Monday, April 20, 2009

Depression is Real

My favorite billboards lately have been the Depression is Real ones. You’ve probably seen them and wondered what they were talking about. They have a picture of a chalkboard with words written on them. The slogans say things like “You’d never tell someone with cancer to just get over it” or “You’d never say it’s just diabetes – snap out of it.” Why, then, do people say the same thing to those who have been diagnosed with depression?

About six months after we got married my doctor diagnosed me with depression. We’d thought it was a thyroid problem for a while, but after taking some thyroid medicine with no results we looked at other options. At the time, I was basically always tired and I could sleep for long periods of time. On weekends I’d sleep for 14 hours before Jared would wake me up – I’d still be tired all day long. This was in the spring of 2007. I began taking medication for the depression and things started getting a little better, but I was still fighting the tiredness and lack of interest in doing things.

At the end of that summer we were called to the activities committee in our ward, a calling I struggled with because I have trouble putting myself out there, and neither Jared nor I were particularly active in the socializing department. We worked hard, though, and ended up putting on several fun activities for the ward, with varying degrees of support from committee members.

During the winter of 2007 I began taking clomid to help us get pregnant. I was getting more depressed and would sometimes have days where all I could do was cry. Jared, wonderful man that he is, would just listen to me and then tell me how wonderful and important I was to him. He would make me laugh or take me out to ice cream to cheer me up. He worked hard in school all day and then came home to a crying wife and instead of complaining he just worked harder for me – doing laundry and dishes and helping around the house so I could rest or sleep. Sleep was still the only out for me, although the medication did keep things under control most of the time.

2008 dawned with some bright hopes for the future. I changed jobs so that I could work in Alpine district, where the insurance covered infertility. We continued working on the activities committee, but Jared was increasingly doing things solo. In the spring I would go to activities and help set up, then go home and watch TV or go to sleep. By summer, I was genuinely scared. During our last activity, a picnic, I helped Jared set up then went home. I sat on the couch and TV surfed and let my brain wander. For the first time since high school, I began to think about hurting myself and ending things permanently. I was petrified of these thoughts and no longer wanted to be alone. I called Jared and asked him to come home and bring someone else with the priesthood with him. Luckily, the bishop was giving Jared a lift home at the time and came over. He and Jared gave me a blessing, and I felt better for a short time. We told the bishop that we were struggling with infertility and he was very understanding and supportive.

Fall was the worst time for me. I started a new job and liked the place, but I missed my friends. I tried very hard, though, to make new friends at Orem. I was spiraling downward, though, and could feel it. By October it was all I could do to get up in the morning. I rarely made it to church or even out of the house on weekends. I’d come home from work each day and just go to sleep. Jared took care of all the cooking, housework, laundry, etc. He’d wake me up at 5:30 to eat dinner and then sit with me until I’d go to sleep again between nine or ten. Jared stayed supportive and loving through all of this, but when I told him that I’d been thinking about suicide a lot, he had to turn to someone else for help. He left me at home one Sunday morning and went to church to ask the bishop for help. He came home with some ideas and we spent the afternoon talking candidly about how we were feeling and how things were affecting him and me. I also talked to my mother in law when she called knowing that something was wrong. We decided it was time for me to get some professional help.

I made an appointment with my doctor to talk about upping my dose of anti-depressants, and Jared made an appointment for me with LDS Family Services. I went and talked with a therapist every 2-3 weeks, and it helped me a lot to understand that I’m not in charge of everything, and I needed to start loving and forgiving myself.

When I found out I was pregnant in December, I had cut back on the counseling to once a month. I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe that after trying for 20 months our Kaity was finally on the way! Things started looking up for me, but a comment made by a coworker right before Christmas break put me in a funk for about a week. Finally, Jared was able to get through to me and after an email to a friend I was able to put those hurtful words behind me and enjoy the Christmas season.

Because I was pregnant, I decided to stop taking my anti-depressants. I went cold-turkey, which I later learned was a really bad idea. Luckily, my adrenaline was so high that my body was able to take it. Things are still going along pretty well and Jared and I love spending time together and preparing for our little girl to join our family. All is not rosy, though. Now that my hormones (and excitement) have leveled out, I have started having down days again. Nothing big, and I don’t have any harmful thoughts anymore, but there have been one or two days where things make me sad and I just want to sleep. I feel just like I used to when I’d forget to take my medication for a couple of days. I am planning on talking to my doctor this week about going back on anti-depressants – there are a few that are safe for pregnant and nursing moms. I still go to see my counselor once a month. He said that I’m doing fine and he’s pretty sure I’ll be okay; but he just wants to keep an eye on me since I’m not on medication anymore.

This post is really long and congrats if you’ve made it through. I’m not writing this for pity, I’m doing great and I’ve really appreciated the support of my friends. I’m also extremely grateful for the gospel and the saving qualities of the Atonement that have helped me. I’m grateful for this experience, for the things I have learned. I am especially grateful to my wonderful husband who never once gave up on me or thought I was a lost cause, even though sometimes he was pretty scared and must have felt very lonely. I am writing this to chronicle my own struggle and to hopefully let others who are struggling know that I understand and am a great listener. I also wanted to help dispel the myth that depression is nothing important – that you can just snap out of it. We all have our disabilities to deal with; some are more noticeable than others. With the love of our Father and our Savior, however; and the support of good friends, neighbors, and loved ones, we are able to make it through any trial that we are given. I know this to be true.


Lemme said...

wow...that was really eye opening. I have to admit that I'm usually one of those people that really doesn't understand depression. I just never really understood how people could be sad when they seem to have things so put together. Then my mom was diagnosed and I got to see it first hand. I think it's good that you're writing about it because now people can see and understan that it's real.

Jennie said...

It is amazing to me that people still use the phrase "Snap out of it" in regard to depression, it is such a real thing. I can't even count the number of people I have known that have truly struggled with depression on all levels. Sometimes our feelings are crazy and out of control and we make ourselves feel even worse by saying that we are irational nut cases. Any feeling that we feel is real, and it is not stupid. You are amazing for beign so open with everyone, I think everyone just goes along in their own lives (including me) not even knowing that those around them are feeling pain.

*Meg Larsen* said...

i didn't understand it until it happened to me...and you know i feel for you! i still play the on and off game with my meds, but things seem pretty stable now.

My doctor put me on Zoloft because it was safe for nursing, so that might be a good option during pregnancy as well. I might take it next pregnancy, though I really didn't have any of this until about 2 months postpartum, so who knows what the hormones will do in round two!

you know i'm always here for you :o) and yes, you can come over anytime in your pj's or call me for company. i have many days like that.

Cathy said...

I'm so impressed. It takes a lot of courage to share your trials, and you did it beautifully. It is such a misconception to think that depression is simply about feelings, or that you could possibly control it. Thanks for sharing.

Martha said...

Thanks for writing all that Sam. Please let me know if I can ever help with anything. Jared is absolutely right--you are amazing. I don't totally understand depression but definitely have my up days and down days, which makes me appreciate those who have so many more down days than I do.