May is “Mental Health Awareness Month”

I’ve never understood the reason for dedicating certain months to certain “causes” or “illnesses.” Shouldn’t we be a more vigilant and caring society where we are aware and understanding of others every day? I’ve gotten a lot of private messages from people lately who have lauded my openness regarding my mental issues. For many years, I was taught by action and word that depression is something that you have the choice to either have or not have. THIS IS NOT TRUE. True depression (not just sadness – everyone gets that occasionally) is an actual disease that is caused by an imbalance in your brain. Yes, trying to be cheerful may be of some help, but deep down inside, I know the depression is still there, and it’s fighting me to get back to the surface and cause more grief.

I am completely open and honest on this blog. I’m not out to change the world, but I do sincerely try to educate people on depression, and other anxiety disorders, because if no one talks about them, then no one thinks there’s a problem, and then no one works to find a cure or a solution. Burying your head in the sand is not going to help anything, except perhaps to give you a temporary reprieve.

Here are some facts about me, that may or may not come as a surprise to anyone with depression, as there are certainly “triggers” that can cause a mild problem to blow up into a huge, life-threatening situation.

In 1991, 19 days after my 16th birthday, I was raped. He was renting a room at my friend’s house, and I was spending the night over at her house when he attacked me sometime in the early hours of the morning. He told me that if I told anyone, he’d kill me. I believed him. At the time, I was living with my grandmother, and when I went home to her, I told her what happened. She took me to my pediatrician (whom I’ve always disliked, because he was very misogynistic and obsequious). He told me that it wasn’t rape because I knew the boy who did it, and I must have given him some indication that “I wanted it.” I believed him. He told me that I should never spread such lies around, because it could ruin the boy’s reputation. I believed him. I was just 16 years old. I didn’t know any better. There was no such thing as date rape back then.

Soon after that incident, I attempted suicide for the first time. I downed an entire bottle of Tylenol (because that’s what we had in the house) and chased it with a bottle of tequila. Bad combination, because it made me throw up and it obviously didn’t kill me. To this day, I cannot stand the smell of tequila.

That began my downward spiral into depression. You know you suck at life when you can’t even kill yourself properly. I started engaging in dangerous behaviors like driving fast (at that time, I think the fastest I ever went was 120, but cars just didn’t have the horsepower then that they do now) and shoplifting. Since I never got caught, I figured that my behavior wasn’t that bad.

In 1995, I got engaged (much too young) to a man who was several years older than me. We moved in together, preparatory to actually getting married. One day, I came home sick from work and found him in bed with a girl whom I thought was my best friend. Obviously, she wasn’t. I turned around and left and went to my mom’s house to sleep for a while. When I came home, he was gone, and so were his belongings, and I haven’t seen him since. I did eventually forgive her, and we did become friends again for an all-too-brief period of time before she passed away.

That was my first realization that I suck at relationships. I expect truth and honesty, and open communication if something is going wrong, and that just doesn’t happen – at least with the men I’ve dated. I’ve had a horrible history of dating “the wrong men.” I’ve dated men old enough to be my father, and 10 years younger than me, and everything in between. They all have the same thing in common: they are unable to commit. Somehow, subliminally, I always choose men that I know will not commit to me, because subliminally, I’m looking for someone like my father, who did not want to commit to me. I was the antithesis of a daddy’s girl. He would probably describe me more as daddy’s pain in the ass, entirely too much trouble to deal with, girl. When my parents separated, I was about 7* (yes, I know I’m jumping around) and for the first time in my life, my father chose me over my sister as the child he would list as his dependent on his taxes. I later figured out that it was because I was the younger child, and so he’d get the child tax break an extra two years than if he had chosen my sister. My father was always deserting me, either to spend time with my sister, or to go out on dates, or whatever he chose to do. When he wasn’t going out, he wanted to watch his TV shows and didn’t want to communicate with me at all. I don’t remember a single meaningful conversation with him that didn’t relate to cars in the first 13 years of my life. When he decided to marry his current wife, we all sat down together to have a “family meeting” and discuss the issues that we had, because our “family” was very warped by this time. One of the things I remember telling him was that I don’t ever remember him telling me that he loved me. He told my sister, and he told his wife to be, but he never said it to me. He said that I should just know, and it shouldn’t have to be said. Somehow, this is the type of man I kept finding and dating. Men who could not or would not love me, and would not commit to being even semi-permanent in my life.

Around this time, I attempted suicide for the second time. I tied a rope to the bar in my closet and tried to hang myself. I managed to suffocate myself to unconsciousness, but the rope broke, and I ended up falling back to the floor. Yeah, I have either really good luck or really bad luck.

After the fiance incident, I dated several other men who fit my profile. A couple of them were already married, some just had girlfriends, others weren’t looking for any kind of commitment, and then there were the abusers. Some were verbal abuse, and some knocked me around. One held a knife to me neck and told me he’d kill me just for the fun of it if I didn’t do exactly what he said. I tried going the Tylenol route again, but this time, I chased it with straight water instead of tequila. I ended up throwing up again instead of dying, and I’m sure I’ve done irreparable damage to my liver by now, even without heavy drinking.

