I’ve been quiet on this blog for some time now.
So many feelings and zero words that felt adequate to describe them.
Stories are meant to be shared. I believe that it is stories that change us; stories allow us to enter into the lived experience of another. So it’s with trepidation that I share my story.
I kept feeling floaty. That’s the only word I can think of to describe how I felt. It’s as if I was one of the Thanksgiving Day parade balloons – tethered to reality by a string while my feet never touched the ground. Because I could feel this affect, I would then become anxious about not being on the ground. What would happen if the string broke? Where would I go? This would only serve to enhance the floaty feeling. Add to that the fog that made it’s home inside my head, and it was a particularly hard few months. A shit show of sorts.
Afternoons were spent in bed because the option of getting out of bed was just too much for me. Weekends spent hiding in my apartment because being around people was too hard. People with their feelings and their laughter and their words and their lives… yeah, back to bed. The tangibility of my favorite flannel sheets seemed to be the only thing that could comfort me.
I worked, and I Netflixed, and I slept, and I ate, and I showered (sometimes). I would cry and cry and cry, all the while thinking, “why am I crying? My life is pretty great. Where is this coming from?” Sorrow so deep that it seemed to come from the marrow of my bones. That’s an emotion I could name! But it sure wasn’t a feeling I wanted to share with others.
I did things that I am not proud of, and I did them all in search of feeling something besides floaty; something that would keep the sorrow at bay for just a bit, for just a breath. The only instance I’m comfortable sharing on this page is that I cut all my hair off, and it worked. I felt shock… I felt an apprehension… I felt “what the fuck am I doing?”… but I felt something, so mission accomplished!
Then the tears returned. I returned to my bed. I returned to my One True Love (The West Wing on Netflix). I returned to isolation.
In the midst of all of this, my therapeutic education and training kicked in. I know I can’t afford therapy right now, but I do have decent healthcare coverage. I reached out to a friend and she gave me a recommendation for a medical doctor.
I wept through the appointment. I cried through the self assessment, through the suicidal risk worksheet, through the questions about feelings I couldn’t feel. All I could say was, ‘I need help.’
That day changed my life; that doctor helped save me from myself.
5mg of a generic Lexapro a day. Who knew that such a small amount of medicine could make a world of difference? Within 36 hours, I could physically feel the fog lifting from my head; my brain felt like it finally had space to function. Two days later I was at dinner with friends, and I laughed at something that someone said it was was almost like I was experiencing laughter for the first time. I finally had access to my feelings again, something I worked so hard for in grad school that I had lost somewhere along the way.
The doctor explained it this way: imagine brain cells look like Alaskan King Crabs. The nucleus of brain cells – the body of the crab – produce electronic impulses that are sent down the long crab legs. When they get to the end of the leg, they turn into a chemical, and since the crab legs don’t touch, they need to get to the end of the other leg. There’s a ferry system that shuttles the chemical from one crab leg to the other, then the chemical turns back into an electronic impulse that travels up that leg and into the nucleus of the other brain cell. My issue seemed to be that my ferry’s weren’t working properly, or that there might not be enough ferries in general. The medicine would help to facilitate more ferries to shuttle the chemical to the next leg, thus communicating that I was, in fact, on the ground. No strings necessary.
Being present in one’s one body is not something to be underrated.
There are so many other facets to this story. I could tell you about the friends I confided in, the ones I told about the doctor’s appointment I made, and how incredibly supportive each and every one of them was to me. I could tell you my own process of over-analyzing every piece of my life from the past 5 years to see when the depression started, but I’d rather not. I could tell you about how I struggle to share this story because it’s hard to talk about how the chemistry in my own brain has betrayed me. It’s hard to talk about depression knowing how our culture demonizes it as ‘just not working hard enough,’ or as a weakness of character. I struggle to talk about it because from the outside looking in, I’m sure that my life looks good. It’s hard to share knowing that people will look at me differently; that people will judge me.
And for all those reasons, I share this story because maybe someone needs to hear it right now. Stories are meant to be shared because I believe it’s stories that change us. I don’t have statistics or research, but I do have my own lived experience. I can tell you what life was like two months ago, and I can tell you how it’s different now.
So this is my story.