I have referenced in past posts my battle with depression as a direct result of the major changes that have happened in my life over the last eleven months. To tell you the story of how I managed to pick myself back up, I have to take you back several years, because if it were not for those events I would not have been able to recognize the problems of today.
In the late summer of 2002, a year plus out of college, I was working on the line of a screen printing company. I had taken the job hoping that someday I would be able to get upstairs into their graphics department. The chances, I had recently learned, were extremely thin. I had called or walked into every design firm I could find in the phone book in both Boston and Burlington and they all said the same thing: We want someone with experience. With two jobs I was struggling to make ends meet, I was struggling in the relationship part of my life, and I was grappling with the fact that, in my eyes, I was a disappointment to my parents and a complete failure. One day I got up to go to work, loathing life. I showered, got dressed, and then I sat down on the couch and could not get up. I physically could not move. I just stared at the floor.
It was this experience that made me realize this past spring that I was dealing with more than I could handle on my own and if I did not get help soon, I would end up on the couch again. For months I had been feeling irritable, I was constantly yelling at the dog and just about everything bothered me. Then I began to feel down, but I contributed that to the smoggy winter weather, lack of sleep and not getting outside as much. By early spring it took all my strength just to accomplish everyday tasks. When I would put Noah down for a nap, I would have to sit on the couch, feeling so worn out and unmotivated that I did not want to move.
At first it was hard to sit across from a total stranger and talk to them, even though I had done it before. I am a pretty guarded person and airing my feelings is not something I often do. Nor do I like to talk about myself, which seems ironic to say as I write this. Ever so slowly, though, I began to learn a little bit more about myself and all the anger I was carrying around due to being laid off. We talked about things I could do to help improve my mood. One was to take time for myself. I told the counselor that taking time for myself made me feel guilty and often I would think about those single parents out there who never got time to themselves. I felt if they could do it then I should be able to as well. I was flatly told that making such a comparison was irrational because I was not a single parent and if I could not take care of myself, then who would take care of Noah. Despite taking that to heart and taking time for myself, it was not enough, and I was referred to a mental health nurse practitioner so that I could get some kind of prescription that would hopefully help me. Off I went to yet another stranger to tell her about my problems. I was given a prescription and follow up appointment. Almost right away I felt better. No longer was I yelling at the dog all the time. I had energy for both domestic and creative projects. I felt normal again. It did not last.
After a month or so of taking the pills and talking to a counselor, I was beginning to feel down again. The downs were not as bad as before, but coupled with the frustration of unanswered questions as to why the pills and talking were no longer working, I became irritable again. I went back to find out what could be done with my medication. I was seeing the same person as before; she told me perhaps this was not depression but some sort of bi-polar thing that the medication had triggered. She then went on to explain how the chemicals worked and different levels of bi-polar. It made sense to me. I was scared but satisfied with the information I had been given. I went home with yet another prescription to add on to the one I already had, wondering about this possible bi-polar disorder.
I am lucky for many reasons to be married to a doctor, one of which is that she knows about the drugs that are out there. Erin was concerned that I was just given a very powerful drug and perhaps I should get a second opinion. Thankfully we have a friend who is a psychiatrist so I gave him a call; he too suggested I get a second opinion. I am lucky to have such contacts. I had felt comfortable with the reasoning I had been given when being prescribed the pills, but it was a big jump from being moderately depressed to possibly being bi-polar. These new pills would not have put me in any danger; there were just several steps missed in the diagnosis, according to the other professionals I have talked to. As a patient I should have educated myself a little more, perhaps asked more questions, not been so trusting, who knows. I assume that my counselor would have suggested I get a second opinion had I not already set one up when I told him about this experience.
The frequent downs have leveled off and I am beginning to feel normal again. But it is not just the pills (I am only taking the original prescription) that allow this to happen. It is taking time for myself and being creative but most important talking to a professional on a regular basis, someone who is helping me to figure out the triggers that make me feel out of whack. I am doing much better than I was six months ago, though there are still hard days when I wonder if I will make it through. There is no shame in asking for help, though I rarely do. Our society casts a disparaging light on depression and we have been brought to believe that we should only talk about it in whispers when In fact we should be talking about it openly and honestly. I dare say that all stay-at-home parents go through something like this at some point and yet we do not talk about it until it is long past, when really the best thing we could have done was talk about it when it was happening and lean on one another for support.