I wrote the below post on August 6th, 2015. It has been sitting in my draft since, because I couldn’t get myself to click the Publish button. I wanted some sort of resolution or helpful conclusion, but I couldn’t find one. I’m not sure if now, three months later, what I’ve found is my resolution, but I think I’m closer.
I’ve been debating this post for a while now, and even as I type it, I am hesitant to ultimately publish it. Who knows? I could very well save this as a draft for months and publish it down the road.
Back sometime in March, I visited my doctor because I was feeling a little off, mentally. I chalked it up to my relatively new birth control medication, but I would start to become hard on myself for (looking back on it) little things, most often associated to weight loss and running. I would get into what I called “spirals,” which I felt started with a small thing, and eventually spiraled into being angry about every little thing. Then, of course, I was frustrated for being so frustrated, and the spiral would continue.
I felt like I couldn’t pull myself out from this feeling, sometimes, which is what encouraged my visit to the doctor. She changed my medication, but also asked I start seeing a therapist. No part of me wanted to. I was worried about the cost, and the consequence. Did this mean I was broken? “Messed up?” As much as I support those around me with mental illnesses, it was hard to think that I could have one (looking back on that, I’m embarrassed that I ever felt that way).
So, I went to my first session and didn’t know what to expect. I sat on the couch, and as soon as the therapist asked “why are you here?” I exploded. I cried for 45 minutes (and most of the car ride home), talking about the hate I felt inside about myself, my spirals, heck, even my cat. It actually felt a little better.
I still wasn’t sure what was wrong. I was immediately put on antidepressants (that I ended up being allergic to) which, to be completely honest, scared me. Antidepressants meant I had depression. Depression meant I was broken, wrong, messed up, or something that couldn’t be fixed by my own willpower. I had a hard time accepting that. After my face swelled up and I broke out in hives from an allergic reaction, I quit the medication and decided not to try a new one. That was enough for one week.
I continued to go to therapy but continued to have the same feelings. When I brought up my weight and insecurities, I was immediately dismissed (“I think you look fine to me,” she would always say, even when I mentioned that according to my BMI I am not yet a healthy weight.), and so I just stopped expressing my feelings. I would plan what I was going to talk about. How was I going to fill 45 minutes of time? I tried staying silent once. She let it sit for five minutes before finally caving and asking me a broad question. I never felt helped, and I thought that the medication switch from my doctor had done the trick, so I left.
I wasn’t ok. I continued to spiral, be hard on myself, criticize myself, and feel empty. Sometimes I can’t describe this feeling to others. It’s a feeling that you can only explain if you’ve experienced it. Much like I can’t describe the feeling of being a parent or winning a world championship, if you haven’t felt an emptiness, it’s hard to imagine.
I can only describe it as though I don’t want to exist. Not that I want to end my life, but just that I don’t want to be tasked with “being.” I don’t want to do anything, but not in a sense of “I just want to lay on the couch all day and watch TV.” I don’t want to be on the couch, I don’t want to be in bed, I don’t want to be with people or alone. I don’t want to be. Whenever I feel this way, all I want is to go to sleep, because it means that I temporarily don’t feel like I have to exist.
I just recently decided to go back to seeing a therapist (a much more supportive one), weekly. It’s been a change for me, but something I realized I needed. Sometimes, I feel silly talking about my insecurities, realizing that my frustrations were a complete over reaction, even though in the moment, I couldn’t see it that way. I’m not taking any medications, for better or worse.
I waver(ed, because I am still wavering as I type this) about writing and posting this blog, and it makes me sad that I feel this way. I’ve been taking photos of myself with my stomach exposed and posting them publicly, the part of me I am the most insecure about, yet I can’t somehow open up and talk about this part of my life. It feels strange to me, to suddenly realize that the feelings I have are tied to some sort of chemical imbalance or general weirdness of my environment, and something that is out of my control.
As I explained my feeling of emptiness to my therapist – that I didn’t want to exist – he nodded, and said “do you accept that that’s depression?” I guess I could. The next words out of my mouth, without thinking, were, “so now what?” I’m still trying to figure out the answer.
I don’t know where I wanted this post to end. I’m still not sure. It’s now 20 days from when I originally wrote the above, and I can’t come to a conclusion for you, reader. I’m slowly learning what triggers me, and it’s taken me a little less time to crawl out of the hole I feel I’ve fallen in to, each time I do. That doesn’t mean I’m “cured” or “fixed” or “better,” but it means I’m getting there.
I thought my depression was rooted in the way I felt about myself. I thought it was the number of pushups I could do, the calorie deficit I had at the end of the day, the number of pounds or inches I had lost in a week. I learned, strangely, that it wasn’t. It was the way I released my depression. I found ways to blame and fault myself, and wallowed in those feelings. So, if that’s not it, then what is causing this? What suddenly created these feelings inside of me, causing me to lash out at the people around me, but (more importantly), myself?
I tried something insane, by my own standards. I tried to stop caring. I completely stopped working out, and counting calories or containers. It was so hard for me at first. I had a guilt sitting in the back of my head as I ate a slice of pizza, or a scoop of ice cream. I let myself eat these things, and eventually stopped feeling guilty and crying about my choices at night. These choices coincided with, and I believe were only an option for me, because I no longer had a job.
I learned so much about myself, my mental self, with this change in my life. I spent a year working a job that wasn’t aligned with my passions in life. I felt different than I had in a job before (sadly, not in a good way), and this caused my depression, but I ignored it. I was so focused on my physical self that I never looked at my environment to figure out what exactly my “trigger” was. It was in front of me every day, but so close to my eyes that I was looking past it.
So, I think I’ve found my conclusion. Or at least a temporary one. It’s a twenty-something lesson that I’m happy to have learned. Do what you love and love what you do, but if you don’t, make a change. It’s scary and hard and overwhelming. It will come with concerns, excuses, and maybe tears (read: I had a major panic attack), but it’s necessary. Your mental health is never something that has to be sacrificed, but it happens. It’s ok to say that you messed up, picked the wrong job, stayed too long, or have concerning feelings that you don’t like to have. We can’t see the future, but we can learn from the past and analyze the present, something that anyone should do.
I should also note, to tie up a string I left hanging, that I will be starting a new job at Skidmore College. I’m so excited to be back in higher ed for so many reasons. The incredible professional network I’ve found, being around curious and inventive students, feeling a part of a community, and of course, the free food.
Onto the next adventure!
Love you, Jackie, and I think posting this was a good thing. I’m sure you’ve helped others with this even though you might not have intended to. You know you hide your hurt so well that no one would ever know you were going through all of these emotions. I love that you found a second therapist that was more right for you. I’m thinking about passing your post on to my son, Steve, if I can figure out how and if it’s all right with you. He is going through very similar emotions and life struggles with his divorce and he can be helped by you.
Love you and think you are an amazing person, you don’t have to be there for everyone else all the time – people can be there for you too 🙂
I’m way behind, but I’m glad I took some time tonight to catch up! Thanks for sharing this with us. Great news about the new job! And I’m glad you’re working on your health in every sense of the word.