Yesterday was my 6 year blogiversary here at Still Smihlen (thanks to my friend Rita for naming it!), and seeing that little notice really kicked me in the ass. I realized that I haven’t been here as of late. You know, here. Not necessisarily here at this blog or on my facebook page – which really sucks because posting ridiculous stuff for you guys is on my Top Ten List of Bomb Ass Shit – but, yes, both here at the blog and here in the normal, functional world. Since I checked out I have taken blow after blow after blow and each time I thought about chronicling my experience I just cringed. It was too depressing, too dark, and simply too painful to recount while I was trying to recover. It’s a bit like falling through an ice covered lake in subzero weather and someone offering you a glass of ice water once you finally pull yourself out. No. I need a blanket, dumbass. STAT.
And so I climbed into that blanket and just stayed there until I could feel my toes again. It took almost a year and a half. I’m not proud, yet here I am so perhaps I should be. Not everyone makes it back.
Writing is normally very therapeutic for me, but I haven’t been able to pick up my blogging ever since my last fall. I’ve tried, but the nagging feeling that I was avoiding something, that I was leaving something important out of the story blocked me every time. And so I am going to tell you this part of my story and just get it out there and over with in hopes of being able to move on AND in hopes that it will help someone else.
So here we go.
Let’s talk about Depression.
In high school I decided I’d be a great psychologist because everyone told me I would be a great psychologist. I remember one time being called out of class thinking I had done something wrong, but it turned out a peer was in crisis and only wanted to speak with me. Yeah. Pretty badass, right? I know. I know.
Once I was an adult (and not a psychologist lol), I really enjoyed studying and reading about psychology. And I’m glad I did because it really came in handy after I almost caused a severe car accident due to my irrational fear of spiders. That experience really shook me and I knew I had to do something about that fear before I hurt myself or others. So I read up on desensitization therapy and did it my damn self. Successfully. I cured myself of the fear of spiders and also learned that my mind is my own and I am absolutely capable of keeping it in check.
Fast forward about 20 years and there I was crying in my bed, isolated and hopeless, a prisoner of my own mind. I hadn’t posted a single thing on social media in several weeks. I’d try…but nothing would come out. Nothing.
Also, I couldn’t feel happiness for ANYONE.
And creepily I had no reaction at all to people dying or any otherwise awful event. I remember saying to myself “I know I’m supposed to feel something, but I just don’t”.
I was depressed.
We tend to think of depression as sadness, but I’m here to tell you that it’s actually closer to nothingness. And that is quite terrifying.
I set out to help myself and quickly found that no amount of indulgence (I got a dog,) or ridiculousness (I watched only cat videos for several days on end), or self-help (allll the books), or meditating (books and apps and books and apps) was completely lifting me out of the dark, and no amount of telling myself to just snap out of it and feel things that I couldn’t feel was working. I needed professional help. So I called and made an appointment.
Going to therapy felt great. I appreciated having someone objectively examine my situation and explain exactly how I got where I was, by no fault of my own, and how we could improve things. Having a therapist diagnose my fibromyalgia pain as the cause of my depression was the biggest relief of all. Why? Why did it matter? It mattered because I didn’t want to have that flaw that caused me to not be able to control myself. I didn’t want to be weak. Please, anything but weak.
When you are fighting something like chronic pain or depression, you are also fighting stigmas. Mental illness and invisible illness are perceived as lapses in character or strength and control; a poor choice that you continue to make and dare to complain about. If your heart fails you are rushed to the emergency room and prepped for surgery; if your mind fails you are told to smile.
I have always fought these stigmas for others, but when depression landed in my lap let me tell you that my PRIDE took a beating. Everything I knew to be true about mental illness didn’t matter because I was stronger than that. Or at least I was supposed to be.
That pride nearly killed me once before so thankfully I knew better than to let it win, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. The mere fact that it was even an issue at all proves how deadly these stigmas can be.
I’ve done a lot of work. I’ve got a good mix of medication and therapy and coping skills to help ease the symptoms but I am not in the clear yet and I do not know when I will be. Also, I’m pretty pissed. I’ve been busting my ass to beat depression and the truth is that I may not pull through this until my pain is under control – which, based on my medical history, could be never. I honestly thought that if I worked hard enough I could just eliminate this issue from my plate. Learning that it doesn’t work that way has sent me into what I can only describe as rage.
I grieved my former life, I did the soul searching to find my worth beyond a paycheck, I found ways I could still help the world and feel satisfied with myself and yet I still ended up severely depressed. I was not prepared for the level of isolation and utter exhaustion paired with my pain and frustration…. but who could be prepared for that? And then, after I crawled out of that hole, I had to discontinue a medication that sent me into actual for real withdrawal. I’m talking cold sweats and spasms, brain zaps and nausea, and pain like I’ve never felt before. And I was right back in that pit all over again.
It’s not easy. And it’s been a non-stop cycle that I just can’t see myself talking about every day because I need to use that time to watch dumb videos that make me laugh and write ridiculous things on my page so that I do not hate life.
I have support. I have a great medical team. I have an amazing family, beautiful friends, and my child shoots sunshine from his butthole. I’m educated on mental illness. I have everything I need to recover but I have to accept that it is a very slow process that is much more like a rollercoaster than a marathon. There is no quick fix.
So there you have it. I don’t have much more to say about it other than if you’re going through something similar, just know you are not weak and you are not alone.
Now go watch that damn Sharkira video. That shit is hilarious.