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The Black Hole June 28, 2012

Posted by J. in Genius.
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Depression is a real bitch.

One day over the winter, Larry and I were having one of those conversations that married couples do. The ones you’re told about before you get married that come under the heading “Communication is Important” without anyone telling you how absolutely sucktastic communication can actually be sometimes.

And I found myself crying. Sobbing. I heard myself saying the words, “I hate my life so much.”

I knew that wasn’t right.

I knew that looking at my life as objectively as possible, there was nothing to hate. My blessings are without number. I’m luckier than most. My disappointments are few, my difficulties are surmountable, my discomforts are temporary.

There was no reason for me to hate my life, and in a flash, hearing those words out loud through my tears, I knew something was wrong.

Larry hugged me, apologized for upsetting me, and walked away, confused and upset.

I sat here at the computer and cried. Sobbed. And stared.

And in the back of my head, I felt a little shove. A nudge. And a quiet word in a low, clear voice saying one word: depression.

I frowned. I wiped my eyes and blew my nose. And I typed “symptoms of depression” into the search bar.

Lots of stuff came up. Tons of sites. Forums of people discussing their own depression, their treatments, and talking about the way they were feeling. And I got a list–many lists, actually–but with almost the same content across the board:

  • feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • reduced sex drive
  • changes in sleep habits–insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • changes in appetite–over-eating, or having no appetite
  • agitation or restlessness–hand-wringing,  pacing, an inability to sit still
  • irritability or angry outbursts
  • slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
  • indecisiveness, distractibility, or decreased concentration
  • fatigue, tiredness, and loss of energy–even everyday tasks seem to take monumental effort
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures, or blaming yourself when things are going right
  • frequent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
  • crying spells for no apparent reason
  • unexplained physical problems, like headaches

Of the 15 or so symptoms there, I had 13 on any given day, in varying degrees of intensity.

I realized it had been going on for quite some time. I knew I’d been feeling most of those symptoms since Dave was born. I’ve been feeling a lot of them since Emma arrived. I figured it was just adjusting to a growing family, growing up, growing older.

Sitting there in December, I knew what it was. I was pretty sure, anyway. But I had no idea what to do about it.

When you need help, when you don’t feel well, you call your doctor. My doctor, God love him, is a pill-flinging monkey. Don’t get me wrong. I usually love that. I’m a firm believer in better living through pharmaceuticals. But this is my BRAIN we’re talking about. This isn’t “you might get a rash” or “if you get an erection lasting for more than four hours” kind of thing. This is not a typical case of me knowing what’s wrong and going in to get a pill for it. I didn’t really even know what kind of help I needed. Why was I depressed? Did I need therapy? And how do you pick a therapist? When I needed a pediatrician, I talked to my friends with kids. When I needed a lady-bits doctor, I talked to my vaginally-endowed friends. But how do you ask someone, “So, who keeps your brain tuned up?”

The day after Christmas, I shot an email off to Fr. Albert. As a counselor, he has lots of experience with dealing with Teh Crazy. If anyone would know where to start, I figured he would.

And he did. First, he confirmed that yes, based on what I told him, he thinks there’s some depression going on. “Textbook” is, I believe, the word he used. And he gave me a phone number.

Being depressed, I didn’t call it right away. That takes energy. That takes drive. That takes willingness to actually do something. That means making a push to go past your own nagging doubts and anxiety (which goes hand in hand with depression, by the way) to pick up the phone and put yourself out there.

On New Year’s Day, by happenstance, I was at lunch with my sister and two good friends. And in the midst of laughing and silliness and a really happy, good time, conversation got serious. Over BLT’s and French toast, our own damaged bits began to show. I realized I wasn’t alone in having things that needed some repair, and I came out to them. I told them I was depressed, and needed help, and they were glad. Relieved.

And one of my friends asked a few more questions, filing the answers away in her head.

Later, she brought them out again. Alone, she asked me more questions. And a few more. And she listened. And she asked me questions based on my answers.

Loraine is a herbalist. Now, my views on herbal healing are skeptical at best. You know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine. But I found myself confessing to her that I was scared shitless of anti-depressants. The side effects terrify me. And the two biggest ones that I hear across the board from people are that the meds tanked their libido and made them gain weight.

Um, those are two things I could NOT afford to make worse. Losing what tiny little bit of sex drive I had would kill my marriage, and gaining another 20 pounds might well kill me.

She told me that she felt my depression had a lot to do with my hormones. I’m 43 now and have been battling menopausal symptoms for years. Before I got pregnant with Dave, even. She asked all about my periods, if the worst of the symptoms happened at regular times in my cycle…I don’t even remember now all the things she asked.

But, when I thought about it, all those things that were wonky with my period, stuff my own beloved ob/gyn assured me were a normal part of  having a baby and being over 40, they did sort of go hand in hand with not quite “feeling like myself” anymore.

I asked her if she could recommend something that I could take and she gave me a big smile and said, “Of course I can. It’s what I do. It’s what my degree is in.” She worked for years in a women’s health center, dealing with women who were seeking alternative treatments for women’s health issues.

