It’s been about 3 months since I’ve posted, and a LOT has happened in that time! We’ve gone on vacation, adopted a pet, spent some quality time with family, and about a million other little things. I’ll try to do some catch up posts over the next few days. In the meantime, I figured I’d write about where I’ve been.
Starting about 3 or 4 months ago- maybe a bit longer- I lost a bit of myself. I was always tired. I was self conscious about things like my weight and my work that had never bothered me before. I stopped taking time to read and write for myself. I wasnt excited about anything. I was confused, but just mustered the energy to do what I had to (take care of the kids, clean the house, feed the family, get things done at work) and then I’d just collapse. More and more, I understood I wasn’t happy. I blamed my weight. I blamed being in a rut. I blamed our finances. I blamed the weather. I blamed the kids. And then I realized that it wasnt any of those things, really. I was depressed. That simple. That epiphany was actually the best thing that’s happened to me in awhile.
I’ve struggled with depression for most of my life. It was most prevalent in my late teen years and early adulthood. I am lucky that my bouts of depression have really dissipated the older I’ve gotten, whether it’s because of chemicals and hormones working themselves out, the time and effort I have to devote to the kids (leaving me little time to think about myself), or maybe the anxiety medication I’m on. I actually thought I may have completely rid myself of it forever.
But clinical depression isn’t something that comes because you’re expecting it. It’s not always linked to “sadness”. Like any other hereditary disease, it just IS. You can control it, you can treat it, but it’s never really GONE. So when I realized I was depressed, it was actually a relief. I’m not miserable. I’m not trapped in a rut. I don’t dislike my life or my body. I have chemicals firing in odd ways, and I CAN WORK WITH THAT. I’ve been here before. I have coping methods, there’s an end in sight.
Two things really helped me get a handle on things and work through it this time. The first was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I acknowledged my struggles to people outside of my immediate family. At work, we were each in charge of designing a small team building lesson for one of our staff meetings. My turn was a few weeks ago and I presented on vulnerability.
As part of my lesson, we did an activity where we shared a hero, a highlight, and a hardship. And for the first time, I was open with others about the fact that I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my life. I told them about how I’ve never seen it as a disease, in fact I think it has made me a better human. I am able to empathize with others and see the beauty in things that other people take for granted. I told them how I thought it was gone for good, but that I learned an important lesson in always keeping an eye out for it. And I told them about how I’ve kept it hidden for my whole life because of the social stigma attached to it. My team was AMAZING and incredibly supportive, and I felt so liberated in being my true self. It was a great experience.
The second thing has to do with a random act of kindness. During one of my lows, that at the moment I was tying to body issues, I texted Cory about feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. We had a good conversation about why I shouldn’t feel that way, and various things I could do to alleviate that feeling, and that was sort of that.
Only it wasn’t, because just a few days later, I got a book in the mail: Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons, sent lovingly and thoughtfully by Cory.
Brittany is one of my favorite bloggers, and she writes extensively about body positivity in addition to other (usually hilarious) things. I loved the book and I devoured it (the first thing I read for myself in MONTHS), but more than anything I was so touched that someone cared so much. It is helpful to be reminded occasionally how valued you are.
It’s important to remember that everyone’s depression is different. For some people the only thing that helps is time. For others, nothing works. For some it’s purely medication, for others it’s exercise. There is no quick fix. For me, it’s recognizing it. Saying “oh, hello- it’s you again” and then slowly crawling out. It helps me to recognize the people in my life that support me. It helps me to remember that each area of hurt (feeling fat, feeling tired, feeling insignificant) is a SYMPTOM, not an issue in of itself. And then, I need to start forcing myself back into the world.
Three or four months later, I’m feeling much more myself. I am reading, writing, laughing, and going places. I am eating nutritious food, exercising, and appreciating all of the different parts that make myself ME. I am learning not to take depression for granted, and I’m learning that I can be more open about my struggles. Vulnerability really is a GOOD thing. No one is perfect. Everyone has issues. In the grand scheme of things, mine are fairly insignificant.