October is my favorite time of year. Usually, this month finds me adorned with boots and scarves, tilting my face toward the sun and pausing to take pictures of leaves on my way into work. There are weekend trips to farmers’ markets, afternoons apple picking, and more than a few selfies with warm, spiced coffee drinks. I make fall look good.
Maybe it’s the autumnal equinox. Maybe it’s the new birth control. Maybe it’s the completely unnecessary and absolutely misguided shame I am still wrestling with since a couple who was supposed to love my husband and I spent the weeks before our wedding trying their damnedest to destroy us.
Probably it’s a combination of all of those things. So far, this October has been different. It hasn’t been good, it hasn’t been pretty. It has been HARD. I’ve spoken some here in the past about my battle with depression and anxiety. I’ve talked about it, but I’ve never written from the midst of it like I am now. For a type-A control freak like myself, it’s not easy to admit that the chemicals in my brain are controlling my feelings. After all, only I control my feelings. Carefully, letting out just the right amount before masking the rest with sarcasm.
Those who have struggled with depression and anxiety will recognize my description of “that feeling,” when your chest starts to tighten and it’s a little hard to breathe, but you can keep going. The feeling hit sometime around mid-September. I brushed it off. I took my orange pill in the morning and my pink pill at night and I. Was. In. Control. I went to work, I was professional, I made dinner, I was a good wife, I. was. fine.
Until I wasn’t. Until I had a panic attack so severe on our way up north that I collapsed on the ground outside of the car. Until all of the sudden the chest tightening was combined with stomach pains and muscle aches and sore throats and migraines because when you do not listen to your body, it screams. Until “I can’t” became the most frequent thing Eli heard me say. Until I missed three days of work last week because I could not, could not, could NOT get out of bed. Until I tried to go grocery shopping and ended up leaving without most of my list because I couldn’t do it, couldn’t be around people or away from home. Until I snapped at my husband and then started crying because I had no idea why I was upset.
Last week was the worst of it, so far. In between hiding under the covers and staring at the ceiling, I got news that an opportunity I had been hopeful about was not, in fact, going to turn out the way I had wanted. It’s because I’m not good enough. Then the bank account overdrafted, due to some clerical errors with my check at work and the day rent came out. It’s because I’m so stupid and can’t even handle money much less being an adult. I tried to see a close friend over the weekend, but she was sick. I’m an inconvenience to everyone around me.
See, when you are depressed – your brain knows the truth. I know that I am good enough, that I am not stupid, that I am not an inconvenience. But somehow, at the exact same time and in the deepest part of your soul, your brain does not at all know the truth. So you spend your days in a constant battle of mind vs. mind, trying to figure out what part of your brain you are allowed to believe that day.
When I was younger and would hear adults talk about depression, I always pictured people sitting at home, crying and crying. “Why are they so sad?” I would wonder. “And why can’t they just be happy?”
The thing I know now is that depression is not just sadness. It’s emptiness, worthlessness, nothingness. I spent a half hour last night sitting in the bathtub after it drained, literally just staring at the shower wall. Depression is staring at shower walls, naked in an empty bathtub, because you are too drained to stand up. It doesn’t just go away if you pray or believe enough.
I don’t have an ending for this, because I’m not through it yet. I’m going to the doctor this week to ask about my medications. Jesus is still good. Elijah is the greatest man I could have asked for, and always knows exactly what to say or do to help me. God is providing.
So for now, I’m just sharing my reality. I’m speaking up, because this is too often suffered alone and because speaking struggles out loud often helps view them in a new light.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to calm my mind by watching the debate.