Depressed doesn’t mean depressing.
Meds doesn’t equal crazy.
And yet, for someone who is so open about depression, I struggle with admitting this to a crowd. Maybe I worry that you’ll judge me, or that you’ll jump to conclusions. Maybe I worry that you’ll roll your eyes or tread to gently the next time we talk?
But then again, maybe I just don’t care.
Depression is a tricky thing for me. It doesn’t manifest itself classically in me until I am so far gone that I feel like I’ll never come back. No, instead it’s a manipulative little sneak, full of sharp tempers and agitation. It’s a foggy mind that forgets why I walked into a room.
It’s rarely sleeplessness or fatigue or tears. It hides itself around corners, disguised as personality flaws.
When it’s attacked, I feel good. For almost 2 years, I kept the dragon locked up with the help of a little dose of pharmaceutical friendship. But the problem with this beast is that, over time, the captor becomes complacent. The dragon stops rattling his chains, and you begin to think he is sleeping, or even dead.
You slowly let your guard down when you feel safe and secure. You lighten the security on the dragon, reducing your dose. With the help of your doctor, you drop it down to zero, throw open the cage and let the ghost of the dragon walk away.
You’ve beaten him – yes, you’ve mastered your own mind, and dancing in the shadow of your fears, thrown open the curtains and felt the sun shine on your face all by yourself. You fight your battles on your own terms, with only the strength from your soul and not strength from a little blue bottle with a child-safe cap.
Then, one day you realize you haven’t cried in 6 months. Through all the heartache and pain, struggles, loneliness, stress, doctor’s appointments, lawyer’s meetings, work, fights…you haven’t cried. You stand in the kitchen, staring into space, wondering how you got here.
You realize that while, yes, you survived, that’s all you’ve done.
You haven’t been living and breathing because the weight on your chest is so heavy.
You’re numb, and you’re suffocating.
You’ve spent so long fighting to do this on your own terms that you don’t even recognize that the dragon has snuck back into your life and is curled up on your couch. Yes, he’s snoring, but he’s there. He’s blocking the sunlight that should be streaming in the windows, and you finally cry.
For hours, you bawl and sob into your husband’s chest and let all the pain out into the world. You let that dragon smile while you scream into the night about how goddamn much it hurts.
Then, in the morning, you make a call. You pop the top of that little blue bottle and start to show that dragon who is boss.
I’m the boss. I can’t control everything or everyone in this world, but I can control me. And I don’t have to do it alone. When I started taking an anti-depressant years ago, my doctor and my therapist both said it was something that I would probably want to continue for the rest of my life, even at a small dose. Why did I stop?
I learned an important lesson from all of this – you feel good for a reason. It’s not necessarily because your hormones have righted themselves. With everything that was thrown at me in the last half of 2011, I know that I am a very strong person with a very strong mind. But when those tears finally fell on Christmas Day night, I realized that just because I can do it doesn’t mean I have to do it. For every day that I survived, a little bit of me died.
That’s not strength. It’s stubborn stupidity.
So here I am, back on my meds. Not to numb the pain, or to make me sane.
Just to give me a breath before each moment to find peace and be myself, so that 2012 can kick ass and I can be there to feel it all.