(I’ve been hesitant to post this. Do people really want to hear the ramblings and sorrow of a crazy person? Will people judge me? I’m still tied down by the stigma I feel around the diagnosis of depression. The thought that it isn’t a real mental disease, that it just means you are weak and unable to deal with regular ol’ life, that you are just being selfish and mean to friends/family, and so on and so forth. I finally decided to post because of all of this. I don’t want to be ashamed of being sick and having the strength to get help. Perhaps my story can help someone else. I know when it came time for me to push back my own mental negativity toward depression medication and take that leap it helped me to know that people I love and respect had at one time, or still are, been treated for depression. It helped show me that I wasn’t weak and I wasn’t alone. I hope my story can do the same for someone else. If you aren’t inline with this thinking or just don’t want to deal with it please feel free to skip today’s post. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be back to a fluffier topic like the crazy antics of adorable Riggins, the insanity of my last date, or my novice ramblings on how dogs and people should live together.)
The other day I was sitting on the sofa and looked over at Riggins and started laughing. Real honest, can’t stop crying, laughter. He was just so cute. His ears were pulled down and his bright orange eyes were staring out at me and he looked just like a little cartoon woodland creature (actually a specific one but I can’t for the life of me remember the character’s name nor what show he is on so it isn’t much help to you or this story). All of a sudden it hit me. I was LAUGHING. Real honest to goodness LOLing right there in my livingroom. It made me think back and I realized my last week has been full of laughter. Talking to my mom, hanging out with my dad, Skyping with my sister and her family, at dinner with friends, watching TV (did you see that episode of The Big Bang Theory where they were dressed up as characters from Star Trek:The Next Generation? I laughed out loud at that episode no less than 1/2 a dozen times). This realization made me so completely happy. You see I had been struggling with a devastating depression and hadn’t laughed, really laughed, in a long time.
Let me start by saying I know I have a wonderful life. I’m honestly so lucky to be surrounded by friends, family, and Riggins. All who love me for who I am and will always be there for me. I say that because as I get into my story it starts to sound like I don’t understand that. I do. I just couldn’t see that through the darkness at the time.
I’m not naive enough to think my depression was caused by one event. I can tell you that the one event, my job, was the straw that broke the camels back. Even saying that it was just my job isn’t true. I really looked forward to working with many of my co-workers and enjoyed the somewhat new and exciting world I lived in of social media. I could list off everything that contributed to “the job” being my undoing but I don’t want to. It isn’t important.
Looking back two things astonish me. One, I didn’t realize sooner that I was in real trouble. There were so many signs! There was absolutely no reason for me to hurt as much as I did. Two, I am impressed with my strength to seek help and claw my way out. The battle of human vs. depression is not an easy one and anyone who tells you it is should go jump in a lake because his pants are on fire!
So what were those signs? What was I really feeling? I seem to have so many stories but I want to share the few that really lead me to knowing I needed help, finding it, and taking the scary steps to making it happen.
I was on a business trip in Chicago. As usual I was up late the night before working, didn’t sleep well in the hotel bed (the fist night in any hotel is never great), and woke up early to attend conference calls and do work before heading out for my day of meetings. That was the first time that I realized I was losing my shit over things that shouldn’t bother me. My morning was a disaster and I can’t even tell you why. I just know that I sat at a desk, on the phone, doing emails, crying. Everything threw me into a tailspin. I was full and couldn’t handle anything else no matter how small or insignificant. Anything and everything would cause me to overflow. Just before I had to leave for a meeting I tried pulling myself together, grabbed my 1 quart plastic bag with my 3oz or smaller containers of make up and looked in the mirror. I stopped short and put down the bag. I had never seen someone so sad as the person staring back at me in that mirror. Make-up wouldn’t help. I put on my jacket, grabbed my computer, and left the room for my meeting. The show must go on.
It got to the point that I couldn’t go a day without crying. When not on the road and working from home I’d throw myself on my bed and sob. Full out gasping for air sobbing. Riggins was going out of his mind. He didn’t know what was happening or what to do. He’d jump on the bed next to me as far away as possible and then get on his stomach and army crawl up to me until his nose was touching my face. This is when I realized my condition wasn’t just hurting me. It was hurting others. I came to realize that Riggins didn’t mind spending days after days and week after week with my folks while I was traveling for work. Why would he. My parents house was a fun happy house while mine was covered in a shroud of darkness and unhappiness. Who wants to hang out there?
One morning I finally realized it was all too much. I needed help. I called my primary care physician and was told that I could get in to see him in a week. The receptionist asked if that was okay and I agreed. After all I had lasted months being sad what’s a few more days? (I’m trying to think of another adjective beyond “sad” that I can use in this post and just can’t come up with one. That’s what I was. That’s how I described it.) A little later in the morning I got in my car and took off to get a soda. This was how I gave myself time outs in my day. I’d load up Riggins and we would visit one of the many fast food drive thrus in the area and order a large diet coke. Sometimes, to shake things up, with extra ice. While in the car I called my mom and dad (using Bluetooth of course) and immediately lost it. When asked what was wrong my response was, “I’m just sad. I’m just so sad.” (Time out for a second. Can you imagine being on the phone with your daughter and hearing that???? I mean how heart wrenching is that. I suppose this is the perfect time to take a step back and address my friends and family. I want to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for any trouble or heartache my depression caused you. It was unfair for you to have to take that on but I’m so lucky that you did. Thank you for being so caring and wonderful. I love you.) Since driving was impossible through the tears I pulled over into the Walgreen’s parking lot and stopped the car. When I could talk without gasping for air I called my doctor’s office and told them they had to see me today and as soon as possible. I needed help. Not just a pat on the back and a “it’s going to be okay.” I needed help from a doctor and I needed it as soon as possible.
