When I Finally Decided Depression Wouldn't Win
I’ve always been a shy person. I’m the person who observes first before speaking. It’s just my nature.
When I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I knew there was a possibility I would develop depression and anxiety. My sister — the fellow “fibro-warrior” — warned me. At first, I didn’t completely understand the connection. Fibromyalgia was just pain and fatigue, right?
When your body experiences constant, nagging, gnawing pain and unrelenting fatigue, your mental faculties take a toll. Your ability to think clearly, to focus or to remember appointments and deadlines becomes next to impossible. Could you think clearly if your body felt like it was being chewed on by little Chihuahuas all day long? Could you focus if even the daylight brought on terrible headaches and dry eyes so bad it felt like your eyeballs were being sliced by knives?
Once your mental abilities go down the toilet, it’s often natural for your emotions to follow. You get tired of feeling tired, you get tired of explaining to people why you’re tired and you get tired of people not believing your reasons for being tired. Eventually, you just get tired of people in general and you begin to withdraw. That’s what happened to me.
It became difficult for me to be around people, even my own family. I felt like I was being judged and that made me anxious. All I ever wanted to do was hide in the car (which I did on many occasions) because it was easier to be alone with my thoughts than to be around the loud chatter of dozens of happy, cheerful people. I didn’t feel like myself anymore. It felt like I was angry all the time and instead of expressing my feelings, I would internalize them. Even when I had a legitimate reason for being angry — being woken up from a nap unintentionally by my husband, for example — I couldn’t tell him how I felt. I would sulk in the upstairs room and mumble under my breath, playing out an argument that would never happen until I was tired of fighting with myself. I was consumed by feelings of guilt. I felt guilty for getting angry with the one person who does everything he can to make my life easier. How could I possibly be mad at him? He doesn’t deserve to have ill-feelings directed at him. It was a vicious little cycle of self-destruction.
My sleep was getting worse, too. I began having racing thoughts at night. If something happened at work, I would dream about it at night. My brain would play out any number of possible worst-case scenarios. Only when the situation was resolved (usually peacefully and drama-free) would I calm down. I seriously thought I had a sleep disorder, so I eventually made an appointment with a sleep specialist. I will never forget what happened in his office.
During his initial assessment of my sleep patterns and habits, he flat out asked me, “Do you struggle with depression?” It was the first time someone had ever asked me that question directly. I told him I wasn’t sure, but I suspected I did. That was in May 2017. It took me another five months before I saw my general practitioner (GP) and told her what I had been experiencing for well over a year.
I came to her office with a list of symptoms and started rattling them off. I was in control of the conversation until I started talking about my husband and the guilt. As soon as I mentioned how I felt, I could feel my lower lip begin to quiver. My throat got hot and my voice began to crack. Oh my God, was I crying?!
My GP was so nice. She handed me some Kleenex and spoke very reassuringly. I couldn’t believe the emotions I had bottled up for so long. Why didn’t I get this checked out sooner?
It is now April 2018 and I am doing so much better. I made the personal choice to start medication and I’m glad I did. Within a week, I had three people (my husband included) tell me I looked better. Two of those people had no idea I was dealing with depression or that I had started taking something for it, but they could see a positive difference. I didn’t magically become an extrovert. I’m still shy. I still like to fly under the radar. But I don’t feel angry or guilty anymore. I don’t internalize or have arguments with myself anymore. I’m back to being me.
I know I’ll still have the fibromyalgia rear it’s ugly face every now and then, despite my little pills having helped with the pain. And I’m sure my battle with mental health is far from over. But I’m glad I took steps to get my life back. Depression does not have to win.
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Unsplash image via Annie Spratt