In May of 2009, I wrote the following blog post about depression. Since that blog is now shut down and I’m unable to link to it, I thought I’d publish the post here for a bit of reference.
I had been looking for the wrong warning signs.
[My] Therapist told me about a year ago that if I ever get to the point where I’m not able to get out of bed, shower, dress myself, and go to work, I’m in trouble. And so every day I was able to do these things, I thought I was okay.
Nevermind that I was actually spending an inordinate amount of time getting ready because of how shitty I feel. And the fact that once I’m finished and presentable, I feel ridiculous, as if the way I feel inside still manages to eek through to the surface. Like a fraud.
Nevermind that I haven’t been e-mailing anyone at all lately, and writing e-mails used to be my favorite thing. In fact, I haven’t wanted to write anything at all, including entries on my blog.
Nevermind that I haven’t wanted to listen to music.
Nevermind that most of the foods I eat lately don’t taste like anything, or, if they do, they taste like metal. Especially Cap’n Crunch cereal and Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.
Nevermind that the second I sit down at my desk in the morning I feel exhausted, as if all of my energy is streaming out of me with every exhale.
Nevermind that I haven’t been able to concentrate long enough to proofread a goddamn coupon.
Nevermind that I can burst into tears at any given moment.
Nevermind that I feel as though every day I’m crawling in agony toward that 6:30 p.m. finish line when I get to go home and drink some wine and zone out until it’s time to go to sleep. Glorious sleep.
What did it was the trails.
I thought I was going blind, you see. And not blind as in “I can’t see well,” but blind as is “I can’t see AT ALL.” I noticed what is commonly referred to as a “floater” in my eye a couple months back. I self-diagnosed with the help of teh internets, who told me that the goo in my eyeball is becoming less goo-like or is liquefying or basically doing something that it really shouldn’t be doing, and what I see is the shadow of that goo doing what it shouldn’t be doing. A tiny black fuzz floats into my line of vision and then shoots off in another direction. I’ve named him buddy. Buddy’s skittish. And kind of an asshole.
Then I started noticing these flashes of light, and this thing that happens sometimes when I’m driving that looks like a tiny, transparent target in my direct line of vision, and the endless twitching of my left lower eyelid. And the honest-to-God TRAILS streaming after slowly moving objects, usually my hands, as if I’m on LSD all the time. That’s when I really started to get freaked out.
I went to the ophthalmologist, who said my eyes are fine. My retinas are intact. So I figured the problem wasn’t my eyes but rather my brain. I did a little more research on teh internets and found that all of these things, including the tinnitus I’ve been experiencing the last couple of months that showed up at the exact same time as the eye problems? It all could be caused by extremely low serotonin levels.
That’s when I knew. I am depressed. I have been for a while.
And alllllll the other less concrete, more subjective symptoms began to fall into place. Lack of interest. Fatigue. Crying spells. Feeling disconnected and lonely. And, oh God, when was the last time I felt joy? THAT LONG AGO?
So I called the doctor on Friday. I waited too long to begin therapy. I did not want to see how much worse this will get. When the receptionist asked for the reason for my visit, I said, “I’m having these vision problems, and the ophthalmologist said my eyes are fine, so either I have a brain tumor or I’m depressed.”
At my appointment yesterday, the nurse was gruff with me. Skeptical. “So how did you get depression from vision problems?” she asked me. I struggled to keep the tears in my eyes from overflowing as I tried to answer her questions without saying the word “internet” if at all possible. She took my blood pressure and left, and I shivered in the cold room, afraid the doctor would come in, take one look at me, at my straightened hair, my makeup, my dress, and pronounce me okay.
But when she came in and asked me gently what’s going on, all I could do was smile as the tears brimmed over.
After a few moments, I said, “I’ve been trying to hold it together.”
She said, “You don’t have to.”
I described my symptoms, how I’ve been experiencing them for a while, but the physical, concrete problems with my eyes made it okay for me to acknowledge the other symptoms, and all of it led me to conclude that I’M NOT OKAY. She listened, asked me about my personal life, asked me about therapy, talked with me about treatment. She wrote some things down and gave me a sheet to check out with. It said “Diagnosis: Depression.”
It doesn’t feel like what I thought it would feel like. Scarier, in a way. I’m not SLEEPY, I’m exhausted. I don’t WANT to do things, but that doesn’t mean I’m not actually doing things, dragging my feet the whole time, of course, but still doing things. And I’ve never been super excited about buying/preparing/eating food. Now I’m just slightly less so.
I’m not thrilled (Haha, get it? I’m not thrilled about ANYTHING!) at the prospect of going on an antidepressant. I’m the kind of girl who wants more than anything to put on a light dress and go live in a field in southern California. I’m a hippie at heart. A naturalist. It took me years to come to terms with taking birth control. But. The doctor assures me this will not be long-term.
That’s been my mantra these last few days. A mantra that you, my commenters, helped establish. This will not be long-term. This will not be long-term. This will not be long-term.
We’re starting with Lexapro and going from there.
Going from there.
One day about a month after I wrote this post I woke up and actually wanted to get out of bed. I felt motivated again. Hopeful. I started applying for jobs. I spent less time getting ready in the morning and more time enjoying my coffee. I basked in the spring sunlight.
A few months later I finally figured out what to do about my marriage. I decided to end it.
By November I went to the doctor again, and I told her I was doing okay but, truthfully, was barely hanging on. I had just moved for the fourth time that year. I was dating boys I wasn’t interested in and going out with people who weren’t my friends just so that I wouldn’t have to be alone. I still wasn’t eating much. And the holidays were murdering me. Christ, the holidays. I just wanted them to be over.
She doubled my dosage, and it kicked in around the new year, when I met Boyfriend.
I flew pretty high, there, for a couple of months. I also packed on ten pounds. I decided to land and went back down to my original dose, but the pounds didn’t budge, much to my chagrin. Boyfriend says the pounds don’t need to budge. He’s a good one. But I respectfully disagree with him.
In April I saw my doctor again to discuss how the decrease in dose was going. It was going so well that I floated the idea of weaning. She said that typically with depression, a patient finds a dose and a medication that works well and stays there for at least a year. She wanted me to come back in June to discuss it again, and she wrote me a two-month prescription.
I haven’t been back yet because my prescription still hasn’t run out, and it’s now July. On the whole, I’m doing pretty okay. I decided that I was unhappy; I decided I wanted to be happy; I pinpointed the things that were making me so unhappy; and I changed them. And I’m pretty sure I couldn’t’ve done steps two, three, or four without the help of antidepressants.
I have this on my new desk at work as a reminder.
I’m happy. But I’d be happier still if I could get these ten pounds to go. So last night I cut my pills in half and took only 5 mg of Lexapro. Tonight I’ll take 10 again, alternating for a couple of weeks.
And I’ll go from there.