This is my story of depression. I share it in hopes that someone who might be looking for answers to questions like I was might find this helpful.
A little over a year ago, I took a step in the treatment of my depression that I was fearing would come.
I started antidepressants.
I was scared. I was scared because for so much of my life my emotions defined me. My emotions were so big, I didn’t know how to wrangle them. They defined my reactions. They defined how people saw me. I didn’t want to lose them; because in my mind — Who am I without my emotions?
All I knew about antidepressants was what I saw on tv and after school specials. So I decided to ask my friends who had shared they were taking them about their experiences. I wanted to know how the medicine helped them or if it hurt them. I wanted to know about any side effects. I needed a push in this direction, so I kept asking questions to learn more. Information made this seem more safe for me. I also wanted to build a support system of people who knew I was thinking about taking this step.
The consensus was that they were more good than bad. In reality, I knew I needed to at least give it a shot. I had been in and out of therapy for 5 years. I changed my diet. I changed my life. Depression still found a way to find me. What did I have to lose?
When I started taking meds, I noticed SO many things changed.
I had never been one of those people who could “let it roll off my shoulders”, but suddenly the tiny things that happened throughout the day were just that — tiny things that happened throughout the day. I was motivated and productive again, but I was me for the first time. It was amazing.
It took about 6 months for this high to drop. When I first started antidepressant treatment, I had been following a paleo lifestyle and had lost over 100 pounds in the process. I was so happy to have found something that had worked after YEARS of searching. I was just getting used to recognizing the reflection I saw in my mirror as myself. Then the weight started to return; slowly but surely until one day I needed to buy new clothes.
I was angry, frustrated, and puzzled. I hadn’t changed my diet or lifestyle. I had moved into a new studio appointment on the 3rd floor, did more walking than I had in the past, and was living my best life. What could it be?
My doctor changed my medicine. The high of new medicine started again. I didn’t last as long.
I decided to really check-in with my body.
I realized that I have lost the feeling of being full. Could I be eating more? Maybe. I didn’t know. Similarly, I lost the feeling of feeling hunger. I decided to track what I was eating. Yeah, I was eating more. By tracking what I eat and weighing myself each day, I’ve been able to at least get lose a few pounds. Emotionally, to be honest, I am miffed and disheartened that I was going to have to start another weight loss journey. It takes as a lot of work and concentration to track everything that I eat, but if seeing the “calories left” is the only way I can tell if I have eaten enough, then that’s what I need. UGH. Adulting.
In the course of being aware of the state of my body, also realized that I don’t feel stress anymore. I guess I should say that my brain doesn’t process stress signals anymore. This realization came to me when I asked my sister if she thought the medicine was making a difference. She said I’m a lot more even keel, but there is a nervous energy around me. This is was surprising to me. Nervous energy? Why am I nervous? Then I made a list. And there was a lot to be nervous or anxious about. Why couldn’t I feel it?
It used to be that I could feel stress creep up my arm and settle in between my shoulder blades. Now, I go through the day not feeling anything, but I’m pretty convinced my body is processing the stress without telling my brain. It’s like I’m keeping secrets from myself. (This is not a diagnosis of any kind. It’s my gut.) This new communication plan my body is now following is exceptionally frustrating because the antidepressants are helping me learn more about who am I and I am starting to trust this person as I get to know her.
So that brings me here.
To where I now wear my stress on the outside, so my eyes tell my brain that perhaps I need to slow it down and cope with stress in a healthy way. Here, where I need a computer screen to tell me if I’m full or not. Here, to where I’m getting to know the person I am, but unsure if I can continue to that while managing how my body processes stress in a new way.
I want to be clear, I’m not making any decisions about my treatment alone. I have a therapist, a psychiatrist, and a physician who are all helping me through this. Not to mention my friends and family who are so understanding and supportive. I am fortunate to have this group of people in my life who want the best for me.
For years, I was ashamed of my depression. I thought it was something that is wrong with me. I thought it was something that I needed to control, to suppress. I was wrong.
Opening up and sharing my story here and with others, normalizes depression to a point where it doesn’t define me anymore. I don’t let it define me. I will continue moving forward, or sideways, or whichever ways. But I will do it as a person living with depression — not a depressed person. I’ll find those feelings again, I just need a new map.