Underlying Depression

This is the fifth part in a series about PTSD, anxiety, trauma, and depression. This is the part about depression. Obvs. Read this post to catch up. 

I didn’t even realize I had depression until I was in the thick of it.

It was my senior year of college. I was going to school full-time, working part-time, and going to therapy once a week where I was in the midst of processing some really traumatic shiz. It was January, and I had started taking an SSRI for the first time in November, to combat my extreme anxiety and PTSD. It did nothing at first. And then — it kicked in. And it felt like my prayers had been answered.

The antidepressants worked. They worked so well. Instead of a constant hypervigilence, I felt normal, calm, that relaxed feeling you get after a hot shower or a deep-tissue massage. After a year of constant anxiety, I practically buzzed with happiness. I felt like I could breathe again. Why didn’t I start these earlier? I asked. I could talk about India without being massively triggered. I could walk to campus, hear car horns honking, and not suffer major panic attacks and have to turn around and hide out in my room. It was like I had a new lease on life.

And then, I think, the antidepressants worked too well.

Gonna eat some dinner and not worry about dying from botulism. Take that, anxiety!

The paralyzing depression snuck up on me. I noticed that I was taking more naps. I was slowly more sluggish. It was harder to get out of bed in the mornings. But I attributed that to working, school, and “writing my trauma narrative,” as the counselor called it. I was physically and emotionally spent.

Slowly, throughout the month of January and February, I would come home from class and just zonk out for hours. I had a 3 hour writing workshop — my favorite class — and I would come home in the afternoon and sleep well into the evening. My counseling session was every Friday, and I would come home at noon and routinely sleep until four or five in the afternoon. Even if I just felt like I could take a quick cat-nap, I would wake up and five hours would have passed. Even if I didn’t even feel all that tired. It’s like I would just lapse into a small coma every day, and wake up feeling like I could keep sleeping. Maybe if I had known more about depression, I would have suspected it. But to me, depression was just “feeling sad.” It was that little cartoon bubble with a frowny face and a cloud following him around. But I didn’t feel like a sad cartoon bubble. I didn’t feel “hopeless” or “unmotivated.” I didn’t even particularly feel tired. I just kept sleeping. And sleeping. And sleeping.

On the contrary, I felt really good. Kind of sluggish. Kind of groggy. But hell, after the year of heart palpitations, of extreme anxiety, of hypervigilence, feeling “kind of sluggish” and “unusually relaxed” was a welcome reprieve. I’m probably napping so much because of the zoloft, I thought, but hell, between crippling panic attacks and a few naps here and there, I’ll take the naps. And then again, it could have been the hectic work/school/therapy schedule. Who knew? I brushed it off. And kept brushing it off.

Depression is so cute!

For the life of me, I didn’t realize it was depression. Or maybe I just slept a lot, because of the medicine, and that triggered the depression. But either way, I wasn’t sad. I felt amazing, and relaxed, better than I had in the past year. But more and more, I started to love my bed. Not in a I-dont-have-the-will-to-live kind of way; Not even in an I-feel-so-tired way. I just craved being in my bed. I craved it like a big, fluffy, delicious sandwich. It was warm and soft and my pillow was just the right firmness, and I had just purchased an electric blanket that made nap time downright heavenly. So for whatever reason, I just became really attached to nap time. I’d look forward to it all day. I’d wake up in the morning, go to class, and count down the hours until nap time. And then when I’d come home and fall into my bed-haven, thinking, I’ll just nap for twenty minutes, I would open my eyes and four hours would have passed. I hadn’t even been tired!

We were BFFs, my bed and I.

Soon enough, I started sleeping through class. I would set an alarm and wake up seeing that it had been blaring for hours. That’s weird, I thought, and set the alarm for different frequencies, different volumes. I would sleep through most of them. I started sleeping later and later in the mornings, and taking naps earlier and earlier. And for longer. I missed more and more class. I got farther behind, try to catch up, and get really quickly overwhelmed and want to take a nap. And the more class I missed, the more overwhelmed I got. And the more overwhelmed I got, the more I kept on napping. And the more I napped, the more I felt like I couldn’t leave my bed. I felt stuck there. It was comfortable, and warm, and sleeping felt so good. I felt high off sleep.

I don’t remember when the weird crying spells started. I would go to class and just come back home and randomly cry. I wasn’t even crying about anything in particular — nothing that I recognized, anyway. I wasn’t particularly sad, and I didn’t cry because I was triggered by anything specific I would have a good day in class and then just come home and burst into tears and sleep. Well,  that’s weird, I would think, but I attributed it to PMS. Or stress. Or maybe it was the zoloft? But between debilitating anxiety and a few crying jags here and there, I’d take the crying jags. I made a mental note to call the doctor — after I took a quick nap.

Crying, but also thinking about what to order for dinner. Pizza or Thai? I can’t decide. Let’s cry about it!

Crying takes a lot out of you. I’d come home, cry for no reason, get super exhausted from crying, and take another four-hour nap. I spent a few months like that, and suddenly I realized I wasn’t getting out of bed much at all. And showering? That required you to stand. For a long time. Homie don’t play that. I was tired. From crying. Who had the energy to stand? Sure, my hair looked greasy as hell, but who did I have to impress? Who cared? Washing my hair would require lifting my arms, and my arms were tired. I’d take a shower later — right after a quick cat nap.

Slowly, it progressed. More naps, more crying, less socializing, less leaving the apartment. But I wasn’t having anxiety attacks anymore, so it was all good!

