I have been hiding for a few weeks, and it’s time to talk. One of my goals of this blog and my Facebook page is to talk honestly about the highs AND the lows of life. I feel like it’s isolating and dishonest to only publish the good things when you’re publicly chronicling so much. That said, it’s high time I wrote this post about depression. The news of Kate Spade’s suicide was another reminder of how all too often we suffer in silence. I hope she had friends to support her in challenging times. Hopefully talking about depression a bit at a time, by all of us, will help someone who’s struggling.
With the guidance of my doctor, I decided it was time to stop taking my daily antidepressants. Why? It’s a long story, but the short story is that my moods had been stable for some time. My depression symptoms were gone, and I was having negative side effects that needed addressing one way or another. I wanted to see what life was like off of the depression meds before adding another medication to the cocktail to handle the side effects.
The potential side effects of stopping your antidepressants, even with a doctor-advised taper, is that you end up feeling just like you did prior to starting them. I knew it was coming and I did my research. I had plans for how to deal with the feelings that come rushing in. However, I argue that you are never actually ‘prepared’ for depression even when you know it’s on its way.
For me this time around, depression manifested itself as a lack of interest in anything while simultaneously feeling overwhelmingly anxious. For a while there, NOTHING was fun or good. I kept my head down and kept pushing forward through the sadness. My focus was trying to do the things that usually helped me feel better even though at first they weren’t fun. Getting enough rest, moving my body, and staying connected and engaged in activities were all important. I also went through the non-helpful coping mechanisms, mainly eating, and that did nothing but help rack up the pounds. One could argue that I was basically distracting myself, and it’s true.
Side note: everyone’s experience with depression is different, and if you’ve never had it, it’s really fucking hard to explain. I’m a motivated and driven person, and the simple answer seems to be “just get over it, nothing’s wrong”. Well, yeah, on paper everything is dandy but your brain and your soul don’t know that. it’s like you are an empty shell of who you were, and “nothing” can’t be fixed. Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half explains it best in these two posts. They are a brilliant mash-up of humor, comics, child-like drawings, and deep insights into depression. This one talks about the onset of depression. The second talks about living with the symptoms day to day, and the odd ways some people can break out of depression.
The last month was really rough but no where near the depths that Allie describes. I’ve been there for months on end in the past (that’s why I started taking antidepressants and they worked BEAUTIFULLY). This time was a micro-version of that, skipping a few steps and the suicidal thoughts, thank god.
I finally feel like I’m on my way back up, back to sea level or some sort of neutrality at least. I was blissfully shocked at the first bike ride I truly enjoyed in the last month. I got home and excitedly realized I had FUN. Actual, honest-to-god FUN, without TRYING. I retroactively apologize for any excessive giddiness I may have displayed on that ride.
I have highs and lows, good days and bad, but the net sum is trending positive. I’ve added pictures of the high points of the last month to this post as a reminder that life goes on if you choose it, and it can be pretty damn good even in the middle of a bought of depression.
Want to share your experiences or add to the discussion? Head on over to my public Facebook post to engage.