Y’all, I’ve been depressed for over a week now. You wouldn’t know it because I’ve been fighting it. What brought it on- I have no idea. Over the last several weeks, I had been crafting, decorating, shopping, and spending time with all the people I love. I was so happy! In fact, last Monday, in preparation for my upcoming psychiatry appointment, I discussed with my husband that I felt perfect– my doctor and I had finally nailed it and I couldn’t wait to tell her that we wouldn’t have to change a thing! Conversations and plan making sounded wonderful. It was so exciting to feel so happy! Two days later, out of nowhere, I felt myself dipping. “How so quickly?” I wondered. I had just had a major depressive episode two months ago, my depression doesn’t hit me that often- at least not when I’m surrounded by the most love and happiness in the world and am on my medication. Why am I depressed again already? I began to think- the only thing different in my lifestyle that I had changed in that timeframe between my last depressive episode and my happiness was one of my severe dependents- alcohol. I had given up drinking alcohol after my last bout with depression. I decided it was best for me to not have alcohol in my house because I could no longer control myself. Consuming alcohol had become my coping mechanism for my depression. I hadn’t realized then that the alcohol abuse was masking the severity and oftenest of my mental health dips. Being sober for the last month has really made me become much more aware of my mental state- the happy days were so great, but I was so on top of my health that I quickly caught on to myself slipping away into another depressive state as soon as it started. A depressive episode is beyond feeling like living in “fight or flight”. Feeling like I’m living in fight or flight mode usually happens when I’m having a bout with anxiety or when my OCD gets so bad that I compulsively do things to rid my mind of the anxiousness. Depression is different. It’s a daily mission to overcome it and survive it. Of course, I’ve racked my brain with what could have set it off this time. Is it grief? The holidays are quickly approaching, am I being hit with a grief wave? Grief for me is sadness and tears and talking through it. I can tell the difference between a grief wave and a major depressive episode. The numbness and lack of interest in life that I experience for a solid week is depression- and it sucks.
The most frustrating aspect of mental illness is that it doesn’t go away forever and your prescribed medication used to treat depression doesn’t always do its job, but just like with any other disease, to successfully treat it, you have to be willing to advocate for your wellbeing. You have to want to feel better. Understanding that even with the right tools, some days will still be a struggle. Even in doing everything right on my part, to battle my depression, I still struggle, but I’ll be damned if I allow myself to become the victim of mental illness. Depression makes me feel miserable. It is the most unwanted feeling in the world. To go from such happiness to riding out the storm of unexplained misery is gut wrenching. It makes me feel physically ill that in a day’s time, my state of being can go from so much joy to waking up depressed. Of course, it can be situational or circumstantial, but what’s so hard to comprehend about it is that I’m surrounded by complete happiness in the midst of my depression. I have an amazing husband and kids, we have what we need, life is good for us, yet I’m still trapped by my mental illness.
The onset of depression is not always very obvious. It can happen so fast that it causes you to weigh out every single thing that it could be, other than depression. Am I getting sick? In this crazy time that we’re going through, I began toying with the thought that maybe I’d contracted COVID. You know, honestly, I’d take one for the team and suffer through COVID any day over depression. At least I’d have a better idea on the timeframe that I’d be feeling down versus battling a bout with depression, not knowing how long it would take for my joyous self to return. I wanted to come up with something else that I could be suffering from, this time, other than depression- that’s how much I hate depression. It crashes my world for no reason. Once I came to the realization that it was, in fact, my depression, Jacob and I discussed it and decided it was time to reach out to my psychiatrist. I needed help. Like I said, I was doing everything right on my part and I was still suffering. Finding the right medication to successfully treat depression is so tricky. On your good days, it’s exciting to feel like you may have finally found the right drug for you, but on your bad days, it’s a hopeless feeling in regards to your medicine. Already, I hate having to be dependent on the plethora of drugs sitting on my nightstand used to treat my depression- when it feels like they’re not helping anything, it makes me want to throw them at the wall. In my conversation with my doctor, I explained exactly how I felt- like an unemotional, walking zombie who had no interest in life at the moment. Christmas is coming, I wanted to be happy. We discussed some issues that I could have been having with my current medication regimen, and, hesitantly, decided to make a quick change to see if it could pick me up until my next visit with her. Messing with your medication regimen is very scary. Most of the time, it takes any antidepressant several weeks to even begin working. Was this medication change going to help me for the time being, or was it going to throw me even more out of whack for, once again, altering the chemicals in my brain as we play the medicine game right before Christmas? Ultimately, my happiness is so important to me that I was willing to take the chance.
