When I Find Myself in a Seasonal Depression Because of My Health
My lupus went into remission right before my 30th birthday, and I’d spent the 16 years leading up to that day fighting the illness that wreaked havoc on many aspects of my life and health. Getting diagnosed at 13-years-old was challenging, not just because of the diagnosis itself, but because the teenage years themselves are challenging, and yet, they are the years that help shape your adulthood. My diagnosis and everything that happened in those first few months shifted my entire life, and I’m thankful my teenage years indeed helped shape me into the person I’ve become: strong, empathetic, determined, and always grateful.
However, the past few years, I’ve become aware that I experience “seasonal depression,” which comes in waves in different life seasons, or actual seasons. Unfortunately, it has become quite normal that I never know when this depression will strike. I strive to live a positive life, surrounding myself with good hearted people, and trying to stray from negativity. I’ve found ways over the years that help me emotionally cope and thrive, but I’m human, and I have my moments of feeling emotionally lost. I’m still learning that it’s OK to feel lost sometimes, that I don’t have to prove to anyone that I “always have it together.”
My remission came after struggling in a hopeless four-year flare where treatments weren’t working, kidney function kept worsening and I was either homebound or in and out of the hospital. With remission I felt that at 30-years-old, I was finally able to begin my life, but I wasn’t prepared for everything that came with that. I wasn’t prepared for all the emotions, the fear, the limitations that came from the fear. I remember thinking so many times, “I can’t do that because of my lupus, or kidneys.” It took a couple years to settle into this newfound health, and keep fighting to build myself up and continue to get stronger and healthier. The fear and limitations were set aside, but the emotions have lingered.
I have moments where I am emotionally down, and can rarely pinpoint why. Where I’m in a dark emotional place for days to weeks, and then it passes and I’m back to being me. I choose to remain present in these moments because I try to find the cause. But the truth about any depression is there isn’t always a cause or an explanation. We are always growing and evolving, the way things affect us constantly change, and there are always different reasons for different seasons of our lives. The only thing we can do is be present in them, regardless of the sadness that can trickle in. Life with a chronic illness is unpredictable and can present more challenges because we always live in the unknown, with the only certainty being that it’s just a matter of time before our illness can shift.
The holidays for me the past few years since my remission have had some emotional challenges. And because November and December are my favorite months of the year, I struggle in trying to figure out why they’re so emotional, why there’s always something that sets me off. This season is full of so much joy and gratitude and I love everything about it. But the holiday season is also two years since my hysterectomy and six years since my tubes were tied, and those memories have left an imprint on me.
The decisions to not carry my own children came from non-lupus related health struggles and many discussions with my doctors, to finally choosing myself, health, and being present for my future husband. I believe I still struggle emotionally because I was single when I made those decisions and battled insecurities and terrible thoughts that a man wouldn’t want me because I wasn’t “whole.” But even though I’ve worked through those doubts and know why I made the decisions, around this time of year, the sadness creeps in because I relive making those decisions all over again and mourn that loss.
We all struggle emotionally at some point, and we need to find what best helps us cope. When we bury our feelings, they feed off our doubt and insecurities. They feed off our sadness and can prevent us from moving forward. We need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable and to have feelings that can be painful, and know that no matter how long it takes or how many tears shed, there can be healing and growth in that pain.
We’ll never fully understand the “why” behind our struggles, but remember that we’re allowed to have emotional breaks. We are allowed to sometimes be sad that we’re sick, that a life of normalcy isn’t something that exists for us. Remember that these feelings are normal, even though it won’t diminish our pain. Most importantly, trust that there are people who want to help us through our dark times. If we can take comfort in knowing that our pain and compassion unite us, then we will never truly be alone in our hardships.
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