I have experienced two very different kinds of depression in my life, which makes me super relatable and popular when it comes to sad people. Depression still has such a dark stigma over it, and very few people are willing or able to talk about their struggles with people who aren’t doctors, therapists, or significant others. Even I have a hard time talking to my husband about my depression, “Oh, hey. You know that charming girl you married 13 years ago? Well she’s gone and has been replaced with this sad, depressed, sorry shell of a human that can’t seem to function much beyond getting from the bed to the bathroom every few hours.”
Thankfully after all our years together and many (MANY) trials and errors in regards to having my depression treated both medically and emotionally, we’re finally at a place where Cody doesn’t berate me for being the sad lady that just can’t seem to stop crying, and I have found one tiny ray of light in this trial I have been given — I am able to share my struggles and triumphs with people who maybe haven’t found the words for their depression yet.
The first type of depression I ever dealt with was what I call “Brain-Won’t-Shut-Up-Depression.” This is the type that makes you feel as though you are going mad, your brain is never quiet — sometimes it’s thinking about what you’re having for dinner, or what that obnoxious noise coming from down the hall is, it often thinks about deadlines at work, maybe driving into oncoming traffic, how much everyone hates you, or how much you hate yourself. When I initially went in to a doctor (my first year of marriage with this type of depression), I was mis-diagnosed as bipolar and put on a medication that was later pulled from the market because it was killing people, it also made me fall down the stairs a few times. When medication didn’t work, I looked for other ways to self-medicate. Since I had become married and Mormon in the months leading up to this particular battle with depression, all of my old ways of self medicating were gone. Booze, drugs, and boys were no longer an option for me (I mean, they were, but I took the whole married/Mormon vow thing pretty seriously). Besides, I found a new way to self medicate! FOOD AND SHOPPING! Thousands of dollars in credit card debt in a matter of months and dozens of pounds gained didn’t bring me any closer to the quiet peaceful brain I was so desperately seeking. However, instead of worrying about how much I hated myself and wondering how bad it would really hurt to drive my car off a cliff, I fantasized about food or spent hours wandering through the mall touching and trying on things I most certainly didn’t need.
For me, “Brain-Won’t-Shut-Up-Depression” is the kind that makes me suicidal, in fact, the two times I was hospitalized were direct results of my brain being too loud for my broken spirit.
Several years ago, in the middle of the night I woke up and my brain immediately switched on (which it did all the time) and I broke down into sobs yelling, “SHUT UP! JUST SHUT UP!” You see, people with noisy brain depression don’t sleep well, which is another reason a lot of us self medicate with booze and drugs. It’s hard to fall asleep when all your brain wants to do is chatter on about useless garbage when you’re surrounded by quiet in the dark. That night I realized what my problem was, my brain was just too noisy. It was capable of taking me on tangents that always seemed to land me in dark terrible places, day and night, no matter what I did.
When I was finally able to get in to see a doctor, I said through tears, “I just want it to be quiet in my head.” I ignored every fear I had of being committed again and begged her to just help me quiet my brain. She talked to me for a long time, and I left with a new prescription, one that would hopefully quiet my relentless and violent thoughts without the side effect of killing me.
In the coming weeks, my thought processes began to quiet down, and then the most miraculous thing happened — I cried when I was legitimately sad about something. You see, the other medications I had been on in the past just kept me from feeling anything, so there was no way to feel depressed because I wasn’t capable of feeling anything. There were times when I knew I should be crying or laughing, but I remained an emotionless zombie, terrible feeling. So not only was the voice inside my head calming down, I was still able to feel a normal and real range of human emotion.
I’m pleased to say I’m on the same medication to this day, 5 years later. My brain has stayed delightfully quiet, but oh — the empathy I have when I hear of someone who is struggling with this particular type of depression. It’s not an easy fix, and you will feel as though you are going crazy. Perhaps you may even be misdiagnosed and ill-medicated, but it is worth the fight to find what works for you. The terrible thing about this type of depression is you can’t sleep it off (because you can’t sleep), and there’s a very good chance you are damaging yourself further with some form of self-medication, be it alcohol, substance abuse, an affair, ravenous debt, or extreme personal decisions that affect more than just yourself.
If you are the one suffering, there’s no quick and easy fix. But being able to identify that your brain moving a thousand miles an hour 24 hours a day is what’s causing you so much pain is a start. The other advice I have? One that will help immediately? Take all violent and salacious media from your life. It may be hard, because what is there left to watch? But chances are media affects you in a very powerful way and by avoiding it you don’t give your mind anything extra to think about. I used to watch Law & Order SVU religiously, then one night I realized I was often fantasizing about how to kill my family and get away with it. I took out Law & Order and within a week my imagination was a far more pleasant place to be, I gradually dropped rated R movies, graphic books, and even the news. I don’t miss any of it, no one needs to know what a zombie getting shot in the face looks or sounds like. No one.
If you are the one caring for someone who is being smothered alive by their own thoughts? Be patient. Oh, it’s so hard, but be patient. Suggest cutting out the media, agree to do it along with them. Cody is my filter for breaking news these days. He texts me when something really bad happens in the world, telling me to stay off of social media and television. It allows me to process the violence and terror on my own, without sensationalized media and repeat clips of bloody victims and horrible screams. Once they agree to, or start treatment — take as much off their plate as possible. If you do everything for them before they agree to get help, you may only enable their damaging behavior. In order to get better, the one suffering needs to know that you’ve got them until they can manage on their own. My husband is the absolute best at this — he doesn’t enable my depression, but he does move in and keep things running until I can function on my own as well as offers me multiple opportunities to care for myself when he thinks I’m ready. I sometimes think he knows me better than I do.
While I wish I could say that since finding the medicine that quieted my brain that I’ve been better ever since, but it would not be true. My depression has changed, as anything does. I’ll be talking more about how it’s changed in another post because the two types are so different — and for me are managed in very different ways.
You can read more about my struggles (and triumphs!) with being sad depressed lady on my personal blog, here.