Saturday, November 5, 2011

Talking About Depression

I recently found the blog of a women who has written about her struggles with depression.  Though she's had some really shitty things happen in her life (her teenage parents abandoning her to be raised by a crazy grandmother and alcoholic grandfather, two terrible divorces, her home being destroyed by the floods in Nashville) that completely warrant her depression, that's not always the case with people who are affected with depression.  In an effort to take some of the stigma out of depression, I thought I'd write about my own experiences with it.  (Please excuse the liberal use of quotes in this post.)

My worst experience with depression happened when I was 21-22.  It requires a bit of background story.  I was in college and was living with my fiance, Zach.  I had quit my sorority in order to live with him and I was without the constant support of the women who I had come to love and depend on.  I thought that living with Zach was more important than all that.  We were having a tough time - who wouldn't be when you're 21 and playing house?  Zach felt like he needed to "live" more before ultimately settling down.  I felt like I had "lived" enough already.  We were constantly arguing, avoiding each other, not having sex, avoiding having "THE TALK".

One day Zach called me up at work and told me that he had moved out of our apartment.  Just like that.  Honestly, we hadn't ever talked about that.  (How could we?  We were avoiding each other!)  I was devastated.  I went home to our half empty apartment, stood shell-shocked in the entry hall looking at framed photos of what was our life on the wall, and finally collapsed sobbing on the floor.  I finally dragged myself to my now single bed and cried myself to sleep.  I think this happened at the beginning of November (it was a LONG time ago!), and for the rest of the year, we continued to "work" on our relationship.  I stopped wearing my engagement ring on my finger, but instead wore it on a necklace.

Zach didn't spend Thanksgiving with my family, nor Christmas.  We did exchange gifts, though.  Zach gave me what must be the most impersonal gift you could give your sort-of-not-exactly-fiance.  He got me a VCR.  Really.  I also found out that he had applied to law schools in California, without ever discussing it with me.  Shouldn't you discuss something this serious with the person you plan to spend your life with?  This is when I finally began to realize that things probably weren't going to work out.

One day we went to the mall with Zach's best friend to do some shopping.  We all had different places to go so we split up.  I was done early and went to find Zach.  And oh, how I found him.  He was talking to a girl in the Hallmark store.  Not a big deal, right?  But you know how when you REALLY know someone, you know exactly what each nuance of their body language means?  I knew that Zach was into this girl.  I KNEW it.  And not just into her, but had dated her.  I went up to them, stood by him for practically a full minute before he looked at me, and finally asked him if he was ready to go.  He looked guilty and embarrassed.  In the middle of the mall I confronted him.  Yes, he was dating her.  When we were "working" on our relationship.  I punched him.  (Yes, I really did.)

That was the real beginning of my downward spiral.  I freaked out.  I felt like a crazy person.  I couldn't concentrate.  I couldn't sleep the majority of the time and when I could finally sleep, I slept like the dead, and could barely get out of bed.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't do anything.  I was obsessed with what Zach was doing at all times.  It didn't help that he now lived across the parking lot.  I had to get away.  I spent a week in Boulder with one of my best friends, sleeping on her floor and going to her classes and hanging out with her friends.  I couldn't face my own life.

I was interning for a company in Longmont, and on my drive back to Ft. Collins, I'd always pass this lake.  The road curved around it without any barriers and the speed limit was pretty high for such a sharp curve.  I thought that it would be so easy to drive right into that lake and have it look like an accident.  I had this thought every day.  I didn't want to be there anymore.  The life that I had planned was gone.  The person I had loved more than anybody else, more than anything else, more than myself, was gone to me.

It was then that I realized I was depressed.  Seriously, suicidal-ly, depressed.  And I needed help.  I told my friends how bad it really was.  They were so incredibly helpful.  Some of my old sorority sisters offered their support again.  I went on anti-depressants.  I decided I needed to see a therapist.

Because I was in college, I could go to on-campus therapy for a very decreased cost.  There would still be some cost, which would go on the bills that my parents paid.  Which meant I had to admit to them that I needed professional help.  My mom was very understanding.  She didn't want me to be so bad off that I needed professional help, didn't like that she couldn't help me, but she understood that it was beyond how she could help and would support my decision and pay for it.

My first session with the therapist was intense.  I was probably at my worst.  I was freaked out about discussing all the intimate details with a stranger.  I was shaking and crying and desperate.  They video taped the session because I was suicidal and they needed to cover their asses in case the worst happened after I saw them.

What's ridiculous is that I cannot for the life of me remember the therapist's name.  I do know that I saw her for a few months and I quickly grew comfortable talking to her.  I also don't remember exactly what we talked about and what kind of therapy she used.  I'm sure she wasn't the kind who constantly asks questions and she obviously didn't become like my BFF.  But I do know that she really helped me get through this horrible time.  With her help, the anti-depressants, and my wonderful friends, I got past the suicidal thoughts and the crippling depression.

Depression has never been that bad for me since.  Every so often, I feel a slight depression creeping up on me, but it's never gotten out of control.  I've grown up quite a bit and somewhere along the way I must have developed better coping skills.  And honestly, nothing in my life has gone so wrong as that experience.

I hope that people out there who are dealing with depression realize that they don't have to do it by themselves.  We are so rarely really alone in life, and there are people who can and who want to help.  Depression is actually so, so common.  There is nothing wrong with admitting to it and seeking help to overcome it.

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