I just read the title of an article written by Heather Armstrong from Dooce.com – “I CANT: this is what depression feels like”. I thought that was a pretty good way to sum up a very complex subject in a very succinct and simple way.
I personally don’t remember all that much during the worst times of my dalliance with depression. Considering at a certain point I slept 20 hours a day, I guess there was not much conscious time to remember! But, I do remember just not being able to function and the words “I can’t” repeatedly being howled from my lips. My mind wouldn’t work, I couldn’t remember anything, my muscles wouldn’t work properly (even a trip to the bathroom was a mission!) and I’d spend the rest of the time watching day time television (cause those were the days of my life) or begging to go back to sleep.
As time progressed and the sleeping hours reduced to 16 hours a day things became very weird. We were trialling a lot of medications with some funky side effects – to this day I believe that some of those side effects still linger, such as my non-existant memory, but they were a necessary evil at that time. I was trying to hold down my job, which was not only very stressful, but with little downtime when you sleep 16 hours a day, there was little fun to be found in a day. Seriously, the only life I had was watching people on TV have a “life”!
I don’t know if it was the day time TV or the copious amounts of red wine I would consume to try to keep myself awake but I started creating little drama’s in my own head and would berate my husband about things that never actually happened. I honestly believed that these “things” had occurred – truly bizarre – and don’t get me started on the late night phone calls and desperate texting. I was extremely lucky to have my husband, some true friends and family around me at that time because it is a very difficult thing to understand if you have not been through it yourself. Even then, whilst you are going through it, you can’t comprehend it yourself.
So how do you explain something like that to other’s around you? When they see you, you seem perfectly fine, maybe sometimes a shell of the person you used to be, but you look OK, talk OK, function OK. What they don’t know or haven’t seen are the never ending days where you can’t function, talk, think or even wake up in my case. Why is it, that where you can, you hide it? Considering it is so prevalent in our society (1 in 4 people will experience it) I don’t understand this, but yet, I tried my best to hide it. At work for a very long time, we kept it secret from my team. Stupid really because worse than ignorance and not understanding is having your team think their Manager couldn’t care less about them and feels it’s OK to take lots of time off, so much so they wonder if you’ll bother to turn up again at all.
People want a cause for your depression and oddly you do yourself. Why can’t the fact that you have a chemical imbalance in your brain suffice? I don’t understand fully why one person has an addictive personality or someone else gets diabetes but I do understand that it is true and accept that. I understand that during menopause, even PMS, the hormones and chemicals can do amazing things to your body physically and mentally, so why cant I get my head around the fact that the chemicals and hormones in my body went ‘whacko’ for a certain time and I needed something to get the balance right like all other diseases?
I honestly do believe that the depression I went through stemmed from my food chemical intolerances. Getting sick all the time with no cause or cure, being made to feel like you were a hypochondriac and being told over again that it’s “in your head”, or “it’s just you” can get to you. Having said that, I am also predisposed to depression due to a family history, yes there were a number of horrid life events happening at the time, but I think when your energy is depleted by the toxins in your system, you have little left to fight with. There are many out there who would say they have been through worse times and didn’t end up in a heap and there are many who went through much less and ended up the same – as I said previously, I don’t know why all smoker’s don’t end up with lung cancer, but some do, some don’t.
So today I continue to live with the ghosts of the past and keeping those food chemical intolerances in check. It is still a struggle to balance your health and other areas of your life when the health side of it takes up so much of your precious time and energy, but I am getting there day by day. I just have to get better at the balancing act on the other areas of life to compensate for the health bit until the health bit becomes just another ball in the air.
If you have lived through depression are you able to articulate what you went through or are living through?
What are the coping mechanisms you use(d) to manage to get on with your life?