I’d like to share with you all where I’ve been the past few days, and what’s been going on the past few weeks/months/years. I think it’s OK to do this now, even though I’m still just on the tip of being on the mend; depending on how comfortable I am with this post I may or may not leave it up. Just a warning.
Ever since returning to work two years ago, there’s been a general malaise in my life with which I’ve had to grapple. A thin little stream of discontent, a subtle undercurrent of unhappiness. I blamed it on the job, as I’ve always done throughout my working life when the ripples of misery began to manifest in my spirit again: it’s this particular situation at work that makes me so stressed; it’s this person, it’s that environment. I had one good counselor in my thirties who helped me navigate through choppy waters of work distress (I remember the surprise and slight disappointment my husband displayed when he discovered, after my many years of therapy, that I rarely if ever discussed our marriage in these weekly sessions – just work, work, work). It was, in fact, in one of these sessions that I decided teaching was just too much stress, was too overwhelming for me to manage anymore, and that I was going to quit.
In my twenties, it was a different counselor, and a different subject: my childhood, and its effect on my adult relationships. I spent several years working through the issues I had with my parents and the way I was raised (and I’m happy to report that since that time, my parents and I have had many conversations about the things that went on back then, and we’ve all apologized to each other for how we were treated as well as how we treated each other. So that’s nice). After a few years with her, I decided I was pretty good and healed, and we parted ways.
But as I already mentioned, in my thirties the depression came back, and so did the counseling sessions (I got a new counselor because the first one moved into an administrative position and no longer did individual counseling). Then, when I quit teaching, I also quit my second counselor and felt I finally had a handle on myself and my emotions. Then, I started working again, and the depression s-l-l-l-o-o-o-w-l-y seeped back under my skin.
I blamed external things for two years. I did a lot of that blaming on this blog. And while yes, I do feel I had a lot of legitimate complaints, I also spent two years navigating myself into a situation that, were my issues solely work-related, should have solved them. But it didn’t. Not only that, but at the beginning of this year, the depression got worse. And when I say worse – I mean horrible. Worse than ever.
One of the reasons I decided to quit writing for awhile was because I just couldn’t keep forcing myself to push the depressed feelings out of what I was saying. I edited myself, but at some point it became too difficult to do any longer. For months, all I’ve really wanted to say here is I hate how I can’t find joy in anything any longer. Where did my energy go? Where is the balance? And I typed it up, many times, but for the most part it sounded too whiny and, quite honestly, uninteresting, so I edited. For the most part. I think some of it was still coming through though – mostly towards the end of it.
Roughly a month ago, I was driving to work in the early morning darkness, after another morning of waking up with the same, sad thought at the forefront of my mind: oh noooo, not another day I have to face; with the same overwhelming sense of dread I’d felt for what seemed like forever – a subtler form of it the past two years, but intensely since August – when it hit me like a sledgehammer to the back of the head: I’m depressed. And for the first time ever, that statement had serious weight behind it to me. I’ve thought it in the past, but I’ve never said it out loud to anyone, and never felt it resonate within my bones the way it did this time. It felt like a recognition about myself I should have made a long time ago. It felt sad, and heavy, and familiar, and correct, in a way nothing ever had before when it came to dealing with these moods.
My first thought in response to this was to sigh heavily and think: well, okay, I’ll get myself back into therapy again to figure out what’s going on with me now. But then I immediately got angry; I have been talking and talking about my depression for 20 years, and quite honestly, I thought to myself, I am talked. The fuck. Out. I really have nothing more to say about my past, present, or future to another counselor. I really don’t want to talk about myself anymore. At all. I am done with it. If all that talking was going to truly, truly work – it would have worked by now. After 20 years, there’s just no way I have more layers inside my psyche I need to discover. There’s no amount of yoga, or meditation, or herb consumption, that’s going to finally provide me the key that unlocks the darkness and sets it free from within me for good. Agree with me or no, but the answer to me was crystal-clear, and it wasn’t more talk therapy. It was medication.
It’s been suggested to me before, many times, but I was never willing to do it. And since I wasn’t willing, I didn’t. But this time, I was. So. A week ago I met with a doctor and was given a prescription for Wellbutrin, and I must admit that the results (which I was told would take up to 4 weeks to be felt at all) have already been pretty dramatic. Then again, I was always one to be particularly receptive to medicines – any time I’m told to take a pill that might not work right away, it seems to work the second it hits the back of my throat. So perhaps that’s why the results, for me, are already apparent. But on the third day, I did not wake up dreading getting out of bed for the first time in over a year, and from the first day I stopped crying at random times during the school day as soon as I was left alone. I have energy again, and when three things hit me at once that I have to deal with, I do the best I can instead of becoming a stuttering, ineffective mess who shuts down and stops communicating until everyone just goes away – and then cries. Tonight, when I was inundated with emails that clog up my inbox to the point of frustration, instead of seeing that as another sign that life is full of nothing but evil vultures trying to suck the life (and cash) out of me, I simply said ‘you know, this is pretty annoying and has gotten out of hand; I’m going to start unsubscribing from these emails when I get them.’ And then I started doing it.
I know it’s still early, and I know that medications are tricky, controversial things and I’ll have to monitor my progress, and that it’s not some miracle I can rely on entirely to make all my difficulties go away. But – so far, it has lifted the dark veil from my eyes that made everything that came my way appear to be a trouble in the first place, and for that I am grateful. Because although I didn’t tell this to too many people (although I am a sharp gal, so I did tell a few) things had gotten really, really bad. I was never suicidal, but I was severely depressed, to the point of feeling zero joy in any situation. The people who knew were a little surprised, and I don’t think they ever knew how deeply I felt it within me; and quite honestly, that surprised me a little bit. It made me think about people like Robin Williams, and how easily someone can slip so low they cannot be reached, and no one around them can even see it happening (my best friend even told me to ask the doctor how I could be so depressed and yet “be functioning so well,” which took me back a little because I did not feel I was functioning at all, much less doing a good job of it).
So. I know some of you are going to disagree with my decision to take this sort of medication (which I do not intend to do long-term, of course, but you know what – if it turns out that I need to, I will). But you know what? I don’t care. Because the knowledge was bone-deep in me that it was what I not only wanted, but desperately needed to do to keep me functioning and sane. So even if you do not agree with the decision I made, I hope you can agree with this – if you are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, desperate, lost, whatever it is that is taking you over and making you feel you can’t cope – reach out for help in some way. For me, the answer for 20 years was talk therapy, and when that no longer served me I found another solution. I also told people right away, the day the realization hit me – my husband, my best friend, and one co-worker. So talk about it. Let people – or at least let one person – know. And don’t try to handle it all alone. It’s not necessary, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, so there’s no need to stay solitary about it.
I’m still not back on Flickr, and I may not blog here again for awhile. I’d like to go back and read all your posts you’ve made since I’ve been away (and yeah, I realize it hasn’t actually been that long) but I am still kind of licking my emotional wounds a little, and sheltering myself. So I’m not quite ready to be an active participant in social media again just yet. I think maybe another week will do it, at the longest. Thanks for being around for me when I’ve needed it, you guys – it’s meant the world to me, and will continue to do so. See you all soon.