Yeah, you know me!
It’s like walking through high tide toward the shore. Everything drags. Nothing moves quickly or gracefully. Wind rushes through your ears. Only it’s not wind. It’s the perpetual thoughts running through your brain that never stop. Sometimes it’s song lyrics. Sometimes it’s a constant to do list. Often it’s a list of ways that I’ve failed.
It’s depression. Technically Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD.
Not a bad day. Not “the blues.” Not just “feeling down.” Full blown, crippling, clinical depression. When the bootstraps you’ve been pulling yourself up by finally snap.
But no one talks about it. It’s uncomfortable & awkward. “Why can’t they just cheer up or think happy thoughts?” (My goodness, why didn’t I think of that!?)
When the chemicals in my left breast decided to gang up on me & form a cancerous tumor, I wrote about it. Friends & family rallied & sent cards & casseroles. They helped clean my yard & took my kids places so I could rest during treatment.
Now the chemicals in my brain have decided to rage against my machine & I hesitate to tell anyone. Why? Is it not the same thing? Why can I tell people about cancerous chemicals in my boob & have them support me & help me heal but if it’s chemicals in my brain that aren’t working correctly, well, clutch my pearls, we don’t talk about that.
It’s a chemical imbalance. Just like cancer. Something in my body isn’t working right. I need medication & treatment to fix it. Whether it’s my left boob or my frontal cortex should make no difference.
Listen, people, we’ve all heard the discussions about mental health in this country. How many mass shootings have had in their wake a conversation about access to mental health care. “Everyone knew the shooter was unstable. Maybe he should have gotten some help.”
But how do you ask for help when No. One. Talks. About. It.
So I’m trying to talk about it. Because maybe if everyone starts talking about their struggles with depression, anxiety & mental illness – whether theirs or a loved ones, it will stop being such a taboo subject.
I don’t know what reaction I’ll get from friends, family & colleagues by writing this. There are those around me who will wonder why I never mentioned it to them. Honestly, it’s just recently that I’ve realized there’s a problem. Two teenagers – one of them graduating high school in 8 weeks; a large old home that is amazing but way too big with way too many things that need fixing; a job in an industry that someone recently described as “relentless” & well… “I’m not depressed,” I tell myself. “I’m just feeling a little overwhelmed.”
But then everything started folding around me. I can see the piles of laundry. I just can’t move to do them. I can see the dirty bathroom sink. I just can’t seem to do anything about it – except yell at The Kids to stop spitting their toothpaste directly onto the mirror. (Seriously, how does that even happen?) I crawl into bed at 9 pm hoping that a good night’s sleep will help.
And it does. A little.
Until it doesn’t.
Until the day I wake up & wish I hadn’t.
That morning, I somehow got The Kids out the door & got into the shower. There was a litany of crap screaming in my brain. Non stop, exhausting crap that I couldn’t shut off, couldn’t quiet. And I couldn’t stop crying.
That’s when I knew I needed help. The past few months have been up & down but I always thought it was the normal up & down of a something-aged woman with two teenagers, a boyfriend, a large house & a demanding job. But it wasn’t just that. I’m grateful that I had the presence of mind to call my doctor & felt the panic rise when I was told she wasn’t in. Thankfully another physician at her office was able to see me. And the little doctor with the polka dot glasses was a life saver.
I’ve been down this road before. I was successfully treated for depression in the past. Looking back I seem to have a 7-8 year cycle of depression & not depression so I’m no stranger to this. But I’m surprised every time at how long it takes me to realize what’s happening. And if it takes me this long after having dealt with it before, how much scarier is it for someone who knows something isn’t right but doesn’t know where to start to fix it.
Let’s talk about this people. I know I’m not the only one.
Signs & symptoms of depression include:
- Mood: anxiety, apathy, general discontent, guilt, hopelessness, loss of interest, loss of interest or pleasure in activities, mood swings, or sadness
- Sleep: early awakening, excess sleepiness, insomnia, or restless sleep
- Whole body: excessive hunger, fatigue, loss of appetite, or restlessness
- Behavioral: agitation, excessive crying, irritability, or social isolation
- Cognitive: lack of concentration, slowness in activity, or thoughts of suicide
- Weight: weight gain or weight loss
- Also common: poor appetite or repeatedly going over thoughts
If you or a loved one show signs of depression or any mental health issue & you don’t know where to turn, start with your doctor. If there is an imminent emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.
Other resources include:
- National Helpline for treatment options: 800-662-HELP
- Suicide Hotline: 800-273-TALK