By this time, the pediatrician that I hated had his practice taken over by a new, younger doctor who had more modern sensibilities and was open to listening to me. In 1998, I was diagnosed with Dysthymia, a chronic, low grade depression. I was prescribed an anti-depressant, and it worked for a while, and then a different one, and then a different one; each one working for a few months or a few years before I’d be back to suicidal again. By this time, I’d learned that trying to kill myself is obviously futile, so instead of actually attempting it, I’d just fantasize about it. I’d think of all the different ways I could do it, and what I’d need in order to accomplish it. I think if I had access  to a handgun at that point, I would have actually succeeded, finally.

After having my son, I suffered from Postpartum Depression, although I was unaware of it. My husband was not very good at helping me with anything. He didn’t clean, he didn’t cook, he very rarely took care of his son (and when he did, he called it babysitting, which pisses me off. You don’t BABYSIT your own child, you PARENT them.) And yet, he was constantly critical of everything I did. The house was never clean enough, I didn’t have dinner ready for him, etc. It didn’t matter that I was only getting 4-5 hours of sleep every 24 hour period. During my entire pregnancy and through the end of breastfeeding my son, I wasn’t allowed to take any of my anti-depressants, which didn’t help at all.

Skipping forward over several years and more of the same, I separated from my husband and he and our son moved to a different state, which made all of us happier. Around this time, I started getting really bad headaches. My doctor diagnosed them as migraines and put me on migraine medication. Just like with the anti-depressants, they’d work for a little while, and then the next time, they’d do absolutely nothing. It took 5 years to diagnose the reason for the severe headaches is a bone spur in my spine that’s slowly pinching off the nerves. Eventually, without my even trying, it’s going to likely kill me.

2012/2013 were terrible years for me. I once again got involved in a relationship that didn’t work out. Things seemed great in the beginning, even to the point where we moved in together. Unfortunately, it was the moving in that caused the undoing of our relationship. On the day we were scheduled to move, we ended up spending the entire day moving his belongings, and then had to return the rental truck. I ended up having to move my own belongings to the new place a few boxes at a time, whenever I had the ability, because he wouldn’t help. Then, I went up to Fresno for a friend’s wedding, and was coming home on New Year’s Eve. He knew I was coming home that day, and we had planned to go out and do “something” although that was never defined. I sped down from Fresno only to get a message from him when I was 20 minutes from home stating that he decided he was going to go hang out with his friends and he’d see me the next day. He pulled a similar stunt on my birthday  6 weeks later by refusing to ask for time off from work to spend any time with me. I didn’t even get a card or a “Happy birthday” from him. The closest I got was, “well, you knew that I close on Saturdays, so if you wanted me to be able to go, you should have planned on  Sunday instead (with him in full knowledge that I was starting a new job on Monday and didn’t want to go out partying the night before I started). After that, it all just fell apart. He decided he didn’t even want to sleep in the same room with me, so he took to sleeping on the couch in the living room. When it came time to move out, again, he moved all of his belongings and left me to take care of all my belongings by myself. I am pretty capable, so I did manage to move all of my stuff, a couple boxes at a time, to either storage  or to my mom’s house.

November came around, and for some reason, all of a sudden, the depression came back like a major slap in the face. I went back to see my doctor, and he said that I’ve now progressed to Major Depressive Disorder.

* I’ve actually blocked out most of what happened in my life for several years, and haven’t been able to get those memories back, because they are too painful for me to face, still. What’s the difference? With the Dysthymia, I was always just a little “bummed.” All of a sudden, I hit this wall where it took all of my energy just to get through a day without crying, and as soon as I got home from work I’d crawl into my bed and cry myself to sleep and stay there. Some nights I never got up at all, until I had to go to work. On my days off, I’d stay in bed all day, sleeping or reading, and trying to ignore the outside world. My doctor gave me a new prescription to see if it would help me, and it has. I still have days when I start crying for no reason, or don’t have the energy to get out of bed. I’d binge eat. Some days I wouldn’t eat anything at all, and other days I’d gorge myself until I felt I couldn’t move.

This is probably more information than you’ve ever wanted or needed to know about me, but this is who I am. I have depression. I have panic disorder. I have mental illness. Not just in the month of May. This is a battle I fight every single day. I know I’m not alone. I’m tired of the misconceptions surrounding depression. “Just be happy” is not an option. I am a generally happy person on the outside. You just can’t see the cracked container on the inside that I’m desperately trying to hold together. I have attempted suicide 4 times, and thought about it at least 400 other times. I’m no longer at the point where I want to kill myself, there are certainly plenty of times when I want to die. This is what depression looks like from my perspective.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Today is the final day of “Mental Health Awareness Month” | veritas and balderdash

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