Depression is the invisible plague


I wrote a brief post in November about my experience with depression and anxiety. I meant to share more about it on my blog, because I think mental health is a very important topic that does not get discussed enough in society. But every time I sat in front of a computer to try to write about my condition and experience, my mind went blank and my fingers hovered still over the keyboard. Months and months passed.

This feeling reminded me of a poem I came across a few years ago:

"I wanted to write down 
exactly what I felt
but somehow the 
paper stayed empty

and I could not have
described it any better."

-wtm

I'm going to take a short break from my Coastal California travel posts today because I feel like I can finally share my story. But where do I even begin?


If I'm being honest with myself, I think I've had bouts of depression since I was about 17, and felt a tremendous amount of anxiety in college. But I treated them as "a part of life" and was in denial that I might have a mental illness. And perhaps it was just teenage angst. It came and went, and I never sought any professional treatment. That is, until last year.

As I mentioned briefly in November, work stress spilled over to my personal life and I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and anxiety. For the most part, I enjoy my work and the people I work with. However, when it rains it pours. Near the end of August, my colleague from another office quit, and various people were assigned to her tasks while the administration searched for a replacement. The problem is, no one knew how to do the work that my ex-colleague did, so we were all clueless and scrambling. Also, while some people were assigned duties, they were soon released from said duties because they weren't "capable enough" to handle them. So guess who got stuck with the big bulk of my ex-colleague's duties? Yep, yours truly! Oh, and while this is going on, of course, I had to meet my own deadlines for my own job too.

Everyday, I felt like I had been treading the ocean waves for hours on end and was about to drown. But somehow, I was washed up on shore, only to be dragged back into the ocean again to start the same cycle the next morning. I felt like I had to keep a facade that everything was fine, in part to avoid others from worrying about me, but also for my own sake to not wallow in self-pity. Of course, holding things in can actually make things worse. As soon as I got home, I would head straight to our bedroom and sleep, skipping dinner. I was unable to focus on what people were saying to me, and had difficulty waking up in the mornings although I slept for well over 10 hours straight some nights. During the weekends and weeknights, I turned away invitations to see my friends or family because even the thought of getting out of bed gave me panic attacks. Listening to music had always been a treat for me, yet during this time I preferred absolute silence. I didn't want to and did not have the energy to watch TV, read books, go shopping, or cook. The only person I was able to be 100% honest about my condition was my husband, although I felt incredibly disappointed in myself that I was causing him to worry about me.

Two different doctors highly encouraged me to take a stress leave from work, but I declined. There was too much social stigma attached to a leave of absence due to a mental illness. I worried about how I would be treated after I returned from the medical leave. At the same time, as stupid as this may sound, I felt a sense of strong responsibility that people were counting on me and I couldn't let them down. It was a lot of pressure that I put on myself. I was drained, both physically and mentally. I even thought of suicide, although I never acted on it. 

The scary thing about depression and anxiety is that it can affect anyone, at anytime -- even someone who might seemingly "have it all." It might be genetic, or perhaps it's due to trauma/stressful life events, or both --which can cause a chemical inbalance in your body. It can affect your ability to work, sleep, eat, and enjoy life. You might be feeling extremely sad and then irritable soon after, and then washed over with guilt. Or have a panic attack and behave erratically. Or perhaps, just numb. These episodes can come on suddenly, like an unannounced (and unwelcome) visitor. It's something that can be difficult to explain to others -- because 1) it's not a visible illness, and 2) you yourself might be perplexed as to why you're feeling the way you are -- and it's very hurtful when people say things like, "Just snap out of it;" "You should be happy and thankful for everything you have in your life!;" or "You have a weak mind. Just change your outlook."

Symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as the severity of them, can vary from person to person. You might just have it once, or it might be something that will be with you for a lifetime. There are even different types of depression and anxiety. Treatment options will vary too. For me, I tried Prozac and while it might work wonders for others, I hated the way I felt while I was on it (completely numb and unemotional). Now I'm taking a different medication that treats anxiety, panic attacks, and depression, and it's been helpful so far. I also engage in routine therapy sessions. I started doing yoga to help with breathing techniques and to ease my anxiety. I've also been more open these days to my friends and family about my condition and have accepted that not everyone will understand what I'm going through, because I can't understand everything they are going through either. I've also made it clear to my supervisors what my limits are from here on out and am glad that they are listening, and understand some things are simply beyond their powers as well.

If you or anyone you know may be showing signs of depression and/or anxiety, I urge you to not be dismissive. Society has taught us that it's taboo to speak about mental illnesses, but I think it's a really important discussion to have. There are ways to get the help you need. Self love is love.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi there! My husband and I are newlyweds ♥ We adopted our beagle, Louie, in 2011. This blog allows me to chronicle our lives together as a family. Thank you for stopping by! WWW.KIDGRANNY.BLOGSPOT.COM

6 comments :

  1. What a brave and honest post. And you are certainly not alone. I too battled with depression for years so I can relate to so much of what you've described here about your feelings, and thoughts. I felt so numb and drained during that time and just wanted to sleep all the time. For me I ended up removing myself from the triggers (stressful job like yours, and toxic relationship) before I felt better. I'm glad you've sought treatment - that's the first step to getting better. Take good care and know my thoughts are with you xxx

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  2. I'm going through some things too and can definitely relate. And honestly, they're not even that major. One might be, but it's just a lot of smaller things that just keep adding up and I feel like I'm about to break. I definitely have to remind myself that life is a blessing and there are so many good things in my life too! And girl, if you ever need to chat, I'm here!! xoxo

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    1. Thank you, Jess <3 I think a lot of times, it's the little things that build up and can take a toll on us. I'm here too if you ever need someone to talk to :)

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  3. This is such a honest post, Cindy. I think a lot of people (me included) often toss the word depression around so lightly but we forget that depression and anxiety can be very scary and lonely and common. Thinking of you and sending you lots of strength. I have also felt the burden of remaining strong because others counted on me. Always pushing beyond my limit because at the end of the day I said "this is possible.. anything is possible if I put my mind to it." I was terribly burned out and stressed and went through similar things like going straight to bed, not eating, not wanting to meet friends and preferring to spend my free time in silence. Take care, Cindy. Thinking of you!!

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    1. Thank you, Jane! xx I think it's a blessing and a curse that we are both caring, for a lack of a better word. We love to help others and tend to put ourselves last, but sometimes we need to stop and take care of ourselves too! :)

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