I don’t like the fact I have depression.
I have that sort of personality type that is logical and thinks about my emotions, reflects on them, but doesn’t emote them quite so well. I feel them deeply though. Just don’t share them quite so much. So this… beast in me that is a chaotic turmoil of emotion is something I always thought of as a weakness. A flaw in the design. So I didn’t want to talk about it or even admit to it.
Instead, I found ways to hide it from others. I enhanced my natural humour and magnified it to make people laugh and always joked around… because if I am laughing, surely I am fine, and if you and I are laughing, I can keep you at a distance from ever seeing anything serious about me emotionally.
And that worked. Really well. A smile, a joke, a laugh can hide so very much.
Anyway, thinking about the deepest, darkest depths of my depression I was in for a decade or so before treatment is painful for me. I saddens me a great deal. All I had to go through. All that despair. All that turmoil. I empathize with my past self. More than she ever did for herself.
This is not a sad story. This is a true story. I am not alone in this.
My first bout with depression
I think I am prone to melancholy anyway. Cynicism and pessimism. And a feeling of disconnect from my peers. It became more than that when I went to university. This is actually a fairly common thing to happen. We are on our own for the first time. In a new environment with new rules and new people.
I do not handle stress and change… well. Outwardly, I sure do. Inwardly, I definitely do Not. And I do not ask for help. And I do not expect help. And so whatever stressors are getting to me build up and up and up. Knowing this about myself, now, helps me manage stress. Not knowing it then means the impact was quite a bit more severe.
I have chronic pain and did then as well. Undiagnosed fibromyalgia then (shortly after diagnosed fibromyalgia and migraine disease). I was always tired and fatigued. I never got enough sleep. I was always in pain. I just had to push through it. And that was my main stressors. Trying to keep up with my studies and my peers when I had all this pain and symptoms. I couldn’t do it. And not being able to do it, well, tipped me into depression. I just couldn’t get a grip on the pain and I didn’t know how to cope with it. So I became quite depressed.
I ended up dealing with it myself. I took a year off university. Took a breather. Read a book my mom gave me about managing depression… specifically I focused on the cognitive therapy as it sort of really worked with my brain.
I started to figure out that I needed rest when I needed rest. I needed to pace my activities. I couldn’t do what my peers did. I had to pay attention to my body. And then I returned to university. And slowly but surely this worked. Reinforcing realistic thoughts over negative thoughts became second nature and the depression dissipated.
The thing about chronic pain
- It never gets better
- As time passes, often it gets worse. And maybe another chronic pain condition jumps on board.
- It is a constant stressor
- It limits your possibilities and you may not quite agree with that. Denial is not a good thing for pain management
- Society tells us to push through it. And carry on like nothing is wrong. Keep up with everyone else. Do all that they do. And we can’t. That eventually takes a Massive toll
So second round of depression
The second bout of depression was inevitable for the reasons I just listed above. Pain gets worse. We try to maintain a life; like working full-time and a career and financial stability. Our bodies quite don’t agree with this. At all. We push through the pain. It pushes back Harder. We crash and burn. And I blamed myself for any perceived or real failure.
The chronic pain was not managed. In the least bit. I was exceeding my limits all the time. I was beyond stressed and exhausted. This seems like torture. An insane cruelty. And that is because it is. Not having pain management and yet expecting people to perform and function like a perfectly healthy person is cruel. It is vile. People wouldn’t let their pet suffer like that, but a human being? Hell yeah.
Depression was inevitable. Slow at first but it picked up speed until it was far more severe than my first bout. Deeper, darker and longer in duration. I was consumed by it. Not that anyone could tell. Not that I would admit to it. It was horrific though. I certain level of raw desperation living with that much pain and despair all the time. Ardently wishing I would just die from a stroke or a heart attack to put me out of my misery. I just wanted it to end. I was so tired of dealing and trying to function with all that pain. It seemed like a life of true madness.
I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. But it is the PERFECT STORM. And I know it happens to many of us. We have to work. We have no pain management. We exceed our limits in order to work with that level of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. And for a while we succeed but it wears us down inch by inch. It just takes a toll mentally, physically, and emotionally. How could it Not? There is Impact from chronic pain. Impact doctors often ignore when they do not bother treating it effectively. Impact that magnifies as time goes on. So, yeah, I got depressed. And, yeah, it got severe.
And then it got worse. Some times from medication side effects ‘may worsen depression or cause suicidal thoughts or actions’ Yeah. That. That would be me that warning was made for. Two suicide attempts from two medications. A suicide attempt (thankfully not successful but so many of us die by suicide) is like a wound. It is a trauma that lingers for a long time after. It is imprinted on your soul. That isn’t even mentioning the impact on others.
And now I cannot be on antidepressants. I am on another class of meds for my depression though. But that was long after all that. All that trauma and pain and suffering for a decade. Then I got a good doctor. Then she sent me to the pain clinic. Then I got some modest pain management and depression treatment and therapy all at the same time.
That is a lot of time I spent in hell because I never had any treatment that worked for any of my chronic pain. And trying to work when I couldn’t. Bashing my head against that wall over and over and over. Until it tore my self-worth to pieces. When you physically cannot do something, but you continue to do it, it kills something in you. Something in you dies when you realize society doesn’t care. That they just want you to Behave. And Be Present. And Do Your Job. And Suffer with a Smile.
It breaks my heart just thinking about it. I am actually tearing up a little. It was a horrible time for me. It left deep wounds that took me years to heal. And now I have a lot of self-compassion for that me, back then. Trying so damn hard in that much pain. So … full of despair in the fact that was what life was going to be. Just suffering. Pure suffering. I wish I could save her that. But I can’t. It is done. It happened. And I survived. And I healed. But it took so many years.
I am not cured, by any means. I have Major Depressive Disorder that is managed by medication. I was treated for a long time by therapy that helped immensely. I do a lot to manage my mood because I know how easy it is to fall into the abyss.
I have recently developed Seasonal Affective Disorder. But maybe I always had it. Winter was always a hard time for me mood wise and pain wise. Maybe it was masked by the immense beast of unmanged pain and depression I had. And now it isn’t. I am more aware now. So the mood slump came. I knew it for what it was. I asked for help right away because I know how vital mood management is to my well-being and pain management. My doctor tweaked my medication and now that is something I will continue with for Winter… among other things.
Nevertheless, like pain, depression has its triggers. I know mine and when I encounter them I have to re-focus on my thinking and awareness. Make sure I do not slip down that slippery slope thinking into deeper, darker thoughts.
Maybe I will always have depression. Maybe that too is inevitable for me with my chronic pain. I deal with stress and change better than I used to. However, I am just prone to a certain mindset. That is fine. But add it a boatload of pain, stress, lack of sleep… and it gets into dangerous territory.
I know this now about depression
- I am not weak
- I am not personally a failure. I may fail but that is human nature. And just means I have to try things a new way. Or that is something I am physically limited on.
- I am not worthless just because I cannot work full-time.
- Depression treatment is complex and takes time
- Depression and chronic pain get tangled together and feed off each other. It is hard to untangle one without managing the other at the same time