In case you haven’t noticed, it’s been a little quiet on the blog lately, especially for summer. And there’s a damn good reason for that.
My depression is back.
With a vengeance.
I realized recently that I’ve been dealing with my depression since I was 14… I’m 21 now. That’s a third of my life that’s been clouded by this terrible illness infecting my brain. Even though 14-year-old-me is smiling in this picture from my ninth-grade Christmas dance, don’t be fooled. It was two months after my best friend committed suicide, and my group of friends and I were still reeling and trying to pick up pieces of what we had been. Also, yes, I’ve basically looked exactly the same since I was 14.
I had an emotionally disastrous semester in the spring. I came out academically unscathed, but emotionally destroyed. Part of it was due to a really difficult breakup. I lost some people that I had considered friends for a long time. My happy spaces were being invaded by drama and sadness.
I had a few days where I totally lost my shit, crying in front of one of the grad students, then immediately going to cry in front of my clarinet professor. One day, I skipped all my afternoon classes because I was genuinely afraid I would have a level-10 meltdown, so I went home and cried in bed for hours. Yet I kept on plugging, hoping the end of the semester would bring me happiness.
But it didn’t.
Summer is always the worst time for my depression, which sucks. The weather in the summer, especially this summer, is usually beautiful and exciting. But, unlike the semester, I don’t have a million things to do. My friends make fun of my color-coded, jam-packed Google calendar during the semester. But then the calendar slows way down in the summer, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I don’t have my usual busy schedule, and it somehow ruins my mood.
Usually, I just go along with it, coping and using self-care as best as I can. I joke that I only make letters when I’m stressed out or upset – I have over 30 sets of letters, most of them that I made myself. I run, trying to beat best times and distances. I read books, like the whole Lord of the Rings series that I checked out of the library in May.
But none of those things have worked this summer.
I got to the point where I had a month’s worth of clean laundry piled up on my floor, with not enough motivation to even sort my clothes to put them in their drawers. I would lay in my bed and stare at my craft desk, where all of the equipment to make letters was stored – but I didn’t have the drive to pull the fabric out of the crate or the stencils out of the bag. It was a chore to even get dressed to run, so I just didn’t run. My podcasts backed up, since I only listen to them when I work out. I felt like crap, I was eating like crap, and I could barely get myself out the door every morning for work.
Then came the Burrito Breakdown.
That’s what we call it in my house, and that’s how I explained the situation to my therapist. I totally, entirely lost my shit over a mistaken burrito-eating. It sounds sad and pathetic, and that’s because it was. I was screaming and crying and honestly wanting nothing more than to curl up under my bed and stay there for weeks. I knew that something was wrong, and I knew I needed more help than I was getting with my therapy appointments.
I needed to go back on medication.
I had tried medications before, four of them. And they all came with hosts of side effects, ones that ruined my life and made it so much more difficult to function. Insomnia, sleeping too much, under-eating, over-eating, suicidal thoughts… it was awful. And then I went in and basically had an anxiety attack when I was placed with a new psychiatrist with no prior warning, and I never went back.
But, a few weeks ago, I went back.
We had a talk about why I quit taking my previous medication, and how I had fared over the last year and half since I’d been in the office. I talked about how my anxiety and depression were so bad I had to change my driving habits so I wouldn’t drive myself out into dangerous intersections. I told her how I felt like I wasn’t me anymore, just a shell of who I was.
We decided to put me on Effexor, a medication my mom had been using for years for an off-label condition. Since my body hates medication, I did a week on a half dose, then was to up to a full dose. Taken in the morning, with or without food.
I suffered through a week on it, feeling emotionally better but mentally fuzzy until around 3 in the afternoon every day. I called to stay down on a half dose for another week and switch to taking it at night, and that did the trick. It worked wonders.
Last week, I crossed something off of my to-do list that had been there for months. I made letters for me and my Little in the Barituba fraternity, finishing two sets in one morning before I even went to work. I cried on my drive in to Indiana, because it was the first time I’d felt productive and truly happy in months.
I’ve been studying for my GRE again, finally having the attention span to focus on reading passages and math problems.
I finally finished The Fellowship of the Ring, after checking it out of the library back in May.
I still have a lot of things to deal with right now – I went to my primary care physician to talk about my fatigue and depression, and I wanted to make sure that there weren’t any medical anomalies that might be causing my issues. I expected all my blood work to come back normal so I could pin everything on my depression. But I had thyroid levels that were twice the upper limit, B-12 levels well below normal, and the iron level in my blood was almost three times what it should have been.
My mom has been giving me weekly B-12 shots at home, and that’s been helping my energy a bit.
I have a thyroid uptake scan set for tomorrow morning, and I’m genuinely curious as to how that’ll turn out. My mom’s side of the family has a bad history of hypothyroidism, while my dad’s twin sisters both had Grave’s disease and hyperthyroidism. Basically, I’m cursed from both ends.
And elevated iron levels can cause a multitude of problems, including a condition where excess iron can settle in your liver and kidneys and reduce their function – and wouldn’t you know it, I have a family member with that condition too.
I’ve kind of come to accept that my body is a Temple of Doom, and I’m trying my best to happily coexist with it.
I’m sorry that I’ve really been off the radar for quite some time, but sometimes real life and real me can be a little difficult to deal with. I’m hoping that my antidepressant (YES, it is an antidepressant, damnit) and continuing my medical search will really improve my quality of life. I’m seeing improvements already, and I’m beyond ready to get back to feeling like me.
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. And thank you.