming soul crushing despair that you’ll die alone?

Welcome to living with depression.

Not every day is a bad day.  But when a day gets bad, it is very rarely that it will improve.  I was not diagnosed with depression until I was in college, but looking back now, there were clear signs I was struggling with something all the way back to 8th grade.  A lot of people chalk up certain behavior to kids going through puberty, and in some cases that’s all it is, but just because a kid is moody and withdrawn doesn’t mean you shouldn’t probe further to find out if there is more going on below the surface of puberty.

My mom and I were in a serious car accident when I was 11.  It happened the summer between my sixth and seventh grades.  A man fell asleep at the wheel, swerved into our lane, and hit us head on.  The jaws of life were needed to remove my mom, who was in a coma for a short time following the accident.  And that was the end of my childhood.  

It’s sad to say, but when someone that young gets a grasp of the idea of mortality, it’s hard to go back to being young and flippant.  Granted, I still had and do still have moments of immaturity, but my emotional level at that age was no longer 11.  Seeing your parent in a coma and wondering what would happen to you if they died is not something you just move on from; I mean, unless you’re a sociopath.  

So I grew up, and I learned how to be responsible for more than just myself.  And eventually I did hit puberty and rebel at the idea that I had to do so much, and it wasn’t fair, and yada yada yada.  But then I started internalizing everything.  I took all my negativity and put it on myself.  I started to feel very alone and began thinking that if I was gone, no one would notice or even care.  Obviously this is completely untrue, but try explaining that to a kid who feels like she only has one friend.  

In Eighth grade, I felt like I had reached the breaking point.  And I tried to kill myself.  My stupidity and naivety are what saved me.  I had never had sleeping pills before.  So I didn’t realize that taking more than the recommended dose would have to be a much higher number than three pills.  So when I woke up from a really long nap and realized that didn’t work, I considered other options.  Eventually I was talked away from this and reaffirmed that people did care, which is why I am still here today.

The first half of Freshman year of high school, I was miserable.  My best friend had gone somewhere else.  I had barely any friends, and I was struggling to get used to the course load.  I would come home and nap every day because I was so tense and stressed.  At Christmas, I asked my mom if I could go to boarding school.  Because then I’d be struggling but I wouldn’t know anyone so I could relish the isolation on my own terms.  As opposed to feeling alone while being surrounded by people you know and don’t get along with at all.  She said she would consider it if I was still this miserable at the end of the year.  But by the end of the year I had forged new friendships and rekindled old ones.  So the idea of boarding school slipped out of my mind.

But even as things looked up, I was still struggling internally and felt that I had no one to talk to about it.  My mom finally suggested therapy.  I was skeptical at first.  The idea of paying someone to sit and listen to you talk?  I mean, it sounds far-fetched.  Or just unbelievably easy.  Sit and listen to someone bitch about their problems and get paid?  Um, where do I sign up for that job?  So going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  In my first session, I sat down in the office and the therapist asked me to talk about myself and my life.  I got out two sentences before I burst into tears.  Everything came out.  How alone I felt.  How I felt like there wasn’t even god, because if there was why did all this terrible shit happen to me?  So I started going to therapy.  And I started feeling a little at peace.

I made it through the rest of high school and found myself bound for college.  With the security of knowing school wasn’t too far from home and some friends who would be at the school with me, I boldly left home.  But my depression didn’t stay behind.  I had stopped going to therapy when I left for school and it only took a semester for it all to catch up with me.  At Christmas, I was a zombie.  I would sit and stare at the wall.  Normally, Christmas is my favorite time of year.  I broke down in front of my mom, an occasion I remember in great detail, saying a felt like something was wrong with me.  It was at this point that my mom admitted depression ran in the family, both sides for me actually, and I realized I was fucked.  So I decided to try and get on medication.

I found a psychiatrist, in the same office as my previous therapist, and he diagnosed my depression.  Now, when I say I have depression, that’s a catch all term.  Depression can take many forms.  It isn’t just, “Oh well I feel blue today.”  My particular “strain,” as I shall call it, is a combination of depression and anxiety.  My attacks begin at any given time.  I have quite literally been singing my favorite song at the time on the radio, and I will be overcome with crying.  I will ball my eyes out.  This can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour or two.  Then once I’m done crying, I zone out and become a zombie.  I’ve sat staring at the wall for hours before.  My psychiatrist started me on medication.

I’m not saying all medication is good or that you have to take medication, or what have you.  But I can and will say with authority, I don’t think I could function without my medication.  Of course one issue that can arise is tolerance.  I’ve had to have my dosage upped once since I started, which isn’t bad for the length of time I’ve been on it.  But even with medication, I still have days that are rougher than others, particularly around that time of the month when my hormones are haywire anyway.

This post has shared my own personal experiences with depression, and it is for a reason.  Depression can happen to anyone at any age.  If you feel like you or someone you care about needs help, do something about it.  There seems to be a stigma of some kind about seeking psychiatric help.  I’m telling you right now, that’s crap.  People have that job because they want to help others cope with emotional issues.  So take advantage of their expertise and learn about depression.  Medication may help, or you may be able to handle life without it.  Depression doesn’t magically go away, but life can be better.  If you feel you need help, find someone.  Even if it is just to call a free hotline.  But start somewhere.  And if you feel it is a friend or family member suffering, talk to them.  Let them know they aren’t alone.  You don’t know how much that means to someone who feels completely alone.

Also the most annoying thing I can encounter as someone with depression is when someone tells me to just be happy or it’s about attitude.  I have a chemical imbalance. I don’t work like that!  So don’t be that person.  Seriously.

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