Vicious Cycles

I’ve been struggling the past few weeks.

So I’m going to just come out and say it. I have been diagnosed with clinical depression. There. That’s a whole different kind of exposed, and quite frankly, much harder for me to say out loud and share with everyone than my Exposed post from last week.

I did not just get diagnosed. I got my official diagnosis about 15 years ago. And it’s been an ongoing battle. I don’t like to talk about it for a variety of reasons, partially because I feel like I need to be and appear strong, all the time.  Another reason I don’t like to talk about being depressed is because people think there is something specific that is making me sad.  There is not any one thing that causes me to be depressed.  I wish I knew what caused it.  But I don’t. 

And I should talk about it.

How I first got diagnosed: After about a week of non-stop crying and an actually inability to force or even will myself to get out of bed, I went in to my doctor. I had called in sick to work each day. The only reason I went to the doctor is because it was required by the company. (The company had a policy that if you missed more than 3 days of work, you were required to bring a doctor’s note with you upon your return that you had been seen and an estimated return date.) I don’t think that I would have gone to the doctor otherwise. I was so bad off, that my doctor placed me on state disability and started me on some anti-depressants.

Anti-depressant medication is not a quick fix. It can take a month before their effects are realized.

I was in a relationship at that time, where my boyfriend was completely unsupportive. He could not understand why I laid in bed all day and why I didn’t just get up and go to work. It caused a lot of fights.

After a period of time the medication worked and I was able to continue on with my life.  (Without said unsupportive boyfriend.)

Here’s where the vicious cycle comes into play: Anti-depressants make you feel better. After about a year or two of feeling better, you actually consciously realize how much better you feel, you think to youself, “I feel great! I don’t need these silly pills anymore!” And with that, the medication stops getting taken. For me, within about 2-3 months (sometimes longer, but not generally) after I stop taking the medication, I’m right back in the shadows of depression.

I’m a pretty smart woman, but I fall for this EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

For me, I have not fully admitted to myself that I need to be on medication. That there’s a chemical imbalance that is not any fault of my own. That perhaps I’m genetically disposed to suffering from depression.  I’m still operating under the belief that “I should be stronger.”

Last year this happened. I got back on the medication. I stopped it about 2 months ago. Fortunately, I have an amazingly supportive Knight who is very in tune with me, and loves me very much. I’ve said to him in the last couple days that I wished I would fade away, I made a stupid choice and have no business trying to be a lawyer, and other things that are just simply not true. He told me last night, “This is not you. I don’t recognize this girl”

My fear is, what if this is me? What if who I truly am is a weak crying mess? But I know it’s not. And I can do amazing things. But not when I’m a crying mess.

What are the symptoms of depression? There are many and everyone can experience these symptoms to varying degrees. I’m going to list the symptoms from Mayo Clinic website and then describe how (or if) I’m affected by each one.

