The Question I Dread Facing as Someone With Depression
It’s been 10 years since I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I remember sitting in the psychiatrist’s office, a scared 17-year-old. I had pushed my GP to send me for this consultation. He was convinced I had an eating disorder because of my rapid weight loss. I knew that wasn’t right. I had no appetite and any food I did manage to eat made my stomach cramp. I knew there was something else going on. I knew my GP was wrong. So I fought until he referred me on to someone else.
Now sitting here, in the consultation I had fought for, being told I had depression and anxiety, I felt enormous relief. Finally, a diagnosis that made sense to me. Back then I thought, very naively, that a diagnosis would mean it would get easier now. I was right and I was wrong.
I was right because a diagnosis meant a list of treatments and medications I could try to fix the problem. I was wrong because those same treatments and medications often made me worse before they made me better. They also didn’t cure me.
The 17-year-old me believed I would someday wake up and be cured of depression. I thought I would talk about my feelings, pop a few pills for a while and then I’d be well again. I was adorable in my naivete.
Ten years later, I’m older and wiser. I’ve been through countless medications, dosages and their side effects, CBT, anxiety management, three breakdowns, two misdiagnosis, three doctors, four career changes, too many failed friendships and relationships to count and suicidal intent. The good news: I’m still here. The bad news: so is my depression.
I’ve accepted the fact I’ll never be “cured.” I’ll always have good and bad days and I will most likely always be on some sort of medication. The question I am now facing is one I’ve been trying to ignore for 10 years. It’s the fear I’ve pushed aside, always finding a reason (or excuse?) not to properly face it. It’s the question that even now as I write, makes my chest tighten and my eyes prickle with tears.
Is this it?
Is this always going to be my life? Will I always have this feeling that something is missing, that everything just isn’t quite right? Is it possible to have a mental illness and be totally happy?
The main thing I struggle with is the fact that no matter how happy I am, how hard I work or how carefully I look after myself, I still end up having severe depressive episodes. These episodes can last days or weeks. The carefully constructed care plan can’t stop them. I can’t control when or how they happen. No matter what I do, the life I so carefully built goes completely to shit in seconds.
Is this really it?
Surely there’s more to life than just lurching from one depressive episode to the next. I can’t build any kind of career, family or life when I live in constant fear of the ass falling out of my world again. Every time I try something new, be it a job or a diet or an exercise regime, I do really well for a few weeks, sometimes months at a time. Then, inevitably, my depression creeps back in, like a storm cloud on a sunny day. It causes shadows to fall on everything I do and before long, its dark as night once again. People keep telling me to be patient, have faith, I’ll find where I belong eventually. What if I don’t? What if I always end up back in the same place, never truly content? What if I’m always chasing a dream? What if this really is it for me?
I have no answers to these questions and the fear that I’ll always feel like this eats away at me. The fear that I’ll never find the answers sits on my chest like a dead weight. I’m in the middle of a depressive episode right now. I’m not working or doing anything productive. Even brushing my hair is a daunting task. I’m sleeping too much and cutting myself off from my family. I have no energy or motivation. This is a really bad one. I’m nearly a month into this episode and there’s no end in sight. What if it doesn’t lift? What if I never work again? What if, what if, what if?
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Thinkstock photo via Rively