I was shocked when I found out I was depressed. Well, I knew I was but I thought I was mildly depressed. The shock came when I found out I was “moderately to severely depressed”. I never would have guessed I was as bad as I was.
Even with my therapy background I still associated someone who is depressed as being sad. I certainly wasn’t sad. At least, I didn’t think I was. And no one who knows me would have ever guessed I was depressed. I was lively and engaging and as charming as ever.
And that’s one of the many funny things about depression – it isn’t what you might think.
I got prompted to write this when an old and dear friend sent me a facebook message saying my silence was deafening and that she was done. Apparently she had been wanting to connect while she was in town and I just ignored her. I say apparently because another funny thing about depression is losing track of things.
Here’s what happened, as far as I can piece together – and please keep in mind that this is a very personal topic for me and I’m writing it for myself and anyone else who might be depressed – because that’s another funny thing about depression, it silently takes you down, takes you away.
My life, like that of many people, has not been an easy one. And I’ve always dealt with it. But getting older is a kind of accumulating of things, of experiences, and as wonderful as this is one can get rather full. As far as I can piece together I think I hit a perfect storm of sorts and that’s where the depression really took root and then, unrecognized, it festered and grew.
My boyfriend of 4 years, his father fell ill with cancer. A very aggressive and incurable cancer. He was a vital, incredible man in his 70’s who had never had any health issues. He went from snow skiing to dead in 9 months. For anyone who has dealt with cancer, you know that it seriously impacts the family and changes your whole life – diet, activities, the way you think and talk to each other….
I spent those nine months helping his family in the ways I could. His father and I grew closer as we had some very tender encounters as he let me support him during this sacred time. I watched his wife, whom I loved very much, deal with the shock and implications and unraveling of life that cancer does. And I watched his daughter, as a mother and wife, deal with family and career and her father’s fading. And I watched my boyfriend in various layers of being affected and being stoic and crumbling and facing and not facing what was happening to his hero.
While this was going on my health was getting worse and worse. I had undiagnosed Celiac disease and it was taking a huge toll on my health. Stress can make it flare and worsen. I took a nose dive and kept going down over those nine months. I closed my practice so I could help with the family and also because I wasn’t functioning well enough to keep up with the needs of my clients.
Then we moved in together – mostly out of convenience for what the family needed to support the cancer journey. Then his dad died. I was there, in the room, with the family as he took his last breath.
Then I watched my man grieve. He was out until all hours and filled every waking moment with activity. His drinking increased. His absence increased. And I knew, in my body, what was going on but didn’t confront him right away because I was making space for his grieving process.
Then it got unbearable and undeniable. I asked him if there was someone else. He denied it. He finally did tell me he wanted to break-up. This was just weeks after his father’s death. He was cold and so unalive in his eyes when he told me. I practically begged him to tell me the truth and he just denied it. But I knew. And he continued to deny it until I got an anonymous text from someone telling me, insistently, that he was lying to me and that he was having an affair. It confirmed what I knew and when I told him about the text he finally admitted it.
That week was an intense time, a lot of conversation and tears. I understood his behavior on some level because I knew him so well. And I made space for his process because I loved him and I have space for a person to be a person. In a very human way, I got it. And I didn’t take it personally, as weird as that might sound. But it’s what happened afterward that really messed me up.
In the months that followed he revealed to me the kind of man he really is – he revealed a lack of integrity and character and strength that I never knew he had. I won’t go into details but I now view him as weak and cowardly – a boy masquerading as a man.
It is very, very painful to see a truth in someone that is so discordant, so out of alignment, with the friendship and connection and love you have. We were best friends yet he treated me like a disposable piece of garbage, like I didn’t matter to him, like I wasn’t really there during the most intense experience of his life. And he just disappeared me from his life, and that of his family’s, like I never even existed. It was surreal and dizzying.
So there I was, sick with Celiac disease, no job, the end of a very intense year, and the end of a four year relationship. (By the way, we never had any arguments and were still very attracted to each other right up until the end, it’s not like I saw it coming, I was totally and utterly blind-sided.)
So that was the beginning. The next couple of years was also intense but in different ways: I started a company, worked my butt of for a year, company closed. Sprinkle in a couple of relationships that were extremely intense in their own ways….
Fast forward 5 months from closing the company. There I am, in my room, watching sci-fi movies and not wanting to do anything. It had been three days since I brushed my teeth or showered. I didn’t want to do anything. In fact, I had been waiting – waiting to get enough rest. “The last three years have really kicked my butt and I just need to recuperate.” But how long do you really need to just sleep and do nothing??
Then one day I’m sitting in bed (which was now getting an indent in it) and thinking about what I am going to do next. Nothing. Nothing was there. I’ve never had nothing before. And I didn’t care.
And worse, I didn’t care that I didn’t care. That’s when the light bulb went off.
“This seems very much like depression” I thought to myself. So I got on the internet and did some research. I checked off 8 out of 10 symptoms. Hmmmm…..
Then I researched the best online tests one can take and took the top three. I was expecting “Mildly Depressed”. All three said I was dealing with moderate to severe depression. That got my attention.
