This post started out as a comment in response to this video, but as usual, more thoughts came out as I began writing, and I decided to just let myself keep writing. This is not edited. I am not going to edit it, unless I notice typos unintentionally, which I totally do all the time. First of all, I just don’t have the mental energy to edit (let’s face it, I almost never do – very few of my posts here are actually edited), but it kind of came as my thoughts flowed, and I sort of want to keep it that way. Maybe I’ll change my mind later and go back through it, but for now, I’m posting it as is.
I was going to post this as a comment on the video itself, but it got so long, so quickly, I decided that it’s not a good idea. I may make a second attempt at shortening it, now that I’ve gotten my thoughts on the matter out of my brain and onto my computer. But in the mean time, I am posting it here, on my blog.
Also, just a side-note, as a back-story to my first couple sentences below, Scott (Depression to Expression) had posted a video, which I did comment on, where he said something about how depression isn’t always there. It goes away and comes back, it’s never constant. I struggled with that comment about depression because for me, personally it really hasn’t been episodic. It doesn’t stay constant in it’s severity, it goes up and down, but I don’t feel it has ever gone away entirely since it started, and I don’t really even know when it started. It really has kind of always been there. It’s just been in the background a lot, and sometimes it is right in the foreground and feels like the only thing that exists. The only reason I have described the last 6 months or so as the worst “episode” I’ve ever experienced is because it feels different than it ever has before. Maybe it’s because I’m aware of it now, or maybe it truly is different. I don’t really know for sure.
How long do I have to wait?
My depression has never been episodic. It’s chronic.
It generally more anxiety based, like it’s being caused by the fact that I’m anxious. But that hasn’t happened since I began getting treatment two years ago. I was diagnosed when I was 26 (I’m now 28, a little over a month away from my 29th birthday), but I’ve been struggling with this for almost my entire life. Symptoms of anxiety with some possible depression were present when I was in grade 1. I didn’t know. My parents had no idea what it was. The depression really kicked in when I was 13 or 14, after moving from Southern Ontario to Northern Alberta. The lack of sun may have been a factor, but I’m not convinced it was the cause, especially now.
So, it’s basically always been there. I was known for being a very happy child, bubbly but I was also shy. I grew out of the shyness as I got older, but I did develop social anxiety somewhere along the way, which hit it’s peak a year ago, shortly after I was diagnosed specifically with social anxiety (I had previously been diagnosed with GAD). There were some external factors contributing to that.
The depression always seemed to just be like the second in command to the anxiety. Anxiety was running the show. Once I had CBT, anxiety kind of got pushed into the background. It is DEFINITELY still there, it has never gone away, and probably never will, and I’ve accepted that, but it’s not in control anymore.
For a while, I was doing pretty well. I was constantly tired, to the point I could barely function, which I later figured out was being caused by the SSRI I was on. (Turns out, SSRIs do that to me, because I tried a different one, and the same thing happened.) At a very high dose, combined with a moderate dose of a different type of antidepressant, I was actually starting to feel pretty good, emotionally, but was really struggling with how tired I was all the time. I had just started a new job and couldn’t even get through a full day of work, so, with the social anxiety still fairly active, I was scared I’d lose my job.
We ended up decreasing the SSRI dose, which helped. For a while.
For a few months I felt pretty good. I didn’t feel as good as I’d expected to feel, but I was making it through each day and I thought that things would continue to get better. I was still tired, but not anywhere close to the point I had been at. I was able to get through work every day. I was getting to know my coworkers a little better (I was still new, and I’ve never been good at socializing).
I was even more active than I’d been since high school, because I was going to participate in the CMHA’s Ride Don’t Hide, and that was motivating me.
I knew I was going to have down days. I knew it wasn’t going to be that perfect, upward progression of recovery that we all wish it was. I knew!
I had several times where I felt like shit and then I was ok. Then another day or two where I felt like shit again, and then I was ok. Not great, but ok. I was dealing. I was getting through it.
As the ride date got closer, I was excited by the fact that I was surviving riding on the rural roads around where I live, getting closer to the length of the ride I would be participating in. But I began to find myself struggling for motivation some days. The thought of embarrassing myself in public by appearing to the the stereotypical fat person who runs out of breath at the slightest bit of exertion terrified me. I didn’t want to be THAT person. So I kept going.
