How does one even begin a post like this? Is there really a way to gently ease into the subject or some joke or metaphor to make it less heavy? Probably not.
On July 27, (I know, specific right?) I was in Houston visiting with a friend before heading off to a beach vacation with family, when I had finally got enough courage to tell her that I had been “feeling” off. I say “feeling” because I really wasn’t feeling much of anything these days, except for maybe, guilt, apathy, anger and an extremely overwhelming emptiness. After a long conversation and contemplating what could possibly be wrong, I ventured down the road of depression.
Truth be told, this wasn’t something that had recently developed. I had been feeling this way, with gradual intensity, for the last 10-12 years. I had always wondered if I was suffering from depression, but would quickly banish those thoughts from my brain as I did not want to have the label “depressed” attached to me. I had only negative associations with the word and thought that surely I would be judged if I had spoken up. So, I brushed it off as just needing to try harder and make my own happiness. Naturally, I tend to lean more towards being an introvert, so I used that as my scapegoat with excuses like, “I’m just not good at being social”, “I am not good at small talk”, to even exaggerating on the good qualities that I already possessed, like being a good listener.
Of course, in the beginning, I didn’t always feel depressed. I would have days, maybe weeks, where I felt happy, creative and energized. The more time that went by, the fewer good days there were. I started to lose interest in the things that I loved and was so passionate about.
Fast forward a few years. In 2009 I got married. This was an exciting and VERY much anticipated event for me. I had been dating my husband for six years before he proposed, so I was ready. The morning of my big day that I had been waiting for so long for, was here! I remember sitting down to breakfast with my parents and them asking if I was nervous or excited. I was excited, I had wanted this day more than anything, but it wasn’t the exhilarating excitement I was expecting. I have a lot of moments like this. They have increased in length over time.
Eventually, it got to the point to where I needed to force, and over compensate for my lack of happiness or excitement. I didn’t want people to think that I didn’t care or that I was not happy for them. I was…….but, I wasn’t. Depression is a strange thing. Depression doesn’t always mean that you feel sad, but empty. I certainly felt this. Sometimes, I think that I mistook my lack of sympathy and emotion for an “I don’t give a crap” attitude. I thought that I was “tough” or “thick skinned”. Truth was, I was neither one of those. I was so weak. I constantly felt scrutinized and judged. I was racked with guilt and self loathing and eventually saw myself unworthy of happiness. I started to have paranoia, I feared that my husband, then boyfriend, was cheating and that at any moment he would break up with me. I began to read in between the lines of conversations I had with people, assuming that they meant something other than what they said, and felt like I deserved their scrutiny and judgement. Depression can really distort your perspective and cloud your judgement.
So, now I have been married for four years, and we recently welcomed a daughter. Another excuse that I told myself was that maybe I am just a super mellow person, and I just don’t excite easily, but surely a life changing event like finding out your pregnant would cause some over the top excitement. Nope. I WAS happy. I couldn’t believe it, but I was happy that I was expecting. Again, the excitement that I had hoped to feel, just wasn’t there. I was disappointed, sad that I couldn’t feel the joy that I was sure everyone felt. Now, I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy. I was sick for almost all of it. It was either morning sickness, the stomach bug or a staph infection. I felt like crap the whole time, and then had several stressful incidents throughout the pregnancy concerning her development and testing for chromosomal abnormalities to finding out that she was breech a week and a half from my due date and scheduling a cesarean days later. It was devastating. Everything that I had been planning for, hoping for some fluctuation in emotion and a sense of empowerment had been stripped away.
So, now, I have my beautiful baby at home and we are adjusting to a life as a family of three. I am not only learning the ropes of caring for a newborn, but am recovering from surgery, which was not easy. I got an infection due to an allergic reaction that I had to my sutures and was in pain for a couple months. Having a new baby is hard. Having a new baby and having the baby blues is really hard. During my pregnancy, I wondered if I would have the baby blues or postpartum depression. I wondered deep down if I was depressed, and felt like I might be predisposed to them. While I was convinced that I was suffering PPD, for reasons I had never told anyone, people assured me that it was just the baby blues and that it was normal and a common thing. I left it at that.
My daughter is now six months old, and the “blues” have not gone away. In fact they are worse than they have ever been. I had no joy, no happiness. I was angry and impatient all the time. My bad days were terrible and my “good days” were just less so. I had bad days and blah days.
Three weeks ago I decided that I had to say something. I had been having an exceptionally hard time. I was not necessarily suicidal, but was having thoughts of my own death. Since I obviously couldn’t feel happy, I thought that maybe I didn’t deserve to feel happy. Maybe everything and everyone would be better off if I was just not here. I was angry all the time. I was always in a bad mood and short with my husband. I was impatient with my child, and my anxiety was at an all time high. I didn’t want to be around people. I just wanted to be alone. But I didn’t. I was broken over the fact that I just didn’t have joy in anything. I didn’t even enjoy my child! This broke my heart, but I just couldn’t get out from under the dark cloud that has followed me for so long. So I spoke to a friend, I spoke to my husband and I spoke to my mom. I think that I am depressed. I have no idea who I am anymore, the person that I was has seemed to disappear. I don’t like myself and I don’t want to feel like this anymore. Something is wrong with me. I shouldn’t feel this empty.
So, here I am. I spoke to my midwife on August 8. Explained to her everything, relived moments over the past 10-12 years that made me pause and wonder about depression. I am depressed. I have realized that this is not something that I should be ashamed of. While depression by no means, defines me, it is a part of me. Treatment, generally, is medication, but does not have to be forever, which is positive. I had some bloodwork done and I am currently waiting for results. My midwife thinks that possibly, I may have a dopamine deficiency which would explain my lows and mediums but not “highs” or enjoyment. She is checking for other things as well, like my thyroid and cortisol levels. I also only have one kidney and one adrenal gland which could be problematic as well. The one adrenal gland that I have could be over compensating creating an imbalance. Thursday I find out the results and hopefully will have a bit more insight into my depression. Thursday will also be a week that I have been on medication to hopefully help my brain keep what dopamine I do have, circulating long enough to use it. Instantly, I seemed to feel better. I was lighter. I was not as impatient and angry. The more days that I am on it, the better I feel. By no means am I rainbows and sunshine, but I am seeing more and more of my old self each day.
I know that this is a terribly long post, and if you have made it all the way through, then thank you. I do not seek pity or special treatment, I am not ill. I have held all of this in for so long, that a post like this was a long time coming. I was not prescribed therapy, but in a sense, sharing is therapy. Depression is not a skeleton in the closet, you don’t have to hide it or be ashamed of it. I should have brought this up a long time ago though. If by chance, there is anyone who reads this, and suspects that maybe, the person you are now is not who you REALLY are, and there is a chance you are depressed, there is no shame in seeking help. It is OK to not be OK, but you don’t have to let it be your identity.