Having “dealt” with depression for 15 years now (dealt=medication, therapy, an annoying level of self awareness), but having “suffered” with it too, both before that 15 year period started and also during it (you get it?), it is sometimes hard to gauge feelings and emotions. You second guess if what you’re experiencing during bad moments is “real” or “imagined,” or maybe “appropriate” vs. “out of proportion” are better terms. You struggle to keep your head on straight, to realize we all have bad days; you wonder if your meds are still working; and if you have a really, really bad day, you’re certain they aren’t, and panic ensues. If you’ve ever been in residence at the bottom of the black pit of despair (or unable to get out bed and function- same difference), the panic and anxiety stems from the fear that you’re heading there again. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling. Horrible and soul sucking.
Yup. This pretty much sums up depression.
Well, Blondie was about 13 months old when I first started doing weekend visits to the Pit. By the time she was 2, I was in residence (though truth be told, I’d had short bouts of the blues every year or two for a decade. Depression, I later learned AND realized, runs strong in my family). When I finally broached the subject with my OB/GYN and we set up hormone level testing, things were pretty awful at home. My husband of nearly ten years at that point and I didn’t fight much, but there was a constant tension. He didn’t know what to say to this beast who had suddenly taken over his wife’s body and I didn’t want to talk…at all.
By some miracle, however, I got pregnant with Brownie (zero recollection of this event. I swear I did not mean to engage in a procreative act with my husband!!) before I could get that testing done. No benefit in doing it then, because of course your hormones are going to be a mess! To add insult to injury, my mom died suddenly between Christmas and my birthday (I think the 14 year anniversary of her death was last week; I try not to dwell on such things), and BAM! I was in weekly therapy sessions (for 3 or 4 months, then we went to bi-weekly at some point for another 2) with James Taylor (lol- that was actually my therapist’s name).
It took me three or four sessions of talking predominately about my mom and our stellar (not) relationship and the rest of my screwed up family to finally come clean on wanting to smother my husband (actually, I said my husband’s breathing annoys me) and I’m struggling with dueling voices in my head (No! Not like the Son of Sam. Google it, children), like I will say things to my husband, then almost immediately hear “me” in my head saying, “What the hell are you doing? You idiot!
Wow! That was a sobering revelation
You do not mean that!” Of course, the voice that had my vocal chords was saying, “Piss off! Yes, I did! Screw you if you don’t like it.” [Several years later, when we were doing better (largely because I was “me” again), hubby let me in on something: he was so miserable, so completely confused during that two year black hole in our marriage, that he would have left me if it hadn’t been for Blondie.]
In that moment, my therapist let me in on a little secret: “You have textbook clinical depression.” I hated to admit it; I fought it, but that didn’t make it any less true (kind of like Trump being president). My counselor pushed me to start medication, and I did. I was 12 weeks pregnant with Brownie and still reeling from my mom’s unexpected passing, but after about 6 weeks on meds, I felt an enormous, crushing weight slowly start to lift off of both my mind and body. Suddenly, that deep pit had rungs on its walls. Suddenly, I felt the shell of my cocoon (bed covers) break open, and instead of saying, “Thank you, God, for another dismal day,” I actually began to just say, “Thank you, God!”
In the years since climbing to the surface, I’ve still had to fight that demon beast. The medication was a life and a marriage saver, but I found something so potent that even Big Parma can’t bridge the gap every moment: teenagers! No, just kidding (a little). The monkey wrench in the works to which I’m referring are hormones. Bloody, freaking hormones.
How depression feels
Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone. Darn you, all three! I tried an ablation 5 years ago to mitigate your effects, but it finally took a complete hysterectomy (one ovary is still doing its thing though) to finally kill those cyclical rages that could come from out of the blue and make me feel like I was losing my mind all over again- and worse. I never raged during the dark years, but I had horrific episodes of PMS in my late 30s & early 40s! Yet still, something was “off,” has been off.
A year ago, I took the step to start a dialog with my GP about my feelings, my malaise. We opted to adjust my meds-for the first time in 14 years. Alas, it didn’t change anything. So, back in the fall, or rather September, as it is very difficult to distinguish “the fall” in Houston, my doctor ordered a hormone panel. Fifteen years later and I finally got that hormone screen!!!
The results came back showing that, even post hysterectomy, I had huge levels of estrogen in my system,
but sad, pathetic levels of testosterone (the range for women is 20-70; I was at 21). He immediately began me on a testosterone cream in an attempt to balance my levels.
It took a few solid months of supplementation, but I’m finally feeling the difference. All the months surrounding our recent and less-than-smooth move had my cortisol levels running at maximum overload, so it was difficult to tell if it was doing any good. Now that things are calming down, it’s clear it definitely is. Thank heavens! So, maybe at this point I can get back to “just” dealing with the non-hormone induced depression!
The moral to this story is this: talk to your doctor if you feel “off” or “out of sorts” for an extended period of time; and if s/he blows you off, FIND ANOTHER DOCTOR. Get those hormone levels checked before assuming anything. And don’t get suckered into thinking thinking/feeling/acting like Eeyore is normal and OK, especially when you know who you REALLY are.
A great talk from a spiritual perspective: