October is Depression and Mental Health Awareness Month. And tomorrow October 10, 2008 is National Depression Screening Day. So in honor of this day I am going to share my experiences with this disease.
Depression is something that has been surrounding me for most of my life. When I was younger it didn't have a name. But looking back I can name it now. One of the most outstanding memories for me was when I was 7 yrs old. I remember sitting with my legs dangling out my 2nd story window. I remember thinking that my family would be better off without me around.
My preteen and teenage life was a series of " I don't knows" and "I don't cares" to questions. It was a feeling of not belonging. It was thrusting myself into school. Being too hard on myself for anything less than 100%. It was putting a smile on my face and pretending everything was wonderful. And it worked. I think I hid my feelings well for the most part. I appeared happy. Sometimes I could talk myself into actually being happy, after all I had no real reason to be unhappy.
Sometime after I graduated highschool things started to go downhill. Anxiety and panic attacks crept in. I couldn't hide it anymore. Paul was left with a shell of a girl who never smiled and sat there with a bottle of pills in her hand. It took some time to find a medicine that didn't cause my problems to get worse. But I couldn't shake the guilt for being on meds for something like this. I heard a lot of "why can't you just be happy?" -there is a lot of disbelief that this is a real condition.
-but she just couldn't stand it when I 'd explain that nothing at all was wrong, that it was just a matter of everything. ~ Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
So I survived. I made it through my first year of college with a full course load and a 4.0 GPA. I signed up for a full course load summer semester too. I was back to putting on a happy face and burying myself in work. If I didn't stop, the negative feelings wouldn't creep back into my mind. 2nd year of college began and I was failing fast. And everything came to a complete hault one night, in December of 1999. I can't remember now what happened. We were getting ready for bed. I was upset about something. I went into the bathroom and saw the razor. There wasn't any hesitation when I started cutting. Superficial. It wasn't about suicide. It was about giving real pain and real scars to the real pain I was feeling that no one could see and some wouldn't awknowledge. Within 2 days I was completely addicted. All I could think about was cutting. I couldn't concentrate at work. I was hospitalized for a few days. Meds were changed. I was released. Nothing much had changed other than 5 days without a razor was enough to break my cycle. I dropped all my classes and withdrew from the university.
The plain fact of it was that I was miserable- though my misery wasn't so much sadness as it was a shrieking unease, a gnawing despair, which I had been trying that morning to cut out of myself. ~ The Skin Game, by Caroline Kettlewell
So I gradually recovered. I cut a few more times but it never got as bad as it had been. Meds helped, I found a psychologist that I could sort of talk to. And I was off meds by the time we concieved our first child. With Rylan I had no apparent problems, with Cale I had PPD. With Cohen I got PPD even worse- I was on meds before he was born. I fought meds each time. I hated the fact that I needed to be medicated to be a good mom. With Lakin I was back on meds by the time I reached the end of my 1st trimester. But I sucessfully weaned off of them before he was born and haven't been back since.
I still struggle. I still put on a happy face. I still fight the urge to cut. I will the rest of my life. Depression is real. You can't just snap out of it. You can't just choose to be happy. It's a powerful disease that is unspoken and dismissed a lot of the time.
So to anyone out there that is living with depression or hiding depression. Get help. Find a medication, a homeopatic remedy that works for you, a person you can talk to. Don't hide it. Don't feel guilty that you have no real reason to be unhappy. And if you are living with someone who has, or you think may be suffering with depression. Listen to them and don't try to fix them. And the 2 books I quoted above Prozac Nation and The Skin Game helped me immensly. Reading the words of someone who has felt what I felt.....it made it real.
There are several types of depression -- major depression, dysthymia, bipolar depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Clinical depression or major depression is a serious and common disorder of mood that is pervasive, intense and attacks the mind and body at the same time. Current theories indicate that clinical depression may be associated with an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that carry communications between nerve cells that control mood and other bodily systems. Other factors may also come into play, such as negative life experiences including stress or loss, medication, other medical illnesses, and certain personality traits and genetic factors.
Symptoms of depression:
Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Restlessness or irritability
Inability to sleep or oversleeping
Changes in appetite or weight
Unexplained aches and pains
Thoughts of death or suicide