Saturday, October 29, 2016

I think I'm depressed. Now what?

This is my hand, on an especially difficult day. I needed the reminder.

A few months ago, I opened my Facebook to read this message: 
"Sorry this is so random but I don't know who else to turn to since no one else really talks about mental health and I'm desperate at this point..."
For the last 6 years, I have been very open about my struggles with depression. My friends know that I'm a safe person to talk to about their own depressive feelings, and they hope that I can give them some guidance. So I've created this guide as a place for you to start on your journey to healing.

Step 1: Breathe

Breathe. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let it out. Then tell yourself  "this is a problem with chemicals in my brain. I am not broken, I am not garbage, I am just sick." There is nothing shameful about having depression, just like there's nothing shameful about having cancer, or an ulcer, or anemia. Everyone knows that you didn't ask for this illness, and you did nothing to cause it. Sometimes, our bodies are just stupid and need to be put in time out. I want you to know that
you're already winning the fight
simply by putting a name to your feelings. You can't fight what you refuse recognize.

Step 2: Call your doctor

The receptionist will ask why you need to see the doctor. All you have to say is "I think I'm depressed". Then schedule an appointment, and DON'T MISS IT. And then comes the really hard part: you have to tell your doctor the truth. If you're spending 18 hours a day in bed, tell him. If you're thinking of killing yourself, tell him. Your doctor can not help you if you lie about your symptoms. Most likely, your physician will prescribe an anti-depressant. Fill that prescription immediately and take your medication according to your doctor's instructions, without fail

Step 3: Identify Your Support Group

Your support group can consist of whomever you choose: family, friends, neighbors, religious leaders; anyone whom you can trust. (My support group consists of my parents, siblings, husband, and a few friends.) These are the people with whom you can be totally honest. This is really important: you have to be able to tell your support group when you need help, which means you have to be honest with them about what's going on inside your head. No one can help you if you lie about how you're feeling. 

Step 4: Mandatory Reading

Between today and whenever your appointment is, you have some homework. You need to do some reading, and then you need to share these reading assignments with your support group. I don't know any of the people who wrote these posts, and they don't know me either. But these are the posts which have helped me survive the darkest days of my life, and I fall back on them when I start to slide back into a depressive episode. These posts and websites gave me the words to express to others what was happening inside my brain. You need to have the words, too.

1. Hyperbole and a Half - Depression Part 1
2. Hyperbole and a Half - Depression Part 2
3. The Bloggess - You'll Get Through This
4. Project Semicolon
5. But You Don't Look Sick - The Spoon Theory

Step 5: Depression is a Lying Bitch (and other useful hashtags)

Yes, you read that right. Depression is a lying bitch. Some of you may balk at the idea of using such a harsh word, maybe you don't even say that word at all. But I think it's necessary to give yourself the right perspective about this illness. Why do people use the word "bitch"? To offend. To demean, to belittle, to disparage. I have no sympathy for depression, and I'm not interested in protecting it. I intend to belittle and demean it; if I do, I can remind myself that I am in charge of my body, depression is not. So, this is your new mantra. This is what you tell yourself when you feel hopeless. 

When your depression sneaks up and whispers 
"They'd all be better off without you, you know. You're basically the worst mom of all time, and if you left, your husband could remarry someone who'd be way better than you are. She'd probably be thinner, too."
that's when you look it in the face and remind yourself:
depression is a lying bitch,
and I have no time for lying bitches in my life. 
This is such an important step in your recovery. If you can recognize that these thoughts are lies, and absolutely not true, then you can learn to not let these thoughts dictate your actions.

If #depressionisalyingbitch is the hashtag for depression's influence, #winning is the hashtag for our victories. Let me be clear, you are the only person who gets to decide what counts as a win. Sometimes, I feel like I'm winning when I take all four of my kids to the zoo by myself and enjoy a beautiful day with my beautiful babies. Other times, I feel like a winner when I pull myself out of bed and take a shower. Double win if I shave my legs. #winning is not about other people, it is about your victories over your depression.

And here's why it's super important to have a support group: because if you're honest with them about how dark you're feeling, they'll all cheer for you when you accomplish any win, no matter how tiny. (And if they don't cheer for you, get a new support group.)

If you'd broken your leg in six places, had to have surgery, a cast, and then physical therapy, you'd cheer and be so excited when you took one baby step while holding on to a walker. Right? Well, your brain is broken. And you're in surgery right now; trying to fix the problem. Soon, you'll be taking baby steps which may seem trivial to the world, but are really difficult for you. Those are wins, and you have every right to celebrate them.

If you're in the hole, if your world is dark and lonely and sad, please ask for help. There are so many people in the world who love you, and need you to be healthy and present. Reach out to your support group, call your doctor, and remember that 
you won't feel this way forever. 

If you need immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Thoughts From A Crazy Person

It's no secret that I suffer from depression. I've discussed how I have to take my anti-depressants every day to remain normal.

Well, sometimes those drugs work a little too well, and I think "Huh. I'm doing pretty dang well!" and then I stop taking them.

Sigh. Will I ever learn?

Because I was doing well. And after I stop taking my meds, I still do well for about four weeks. And then reality sets in. My brain has depleted my extra stores of serotonin and I'm screwed. 

Yesterday was the day that reality set in. "How can a crazy person tell that she's crazy", you ask? By listening to her inner monologue. Here's mine from yesterday:

My stomach growls
Rational Me: Hm. It's been four hours since I ate breakfast. It's lunch time. I should eat.
Irrational Me: No, you shouldn't eat. You're fat and you deserve to feel this discomfort of hunger.
Rational Me: Um, no..that doesn't really make sense. Let's be rational here..

It was at this point in my inner monologue that I laughed out loud, dropped what I was doing, and ran to the kitchen to find my Zoloft. 

I may never be able to live without medication, but at least I can recognize when I need it. The first step of recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?