I haven’t been around here for a while. I’m kind of embarrassed about that, to be honest, and not sure if anyone has noticed.
About six months ago I wrote about my experiences with mania, and I knew that there would be the inevitable flip-side of depression. Sure enough, that’s been my headspace for the past two months. By depression, I mean the kind wherein you feel that you literally cannot get out of bed, where you have spontaneous headaches, where you have crying jags while ordering pizza, where you just wish you could cut off communication from everyone (but don’t because I don’t want to scare mother.of.a.lesser.god any more than I already have). Yes, I’m on meds, and I do take them. And I’m lucky enough to have health coverage that allows me to see a therapist.
Let’s face it: I have had a lot of things go my way in life. I am able to remain thankful for that. So this is not a let’s-whine-about-my-circumstances post, and I really hope nobody takes it that way. Part of the reason I’ve written this is as a mea culpa, because I do feel guilty for neglecting this blog that has been so rewarding for me. But part of the reason is the same one that spurred me to write about my mania, namely that depression is something that is all too common and something that a lot of people still feel inhibited about discussing.
I experienced a devastating loss about nine months ago, one that I’m reticent to go into too much detail about (there will never be an overshare post about it, other than this quick mention), and I was ignoring my grief until August. In retrospect, it probably prompted a lot of the mania. It’s easier to bounce off the walls than grieve. What spurred my ability to think about my complex feelings about the incident was the Harpy House trip and realizing that it would have been an experience that I would have shared with the baby I lost. That’s when everything got very screwed up. Guilt and anger and confusion started overwhelming me, and it wasn’t a great combination when it slammed into my long history of depression.
But depression doesn’t always need a reason to overtake a person. I’ve had it whammy me at the least convenient, predictable times. There are little things I can do to cheer myself up in the short term, such as hot chocolate (especially on a cold October day), watching baseball games (go Yankees!), watching Ewan McGregor movies (yeah, even The Island), cuddling my three pups (and earning endless mothering licks from Lola-pup), and researching etymology (embracing geeky hobbies is good for the soul).
The thing is that the core of the issue, at least to my mind, is the chemical interaction in my brain that is behind depression. I remember being diagnosed first with clinical depression and then manic-depression at the ages of seventeen and twenty, respectively. There had been one suicide attempt at thirteen, and one at nineteen, so the diagnoses struck me as being old news. Zoloft was prescribed, then Prozac, Effexor, Topomax, and Lamictal, as well as Seroquel for insomnia. Given that my father also is manic-depressive, I felt less alone in the situation.
I’ve always been a self-isolator. My mother constantly reminds me that, as a child, I was “the one reading a book in the sandbox while the other kids played,” and that I would respond to her pressure to have play-dates by protesting, “but I had to see other kids last week!” This was probably more of a character trait than any manifestation of depression at age five, but it hasn’t helped me deal with the issues that came along later. My tendency to hide from the world helped me hide self-destructive behavior, including severe anorexia. I figured nobody would hassle me about that stuff if they didn’t spend enough time to care about me. Luckily, that plan didn’t work.
This is not to say that I’ve spent my entire adult life as an Emily Dickinson/Howard Hughes-esque recluse. I’ve gone to college and done well, although I had to leave my first college due to anorexia and depression; I’ve held down jobs and supported myself; I’ve had relationships and friendships. The Internet has helped immensely, as I can combat my social anxiety if I meet people from behind the safety of my laptop.
Everyone’s depression takes different shapes. My guess is that at least one person reading this has struggled with depression or manic-depression or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or an eating disorder. I’d like to think I’m the only one who has attempted suicide, if only because I would not wish that kind of despair upon anyone, but the statistics are such that I’m probably not alone in that experience either. If anyone wishes to open up about their own struggles in the comments, I encourage them to do so. (Or email me privately, because I know it’s not always something that’s comfortable to discuss, even within the semi-anonymous sphere of the Internet.) In the meantime, I’m slogging through and knowing that somehow it won’t stay this way forever because it never has in the past. Life is not worth ignoring or hiding from, even during the hardest times. So I’ll try to recognize the truth of that belief and get up tomorrow morning with faith in the future.