I had this post in mind. I was going to write about the contents of my refrigerator and how I’m always art-directing it, moving the melon to the front, cream cheese to the back, stacking yogurt with the labels all facing out. It’s a sickness, but it gives me such satisfaction.
But since I was out of the house for two whole childless hours, I decided to go to the Barnes and Noble cafe and write in this old spiral notebook I carry around for just such an occasion (note: no mega cookie for me this time, just iced-tea as I’ve been cutting back since the dermatologist called me fat).
Flipping through the notebook to find a clean page, I skimmed a couple of old entries from this winter. Even though it was me who wrote everything, I was startled by what I read. Page after page of rambling about sleep and crying and falling into the big dark hole- example:
“I spent most of Christmas Eve lying in bed”.
“I’ve been crying again, several times a day, and I want to sleep away every minute”
“Nothing helps but sleeping”
“When will this nightmare end? I can’t get out of this hole I’m in.”
I know I tend to be dramatic, but I was still stunned. It was like reading someone else’s journal. Only looking back do I realize how bad it was.
I’ve had a little experience with the “big D” before. Pregnant with my second daughter, I spent a lot of time sleeping and crying. After she was born, I tried a low dose of medication. It was just enough to get me back on my feet. Life felt good, I was good (good being relative and all). Two years later I weaned off the drugs and did a triathlon. Tah-dah! I’m healthy see? Completely cured!
Then three years later, I slipped again, only this time the hole was deeper, darker, colder and more painful. Being aware, I did what I could: I saw a therapist (an amazing, kind, insightful therapist), I made daily lists of things I was grateful for, I exercised, I took Omega-3’s and extra vitamin D. I prayed. I meditated. Yet I still couldn’t shake the devastation I felt every single, overwhelming day.
I was pretty adamant that I didn’t want medication. I thought antidepressants were too omnipresent, too over-prescribed, too cliché, and too dangerous. But here’s the thing: months went by and I just couldn’t get upright. My brain was so out-of-balance, so stuck, so defeated. No matter how much I tried or did, I was still sitting on my ass, in the hole, face in hands, sobbing.
Finally, after months of this (plus some stern phone calls from my friends), I found a good doctor who got me back on meds. Very, very slowly things came back into focus. The hole got a little smaller, brighter and warmer. Then one day, without even being aware of it, I just stepped out. No tah-dah! More like: whew.
I feel normal now. I can breathe, I can say “so what?” and really mean it. Little things please me again: the sound of a sprinkler, smoked gouda, a cold Diet Coke. If I drop a glass on the floor, I sweep it up. I don’t sit in the glass and cry about how the world sucks and what a failure I am.
It’s hard for me to see those pages. It’s even harder for me to write this post, knowing the jig is up, OMG people will know. Plus it’s a long post (are you still with me?). Why write it?
I write it because if you have any friends or family who seem stuck in the cold, dark torture chamber of their own powerful brain, help them get help.
Do not tell them useless, merry-sunshine crap about just “being positive”, do not tell them they “think too much”, do not tell them they have “so much to be grateful for” and do not, DO NOT, tell them “to stop feeling sorry for themselves.” Depression is not a self-indulgent, chosen state-of-mind. No one would choose to be so sad, so desperate, so negative, and so guilt-ridden for one second. No one.
Instead, tell them you’re here for them. Tell them not to feel embarrassed. You don’t think they’re weak or crazy or a lazy sack-of-bones. Tell them they can feel better – a lot better. Tell them it’s possible that one day they’ll look back on this and not believe they waited so long to get help.
If they can’t get a recommendation for a therapist through their own doctor (note: if they think they need might medication, get a shrink who knows how to prescribe meds – OB/Gyn’s should not be prescribing psychotropic drugs), tell them to Google psychiatrists in their area. Often one can find a website that rates them. Pay attention to those ratings. Some shrinks are real assholes. Some, like mine, are awesome.
I’m not advocating drugs in all cases. Personally, I still find them omnipresent, over-prescribed, cliché and when not given correctly – dangerous. But when a person has diabetes, we don’t tell them to just “focus on the positive” and their insulin will re-balance. We don’t say, “buck-up, you think about your thyroid too much.” In my case, having exhausted all other options, it is clear to me – my noggin? Sometimes she not work so good.
But then sometimes, she work really, really good.
Okay, I think I’ve made my point. Plus I’ve outed myself and though I am quick to say we need to abolish the stigma, I need to hit “publish” before I lose my nerve.
Check in later for a riveting post on my refrigerator.