Long Post, Big D.

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.

7 thoughts on “Long Post, Big D.

  1. I wish I had something intelligent to offer to this post, but I think you’ve said it all and much better than I could have. I love you for this post. It’s seriously awesome.

    And I love you for your seriously awesome comment.

  2. I sometimes refer to myself as a “pill-popper from way back.” I’ve struggled with the Big D for a very long time. About 10-15 years ago my doctor said I may always need medication for it. That was after I thought I was better so I stopped taking my medication. I know it’s amazing to see how far you’ve come. Welcome back.

    Thank you, it’s good to be here.

  3. I read this when it first posted this morning, and I’ve been trying all day long to figure out exactly the right thing to say. It’s not coming, but I can’t let the day end without commenting, so here’s what I have:
    1) (((hugs)))
    B) You are so brave and so amazing and I can never thank you enough for sharing this. It’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room, isn’t it?
    IV) You know all those things you wrote that we shouldn’t say to people? I have GOT to figure out how to stop saying them TO MYSELF.

    Yes – YOU DO, Missy – now cut that shit out.

  4. Been there, done that. Worse than my own experiences was watching my husband slide into the big D. You can’t force someone to get the help they need. Until he was ready to step out of the dark, I could only be there for him. It was hard.
    And when my OB said I HAD to come off my meds if I wanted a baby… well, that worked for about 3 months before darkness descended. I found a new OB. Everyone in that practice is very supportive.
    I hope one day the big D doesn’t have the stigma it does today. It’s a chemical thing, not a choice. In my own blog, however, I have deleted the posts where I mention my own experiences with it- too chicken to put it all out there.
    Good for you for being braver than I am.

    It was just a mere moment of braveness, a mere moment. I agree with you that people won’t get help unless they want to and sometimes just the wanting is exhausting. I’m glad you were there for your husband,and I hope you are doing well.

  5. I admire your willingness to take the bold risk and tell it like it is, and the advice hopefully will help others. Maybe next time (hopefully there will be none) your family and friends will know how to “help” and know “what not to do”.

    My friends and family are amazing, you know that, right?

  6. There is such a stigma around it, you are totally right, and I confess to being a bit judgy myself on this issue occasionally. I suffer from pretty serious Seasonal Affective Disorder and yet every year, I tell myself to just buck up! Go for a walk! Quit whining! Part of the problem is that I totally agree with you that this is overdiagnosed and over-drugged…but at the same time, there are plenty of people who have to be on medication NOW, not after trying exercise and sunshine for three months. How do we know which situation we are looking at, even in ourselves?

    I don’t know. Which is why we should always treat everyone with compassion, something I really need to remember. Like, every day.

    Remembering compassion every day? Oh, me too. I also suffer from S.A.D. – Smalltown Affective Disorder, that is. I suspect your “buck up, take a walk” is your natural Yankie ingenuity kicking in. I hope it is effective.

  7. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, in his song “Impossible Germany,” sings of the vital role one plays when listening to another human being: “This is what Love is for, To be out of place, Gorgeous and alone, Face to face……..Nothin’ more important, than to know, Someone’s listening, Now I know, you’ll be listening…”
    Thank you for your post, for your funny writing, for exposing your belly button vulnerability session of sitting Buddha-like on a table covered with white paper. Got to love the white on white vision of you under the bright lights at the dermatologist. Hyperbole works for you… and for your fans. Keep it flowing, baby. Talking to you about My warts is nearly as good as reading your sardonic take on warts and vanity. I am now safe to admit to you, you fridge-lock photo-shoot stylist, that as a child I did Shopping Cart Installation Art while in the aisles my step-monster. Had to had to had to have the boxes line up like skyscrapers, the lowly margarine with the bland egg carton. The red apples next to the green grapes. Is that why we are friends? I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates, you gotta brand new key? Speaking my truth to you works to relieve, but not remove, the anvil weight on my chest. Calling you today and sharing who I am, your friend in need, and having you listen and offer your honest response has set me free to act in a way that will positively affect my future.


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