Again, skeptical. Fucking hairy-armpit, kale-eating hippies with their ooga-booga voodoo cures.

But I trust Loraine. And she laughed and said that my symptoms, the way I described feeling, the things going on with my body all sounded exactly like all the women between 40 and 65 that she saw while she was working there. And that she thought she could help me.

She came back from the natural herb voodoo hippy store with a bottle of supplements. Black cohosh and chaste tree, mostly, with a bunch of other stuff in smaller amounts. Kudzu, alfalfa, red clover, tangerine oil, lavender, valerian…probably some grass clippings. Who the fuck knows?

My body went haywire for a bit and I almost gave up, but she said, no, stay on them. Give it a month.

And in a month, I had to admit that I was a bit better.

In two, I was much better.

At the end of three, my cycles were much more normal. I felt more like myself. I could tell I had a bit more hitch in my giddyup. Larry could tell.

I added St. John’s Wort on my own. I read about it, researched it, saw it had clinically proven effects on mild depression, minimal side effects, and I had no contraindications to taking it. And this time I knew enough to give it some time to work.

And it did. I added a B-complex vitamin to the cocktail and can say, sitting here 6 months after I tearfully composed an email confessing that I needed help, I feel quite like myself again.

Depression is a black hole. I’m luckier than most. I wasn’t in deep. I know how God works and I’ve become quite attuned to his voice, and adept at following his gentle nudges. Faith has been described as taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase. In this case, those stairs led up, and I had faith enough to put my feet on the first step. Never underestimate the power of that kind of faith.

I’m blessed that on top of all the things I knew I had even in my darkest moments, to have discovered anew that I have wonderful, amazing, supportive friends in my real life and inside my computer who have been a hand up out of that hole. I have a patient husband who might not understand, but always tries, and always has my back. I have smart people around me. I have a greater appreciation for my body and my mind and the things it can do, and I listen to it.

More than anything, it was finding myself admitting to the people in my life that I have some issues and hearing, “Yeah, I have that, too. ” I’m not alone. And I’m coming out, in case you’re sitting out there in Computerland feeling not quite like yourself. You’re not alone, either.  No matter how deep the hole you’re in is.

For me, there was a light I could focus on, to keep climbing towards. I’m grateful to be able to say that it’s good to be out in the sun again.

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Comments»

1. Lisa - June 28, 2012

You are amazing! I loved it! Thank you for sharing. How does a person get in touch with Lorraine? She could be an angel…

2. TashaGurl - June 28, 2012

I am so glad to hear you are feeling better, Poops!. Thank you for sharing your story and outing yourself!!! The black hole has sucked me in too, and it helps to know that others have escaped.

3. trillian42 - June 28, 2012

Oh, darling. I’m so glad you have found something that works well for you. I’d definitely be interested in hearing more about what Lorraine recommended to you. I’ve been through a few things since I had Zoe.

4. Liz hamlin - June 28, 2012

Jen,
Carol H. forwarded this post to me because she knows I have a lot of experience with depression. In fact I’m just begining to surface from a 2-3 month downturn. I have (since 1995) recurrent Major Depression and Major Anxiety with the occasional panic attacks. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a panic attack in the confessional (with you know who).
Unfortunately for me I have to take several pharmaceuticals to keep on track. I’m glad the herbals work for you.

My favorite author on depression is William Styron. From “Darkness Visible”
“When I was first aware that I had been laid low by the disease, I felt a need, among other things, to register a strong protest against the word ‘depression’. Depression most people know used to be termed ‘melancholia’ …. Melancholia would still appear to be a far more apt and evocative word for the blacker forms of the disorder, but it was usurped by a noun with a bland tonality and lacking any magisterial presence, used indifferently to describe an economic decline or a rut in the ground, a true wimp of a word for such a major illness. …for over seventy-five years the word has slithered innocuously through the language like a slug, leaving little trace of its intrinsic malevolence and preventing by its very insipidity, a general awareness of the horrible intensity of the disease when out of control”

Styron has such a way with words. If its any consolation – many great writers have suffered from depression.
I wish you well, half the battle is recognizing what is happening to you.
God Bless you,
Liz Hamlin

5. Carol - June 29, 2012

The ugly dragon of which you speak has reared it uninvited head upon my countenance as well! For me, the years have been good and as they pass (and they will) I pray that you see less and less of the Beast as well!

6. I Never Share Needles « askpoopsplease - September 6, 2012

[…] months, I’ve been BEGGING my lovely Knittah/herbalist/shaman/holy woman/healer/librarian friend Loraine to teach me needle felting. She felts many wee, cute things. OH EM GEE! […]

7. I Got Your Holiday Bonus Right HERE « askpoopsplease - December 16, 2012

[…] Then I got me some happy pills and things looked a lot brighter. And my creative mojo–among other things–came back. I was making cool stuff again and feeling good about it. I opened two more Etsy shops to show off my creations. I started writing again, more seriously and every day, and on a whim I self-published a few books, more as a vanity exercise than anything else. And more than one friend on more than one occasion asked me the same basic question: why aren’t you famous? […]


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