Back in late-October, Hubby and I did a three-day ride to celebrate his birthday. We left home on Friday and rode roughly south and west in the mountains of Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. When we left Mount Airy, North Carolina on Sunday morning, temps were in the 30s and there was frost on my motorcycle. So the ride was a bit chilly.
For the most part, the cold didn’t bother me. But, after about six or so hours, when we stopped for gas outside Charlottesville, Virginia, I realized was a bit chilled. I could function okay, but the cold had definitely settled into my bones. We took the highway from there to Culpeper, which took about an hour. During that hour-long, 70+ mph ride, I got really cold. I didn’t realize just how cold until we stopped. When I got off of my motorcycle, I was so cold and stiff that I fell right on my ass. Literally. Thanks to my protective gear, I was uninjured.
That hour-long ride is a good metaphor for my mental outlook over the past year or so. I’d been sort of down for a long time. By the end of last year, it had really settled in. Once Spring rolled around, I realized I was more down than usual, but I attributed that to the whole seasonal/winter blues things, and figured it would go away. But it didn’t. And, with other stuff going on — external stressors — I didn’t notice. I kept right on coping, functioning day to day. As the year progressed, my mood slowly darkened.
Finally, in early November, I realized I needed help.
I’m not a big sharer of feelings. I never have been. But a friend’s recent confession revealing a struggle with depression inspired me to share a bit here.
I’ve actually been plagued by clinical depression to varying degrees for as long as I can remember. Few people know that. Even fewer realize just how bad it can get.
On one hand I’m amazed that I didn’t realize sooner what was going on. On the other, I’m not surprised at all. Depression really is like a big, strong, intelligent, cunning, sneaky monster. It eats away at you in small bits and bites, dribs and drabs, infecting you with self-doubt and loathing, sapping your physical strength. The worse it gets, the more effort it takes to get through every day, the more exhausted you become, mentally and physically.
It’s a vicious cycle. Really.
Depression affects people in different ways. It’s not as much sadness as it is a general numbness. In short, you just stop caring. About everything. You withdraw from people. You don’t do the things you used to enjoy or, if you do, you don’t enjoy them as much or at all. And that makes you dislike yourself even more.
Here’s an interesting article on how people hide depression, which explains things better than I seem to be doing.
Don’t feel bad if you never noticed. I’ve struggled with depression off and on for so long that I’ve learned to cope rather well. I’ve become an expert when it comes to hiding the issue from everyone else. I am a master of disguise.
Sometimes it is triggered by a specific event — death of a loved one, fight with a spouse, argument with a friend, etc. — and/or resolves itself pretty quickly. Other times, the bad spells come on slowly, over an extended period. They can last longer, too. Much longer, especially if unrecognized/undiagnosed.
Depression is not always the result of a specific incident, though. It really is just a chemical imbalance in the brain that more often than not worsens slowly, like an all-encompassing, pervasive, shroud of darkness. It’s sneaky, too. Which is why I didn’t recognize it for what it was until November! (Looking back, I can see it’s been going on for at least a year, maybe longer, and that sort of pisses me off.)
Fortunately, it’s only been really bad on a few occasions, requiring antidepressant medication to correct the chemical imbalance in my brain.
How do you tell someone you’re depressed without sounding like a whiner? Especially when you are already in a mental fog, with little desire to even bother speaking to anyone else much less trying to explain how you feel. How you can feel so bad when you look fine? When there’s nothing really tangible to be “sad” about. When nothing obvious or explainable has happened to trigger it? Why tell someone you know won’t understand where you barely have enough energy for the admission, and won’t be able to explain, which will literally make you feel even worse?
The mind really can be a crazy place.
Recognizing — finally!!! — what has been going on was actually a relief. I’m not a terrible person after all. The screwed up chemical stew in my brain is just making me think I’m terrible.
Luckily, meds seem to work for me. But it takes time. Assuming you get the right medication and/or the correct dosage strength, it could be 4-6 weeks until you start feeling normal again. Usually it takes a bit longer.
I am starting to feel a little better.
I didn’t write this to worry people. Or to make it a topic of general conversation. I guess I thought it might help explain why I don’t read everyone’s blogs as often as I used to. Why I don’t call people. Why I’ve been going to greater than usual lengths to avoid crowds. Why I really don’t leave the house much. Heck, I don’t even send text messages or e-mails as often as I used to. I don’t keep up with Facebook. Getting out of the house to walk the dogs every night has even become a regular mental wrestling match. I don’t do much of anything, really. Motivation is really, really scarce.
I can’t really even think about Christmas. I have barely done any shopping. Hubby dragged the decorations out of the basement and was even going to do all of the decorating himself, which he hates, but I managed to get that done at least.
I could say he guilted me into it, but he didn’t. Having stuff in all the wrong places would have been worse than having no decorations at all. LOL.
I HAVE managed to watch nine-and-a-half whole seasons of NYPD Blue over the last two months, though. (Did I mention that I don’t sleep much?) My mind wanders more easily when I am reading. Watching TV seems to quiet those demons in my head more effectively. You know, those demons that tell me I’m a loser, worthless, ugly, a horrible mother, a lousy friend, stupid, a terrible daughter, forgetful, fat, uninteresting, etc., etc., etc.
There really is a monster or monsters in my head. But I think he/they have finally been caged. I believe I’m on the mend. I guess we’ll have to wait and see…