I don't know that I have every actually said (or typed) this out loud on the internet, but I have depression. Specifically, Depressive Disorder NOS (not otherwise specified, which is kind of funny to me when I think about it). I've had depression for a while. A long while, probably longer than I actually know, and for a very very very long time I just kind of...sat with it. I remember when I was in college in New Mexico waking up some days just feeling so utterly uninterested in what I was doing. I didn't care about anything. I didn't care about my job, my school work, my friends, my car, the Sandia Mountains. I just walked around, went through the motions and squeezed by. And yeah sure, I was still functioning and wasn't in a severe depressive episode, I still got up every day and showered and ate and even passed all my classes and got promotions and awards at my job, but my heart was not in it. I did what I had to do, but just didn't care about any of it.
It was easy for me to pass it off then, that feeling of disinterest and utter weariness. I pushed it away with excuses about adjusting to college life, not liking the school I was at or the town I lived in, or later pushed it away as missing Rusty and wanting to be with him. I thought external things would fix it and get rid of it. So you can imagine my disappointment when I threw caution to the wind, dropped out of school, moved to Arkansas, got married, and pretty much left everything else behind me, hurt a lot of people in the process and still managed to be followed by that discontentment, that heaviness. I thought maybe I was just not being a good enough Christian or a good enough wife. Maybe I was just broken and hopeless.
And then I had a baby. It is the continual belief that a baby will fix you, only to discover that babies actually do more to highlight your weaknesses than to fix them. So my depression followed me into motherhood. It took on a slightly different form then, when Norah was young. Rather than being in a constant heavy fog, I was manic, running around trying to be perfect and protecting her from any potential dangers, real or imagined. Most new mothers do this, panic about imaginary baby stealing monsters, but my particular panic was compounded by the fact that Rusty's sister died a very unexpected death just two short (very short) weeks after Norah was born.
I was haunted by very real, very scary images of Norah being stolen from me, Norah dying in her sleep, Norah falling into a lake and me losing her, Norah and me flying off the highway and crashing into the trees on the side of the highway. It was rough, living life with a newborn and being terrified that at any moment she might be taken from me, like Wendi was taken from us. I never really did anything about it, just obsessed about kept Norah close, protecting her and controlling everything in her world.
So this continued, the obsessions and the panic and eventually it settled back into the regular, comfortable depression I was used to, so used to that I thought it was just who I was. And it continued for over another year, silently controlling and corralling me, altering decisions I made on so many levels I didn't even know about, until after Max was born.
Max's birth marked a turning point in the Perkins house in more ways than one. Rust and I had spent half of the year living apart, in a scary dance on the edge of dissolving our marriage. But for the most part, pregnancy settled out my brain, took the edge off the depression, until I wasn't pregnant anymore.
About 6 weeks after Max was born I crashed. I went back to work. I had to interact with more than just my five safe people. I had to use my brain for more than just changing diapers and remembering what time Max ate last. And now that I think about it, thank God for that job. I remember I would sit at my computer at work, trying to type emails or daily logs, and couldn't type more than a few words before forgetting what I was doing. It was like the connection between my brain and my hands was broken, even when I remembered what I was doing, most of the time it took concerted effort to actually type out the words. I had minuscule patience for anything and inappropriately yelled at more than one innocent co-worker. (Though I never yelled at the kids at work...I saved the irrational child yelling for Norah.) And finally it just became too much and I finally accepted that something was wrong. I remember I was sitting in the rocking chair holding Max and Rusty was getting ready to take Norah swimming, he was holding her swim suit asking if he needed anything else and I was trying to tell him to get the sunscreen. But I couldn't remember the word sunscreen. I just forgot it. It wasn't there, wasn't in my head. There was nothing there but the blinding and frustration of not knowing the goddamn word for what protects your skin from the sun.
I called the doctor. I called and said, Oh hey! I'm pretty sure I have a milk blister on my nipple because there is a bump on it and everytime Max nurses it feels like he is chewing on my nipple with piranha teeth so could you help with that? And also, I forgot the word for sunscreen and I forgot how to type and I can't stop yelling at people and hating everyone. Do you think maybe you can help with that too? And he promptly started me on Zoloft.
The change in my brain was scary in how quick it happened. One day I was heavy and irrational and snappy and two days later I was talking about how light the air was, I can't even feel myself breathing! And hugging every person I came in contact with, repeating obnoxiously, Well just get over it, I am a hugger now Jasmine! (Ask her, I am not even exaggerating about this one.) It was like weight lifting off of me, like lighting striking in my brain and making it work again, like being able to breath again.
Is Zoloft magic? Did it fix the problems in my marriage and in my heart? Did it change me into a sparkly, happy, beautiful person who poops out gold nuggets? Hell no. All the problems in my life are still there, sometimes my heart looks suspiciously like a piece of tar, and I am rarely ever sparkly for more than five minutes. But having a brain that is working correctly makes it easier to think about tackling those demons, easier to think about being sparkly for like...ten minutes.
And you know what, I still have bad days. Some days I still wake up and feel like I weigh a thousand pounds. Some days inertia is still to hard to overcome, if I sit down on the couch I will stay there all day. Some days I want to shop to cover my pain, and if I don't have money I want to eat to cover it up. I still yell at people inappropriately, and my lovey Norah still bears the brunt of my impatience. Fall is hard on my brain. On bad days everything is enormous. The pile of dishes. The intakes at work. The raisins on the floor. The sounds of my children. The holes in my marriage. But those days are no longer the norm. They are a nuisance, a reminder that the Zoloft isn't magic and we still have work to do.
So I wanted to share this, a very short description of my journey with Depressive Disorder NOS because I think we would be amazed by how many women, how many people, struggle through every day thinking that this is what life is, an eternal journey through fog and weight and only faded glimmers of sunshine. But that isn't what it is all about. Some people need a little help to re-calibrate their brains, to be more sparkly and have more sunshine, and even though it isn't magic, it is a definite help. So I'm on the other side of Fall, I am working to remember to take care of myself and working up the courage to take more steps to healing. And I'm serious, the air really is lighter now.
*Image Credit Here