Sunday, October 9, 2011

Depression is not for Wimps

August and September have vanished. All of the sudden it's fall, and yards are beginning to be decorated with pumpkins and dancing skeletons. I missed the end of summer because a dark haze of depression took over. When I finished school I got a serious case of the blues, which I was told pretty much everybody feels when they finish grad school. So I didn't worry about it to much. I figured I was worn out from stress and the energy it took driving back and forth to San Francisco for classes and then studying every day. But instead of getting better, my feelings of futility and fatigue got worse. By July I was fighting inertia just to get out of bed. By August, I was dreaming of killing myself. And then when I wanted to cut my wrists with the knife I was using to chop an onion, I knew I had to get help. This wasn't just post-grad school angst. This was full on, life-threatoning, depression with a capitol "D".

So began the trials of finding the right medication. The first one my doctor prescribed made me manic and gave me such horrible panic attacks the first week I couldn't leave the house. I became agitated and couldn't eat. I guess some people pay good money for Crank to feel like this, but I hated it. After three weeks when the side effects didn't go away, I called my doctor and asked for something different. Problem is, none of the SSRI's work for me; Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa... out. That meant trying a new class of anti-depressents which of course, my insurance wouldn't cover. Oh well, I can't spend my days wishing I was dead. Makes it hard to get anything done.

Now I'm on a different medication which seems to be working well, other than feeling like an idiot half the time. My short term memory is terrible and it can be hard to stay focused. The first week I was so stoned I just sat outside and stared at the leaves on the trees all day. Luckily that wore off, and the fatigue is better, but I still feel like an elderly person who forgot why she went into a certain room.

And while all this was going on, I started my new job. I am officially an Orientation and Mobility teacher, which is exciting, and stressful. I'm trying to learn all the procedures and paperwork required to do my job, let alone teach. Luckily I only work part time. When I started this new medication I decided I shouldn't be driving children anywhere, let alone my own kid, so I missed half a day of work. But overall, I'm managing.

This has been a real test of my will-power; first I fought to keep myself from doing anything stupid, then I had to deal with overwhelming side effects, all while taking care of Queen Teen and starting a new job. My husband has been wonderful and really supportive, and the few friends I told about my depression have been incredible. One friend drove all the way up here from Petaluma just to take me out to lunch. And now my father is here, helping with child care and keeping me from brooding.

I feel that I am on the mend and finding my strength again, but it can feel like failure when you hit this level of depression, like I can't "hack it." I beat myself up for my apparent "weakness." Just like any medical issue, though, sometimes it takes accepting that you need help and taking medication to become well again.

I am Wonder Woman! Super Mom! I don't need no stinking medication to keep me sane.

Yeah, I do.

Please, if you're feeling like I did and are too ashamed to admit it, remember that you're not alone. Many people have major depression, even someone like me who people think is so "together." Get help. Don't wait so long that you get the impulse to kill yourself. It takes a lot of strength to go to your doctor and admit you are miserable, far more strength than jumping off the Golden Gate bridge. It takes courage to stick around and work toward wholeness. Depression is not for wimps.


Heidi said...

the thoughts that you are a wimp for taking meds is the depression talking. there's such a roar of negative thoughts in the head that no matter what you do, you feel like the lamest person in the world. you could win the nobel prize and still think that you sucked. it's what makes it so hard to get treatment in the first place. i've been on medication for several years. it was an absolute necessity as i was completely dysfunctional. i feel your pain. i am lucky in that i respond well to anything involving serotonin reuptake. it's much harder to treat when you have to explore the other anti-depressant classes. thinking good thoughts for you and am glad that you got treatment. it's the only way to get better.


SO beautifully said, Terena. My Mom suffers from depression, and it can be so hard to watch from the outside, too. I think it's awesome that you both got the help that you needed, AND shared how you did it. The more people that read this, the better. You know, you CAN be Wonder Woman and take medication. You're proof. xoxo

RobinH said...

If your leg was broken, would you feel like a wimp for getting the bone set and a cast put on it? Of course not! And when your brain chemistry is not working properly, then getting medication to fix it is the right thing to do.

I spent years cycling between feeling crappy most of the time inspersed with periods of wanting to kill myself before I got medication, and it makes a huge difference. Good for you for taking steps to deal with it! And extra kudos for sticking it through the trials of finding the right medication. I'm not sure I would have if the first one hadn't worked for me.

Terena said...

thank you so much for the comments and support. I'm not feeling like such a wimp anymore. Instead, I'm slowly feeling better about myself and life. Meds are good! :-)

x-ray iris said...

Read the first paragraph and then popped straight down to say - I'm so glad you're back! I've been wondering.

Terena said...

I'm very glad to be back, iris. Thanks.

Kim said...

I'm glad you asked for help and took it. I have a friend who struggles with mild depression, but won't ask for help. She even acknowledges that meds could help and that she deserves the help, but she can't quite take that next step. I think because she's been struggling with this for so long, she's forgotten what life is like without the depression. She thinks she should be able to "get over it".
I'm impressed with the strength it must take to get to the doctor and to talk about this. Those side effects alone sound hard.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to say good for you!

I am on a medication called Seroquil that helps me so much, but I have to take it at night because it causes EXTREME fatigue and I also forget stuff and grope for words, but it is better than the alternative!