On my drives home from work I have been listening to an audio book on depression, The Noonday Demon: an Atlas of Depression, by Andrew Solomon. As you can imagine this isn't the most uplifting thing to pump into your head after a long day at work, but it has been rather liberating. It has taken me a few weeks to listen to the whole book and along the way I have learned a lot about myself.
This book was recommended to me by my therapist to learn about depression as I was asking how to live, love and support someone with depression (Eric has been learning to live and cope with depression his whole life and is finally on a real path of functioning and living). I'm sure my therapist knew that I would also learn about myself through the experience of this book. She gave me the CD's at our last session where all we did was talk about Eric and the difficulties we've had as a couple as he has been learning to let go, experience anger, connect on new levels, discover his passions, commit and grow.
When I saw her a month and a half ago, we knew I was struggling at work and had seen touches of rough patches but things weren't that bad. Then I started seeing a real pattern to my inability to do stuff. Stuff I wanted to do, but couldn't find the motivation to actually do and then I'd be upset with myself for not just getting off my duff to do the simplest things.
Life was getting harder, but there was nothing profoundly wrong, I just wasn't doing much. I was still able to get up and go to work. I showered and was clean but I stopped caring about my appearance beyond not being obviously dirty. I'd get to work and sit. I'd stare. I'd read. I'd think I had worked all day but then when I went to report my progress there wasn't much to report on. Then I'd go home. I'd sit and stare at the TV, or the computer. I wasn't cooking anymore, I didn't care what we had for dinner, and I wasn't doing the dishes (I ALWAYS DO THE DISHES). Laundry piled up. Bills weren't being paid. Mail covered the table. I couldn't focus on the stuff that really mattered. I did the minimum - and somehow part of that minimum was NaBloPoMo, it was something to focus on that didn't feel like real life, it was an escape.
I started recognizing parts of my life and my thoughts in the stories told in the book. I began to accept that maybe I was really experiencing depression, something I was scared to death of because I had seen what Eric had gone through and the thought of a mental illness didn't seem to fit. Mental illness means you are crazy, doesn't it? That's what I felt, not what I believed or knew to be true, but it's what I felt. Friends started mentioning maybe I might want to take medication. But I still thought only weak people take medication. I can get through this. But Eric is on medication and look how much better he is. Do I think he is weak? Or is it that if I go on medication that means I have to tell someone what I'm feeling, and have to admit that I need help and that I have a problem.
Listening to the book taught me a lot. It taught me about the emotional, physiological, economical, political and sociological aspects of depression. I gained a greater respect and understanding of what Eric and all people living with this challenge go through. The numbers of who are affected by depression are truly staggering, and so many people don't even know it. Knowing it, really deep down knowing it is actually less scary then I thought.
On Wednesday night, about 30 minutes before I was to leave to go sit in traffic and inch my way to my therapy appointment, I took a regular dose of generic Excedrin and a dose of generic Sudafed. The sinus headache I had was still hanging out and I hadn't eaten much of anything for a few days. My therapist called me to start my session while I was on the road because traffic was worse then I anticipated. I told her all of my discoveries and experiences since I had last talked to her and a few that happened earlier which were still weighing heavily on my heart. As I talked, the headache I was plagued with lessened. I was sure it was the drugs, but after my session ended in her office I was hungry. Hungry for the first time in almost a week.
I had asked Eric to meet me at her office as I was sure it would be an emotional and hard session. But I was happy. I was able to hug him and it felt really good, better then it had felt in a long time.
Sure I still have a slight headache because really I have been sick, and my appetite isn't back 100% but something happened that night when I told my stories. A pressure that no pain drug was alleviating has been lifted.
For the last few days, I have been waking with more energy then I've had for months, and have been more productive and able to focus. I am not full speed ahead by any means, but damn it, feels good to feel again.