I’ve both wanted to write this for a long time, and been wary to write this, because, you know, your mileage may vary. Please insert “for me” into all these things, because what I’m telling you isn’t a general blanket statement, you should consult your doctor, ETC. Be wary of assvice on the Internets! This might be some of it! Or it might help. I have no way of knowing.
But, I did want to let all of you kindred spirits know that I am doing better, and if you’re not, you will be, one day, because, you know, it gets better. This is what helped.
I will stop writing, “because, you know,” and awkwardly tucking my hands in my pockets and get on with this.
1) Depression is hard to talk about. It never gets easier, honestly. It feels like talking about something very intimate, like, uh, a yeast infection. But it’s worse than ladyparts infections, because it’s an infection of the brain, which is the very essence of me-ness. My me-ness is infected, and it’s weird to talk about.
What helped was talking about it anyway. To doctors and to friends and to my husband, and, in general, to my kids, in the very vaguest way, like saying, “We are having pizza for dinner again because Mommy is not feeling well enough to cook,” and leaving it at that.
2) Treating depression as an illness instead of an infection of me-ness. Because it feels, fundamentally, like a character flaw. But it’s not. It helps to say, “I am very tired today and need to sleep a lot because I am sick,” instead of, “because I am a lazy, useless, waste of space human being,” which is what I would say in my head, not out loud. Sick, not lazy or stupid. Sick.
3) SAM-e. I’ve said this before, but the over the counter “mood stabilizer” that Sarah recommended has been quite a literal lifesaver. I talked with my doctor about it, though, because I was trying out lots and lots of drugs there for a while to see what would work. Eventually (FOR ME), nothing else has worked except SAM-e. I take more than the recommended dosage, but I had to start out on a lower dosage than recommended because it made me feel WIDE AWAKE SO AWAKE OH HI after months of feeling sleepy. That’s how I knew it was working, and for the first time since, oh, adolescence, maybe, I am not that tired in the evening. I didn’t know that other people didn’t want to collapse in a heap at seven pm and sleep for sixteen hours. I thought that was normal. HA HA HA. Anyway, SAM-e. (But seriously, I am not just saying I talked to my doctor. I did, and she looked it up to make sure there weren’t drug interactions.)
4) Coffee. I know some of you don’t drink coffee for Reasons, but for me: coffee. It used to be that no amount would make me feel awake, but once I started taking the SAM-e, an afternoon cup helped me through the sluggish time of evening, which is when all my insecurities like to creep out and take hold. It’s weird but true.
5) Giving up some things. This includes some expectations of myself, of my work, of other people, and took a lot of time and effort, but honestly, I was holding up an impossible measure and saying, “I will never be successful until…” and then listing things I did not even WANT. I gave up the things I didn’t want, and just focused on what I did. But after 1-4 took effect, because this stuff is tiring and makes me cry a lot.
6) Understanding who I am, essentially. I grew up with a set of parents who thought I was amazing, which: FANTASTIC! But they kind of wanted to…mold me into how they saw me. “You’re fantastic, so you should be a doctor! You’re fantastic, so you should study for the SATs day and night! You’re fantastic, so you should go to this college!” Etc. It was not their fault. I am not saying that at all, but coupled with my depression and my history of abuse, I didn’t really know how to listen to myself until just now. Like, three months ago. I didn’t know what I wanted, because I always assumed other people knew better than me. It has been a revelation to see that other people are just human TOO. WHO KNEW? And the person who knows me best and what I want most is ME.
Yeah, duh, you say, but seriously, everything that I ever really and truly liked, I shoved down and sublimated, because I thought (or was told) it was “wrong,” and put other peoples’ ideals ahead of mine. Because they don’t have to live with them, I do.
7) I cry a lot. I used to bottle it up, but I am just…a crier. I am. I cry at the news and I cried yesterday at a picture book I was reading to my son, and I cry at movies that are not even a little bit sad and I cry when I am writing and THAT IS OKAY. Because that is who I am, and there is nothing wrong with that. I like a good cry. Several times a day. Er, hour. It doesn’t mean I’m SAD, it means I just FEEL a lot. I let myself feel now. I used to stuff them back and mutter an insult to myself about how sensitive I was, and how dumb that was. The problem is that no matter how hard I tried to run from my feelings, they were there when I got back. Waiting. Feelings demand to be felt.
So I am feeling them. I am crying right now, for your information. (I guess this is just an addendum to six, but seriously, I cry so much, it felt like it needed its own entry.)
I’m sure there’s more, and I am telling you that this month, putting a book out by myself, is equal parts thrilling and terrifying, and I wake up every morning at five am in a blind panic about all there is to do and misspelled words and typos and issues with the plot and then I say to myself, “but if it’s a mistake, that’s okay, too.” Because I’m at that place where I realize I have everything I need to be happy, so I am.