Driving to the doctor’s I couldn’t stop crying. Not sobbing more like leaking. In the parking lot I tried to pull myself together. I was honestly concerned that the doctor would see me and immediately admit me into the hospital for treatment. I went through every exercise any female executive learns on how to trigger the other side of your brain and keep from crying. Look up and to the left, do math in your head, and if all else fails make a fist with your hand and jam your nail into your palm. None of this helped. This wasn’t an angry or sadness that was coming from an external source like being flown to NY to be yelled at by your CEO in front of your peers while he mispronounces your name as Wednesday (happened). This was an internal source of sadness. One at a time every cell in my body was turning toward sadness and darkness. At this point I realized I was at war with a sickness that had a definite time limit. I had to find a way to regain the parts of me that I was loosing and do so before so much of me was gone there was no going back. That was the day I started depression medicine. It helped. It helped a ton. I went back a number of times until we found a combination of medicine that worked for me. I could breath again. I wasn’t happy but I wasn’t on the cliff looking down with my toes hanging over it anymore.
One evening I was out with a very good couple friend of mine. We had dinner and then headed to a very cool bar for drinks. This bar was fabulous. Dive-y and the perfect Wendy vibe. I made the mistake of looking at my work email on my phone and that was it. Down the rabbit hole I went. My male friend asked me why I wasn’t having any fun. “Crap” I thought, “I can’t even fake it anymore.” I tried to assure him that I was, that I loved the bar, that it was just work stuff that I needed to shake off. It was then that I realized I was a giant liar. I wasn’t having fun. It was more than that. I couldn’t have fun. I went home and cried (shocker).
As I walked my life tightrope (with at lease a tiny net due to the drugs) my mantra became, “just get through it.” Just get through this early morning conference call. Just get through this business trip. Just get through this flight. Just get through this night. Just get through. That’s how I lived my life. Just barely getting through. One day I managed to give myself a concussion. That little adventure deserves it’s own blog post all by itself! Treatment for my self inflicted concussion was to do nothing. No work, no computer, no email, no phone calls, no TV, no books, nothing. For a second I saw what was important. My job wasn’t important I was important. I needed to get out of my job. This was no long a choice. It was a necessity. I started to plan how I could get a new job, one where I could be happy, and be able to leave my current one.
During my recovery my parents came over to check on me and have lunch. I remember sitting around my little dinning room table that once belonged to my grandmother, eating Taco Bell, and telling my parents I just need to get through it. Just needed to get through this week. Just needed to get through the two work trips that were on my calendar in the next couple of weeks. Just get through the holidays. They left and headed home. A couple of hours later I received a call from my dad. He suggested I should just go ahead and quit now. My father is the most logical human on the planet. I simply can not imagine a situation where he would not just condone but suggest that I leave a job without having another income available to me right away. That’s what I had gotten to. The unimaginable.
So I quit. It was really difficult. The company didn’t want me to leave and I had a number of discussions with people higher up the chain than me trying to convince me that staying was the best action to take. I didn’t tell them I was depressed. I didn’t tell them I had spent the last year hurting myself, my family, my friends, and my beloved dog. I just told them it wasn’t a good fit for me. I had my doubts a number of times. There was more than once that I almost lost the strength and took my resignation letter back. After all, as I mentioned near the beginning of this post, I really did like working with a number of my co-workers. One of my very good friends must have sensed this and sent me an email. She reminded me that during one of my business trips I had sent her an email saying I wouldn’t mind if the plane crashed because at least then I wouldn’t have to do this trip. CAN YOU IMAGINE SENDING THAT TO SOMEONE? How horrific! I didn’t just think that, I wrote that down in an email and sent it to someone I loved and didn’t think twice about it. Nail in the coffin. I was quitting.
Now on paper I should really be depressed! I have no job and don’t really have any hot leads. I’m struggling with the decision of staying in my profession or taking the hard step of leaving all I have accomplished and finding a career that may be more morally fulfilling (aka make less money). On paper I should be depressed but I’m not! I’m happy. I’m beyond happy. I’m laughing. My life is good! I realize I still have work to do. I have yet to go to therapy. I know I should but I haven’t been able to take that leap yet. Dr. Drew would be so unhappy with me going the pill route first without even trying talking to a professional. But that is what I had to do to save myself. (If you have read any of my blogs you know I adore Dr. Drew. Did you know he has his own podcast now? It’s like a wave of calm and sanity amongst the insanity fo life. He has one podcast that he does on his own and one he does with Adam Carolla. You should defiantly go subscribe to both – http://adamcarolla.com/carolladigital/.)
I realize this was a long posting but I hope it helps someone. Please please please, if you find yourself starting to slip down the spiral of sadness and depression get help. Don’t wait as long as I did. Get help as soon as you can. Go to your primary care physician and tell him/her what is happening. Grab a friend or family member by the arm, tell him/her you need help and don’t let go until they help you. Later, after you are better you can apologize for being selfish (because you had to be) and thank them for the strength they gave you.
Like me you have a right to be happy. Like me you deserve to laugh.
(This picture is from our annual ladies holiday dinner this year. I love it glowing eyes and all because I’m laughing!)