I am so glad that I joined twitter because I have found so many new friends here in the blogosphere. Last week, while tweeting and perusing the blogs of my tweeps, I read so many lines and posts that I could relate to so well that a thought came across my mind, and yes it has been years...
Seriously, my thought was that one day a week, I would dedicate my post to talking about an issue raised in some one's else post, which I believe I have something remotely profound, or at least semi-intelligible, to say about. When I received a thank you email from http://sugar-mommy.blogspot.com/, I decided that this would in fact be a good idea. As it turns out, I actually have other things to talk about besides ridiculous 70's shows, what a moron I am, and how my kids are likely going to kill each other, and probably me, before the summer is over- not that I don't love talking about those things, because, of course, I obviously do.
The topic of sugar mommy's blog that caught my attention was depression and how it makes her feel, and I could seriously relate and I remembered how important it is to a depressed/anxious/panic stricken person to have someone say to them- you are not crazy, and I understand. Judging by all the other mommy bloggers entries and tweets about feeling blue, depressed, and swallowing xanax like smartees, I take it that sugar mommy and I are not alone.
Now I'm not a doctor nor will I attempt to play one on the internet. I do, however, speak from the other side of anxiety and depression, and I can tell anyone who is in its midst that things can get better. I'm not so sure that there is an instant cure-all, and I will tell you that my recovery involved everything from cognitive therapy, to prescription meds to reading self-help books. Also making friends and hearing that other people struggle with the same things that I struggle with was, perhaps, the biggest help. Isolation feeds depression and anxiety, and depression and anxiety fuel isolation.
What I am trying to say is here is my story- so to anyone out there struggling, you are not alone and it can get better.
As most of you who read this blog know, I became a mother and a wife, in that order, at the very young ages of 19 and 20, respectively. The immense responsibility associated with these jobs quickly brought my carefree and somewhat reckless lifestyle to a screeching halt. That coupled with the fact that I knew no one who was in my same place in life was very isolating. On top of all of that, I was living in a completely unfamiliar place, ten hours away from friends and family. All of these things combined like the winds of a hurricane to wreck my life and to render me the victim of disaster.
What was I depressed about? Well, mostly I was extremely anxious about life. I now had this person who was completely dependant upon me, who I loved more than anything in the world, and I became acutely aware of all of the things that could destroy us. Before I got pregnant, not as a part of any ridiculous pact, I assure you, I had this attitude that nothing bad could happen to me. I was your typical invincible teenager, and then I got pregnant, and had a child and I realized, in a hurry, all of the bad things that could, in fact, happen to me. There were so many. As I traced my life path in my mind, I convinced myself that not only could bad things happen to me, but that in a just world, bad things probably should happen to me. I deserved it. And yet all around me, it seemed innocent well-meaning people had their lives destroyed by chance. My cousin's husband was sick with incurable esophageal cancer, and was in his mid-thirties; my mom's friend's husband died suddenly in a car accident, two days before Christmas on his way to pick up a toy for his two year old daughter. Celebrities were not immune. Even Katie Couric's husband died suddenly from colon cancer.
And everything I read and watched made things worse. Suddenly, I realized that it was my responsibility to save myself and my daughter from lurking dangers. The only trouble was that I was so certain that I was dying from something or that she was dying from something, that I was absolutely terrified to go the doctor's. I didn't want to know, but the not knowing was worse. The panic would take over and I would be absolutely paralyzed by it. I would wonder why anyone wanted to live this life- so full of danger and sadness. I would finally go to the doctor or take my young daughter, and they would tell me that I/she was fine. You would think that this would make me feel better, but it wouldn't because then the guilt would set in and I would hate myself. I knew that I was ruining and wasting my life, but I simply couldn't help myself.
Also, everyone around me, who knew what was going on with me, mainly my family was annoyed with me,and could not understand what my problem was. When I returned to college, I made some friends, but none that I could really talk to about what was going on with me. Even if I could have talked to them, the truth was I really didn't want to. I didn't want to seem like a freak, more than I already did from being such a young wife and mother. Sometimes things would get better, but they would also get worse, and I spent so many days just trying to focus on the task at hand- but I was so distracted by my own mortality and I had this ever present feeling that one day, the illusion of my happy life would be destroyed by something totally out of the blue. To prepare myself, I decided rather than enjoy my life, I would remain hyper vigilant to protect myself and my family from harm. Of course, logically, I knew this was a ridiculous strategy, and it was exhausting, and depressing as hell.
Things really came to a head the week before I graduated from college. Even though, I had worked hard, and had two children while going to school to complete my degree in philosophy, I didn't believe I deserved to graduate. I knew something bad was looming around the corner. I went to a doctor, and she did not immediately reassure me that I was fine. Instead she ordered some tests which she cavalierly said would be back in a couple of weeks. I. flipped.out.completely!!!!!!!!!
My mom flew down to help out because I was almost to the point where I could not function and had to go to daily group therapy sessions at a local hospital. They put me on Prozac and also anti anxiety medicine. Within a couple of days, I was vomiting, numb and faint-but also a lot calmer. I still had to take final exams, but with Mom, even though she didn't understand or really sympathize, things were a lot more manageable because she helped with the house and kids. By the end of the week, I was able to go to graduation, to sit still and enjoy the day. I wasn't worried about the future, or about the danger of life, I was just enjoying the moment. I continued for a while with therapy and medication and I began to get better and better everyday.
My happy ending has not been without relapse. Childbirth, and I had three more kids after all of this, has always been a trigger for me. When my fourth baby Isabelle, was readmitted to the hospital at one week old with a blood cell disorder that caused her to develop jaundice that was only curable by a complete blood transfusion, I thought I would lose my mind. Again, I went back on meds. It took six months for the doctors to determine that she didn't have a genetic condition that made her sick, and without medication, I seriously would have been like the woman in Charlotte Perkins' short story, The Yellow Wallpaper, who incidentally, I believe I read was a character based on her own experience with post partum depression.
When my little girl was given a clean bill of health, and I felt I made it through that difficult time, I began to realize I could survive the uncertainty of life. Moreover, I began to realize that in life you have to enjoy the good moments while they last, because inevitably, bad moments will occur, and the only way to make it past those is to have a good perspective on life in general.
Of course, I still have bad days. Worries and panic still enter my mind, but now I tend to push them away. I am no longer hypervigilant, just cautiously optimistic. I believe in visualization and positive thoughts, and I don't worry that these theories seem flaky and aren't grounded in logic and reason because quite frankly, they make me feel better. And this life, whatever it means or is about, is much more tolerable and enjoyable, when I feel better.