|courtesy of Mad Magazine|
Dear Depression and Anxiety,
You and I have known each other a long time. We became intimately acquainted when I was at the tender age of 11 when I managed to miss over 20 days of school in one academic year, because I couldn't handle you. Remember how it went?
1. Girls were mean to me at school.
2. I would cry at school and be unable to focus the rest of the day.
3. I would go home, crawl into bed, cry some more, and rerun the day's events over and over and over again.
4. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Back then, they called me a kid who "worried a lot." Oh if only it was that simple. Even then, I knew this went beyond just worrying and being sad.
That was only the beginning of our lifelong battle: you vs. me.
Remember when I was 16 and we really came to blows? You took the opportunity to attack when my high school sweetheart broke up with me, and you just wouldn't let go. You watched me stay in bed, day after day, crying and shaking with sadness. You laughed in my face and put your foot on my neck, holding me down until I nearly broke. Luckily, my family had lots of personal experience battling the likes of you, so they held me up and knew what to do to help. That's when I found a couple of lethal weapons against you: medication and therapy. I managed to beat you back, and I emerged victorious. Although you popped your head out of the sand again several years later, when I had a falling out with a college friend, this time I was prepared. I enlisted the help of a brand, spanking, new therapist (we'll call her Darlene) and you went back into hiding.
The next time we met, you brought a wing man: anxiety. This time, you pounced when my back was turned. I really thought when I decided to try going off medication at 27, all was going well. It was summer, I was stress-free and feeling good. But little did I know that the minute the school year started, you would pull a dirty trick: panic attacks. This time, it wasn't sadness that debilitated me. Instead, this was something much harder to handle. I had never felt anything like it. I couldn't catch my breath. I couldn't stop the racing, repetitive thoughts. I couldn't sleep or eat. KG would watch me pace the apartment at all hours, trying to work off some of the excess energy, feeling so helpless. This was a nasty, heartless addition to our battle. I was completely powerless against you, so I added something new to my arsenal of weapons against you. Along with a med change and therapy, this time I added exercise to the mix. All of a sudden, things calmed down and I was able to control the overwhelming feeling that my heart was going to explode in my chest.
Recently, some life circumstances invited you back into my life. Between my miscarriage, PCOS diagnosis, failed IUIs, KG's mother's death, a failed IVF, financial worries, and plenty of work stress to boot, the door swung open, inviting you to come prancing through. It feels like we are at opposite sides of that door - you pushing in while I try to keep you out. You try and try, but I put all my strength into keeping myself safe. Occasionally, you cause me a pretty bad day (or week) of sleeplessness, tears, and worry but I have gotten better and better at keeping you at bay. My newest secret weapon? Blogging. Somehow, writing about all of this chaos has helped keep you on a leash.
I have to admit though, you still have power over me. Even when you aren't rearing your ugly head, you make me feel weak and ashamed. Whether I like it or not, there are assumptions about people who battle with depression and anxiety and I hate being saddled with that stigma. Just like with infertility: people who have never experienced it have no clue what it is like to deal with something like this.
I can't help but wonder if we will always battle, or if this chapter of my life will end at some point.
Until then, I'll be the one pushing on the other side of the door.