Shall we? (Apologies to Cole Porter.) It's way past time. Time for me to admit that I've been depressed for essentially the last 5 years, with the last 2 having been most painful, and that I'm not going to "snap out of it" spontaneously.
In speaking with a friend who shares many of my symptoms, and is debating with himself whether or not it might be time to seek medication, I realized one thing that might have been contributing to my denial of my current emotional state. He said that he was wary of medication that might change how he feels, because the way he feels is all he's ever known. That hit me. Because I think that the reason I've been just waiting for this...thing to go away on its own, is that this is NOT how I've always felt. Far from it.
So I tried to break down the many justifications for the fact that I've basically been hiding in my house for a really long time. Well, let's see...five years ago, I was in a bad way, true. I remember getting a prescription for Zoloft from a GP just so I could make it through performing a solo with the church choir at Easter. But back then? There were heart-rending things going on in my life, things I so much don't want to re-live, that I'm not even going to think about them now, much less write about them. But the point is, these things qualified in every way as "external stressors." So in my mind, I was using the Zoloft as a temporary crutch until things "got better." I stopped taking it when I wanted to try to get pregnant, so that period of medication didn't last long.
I had an easy pregnancy, but there were, again, those same "external stressors" going on, so I had an excuse to hole up and "protect" myself. Bella's birth was easy, and I didn't have any baby blues afterward--as a matter of fact, becoming a mother made me happier than anything has ever made me in my whole life. Anything. Ever. I concentrated my energies on that baby in a way that was pretty consuming. And there were other crises going on which required my attention and focus and energy, so I hardly had time for introspection. And yeah, I might have benefited mentally from some medical help at that time, but I was breastfeeding--another exemption, and after a while, things really DID start to get better--those "external stressors" were fading, and the sun was coming out, so to speak.
And then, in late 2004, my father died. Typing those three words just now required my taking a break to cry. A lot. There is no way, no way on earth, that I can express just how hard that single event hit me, how big a hole it ripped in my heart, and the extent to which it changed, in an instant, the very fabric of how I identified myself. I felt groundless, adrift, lonely, despite the efforts of the rest of my family, who were in as much pain as I was, to console me. My daughter was my comfort, my hope for the future, and my husband was something solid to cling to, and we had been trying to conceive a second time. I mention this because that was my excuse for not seeking medical help for symptoms of depression at that time.
And just a few weeks after my dad's death, we learned we were pregnant, and it was like a miracle, almost a gift sent to lessen my pain. But then at 7 weeks, there was a miscarriage, and we lost that baby. I would never have imagined the level of grief that accompanies the loss of a child you never even met. Never. But that baby was as real to me as anyone else. I can still remember how Alex and I sat in that doctor's office and wept, but softly, so as not to upset all the pregnant mothers who still had their babies. That event prefaced a pretty big crash, and a few months later (because this was "situational depression," caused by external events, and was going to get better at any time!), Alex finally convinced me to seek out some help.
That journey with antidepressants has been covered here before, but to sum it up, each successive medication helped in the beginning, but eventually produced a side-effect of severe anxiety, even panic attacks. So I spent an agonizing several weeks weaning myself off of SSRIs, because, after all, I "felt better." (The irony of me expressing this idea when I am so familiar with the syndrome of compliance-resistant mental illnesses is not lost on me--it couldn't be that I "felt better" because I'd been taking ADs, could it? Alex has done much better than I over the last couple of years in taking care of his brain.)
It's been a year since I took my last anti-depressant. Aside from the happiness I've enjoyed in the bosom of my family, it's been more or less a lost year. A year that saw the death-sentence for my fertility and any hope of bearing more children, the grieving for that, and finally a hysterectomy that could not be avoided, more grieving over the finality of it all, and the hormone-rollercoaster that followed. I'm going to describe what it's been like, mostly because I've been lying to myself about it, and a little accountability couldn't hurt at this point.
I rarely go out. Heck, I rarely put on "outside" clothes, or even shoes, instead living in loungewear and sweats and pajamas. I don't always work up the energy to shower, or some days even move around much, except to care for Bella. The sounds of the telephone and the doorbell are imbued with an aversion that borders on dread--not because I don't like people, and don't enjoy talking/visiting with them, but because of the sheer energy it takes to act "normal" (which is less than the energy it takes to explain "what's wrong?"). I can't even muster up the gumption to smile wanly and say "fine," when people ask, "How are you?" instead answering that query with a grunt and that "so-so" hand-motion, and changing the subject. When I'm alone, and I accidentally catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, my expression is that of someone who is at the funeral of a loved one.
Even internet exchanges, which used to be the one thing I could do easily, since they weren't really "in person," have become strained. I get emails, which I read, and then, not having the energy to respond at that moment, "save for later." Of course, often "later" never comes. I used to post blog entries nearly daily, and it still comes fairly easily once I get started, but the getting started has gotten more and more difficult.
I feel like I have to be clear on something, and that is the fact that I don't feel sad. I don't feel like (my idea of) someone with depression. I feel like someone with...avoision (thank you, Kent Brockman, for that fantastic word). We've lived in this house just over a year, and the living room isn't unpacked yet. One wall is piled to the ceiling with boxes full of books. How hard would it be for me to take books out of boxes and put them on shelves? The paint-jobs in Bella's room and our bedroom are not finished, and the painting has not even begun in the guest room/office and Bella's bathroom. There seems to always be a mountain of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away, and the Christmas tree is still up.
Oh, and here's a great one: Our electricity got turned off the other day because I wouldn't go to the door. It wasn't a matter of not having the money, it was that I'd put off paying the bill so long that I forgot about it. And if I'd answered the door when they rang, I could have just handed them a check and they'd have gone away happy. But I didn't know who it was at the door, and I didn't dare go see. What if it was someone who wanted to talk to me, or worse yet, come inside? (I'm actually OK with visitors, but I have to know at least an hour in advance that they're coming. Drop-ins make me way uncomfortable.) So I sat in another room and hid, and the power went off. And my under-reaction was, "Oh, so that's who that was." Let's call that my "moment of clarity." That and the afternoon hours I got to while away, pretending I was in "Little House in the Big Woods" until they came back out and reconnected the juice.
So, accompanied by my husband (hey, I go with him, he goes with me--it keeps us honest, and I highly recommend it for anyone who sees a shrink), two weeks ago I sat in the psychiatrist's office and told him how I was feeling. How I didn't think I was "depressed" (why I felt the need to keep saying that, I don't know), but that all things considered, I was avoiding the outside world to the detriment of pretty much our entire livelihood and every relationship I have outside our own four walls, and what's more, I couldn't muster up the feeling to care.
Tomorrow will mark my 14th day on Wellbutrin SR. I wasn't about to try another SSRI after the troubles I had with Prozac, Zoloft, and Effexor. If you have Wellbutrin experience to share, then by all means, do so. If you have "me, too" stories, then let's hear them. It helps. Just in talking to that one other person, that one person who said, "That's exactly how *I* feel," my perspective on this whole issue was changed, and that is why I finally decided to get real and get it out there in the open. Unlike many bloggers who maintain a separation between online and IRL presence, almost everyone in my "real life" knows about this blog. I'm hoping it's like an abscess, and now the healing can begin. While I don't feel remarkably "changed" yet (crazymeds.org says to give it a month), for a little while today, while I was hiding in my cave, I actually had the thought, the conscious thought, that I might rather be out doing something.
And that's a start.