So here is the deal, and I am going to lay it out straight for you.
If you have been in our Facebook group. You may have been wondering where I have been. I very rarely post or comment anymore. Here it goes.....
I am coming off of two of the most difficult years of my life, that really came to a head about six months ago. I hid it well for a year and a half, but in October, I was less and less able to hide what I have been going through.
I suffer from extreme depression and anxiety.
I was diagnosed about 15 years ago, but the symptoms were definitely there starting in middle school. I grew up in a house where I was really babied by my mom, and my dad tried to overcompensate for that by being quite strict on me. If I was having a difficult time, and crying for any reason, my dad greeted me with a line of frustrating questions:
"Why are you crying?"
"What is the problem?"
"Well you have to be upset about something, so why are you crying?"
"What is wrong with you?"
"If you don't have a reason for crying, you need to stop crying."
In all seriousness, I had no idea what was wrong, I had no idea why I was crying, and I had no idea how to stop. It was a very frustrating and confusing time.
My grandfather was diagnosed with depression when I was in high school, and didn't deal with it. It resulted in him pretty much being disowned from the family. When you can relate to the man who was disowned from your family, you learn to bottle it up.
At this time, mental illness was something that still wasn't talked about. My mom told me I was just emotional, so I chalked it up to that. I never in a million years thought that there was a medical reason as to why I was feeling the way that I was.
I still remember the day I was diagnosed. I had two jobs at the time. I had just finished one, and drove to the other. I walked through the door, and started hysterically crying... and I couldn't stop. I was hyperventilating. I thought I was dying.
My boss says to me: "You need to call your doctor and make an appointment, immediately."
I was extremely confused, but did what she said. My reason for making an appointment? I'm crying and I can't stop. The first thing I was asked was if I had thoughts of suicide. I said no, and that was true. However, I did have thoughts that if something happened to me, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.
I couldn't even tell you what happened at the appointment, but I do know that I left with a prescription for an anti-depressant. I was tired. I was weak. I needed to sleep for the next three weeks. Here is the fucked up thing... my second job called me and MADE ME GO BACK INTO WORK OR I WAS FIRED. At least they were kind enough to allow me to work in the back room and out of sight of customers. Gee, thanks.
There was still very little public information about depression and anxiety when I was diagnosed, so I did the best that I could. I had many slips ups, it almost cost me my relationship with my now husband, and NO ONE UNDERSTOOD ME.
No one understood me. No one. I was alone.
I found myself having to explain to people how to "put up with me". Thankfully, my now husband was the one person in my life who was willing to listen and receive information, even if he didn't get it. That's right Andy, I knew you didn't get everything I needed from you, but you did it, and you are amazing.
I lost many friends.
I built up a wall to protect myself.
And I went a little bit crazy, but it hurts to have people walk out on you and isolate the rest so that you can't get hurt again.
I taught everyone else to put up with me, but I never taught myself to put up with me. I tried everything in my power to avoid it too. I would be obsessive about various things. I would pick one thing and go with it. I was a crazy dieter/exerciser/health nut. It was all I thought about, did, breathed... it. was. my. life.
I tried quilting, reading, diving in to watch obscure movies, shopping, and when it was all too hard, I really enjoyed my nights out partying.
Now here is the point where I almost lost my husband (boyfriend at the time): I was 23 or 24. I had just moved to Duluth. I share a birthday with Andy's niece. Now here is where I throw a fit, refuse to go to the cities to attend said niece's birthday party because it was MY birthday and I wanted to go out. That's what we did. It was one of those nights, where I had waaaaaay too much to drink. It was embarassing, I mad an ass out of myself. I remember the next day, I was so sick that I just watched Mean Girls three time in a row, because I could not do anything else. What I did not realize, that it caused my boyfriend to question our relationship. Truth be told, it took me a month to realize that there was a problem. I had gone back to obsessive exercise. I remember walking out into our living room and asked Andy "Do you love me anymore?"
His answer was a knife to the heart... "I. don't. know."
I sat on the couch and I lost it. I was heartbroken. Another person was going to leave, and it was all my fault.
I am so thankful, he didn't give up on me that day. But, my new obsession was born, walking on eggshells to not fuck anything up, and keeping all of that shit I was feeling to myself. I was very calculated and controlled in everything that I did. Don't cry. Don't stir the pot. Keep to yourself. Don't let anyone in to see the mess.
My introvertness grew. The wall was being built higher and higher. I had about one friend at a time, and they would stay until all of the bottled shit would boil over and I would unload with everything they have every annoyed me with, and they would leave... and rightfully so. The only constant in my life was Andy.
I finally managed to TAKE CARE OF MYSELF, for the most part anyways. This was around the time I really got into photography and really started building my business. So here is the thing, I am going to fast forward about ten-ish years, because over this time I grew my ways to cope, developed healthy-ish habits to deal with my depression, and I was even able to get OFF my medication for a time
So this brings us to 2016, and I found out I was pregnant. Up until this point, I was pretty certain that I would never have kids... they just weren't an interest of mine. But the second I found out.... I was ALL IN.