Once the ride came around, I did well. It wasn’t a race, obviously, and I did the shortest one, which was mainly kids and families. I was up front with a young kid most of the ride, and then a dad with a couple young boys passed us towards the end. Internally I was slightly disappointed, but I reminded myself it was for fun, and I was glad a little kid got to be the first to finish. I was also one of the highest fund raisers overall, and that was more important than the ride itself, raising money for the CMHA.
After the ride was done, I continued to try to ride everyday to keep my activity up. But it became increasingly more difficult to find the motivation. It started with no weekend rides, which I hadn’t been consistent with anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal. I had mostly been riding during the week. Then one week day I just could not get myself on my bike. Four days a week for a 20-30 minute bike ride isn’t that bad. After a couple weeks, it was three days a week, then two, then all of a sudden, I realized I hadn’t touched my bike in 3 weeks. I was still occasionally using the stationary bike in my basement, but it’s not the same. Eventually that stopped too.
It was some time in July when I realized that my feeling “down” was more than a temporary thing, and I didn’t realize until then that it had begun in May or June. It was getting continually worse, but I was also still appearing normal from the outside. No one noticed anything had changed. Not even my parents, who I’ve been living with since early 2015, after three years on my own. I’ve come to realize that I’m very good at hiding it, even when I’m not trying to. I think it’s because I’m normally pretty good a being present in the moment.
But this time, something was different. My emotions had sort of disappeared, which was strange for me because I normally feel things very deeply. Numb didn’t feel like the right word to describe it at the time. It was more of just a lack of feeling.
I finally went to see my doctor and he took me off of the SSRI and had me try something else. It did nothing. I just continued to get worse. Then he had me try a different SSRI. It started making me tired again, like the old one, so I asked my doctor if we could try something else because I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle how horribly I felt before. It was beginning to help as I was transitioning off of it and starting the new SNRI.
After being on my current SNRI (still combined with that other antidepressant I started while on the first SSRI) I had thought for a bit that it was beginning to work. I was excited that maybe I wouldn’t need to change anything for a while. As my emotions seemed to kick in again, I realized that maybe numb was the right way to describe how I’d been feeling. My emotions still felt a little numb, but kind of like when you’re foot is asleep, but the feeling is starting to come back, you get that sort of tingly feeling that almost hurts before the feeling comes back entirely. It was like that. But after about two weeks, I started to feel numb again. It’s not as bad as it was, but I still don’t feel like myself, whoever that is.
Saying I don’t feel like myself is a weird statement for me, because I don’t really know who “myself” is. I just know that this is NOT me. Not even close.
So, here we are, a week away from Christmas, and I am still depressed. It’s not that anxious kind of depressed that I used to experience. It’s the kind where you have absolutely zero motivation to do anything, and hardly any energy to put into anything. The things that normally boost my mood, don’t anymore. I do catch myself laughing occasionally, but each time I do, it feels forced. I’m not intentionally making myself laugh, it’s just coming out, like my body’s natural reaction, but once I realize it’s happening, it feels fake.
I’m still getting out of bed every day, not because I want to, but because I feel like I have to. If I don’t, it will draw unnecessary attention to myself and that scares me more than the thought of simply not going to work.
Thankfully, I do have one person at work I feel comfortable talking about this stuff to, and she’s in a position to mediate between management and myself, so I don’t have to. I have been working reduced hours and reduced workload for about a month now. To be honest, it hasn’t helped as much as I thought it would. It has in the sense that I don’t feel guilty about leaving early and I don’t feel rushed to get in early enough in the morning so I can leave earlier. I’m not fighting my body as much to survive the whole day, which is good. But when I’m at home, I still feel like I’m working my normal 40 hours a week, even though I’m currently working less than 30. I am still exhausted. I feel like I have no time to myself, like I have no time to recover. I’m stressed about everything, but not in the old anxious way I was a few years ago. I just have absolutely no energy or motivation and I feel like I’m being sucked into a blackhole and I’m never going to get out. Ever.