Depression symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
    • This is definitely a biggie. One of the frustrating things for me when I feel down, is knowing that I have a good life, and I should not be down. When I’m in the shadows of depression my negative tape (or my inner mean girl) goes non-stop. Then I feel awful because I have a good life, so there is no reason for me to be so sad. I’m very hard on myself. Feeling awful because I feel like I have no good reason to be sad, makes me feel worse. And so the downhill goes, deeper into the shadows of depression.
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
    • Yep. I lose the ability to handle anything. I blow up over silly things. Or things that would seem insignificant if I weren’t in the dark place I am currently in.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
    • I love going to boot camp. I love to run. I have had to force myself to go to boot camp this past week. Working out is super good for depression because working out is a mood enhancer! And I’m always glad that I’ve gone, but I could just as easily stay in bed with the covers over my head all day. Fortunately, my Knight has encouraged me to go to boot camp. I love him for so many reasons.
  • Reduced sex drive
    • Ummm – I do not experience this symptom. (*ever*) Tee hee
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
    • Part of what I deal with is worry. My brain doesn’t shut off. It creates scenarios and what ifs. And then what ifs from there. Things that I know will never (or could never) happen, I’m worrying about. To some degree, I’ve gotten better with this aspect of my depression. But when this is happening, my brain doesn’t shut off, which keeps me awake. I lay in bed for hours awake, creating impossible scenarios in my mind and getting pissed off at myself for not being able to stop thinking and go to sleep. And then I can’t sleep because I’m mad at myself and worrying about things that will never happen. Another vicious cycle.
  • Changes in appetite — depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
    • I’ve lost 30 lbs in the last year. I have been starting to even focus on eating healthier and incorporating fruits and veggies into my daily diet. In the last 4 days I have consumed too many candy bars to count, 3 donuts, chips, fast food and a tub of chocolate frosting. These are my depression foods. And I hide them. From everyone. (well, now you all know.) I need to find a skill or a different behavior when I go into the quicky mart and grab a tub of chocolate frosting. And I am aware when I do it, but have a complete and utter indifference about the crap I’m about to shovel into my mouth.
  • Agitation or restlessness — for example, pacing, hand-wringing or an inability to sit still
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Indecisiveness, distractibility and decreased concentration
    • When I’m in the shadows of depression I cannot focus on anything of importance. I lay on the couch and zone out to mindless TV shows. Even today, I tried to sit down and read for class, I made it about 3 pages and could no longer focus or retain anything I was reading. (this is in addition to the fact that this class is bo-ring and the cases are from the 1800′s…)
  • Fatigue, tiredness and loss of energy — even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
    • The idea of getting off the couch is just too much. I worry about being useless around the house. The dishes need to be done. The floor needs to be swept. Cat box cleaned. And grocery shopping done. I know it needs to be done. I feel like Knight does everything around the house and all I’m doing is laying on the couch like a blob. But still I lay there. It’s just too much for me to process. I have no energy or motivation.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself when things aren’t going right
    • I’m good at this one. Oh, wait, I’m not supposed to be good at it. I do this a lot. Worthlessness: see above. I feel worthless because I don’t make very much money and we are broke. I feel worthless because I don’t feel like I do enough around the house. I fixate on why my dad and step-mom hate me. I must be a bad person, since my own parents don’t like me. I mean who doesn’t at least tolerate their own children? My daughter is pretty wild, but I love her and try to be there for her always. I must be a pretty bad person if my parents won’t at least tolerate me, right? It never actually occurs to me that the problem is with them and not me.
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
    • I just answered that, right? Or am I having trouble remembering? (hee hee, my sense of humor is still intact!)
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason
    • Check.
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
    • So, I’ve been dealing with depression for 15 years and I had no idea that these were symptoms. That’s just crazy. In the last 2 weeks my sciatica has been hurting me so bad that my doctor prescribed me some muscle relaxers. Oh, and the number of migraines I’ve had in the last month is off the charts. Now I know that both of these are likely to be attributed to depression.
    • I wrote this a few days before finding this list of symptoms: “I’m feeling pretty lost right now. I’m in pain, emotionally and physically. And generally for me the emotional pain flares up in direct response to the physical pain. It’s like I’m feeling weak already and my Inner Mean Girl just takes complete advantage of my weakness.” Wow – so both the physical and emotional pain I’ve been feeling are a direct result of depression.

    For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it’s obvious something isn’t right. Others people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

    Depression affects each person in different ways, so depression symptoms vary from person to person. Inherited traits, age, gender and cultural background all play a role in how depression may affect you.

Wow. It was very therapeutic and eye opening to go through each of these symptoms and write how I am affected by them.

Two nights ago, I started back on my medication. I started tracking my food again yesterday and even ran 3 miles on my treadmill. While it takes a couple weeks (sometimes up to a month for certain medications) for anti-depressant medication to start working, I feel like I’ve taken some control and am feeling a bit better.

If you think you may be depressed, I urge you to talk to your doctor, or a therapist.  If you don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to who understands what you are going through, please feel free to email me.  Feeling alone in addition to being depressed is not a good combination. 

*Update* – I started writing this on Tuesday.  It’s now Saturday.  I tracked for 2 days and went over on my calories.  I’m still eating crap.  I’m terrified to see how much weight I’ve gained.  Today is not a good day.  Where a few days ago I felt a bit better, today is not one of those days.  It is very difficult to deal with this, for me, my Knight and my son.  I know that once the medication begins to work (in a couple weeks), the days will consistently be better. 