Right before I found out I was pregnant, it was the happiest I had ever been in my body. So let me tell you about the mind fuck that is pregnancy. When you are pregnant, you are encouraged to wear form fitting clothing, show off you beautiful maternal body, and belly. Every single person you come across is telling you how beautiful you are. You're glowing. Your hair is magnificent. You. are. so. beautiful.
and then you give birth....
You think to yourself, "this baby made me gain all of this weight, so it should all come off after birth." Right? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight....
The reality is that you walk into the hospital ten months pregnant, and you leave looking like you are five months pregnant, swollen to the max, feeling like you were hit by a truck, and already sleep deprived... and the compliments disappear.
You're fat, you're tired, and now you're staring at magazines about how so and so got their pre-baby body back in 5.5 days. Pile this on with my mother talking NON STOP about how she left the hospital with her pre baby body, and the nurses were all jealous of her. Fuck right off, ok?! I was so swollen from the epidural (not up for discussion, give birth the way you want... and I wanted to not be in pain, and I actually ENJOYED the labor part) to the point where my feet felt like they were going to split open.
Now swap out all of those comments for "you look tired", "when was the last time you showered", " have you thought about what you are going to do to lose the baby weight?", "when are you going back to work?", oh and "shower when they sleep, sleep when they sleep, clean when they sleep." Fuck off with all of that too.
Here I am with this tiny human that I have know for a minute, but love so fiercely that I would cut a bitch for looking at her wrong. My body is surging with hormones. My husband actually had to come home from WalMart because I was BAWLING because I couldn't get her to nurse. She was tongue tied with reflux, so I had to nurse her while she was sitting up. Do you know how hard it is to get a freaking newborn to sit up? Not happening. I would cry over the books I read her (hint: Do not read "Giraffes Can't Dance" until they are a MINIMUM of six months... save yourself the heartache). So the hormones, they suck, right?
Once again, I enter depression and anxiety city... population me. I cried when I left her, when I saw her, I couldn't do anything because I literally had zero energy to even eat. Yep, I'm on the couch and hungry, but walking to the kitchen isn't happening. I would maybe eat once a day if Andy cooked for me, and he did, because again... he is amazing.
I was put on a medication, one that was safe for nursing (again, not up for debate), but it did nothing. So I basically had to suffer until I was done nursing. I nursed her until she was two. These symptoms in the mean time were boiling at a low simmer, but it was building pressure. Things really started to build when my daughter started becoming more mobile. All that lack of energy that I was experiencing, was now used to chase a child around. I could never recharge. Things were spiraling out of control at a rapid pace. I felt crazy and out of control.
The one thing that I felt that I could control, was the studio. There I just kept piling on more and more shit to do, and trying to push ahead, because damnit I AM a working mom, and I LOVE working, and I don't care what you think. BUT that was crumbling too, because I couldn't do all of the things that I wanted to do, that I committed myself to. Now I am failing in all aspects of my life, AND I can't take the medication that I need right now. My wall started building taller and taller, I had negative zero energy. I was saving all of my energy for when I was working with clients, and I was miserable for every remaining second of every day. I was afraid to keep plans with friends. I didn't want to leave my house. I didn't want to talk to anyone. Please don't call me. Text me, and I might respond to you in a week. I was terrified to make plans with anyone, because I knew I would eventually come off as an asshole when I cancelled... because I was going to.
The questions started pouring in again:
"What is wrong with you?"
"Why are you acting like this?"
"Why can't you just be happy?"
"You need to get your shit together"
"You NEED to do this"
The thing about mental illness, is that even the people who claim to understand about what you are going through, will eventually tell you to get your life together. I had no voice. I didn't even want to. I didn't care. The only thing that I wanted to do was be with my baby, but even then, I wanted someone else to chase after her, because I couldn't.
I felt like I was in a blank empty space with nothing but my mind to keep me occupied. I hated my mind. It was filling me with all of these conspiracy theories about people in my life, because that is what anxiety does. Sometimes people don't even have to turn their backs on you, because you will do it for them.
This is where things get even more fucked up. Anti-depressants aren't fast acting. In fact, they take up to SIX WEEKS to see results, all the while the questions and statements keep rolling in. So even though I was FINALLY put on the right medication, I was still spiraling in a downward direction. What. the. fuck? Before I just had to get to a shitty job, but now... I own a business, that relies on me to be there, and to do the best job that I can for my clients. I was still doing that... but I was fucking failing everywhere else. Even the extra cool things that we wanted to do at the studio. I couldn't do it anymore. I was too busy pushing everyone out, building my wall to protect myself, and NOT CRYING... because crying is not allowed.
When that light switch went off, and the meds kick in, and the day starts feeling good again, I am living in absolute fear that it is going to end. I am about two-three weeks into that light switch moment, and I am terrified that I am going to wake up tomorrow and feel like I did the past two years. TERRIFIED. My anxiety is sky high because of it, my immune system is lowered, but I am starting to genuinely smile. I have a long way to go. I have learned that people will just never understand what it is like to have anxiety and depression, and others just will not care. I can't control that, I can only be me.
I can only be me.