I’ve talked about having depression on the blog before, but awhile back and not in very much detail. that’s a conscious decision on my part, since I don’t want to put every thing about me and my life out there on the web, even if I am taking part in the blogging community. but I am talking about it today here on the blog, because it’s very much a part of my life right now, and if I can’t share it on the space I created to share my thoughts, what’s the point?
I got diagnosed with major depressive disorder about 2 years ago, but I’d been depressed on and off since I was around 11 years old. I come from a family and a culture where mental health isn’t really discussed or even acknowledged as a condition. my parents came from very hard backgrounds, and to them, there was nothing wrong with “being sad” – life is hard, after all. and so I dealt with the depression on my own and without professional help until James finally convinced me to go.
I still remember sitting in the doctor’s office and hearing my diagnosis. as the doctor began explaining all the hallmarks of major depressive disorder – fatigue, lost of interest, cyclic episodes, constant sleeping, low self-esteem – I kept nodding along, feeling like he had taken a snapshot of what I called my “bad days”. I began a medication regimen, and I noticed that my “bad days” were becoming few and far between. when I did have one, it was nowhere near as low as the ones previously. I would feel a little bit down as opposed to drowning in a toxic sea of guilt, shame, and hopelessness. things were getting better, and I felt so much more vibrant and engaged and in control of my mental life than I had in a long time. so when the opportunity came for James to go back to boston for what seemed like a great job and he came to me asking if I’d be ok if he took it, I said yes.
I hadn’t had an episode in over a year. we were doing well. we were happy. I was happy. I wanted to show that I was truly better.
but I wasn’t. 3 days after James left, I had an episode. in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been surprising. I was working full-time while in nursing school, which was undeniably stressful, even if I was enjoying myself most of the time. I was also planning a wedding. with the additional stress of a long-distance relationship, I was done. the move wasn’t the sole cause, but it was, I think, what broke the dam.
and I’ve been treading water ever since. there are days when I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above the water, being engulfed by a darkness and hopelessness so pervasive that it’s hard to stay awake, much less get out of bed in the morning. my mind feels hazy, as though I’m in a daze I can’t get out of. on better days, I make it through the day without crying, functioning & surviving, but never quite thriving. I think back to the other extended periods of depression in my life – 6 months during senior year of high school, 2 years in college – and I am paralyzed by the fear that this tunnel is nowhere close to ending. I know I have help now, and I know how to deal with some things better, and yet, I’m afraid.
I’m afraid because I know my illness makes people uncomfortable. I can see the discomfort in their eyes, and I just withdraw even more, which makes people think I’m cold or distant or weird. I see how it embarrasses my husband to have to explain to his family why I’m unresponsive or why things are not ok, and I withdraw that little bit more, choking on shame and guilt. I’ve always found it funny that people have mistaken my depression as coldness, because nothing could be farther from the truth. my mind isn’t cold – it’s frenetic, it’s chaotic, it’s unceasing, it’s on the verge of overheating. I’ve come to realize that my parents are not alone in their mistrust and ignorance of mental illness – the misunderstanding is pervasive, and it makes the journey that much more lonely & solitary. I sometimes wish I had something tangible to point to, so I could say to people, “here, here is the manifestation of my depression” and they would understand, they would believe. but I can’t.
so I write instead, finding the words on paper that I can’t find the voice to say out loud. I write sentences to make sense of this tangle of feelings I can’t untie and set right within my head. I write paragraphs to simultaneously explain and maintain the walls I’ve put up between me and judgmental questions. I write thoughts to give what I’m experiencing a corporal existence.
I write to give life to the atrophy I’m feeling. I write because it’s the only way I know how to live my way through the dark.
thank you for reading.