Note: This is about me and my journey. Although it turns out that many of my emotional issues came from a previously undiagnosed physical ailment, I do recognize that many people struggle with mental health that does not stem from a physical problem.
The phrase “depression lies” has been used over and over to the point where it’s almost become a meme, and that’s not a bad thing, because it’s true. Depression does lie. Sometimes it lies in whispers. Sometimes it screams. But it does lie.
I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety from a young age. I remember telling my parents how sick I felt, and how often. Sometimes it was daily. They responded with annoyance, insinuated that I might be doing it on purpose, that I was faking, or that I just didn’t want to go to school. I was possibly even doing it to annoy them, or make life harder for them. It wasn’t unusual for them to get angry. They had never heard of a panic attack, or knew what it looked like. During this time I was getting bullied at school. I don’t mean the mildly antagonistic bullying, the whole kids-can-be-cruel saying stupid shit bullying, I mean there were guys much bigger than me that would make it a point to seek me out and make my life hell. Why? I had never done anything to them. Barely spoke to them. And they almost always did it in groups while I was alone, and it was fucking terrifying. From this time I learned that when I wore a happy mask, things were easier. I didn’t get picked on as often. My parents no longer hinted at the idea that I was making things difficult for them on purpose.
Several years later, I remember telling my mom when I was a teen that I was pretty sure I was suffering from depression. She looked at me with outright skepticism, laughed, and said, “Depressed? YOU???” I had worn my happy mask so often and so well, people thought it was my reality. It wasn’t.
A few years later, I gave birth to my first child. And postpartum depression hit, and I mean hit hard. I felt like I couldn’t bond with my child, couldn’t do anything right. Everything seemed useless, hopeless. I hated my family and I hated myself. When I finally healed, looking back I didn’t recognize the person I was then. And although I did get over PPD, I continued to have intermittent cycles of sadness, like I always had.
I sat with a long-time, very good friend one day, and we talked about our youths and childhoods. I started to tell him some of the things I had experienced and started crying. “I’m 33! It shouldn’t bother me what I experienced 15, 20, 25 years ago!” I said. But these are the things I carried with me. What made me feel less valuable. And when the sadness came, sometimes I knew what I was sad about. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I struggled to maintain a positive mood. I had good days, I had less good days, but for the most part it was merely a low-level, minor annoyance. A slight downturn in my mood on occasion, or remembering something hurtful someone said. Manageable. A change in scenery, a piece of chocolate, visiting with a friend usually had a positive effect, and I would wait it out. I would get better. I didn’t need to do anything else. I put on a happy face and muddled through until I felt better.
As time went on, my sad cycles became fewer, farther apart, and not nearly has hard to deal with. I had made some lifestyle changes that brought out better sides of me, and for the most part I was feeling better. When the sadness came, it was rarer, and short-lived. In general I felt happy, at peace, loved, alive. Everything was finally OK. When the next sadness cycle came, I barely noticed it.
Except this time I didn’t get better. The cycle did not end. As the days went on I got worse. My moods ranged from sad, to very, very deep depression, to anger. The best mood I had was lethargy. My low-level sadness that sort of comes and goes had turned into a monstrous thing that was always with me. I cried. A lot. I cried for days on end. Every small thing upset me. Everything seemed enormous. Instead of knowing the blue feeling will come to an end, I felt like the world itself was ending. Usually when I was feeling down, my depression would merely whisper covert things like, “Are you sure this is the right thing to do? I don’t think you know what you’re doing. Don’t you usually fuck this up?”
This time, though, the lies it told were much different, and it screamed them. If I had to change plans I made with people, I felt like I was messing up everyone else’s life. I felt unloved, unwanted. I felt unworthy of anything. I stopped blogging except for the posts I knew I was under obligation to do. I stopped crafting. I just wasn’t interested any more. With the exception of one person outside of my immediate family, I stopped talking.
Husband was sitting next to me when one of my best friends called me to check on me.
“I’m fine,” I said. “Just tired.”
“OK, well, you get some rest, then!” she said cheerily.
I hung up. Husband looked at me accusingly. “You just lied through your teeth to one of your oldest friends.”
“Yes, I did.” I lied because I didn’t feel worthy of being a bother to her, or anyone. I knew no one would like me if they felt they had to put up with my issues, and I would be alone.