Being much more aware of my mental state this go round, I was bound and determined to kick ass as best as I could as I went through it. Slowly climbing out of it now, I look back over the last few days and am so proud of myself for not returning to my habit of drinking alcohol. I didn’t let my depression suck me in this time and leave me bedridden for a week. Of course, the thought of guzzling a whole bottle of wine to drown this shit out crossed my mind, but I was not going there. I’m focusing on bettering myself. I have enough to battle with mental illness, I can’t let the effects of alcoholism begin weathering my body again. Fighting depression requires communication. You can’t successfully hide your depression for very long before it gets the best of you. Acceptance of your mental illness is the first step. Once you can accept it, you quickly realize how much easier it is to talk about. For the sake of my well-being, and those around me, I needed to express exactly how I was feeling. Luckily, my husband is my best friend. He’s investing so much time in trying to understand my mental illness and is learning that in my depressive episodes, not only do I need my tools, I also need some grace. He knew that he needed to lower his expectations of me for the time being. I couldn’t fully participate in day-to-day activities like I wanted to. For the sake of my kids, I was present, but I wasn’t fully participating. Jacob could tell, but I try my best to keep my depression from rearing its ugly head in front of my kids. I can’t imagine how much harder life would be for me if I didn’t have the support of my husband. I appreciate the fact that he has no problem in picking up my slack when he knows I just can’t do it.
Besides communicating with Jacob and reaching out to my doctor about how I was feeling, unlike my last episode, I stuck to plans that were already made. Depression has once before caused me to put things off, leaving things incomplete. It’s caused me to shut myself off to the outside world. Canceling plans during an episode was not out of the ordinary for me. For so long, I’ve allowed my mental illness to control me. It turns me into a person that I know I am not. I used to allow my mind to be boggled with misery and my body to remain still. This go round, even though it felt like hell to do at first, I forced myself to attend a Christmas party that we had been planning on going to. I forced myself to get up several times and not only shower, but put on a full face of makeup and do my hair. I mustered up the strength to do some light cleaning, wrap presents, and cook dinner. It was hard as hell to do, but after doing it, I felt so much more hopeful. I committed myself to helping a friend of mine out at her business. The previous version of myself would have blamed the depression and backed out. Again, in not allowing myself to fall victim to my depression, I pushed through and showed up. How rewarding it felt to be able to stick to my commitment to her. Sadly, when you can’t communicate to those you are closest to, hiding your depression can make you appear selfish. Although you are not, depression causes you to self isolate and shut down. It causes you to lose out on opportunities that you had to give back to so many of those who have stuck by your side when you needed them the most. Unfortunately, I’ve realized that I will likely suffer with Bipolar Disorder for the rest of my life, but through self reflection and God’s grace and the tools necessary to rise above it, I’ve made it my mission to battle it every single day. I’ve accepted the fact that medicine alone will not help me. It’s being open about it and advocating for myself and fighting for my happiness. Bipolar Disorder is not what I want to be defined as. I want to live out the life that God so perfectly planned for me. I want to be an example of what rising above my circumstances looks like. I want to encourage any of you reading this, that may be suffering with depression, that there is hope. Hope lies within your self advocacy. Hope lies within your willingness to accept your struggles and rise above them. Even when I feel like I’ve been dealt the shittiest hand, I still thank God daily for giving me such a beautiful life and the strength to fight it. Depression is hard, but it doesn’t have to define you.