Sunday, December 29, 2013

Where I've Been

I've been thinking about this particular blog post quite a bit over the past year or so. I've written it many times in my head, and each time it's a little different. Sometimes I purposefully leave things out because they're too difficult to even fathom sharing with the world. Many times I actually started this very post, only to get a few sentences in and delete it. I think once I maybe even got a whole two paragraphs written. But, again, that may have just been when I was writing it in my head.

At some point last year things changed for me. My personality changed. My likes and dislikes changed. I stopped doing things I loved for no reason whatsoever other than everything seemed to be too much effort. I wasn't lazy by any means, but it seemed like I was in a daily fight with myself to get anything done. I'd stay in the bed until 10:00, sometimes 11:00 or noon. The simple act of reaching up and pulling the covers off my body and dragging myself out of bed seemed too much. The world was too bright and too harsh. Life was better under the covers. Life was easier when lived asleep and alone within myself. I had no one to answer to and no one to think about. Asleep, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

I stopped reading. In the past two years I can literally count on one hand the number of books I've read. If any of you know me you'll know this isn't me AT ALL. I've been known to read 100+ books a year. In a good week I'd read maybe five books. To go from five books a week to five books a year was... strange. It still is. But once I stopped reading I couldn't get back into it. I felt guilty. I have shelves upon shelves of beautifully sculpted words that someone spent years of their life crafting and perfecting. And I couldn't devote a single hour a day to read them. So I just didn't read a all. Not magazines, not internet articles, nothing. I'd go on Facebook a few times a day, and Twitter even less than that. "This is good for me." I thought. "I'm just trying to get back on track after XYZ [always a different excuse]. I need to find myself again, find my center, and things will be better."

I didn't get back on track. I didn't find my center. Things didn't get better. They got worse.

I stopped writing. It wasn't a gradual thing, either. I woke up one morning and told myself I was done. Done with the entire writing industry. Done with the publishing process. "It's too much, it's too hard. You can't possibly do this, Stephanie." That tiny seed of self doubt I planted soon sprouted into a forest, thick with fear, anxiety, depression, and worry. I couldn't see the sun. I couldn't see anything except for the gnarled roots and branches I'd constructed around myself.

I gave up. At 26 years old I felt like what little chance at a successful writing career was over. Which basically meant my life was over.

I went from not getting out of bed until noon to not getting out of bed at all. Sometimes, on a good day, I'd make it to the couch. This wasn't very often. I watched a lot of TV. Well, the TV watched me, anyway. I'm not sure how much of the shows I was watching actually infiltrated my brain. My husband would come home from work to see me on the couch, curtains still drawn, hair matted and unwashed. He would ask me daily what was wrong, but here's the thing: THERE WAS NOTHING WRONG. I was, simply, sad. For no reason whatsoever. I'd often wish for horrible things to happen to my family or friends just so my brain would actually have something to be sad about. (Thankfully that didn't happen.) I promised him things were getting better, that I was going through a hard time with XYZ (whatever the excuse of the day was). I'd say just about anything for him to stop asking me questions. For him to leave me alone.


I lived like this for nearly a year. On October 27, 2012, I had a gigantic meltdown. I don't even remember what it was over, but I remember the exact date because it just happened to be our fifth wedding anniversary. And, of course, I had ruined everything. Because anything bad that ever happened around me was obviously my fault. I can remember crying so hard I couldn't catch my breath. My husband asked me over and over if I needed to go to the emergency room. "NO." I'd say sternly each time. No no no. I refused to go the hospital for "being sad." By the end of the night, however, I did agree to make an appointment to talk with my doctor.

Long story short, I went to the doctor that week and was diagnosed with chronic depression and anxiety. "We can treat the symptoms with medicine," the doctor said, "but I'd really love for you to see a therapist as well to treat the cause." I hit an all time low. In my mind, therapy was for wives who had lost husbands. Parents who had lost children. I had lost no one except myself. He assured me that wasn't the case, and I promised to call. I went back each month for a check up. "Did you see that therapist yet?" The answer was always the same. At first I was ashamed of not doing it, but within a few visits I really didn't care. I felt slightly better with each med dose increase, but not much. Not what I thought I should feel like. He warned me that some people who take this particular medicine feel like it stifles their creative side. And it did. Not that I noticed too much at first because I wasn't writing anyway, but eventually I did notice. There was a day that I thought, "You know I should write today." I sat down, opened my laptop, and did nothing. Repeat this process every day for the next eight months or so.

Finally I told him this and he urged me, again, to reach out to a therapist. I finally did. I spent days researching various therapists in the area, trying to figure out which ones our insurance would cover. I found one I liked and called on a lovely spring day in April. "Her first available appointment is June 17th." I was a little upset that she was so booked, but I took the appointment anyway. It was far enough in the future I didn't have to think about it and I could finally tell my doctor that, yes, I did call. June quickly rolled around and the day of my appointment drew near. I found it odd that I never received a reminder call or a card in the mail or anything. I had the appointment date and time written down in three places, though, so it wasn't a big deal. I nearly called an canceled the appointment multiple times, but I didn't. I drove myself to her office only to find her door locked, and the lights out. I was about twenty minutes early so I thought maybe I was her first appointment of the day or something. I'd knock the door from time to time, or jiggle the handle. Nothing. Eventually I pounded on the door in tears. Still nothing. I called and left a garbled message on the answering machine, and left. Sadly, I never heard back from her. I'm not sure what happened, and I don't really care to know.

And no, I haven't called another therapist yet, though I know I probably should. 

I went back to my regular doctor in August and he upped my dose once more. Within two weeks I felt like a different human being. So THIS is what I'm supposed to feel like! I had forgotten, completely, what it felt like to be a person. I had forgotten what it felt like to be ME.

Am I better? Yes. Am I well? I'm not sure I'll ever be 100% well again. This is, apparently, something I will continue to battle for years to come. I have good days and bad days, but for the most part the good outnumber the bad. When I do have a bad day it doesn't feel like the world is caving in. I don't cry when the dryer shuts off and I realize I have to actually fold the towels. I can usually catch myself before I go down a train of self doubt. Usually.

I'm working on finding myself again. I'm working on the written word again, though slowly. I'm starting with magazines, which may seem stupid, but I can't dive straight in and write 1,000 words a day like I was before. Though I hope to be back there soon. Writing this blog post is a gigantic deal for me, and I won't lie and say it was easy. It's taken me hours and I'm mentally drained.

 I lost a year of my life to this and I'll be damned if I lose any more. I'm smiling more often, laughing more often, and attempting to repair the broken relationships that this illness has caused. I'm learning to breathe again, but most importantly, I'm learning to love myself again.