Long Dark Year

If you follow this blog at all you’ll notice that my posts have been very sporadic this year. I haven’t done the math, but the posts have been few and far between as I’ve struggled through a difficult year.

Now, I know many people have been giving 2017 the side eye, and I’m sure there are many who have been beat down and dragged because of the toxic political climate of my country and the world. I know this has affected me as well, but in all honesty, it’s been a cliff note. Something holding me back, but not what’s dragged me down.

And here’s what only a few people close to me know: I’ve been struggling with depression. Severe depression. It took me months to realize what was going on, then longer to say the words out loud (or even type them). Then months to get up the energy to seek help. And longer to find the, hopefully, right treatment.

This is the first time I’ve been officially diagnosed as depressed. I’ve had my ups and downs in the past but a combination of medication and life is what I would attribute to this.

It’s been a long, dark year. When I had goals, I was able to push myself forward with my writing. I had sparks of creativity and inspiration, mixed in with long, long periods of lying in bed, watching the same series on repeat for a year (I kid you not.) I watched the one series for one main reason: there was nothing I wanted to do, so it was easy to stay cuddled inside my current obsession. Plus, the show was about hope, something I desperately needed.

My reading suffered. My writing suffered. I suffered. I have no idea what my young son is aware of. I know I tried my best to pull myself together for him. I also know I failed and failed miserably.

I hope to never have a year like this again. And I hope others don’t have to, either.

The key is acceptance. It’s one thing to say “mental health issues are normal.” It’s another thing to say, “I’m depressed.” It took me time to accept this and own it. To not feel embarrassed or guilty. To not feel like I was just being lazy and all I had to do was push myself a little harder and I’d be fine.

Because that’s what depression felt like to me. Laziness. Only Laziness is not wanting to exercise. Laziness isn’t having your legs feel like dead weight and the thought of moving out of bed bringing tears. Yes, they feel very much the same, and it’s a mind fuck. But they are very, very different.

So here’s my story. I start over a year ago when I received some major edits the same day my husband broke his wrist. I became a writer on a deadline, taking care of the house and my family. I was fine then, but I was also under an enormous amount of stress.

While my husband recovered and I edited and wrote and rewrote I came down with a mystery illness. I’ll spare you the details but a long month of not knowing what was wrong with me turned into a nasty virus that wiped me completely on my ass. I finally got antibiotics and I felt better.

And then I didn’t.

In the meantime a huge change happened at my work, piling a lot more responsibility on my shoulders. And I’m so sick I can barely keep track of when I’m supposed to take my medication.

Recovery was slow. The holidays came and went, my deadline finished and sent in. And eventually I realized: I’m not better.

I should have been.

The next several months I swam in the darkness. Binge watching Netflix, barely picking up a book, letting my laptop collect dust and getting really good a tri peaks solitaire. I kept thinking: I’ll get better. I’ll get better.

I finally broke down and managed to tell my husband what was going on. I had been hinting for weeks, but hints don’t do it. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to say and the most important. It was the first step in my recovery.

I stopped the medication I feel triggered this (birth control, it’s had mood effects on me in the past). After a few weeks I felt a little better, but not enough. A few more weeks and I finally managed to drag myself to my doctor.

I’m into holistic treatments and my doctor started me on supplements. I’d love to tell you that this is all that was needed. Not for me. I needed more, but it might work for you if that’s your jam. I tried a few different types and was brought up. But not enough.

Side note, in the midst of all this I realized I also had anxiety and would practically have a panic attack when I needed to use the phone. This is why things took so long, because it would take me weeks to get up the ability to call my doctor. I did go to a vitamin shop and picked up a supplement for anxiety on my own. It helped take that edge off so I could get back to taking care of myself.

Eventually I knew I needed medication and I was ready for it.

My doctor started me on a low dosage. And I fell further. Three weeks later I went back to see him and I think he finally saw me at one of my lowest points. He upped my medication. Three more weeks went by and I felt I was coming up. I had shakes and even before I was on any medication I would have these manic moments when I was coming up from the depression.

And then the shakes calmed down and my mood stayed up. I started doing more at home. I started doing more with my son. I enjoyed reading again. I dabbled with a new story idea. Part of me had the reoccurring mania sensation where I felt as though three gerbils were running tracks in different directions in my mind. My poor husband and close friends listened to me babble in incoherent clumps of information.

But I felt better.

Netflix has begun missing me. Books are being read. I’m getting back into dabbling with a just for me draft. I’m able to handle my job.

I’m not better. Not yet. I don’t know what my future holds. I do know I’m paying close attention to my mania as my grandmother was bipolar. Maybe I am, too, maybe I’m not. Regardless I found myself depressed and it took a long, dark year to get back to me. But I sit here, hands on the keyboard, tears in my eyes, and I feel like myself again. Just in time to really enjoy the holidays with my family and look forward to a brighter 2018.

As I know many of us are.

If you are struggling, reach out. Find someone you can talk to, even if it’s a text message or an email. Talk to your doctor. It’s hard, but you deserve it. You deserve to feel better. You deserve to enjoy life again, to love yourself again. You’re worth it.