Somewhere along the way, in the last year, I got very depressed. The kind of depressed that makes the world feel cruelly small and intense. Last year was a hard year for me. My grandmother almost died, causing me to deal for the first time in my life with issues of death and aging that I had always been protected from. I learned how to shop for a nursing home. I hope you never have to do that. The sick and frail are sadly trying to live out their lives in dignity, but the exasperating truth is that most of them won't live more than six months. Once you're in, you have a death sentence. And my grandmother was in. She is a special woman, though. A tough woman, like very few I have ever known. She made it out. But at the same time, a dear family friend, one of my "uncles," had a heart attack. He too made it out. Then, near Christmas, our luck gave way. Another uncle, in Minnesota for his father's funeral, had a heart attack while shoveling snow, fell, and hit his head. The heart attack didn't kill him, but the head injury did. It was a crushing blow to my family. He was a vibrant, happy man, who made everyone feel special and loved. He cooked Thanksgiving dinner for us every year. All 20-something of us! It was his holiday. We all took his death hard. Then, just a few weeks later, another member of our extended family had a heart attack. His heart attack was fatal. His funeral was on New Year's Eve. It was a sad, and brutal ending to a very difficult year.
I thought I was ok, though. I moved on. I ignored my problems at work. My grandmother was doing better, I had put my other family behind me. Left those tragedies in 2005. But then, due to some health issues that seemed to be aggrevated by the Ortho Evra birth control patch, I went off birth control on my doctors orders for 2 months beginning in March. I had not been off of it in 8 years. My body had not made its own hormones in all that time. The shock to my body, the drastic change in hormone levels, left my body unable to cope. All of the stressors I had handled with some sense of dignity suddenly came crashing down around me. Everything I thought was behind me suddenly came out in my life. In depression. I fell hard and fast into a state I have never experienced. I have been down before. A bad break up, my dad's cancer surgery. Those things would upset me, but I could see a light at the end of the tunnel and get through it. Suddenly, the tunnel was pitch black.
Two months went by, and having never been depressed before, I had no idea what was wrong with me. I told my doctor, and she said my hormones would level out. Then at the two month mark, she put me on NuvaRing. NuvaRing is a wonderful product. My health problems that seemed to be aggrevated by Ortho Evra suddenly disappeared. But it is a low hormone birth control, and it did nothing to give my body back the hormones it was missing. I continued to be depressed. I was angry and frustrated. I couldn't stand to listen to anyone else complain, I couldn't find humor in my friends' jokes. I couldn't see a reason to do much of anything except watch TV and sleep.
My depression started hurting my friendships. Long time friends, for whatever reason, couldn't see what was wrong. They didn't understand that I needed help, and instead, they were irritated with me, and my strange behavior. I didn't talk to the people who would understand, my longtime girlfriends who lived out of state, because they were all dealing with huge life events that made my problems seem ridiculous in comparison. I let my anger and resentment and sadness fester. It continued to grow, and eventually grew to the point where one friend, who has always tormented me since high school began taking my irritability and turning it on me. He knew my buttons and he would poke, poke, poke until I blew. And he would make me blow in front of my friends, making my company even that much less desirable. His reasons for doing this are still a mystery to me, but I can't help but think he somehow enjoyed it. Enjoys
Finally, about a month and a half ago, Jenny confronted me. She told me I needed help. She told me there was really something wrong. I agreed, but I was so down, I couldn't see anything that would help. Everything looked hopeless. Then I had a breakdown. At a bar no less. I broke down, bawling. I was crying over a guy I didn't even care about. It was the only thing I could express though, and that was how it came out.
The following Monday, I called my doctor. I told her I couldn't take it anymore, and that we had to do something. She told me I could go off of the NuvaRing and see if that helped, but that it might just make it worse. She said I could go back to the patch, but I nixed that because my fear of my health problems coming back was more upsetting than depression. And then finally, she said, I could try an antidepressant. I questioned her over and over again about making sure this could be a temporary thing. I did not want to be dependant on a drug for my emotions. I did not want to be that girl that people talk about behind her back, "she must be on/off her meds, today," caddy and misunderstanding. But, I really felt at that point that if I could just get to some smooth sailing for a few months, fix my friendships, get some motivation back, that I could get through this, so I told her, ok. I would try it. She called in a three month prescription for Wellbutrin, and I have been taking it for the last month and a half.
In just a few days I started to feel better. My problems didn't seem so hopeless. I felt like I could handle my life again. After a few weeks, I felt so good that I thought talking to someone might help me even more. That maybe, I could work out some of my longstanding issues with my father and my tortutous friend. So, for the last month, I have been seeing a psychologist once a week. She lets me vent, and gives me direction, and helps me find solutions to that week's problems. It is like talking to my mother, but without the daughterly bias. She helps me see why other people do the things they do, and how I should react around
what they do instead of reacting to
what they do. That I should look for solutions to problems instead of immediately getting defensive. That I am NOT always the problem. That who I am is a good person, and a good friend, with good intentions, who simply needs to think first and react second. And react more passively. When my friend pushes my buttons, I need to give him dead ends instead of the wind up handle to my jack-in-the-box. If he has no where to go, no more buttons to poke, then he won't bother me.
These may seem like simple lessons, but until you meet you my father, you will never know how difficult they are for me. How much energy I have to put into reacting differently to my friend and to my father. But whether or not it will change their actions has yet to be seen. In the meantime, it is making me feel better. More in control. Less controlled.
I finally, for the first time in a long time feel like my life is becoming mine again. It no longer belongs to the demons in the closet. I had lost control of the one thing that was most important to me. I had lost my sense of self. My inner geek, my inner passion for life and achievement.
I am telling you all of this because, well, I need to. I am not looking for sympathy, I just needed to tell the hardest story of my life. Depression doesn't have to be caused by a tragic event. In fact, in my life, I usually handle those events with a great deal of grace. Depression can be caused by the little things. And it doesn't make it any less painful, or any less important.
But the most important lesson I can give you, is pay attention to your friends. If something seems wrong, ask. Check on them. Ask about their lives. Don't let them slip away. Make sure they know they can come to you when there is a problem, because the loneliest place in the world is your own head.