7 comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow. This could have been written by me. Word for word. My problem is that I haven't stopped taking my medication and the symptoms are getting worse again. I hate feeling like this. I hate spiraling out of control, unable to concentrate and get things done. I can't even force myself to exercise because I am that tired. The headaches are out of control here, too. And if it weren't for my kids I wouldn't get out of bed in the mornings. If I didn't have to take my son to school I probably wouldn't even get dressed. I've been trying to write a post about it too but I can't seem to put the words to computer screen. I am so tired emotionally, physically, mentally. When does it ever stop? I don't want to be like this. I want to be happy again. And right now I'm just not.

    • Anonymous says:

      1. You are not alone. You have written proof of that.

      2. If your meds are not working, I would say that you should contact your doctor. Maybe they need to be switched.

      3. I totally know what you mean about your kids being the only reason you get out of bed or out of PJs. Totally.

      4. I know we've never met IRL – but I love you! You are amazing and strong! Email or IM me anytime!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I am so proud of you for writing about something that so many people sweep under the rug as "just being sad".

    My sister suffers from clinical depression. When she was diagnosed, her then-husband was less than supportive. It took her a long time to get to where she is today…which is better.

    The strength you show in this post is undeniable. You are loved, woman. I hope you know that.

  3. Brooke F says:

    thanks for sharing this, i'm sure i couldn't have been easy. and its helpful for those of us who aren't sure to see how the symptoms can manifest, especially fighting the "well everyone feels this way…" mentality.

  4. Kirsten says:

    ((hugs)) my friend. You are brave to put this out there. But I think it's good for *you* to also see these things. To know it's not all in your head. You are a strong, smart, beautiful person.

  5. Dear Beki…wow. You and I are a lot alike and sadly we are not alone. After Anthony was born, his father went off the deep end with drugs and alcohol and decided he wasn't an addict anymore. I have never experienced depression/panic attacks/anxiety attacks until 2001. I couldn't figure it out, yes, my hormones were all over the place from just having a baby but I too am a strong woman and I thought I would just "get through it" but I didn't, it got worse. My hair fell out, I was crying ALL the time, I couldn’t sleep, I felt like I was in a deep dark hole and no one could see me. I felt invisible. Being in Cali was great because I went to my doctor who I had when I was 16 until the age of 25 and she was the one who got me started on antidepressants. After three weeks I started to feel a difference and noticed a glimmer of my old self coming back. Then I looked up depression on the internet and researched it. I realized that it WAS a chemical imbalance and it wasn’t just me being weak. That was hard for me too. I have always prided myself on being independent and my inner strength and suddenly I was relying on a little pill to “feel better”. I didn’t like the thought of that AT ALL. In conjunction to a visit to my medical doctor I found a great woman therapist to talk to. So every week I took my big heavy 4 month old on a bus to see her. After being on meds for about a year I thought I was “fine” and back on track and I could stop. WRONG. I was a blubbering crying mess and that heavy feeling of darkness was swallowing me again. That frightened me more than the thought of needing to be on medication so I went back on them. Over the years I have had to change meds because after being on Paxil for 5 or 6 years it just stopped working. I also learned that even though other people were warning me about Paxil and how horrible it was for THEM, it was working for ME. I also learned that after Paxil I tried a couple other meds I did not like the side effects I knew it wasn’t working for me. Trial and error SUCKS but once you get the one that works, its life changing. The grass is green again. I have done A LOT of research and I have always asked my doctors TONS of questions. I would even bring in my questions on paper and WROTE down the answers so I wouldn’t forget. I have always been one to did my own research and I don’t just take whatever the doctor gives me. I have always paid close attention to my body and how it responds to anything I put in it. I am totally ok with being on meds now and I just look at like my mom who has had high blood presser my entire life (it runs in my family) and she has always had to take medicine for it, there is no shame in that.
    Beki, be kind to yourself. Remember you are not alone and there isn’t a quick fix. Remember to BREATHE. You are exercising A LOT and it sounds like lately you’re eating habits are all over the map AND that’s OK. ONE THING AT A TIME. Just do the best you can do in the moment. Once your meds are under control everything else will fall into place. Once you get your foundation stable, the Beki you know to be you will shine again. I know that feeling of not feeling like yourself and it doesn’t feel good.
    Let’s make a deal to always remind each other to cut ourselves some slack. To be kind to ourselves. Sound good? xoxo

  6. [...] but I also suffer from clinical depression.  I’ve written about depression and it’s vicious cycle before.  But depression affects so many people.  Some people may not know this, but depression [...]

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