Another funny thing about depression is that 50% of symptoms are physical, not emotional/psychological – as in pain and insomnia and headaches and appetite changes. I was waking every morning with neck pain. My left knee hurt. My back ached. I had horrible bouts of insomnia.
Then there was the apathy. And lack of motivation. And lack of interest in former activities and things that gave me joy. And social withdrawal.
Check, check, check, check.
I did not feel suicidal. I did not feel sad. I felt….very little.
This from a woman who is fiery and passionate and funny and alive. And I just didn’t care. That’s the thing that got me – I didn’t care that I didn’t care and that scared the crap out of me.
So I did some research and found a natural anti-depressant called SAM-e. It is a prescription medication in Russia and some European countries but can be bought over-the-counter in the US. You have to take it with a b-complex. It takes 2-6 weeks to kick in and has shown to be as effective, or more effective, than SSRI’s and other prescription meds. So I went and got some.
It did take 2 weeks to start to notice anything. The first thing was I just didn’t feel like watching sci-fi anymore. The second thing was that I started to brush my teeth. Then I just started to get more and more active.
I felt more social. My interest in things started to return. I gave a workshop. And loved it. I started to see clients again. I felt myself returning to life and it felt wonderful.
Then I ran out of SAM-e and kept forgetting to get it. This went on for about 9 days. And suddenly I was waking in pain and feeling that distant, shut-down feeling. Only now it was registering as sadness. And it scared me. But I knew I just need to get back on the SAM-e /B-complex and ride out the few days until it gets back in my system.
Today is the first day I am back on it. I ordered a huge amount from the internet so I won’t run out again.
I know this is really long. If you are still here I’d like to share my thoughts about depression now that you know some of my story.
Depression is a funny thing. It has its basis in the body. You can’t be depressed without a physical component – I don’t care what anyone says, this is the truth. Depression is insidious due to how silent it is. And due to how it can hit you. I was both functioning and not functioning. I was functioning enough that the people around me have no idea that I’m depressed, except the ones I’ve told and even they have a hard time getting it because I don’t seem depressed.
That’s another funny thing about depression – what it is and what we imagine it to be are often very, very different.
Now that I know, from the inside, what depression is I find that I recognize it in others much more easily. It’s like I can smell it. It smells like this: otherwise awesome people who have lost their spark. It’s really, really simple. And it is really, really common.
I am so not a fan of “diagnosing”. But I am a fan of empowerment and of knowing what is going on so you can take charge in your own life and deal with it. I don’t want to waste more time. I don’t want my life to slip by because I am too “too tired” or “too depleted” or “too overwhelmed” to do more.
I know it will likely be many more months before I am out of this hole. I am trying to be realistic based on what I have learned and observed so far. The SAM-e is a tool that is taking the edge off the depression but I also have to do things every single day that chip away at the hold it has on me. That means addressing underlying patterns, staying on top of a healthy diet, moving my body, and it also means brushing my teeth every single day. That sounds so incredibly ridiculous but it really calls out the nature of depression – it truly is insidious and something as small as brushing one’s teeth can be an incredibly big deal.
And this highlights how much depression limits your bandwidth. So I’ve had to really adjust my expectations of myself and limit how much I put on my plate. If I add too much I will get overwhelmed and that feeds the energy of depression. If I don’t do enough it also feeds the energy of depression. So I am learning there is a sweet spot and I endeavor every day to stay in it by modifying what I do and think according to how that sweet spot changes each day.
What is surprising to me is that I don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed by being depressed. In the past I would have thought it meant I was weak or I would have felt pathetic. I have an incredible amount of compassion for my own humanity. The mighty Sadee Whip got her ass kicked. And I feel incredibly blessed by the cracks in myself the depression has revealed. It has given me an opportunity to go deeper, much more honestly and humbly, inside myself. It’s a relief to not be invincible. A humbling, unburdening, liberating relief.
So I view the depression as a medicine I have been given. Like a fail-safe from a compassionate universe allowing me to be, ironically, more alive in my truth and self-awareness.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dancing and singing about it but I do feel a certain amount of joy. I feel loved in a very deep way that I have been given a gift that made me unable to function the way I was – imbalanced and controlling and in some ways kind of arrogant. It has cracked open the hardness of my ego and I feel softer and more emotional and more open than I ever have. I feel more loving and more compassionate and more quiet. What’s funny is I like this Sadee much better than the Sadee of 3 years ago or 6 months ago.
I guess the funniest thing about depression is the incredible bounty of gifts it has brought me.
I had no idea I was depressed for three long years. Incredible that I was in oblivious for so long about something that carried such a soft and humble opportunity for being more graceful and soft in who I am. I have a long journey ahead of me but it is such a rich one I am in no hurry for it to end. I feel incredibly grateful and blessed and raw.
To everyone who has been patient with me – i.e. to everyone who hasn’t gone away – thank you. I did not realize how much I was loved until I woke up to how absent I have been and how unknowingly rude/inconsiderate I have been to the people in my life. It will, realistically, be awhile before this changes but at least I see it now. A not-so-funny thing about depression is how myopic it has made me.
Some online tests if you suspect you may be depressed. Or if you just feel tired or unmotivated or are dealing with physical pain in life right now.