Because depression fucking lies.
A few days later another good friend sent me a sweet text about loving that I’m in her life, and I cried. Hard. I showed Husband the text, and he read it and replied, “This makes you cry? I don’t understand. How does this make you sad? I DON’T UNDERSTAND.” It made me sad because I didn’t feel deserving. Like one day she would wake up and realize that I am, in fact, a complete bitch, and then she’d be gone. Because I am a horrible person. Because I am completely replaceable.
And because again, well, depression lies.
Underneath all of this, there was a very tiny voice. Something deep down that whispered quieter than everything else. “Something has gone wrong.” And over all the noise, all the sadness, all the despair, through all the doom and gloom screaming about how unlovable, unlikable, unwantable I am, I heard it. This wasn’t PMS (which emotionally speaking, has always been really hard for me, especially having mennorrhagia). This wasn’t struggling to put old hurts to bed. This wasn’t some mild depression or a case of the blues. This was something new. Something big. Something bad. Something worse than I had previously experienced. And the part of my brain that was still functioning on logic recognized it. “Something has gone wrong.”
As time went on, I got progressively worse. My mood shifts came faster. I cried longer, harder. I felt like a bad parent, bad wife, bad friend, bad person. I had trouble even regulating my temperature. I was sweating one minute, freezing the next. I was always tired, always so flat out exhausted. If I sat still for too long, I fell asleep. I had no interest in anything. And still sad. So, so sad. I felt like I was going through the motions of life.
“Something has gone wrong.”
And then I got my period. Eight days later, I still had it. Nine days. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty-one days. It was three weeks long, three weeks of mennorrhagia. Then it stopped, and I thought, well, that was weird. My cycle seems to have gone a little wonky, but whatever. I have been under stress lately. It went away for a week, came back for another week, stopped for two weeks, came back for 10 days.
“Something has gone wrong.”
I still didn’t want to admit anything was truly, truly wrong. I would get over it. I always do. I have a fear of doctors and didn’t want to go. Finally, after explaining what was going on with me to my dear friend, the same one that had witnessed me break down about my childhood, said very firmly, “You need to make an appointment with your doctor. And you need to do it now.”
“No, do it now.”
He texted me the next morning. “Have you done it yet?”
“I was just about to.”
“Uh-huh. Do it now.”
So I did.
One doctor’s appointment, a blood test, and two forms of ultrasound later, that little voice screamed, “I told you!” Because something had, in fact, gone wrong. Actually, it was a couple of somethings. The kind of somethings that would send me into a downward spiral of horrible thoughts and feelings. The kinds of somethings that would completely and utterly fuck with my mood to the point where I didn’t know myself. And there it was, in black and white in front of my face. The wrong things. The fixable things. The things that were fucking with my life.
These things may have been there for years, and I only really sat up and paid attention when it suddenly, for no apparent reason, got out of control. I could have been like this since around puberty, when all my emotional issues started. Yes, I was depressed before puberty, but that generally had a direct cause. The point is, if I had been willing to see someone sooner, I could have saved myself what was possibly years of torment. I could have been happy! It took me getting to the point where I emotionally and physically simply could not cope before I was finally willing to do something, and even then it took my friend essentially kicking me in the ass to do it. Why didn’t I get help sooner? Why didn’t I put the pieces together and get to a doctor before? Because I truly and honestly did not believe I was worth the time, money, or hassle of getting treated. I thought I would just be a bother. If I had to seek treatment, people would like me even less. I would be even less lovable. Even less wantable. No one would put up with me.
Because depression lies.
Now, honestly, I’m much better. Much, much, MUCH better. And the real kicker is I haven’t even undergone any treatment yet. I have an upcoming appointment with my doctor to discuss my treatment options. I’m already feeling better because now I know what this is. I know why I sometimes I feel the way I do. When I feel my mood taking a downturn, I know what’s happening. When I hear the voice saying not nice things, I know they are lies. And just knowing what is happening, knowing what the lies are, knowing there are things I can do, takes away the power it had over me. I haven’t felt this good, this stable, this happy in years. I’m back to blogging, crafting, talking, laughing, being.
I wish I had sought treatment sooner. The biggest lie depression told me was I was not worth treating.