Depression is so full of shame. I don’t remember when, or why, but I very slowly became morbidly fascinated with death. It was confusing — I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t want to die. I loved life. I was happy — aside from the random crying jags. I was excited to get married in a few short months — if I had the energy to make it down the aisle, that is. But for whatever reason, I wanted to know what death felt like. What it would look like. What would look like, if I died. How would I do it, if I could choose? It wasn’t an obsession at first. Just a casual curiosity. I found myself mulling over it more and more. What would happen to me? I mean, physically? If I hanged myself, how would my face look? Bruised? Bloated? These thoughts disgusted and shamed me — even now, they disgust and shame me. I didn’t (and still don’t) want anyone to think I was weird, that I was deviant. I didn’t want anyone to think I was unhappy or planning to die. I wasn’t. But I just kept thinking about it. What would people think if they knew I was imagining myself hanging in my bathroom? If I told someone, would they have me committed? Would I get put on some list? Would they “flag” my medical file? (Is that a thing?) I didn’t want to find out. I tried to push the thoughts out of my head. It didn’t matter anyway, I told myself. I wasn’t suicidal. I didn’t want to die. I just … wanted to imagine that I was dead.

Soon, it was all I could think about. I would have Googling sessions that lasted for hours, when I was supposed to be writing papers or studying, where I would just google graphic images of plane crashes. I didn’t like these images — I just wanted to see them. It was like a little game — what was the most graphic image I could view, without wanting to shut down my computer? I didn’t get very far, admittedly. I was terrified of gore. But the non-gory stuff I was all over. For hours, I listened to cockpit recordings of planes that had gone down. I wanted to hear the pilot’s last words. I wanted to imagine how it felt. How did it feel to die? How did the pilots feel in those last minutes, knowing that death was inevitable? I had heard, in my own family, of people beckoning toward the sky in their last moments before dying. Had the people on these planes experienced that too? The cockpit recordings disgusted me, calmed me, and thrilled me, all at once.

I googled 9/11 a lot. I listened to 911 dispatches. I was horrified. But I kept seeking it out. I kept imagining myself on those planes. I omitted this when I saw my therapist — I knew it wasn’t really considered a suicidal ideation unless I had a plan to kill myself. And I didn’t. Not exactly. Did I? I mean, I had thought about it a lot. And I had decided that hanging — no, pills — would be the way to go. But didn’t want to die. Did I? I mean, I didn’t want to die, but I also spent a lot of time thinking about death. And I didn’t feel sad … but I also spent a lot of time crying inconsolably. It was all just very overwhelming. And you know what helped that overwhelming feeling? Naps.

I don’t know if I had a “bottom” — some low point that made me realize I needed to get help. But I remember one day I googled the phrase I can’t stop thinking about suicide and a suicide survival forum popped up. I made a username and posted on it. Please help me, I posted. I’m not suicidal, I don’t think, but I keep thinking about suicide. I can’t stop. I can’t think about anything else. I can’t get out of bed. Does this mean I’m suicidal? I don’t want to die, but I just can’t stop thinking about it. What do I do?

The response was overwhelming: You’re depressed, dummy. Get to the doctor. NOW. 


And I did.

So just what the hell is new with us lately?

1. Henry is almost one. I cannot comprehend how the little person who I just had inside me is now scooting across the floor, upending my laundry baskets, and yelling at the top of his lungs.

I continue to be amazed at his progress. No, he can’t walk yet. He probably won’t for a while — we need to get his feet straightened out which can’t happen for a variety of reasons until he’s eighteen-ish months. But damned if he doesn’t get where he needs to go — scooting, rolling, and almost crawling. He sits up unassisted, he can get up on his hands and knees and rock back and forth, he scoots, and he can get from laying down to sitting without any help from anyone. No cognitive delays and barely any physical delays, which is downright astounding considering he was supposed to be paralyzed.

I know. I know. I feel like I am always harping on that. I feel like every other word out of my mouth is HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PARALYZED!!!! THE DOCTORS SAID HE’D NEVER MOVE AND NOW HE DOES OMG OMG!!! So I apologize for being a broken record. But when the doctor sits you down and tells you that your kid is paralyzed — your life changes. Your entire worldview changes. And so every time Henry gets up on his hands and knees, or scoots from one place to another, it feels like this huge victory because multiple people had told us he wouldn’t be able to do that exact same thing.

Every SINGLE time he meets a milestone, I judo-chop the air with glee. He did it. He’s doing it. He’s doing exactly what you said he wouldn’t do.

And that is pretty darn inspiring.

2. I’m going to the Edel Gathering!!! When I first heard about the Edel Gathering — a two-day getaway (I like to call it a “conference” so it sounds like I’m extremely busy and important) for Catholic ladies featuring a dream team of Catholic bloggers and authors — I immediately got a nerd boner. Cocktails with a bunch of fellow Catholic ladies? Two days away from my kids? Talks and toasts from my favorite bloggers?! KARAOKE AND A CRAZY SHOE CONTEST??!?!?!?!?!?!?! I almost started salivating with desire.

I will be VERY upset if I can’t find an exact replica of these for the crazy shoe contest.

Unfortunately, the prospect of going was so far off my radar that I literally wouldn’t allow myself to think about it, lest I get too sad. The gathering is in Austin, Texas (We live in Chicago), and, oh yeah, I’m poor as shit. But then.

THEN.

Lou filled out our tax return a few weeks ago and thanks to our meager salary and our two babies, we are getting a ton of money back. Most is going to our student loans. But a modest amount is for us to splurge with. We hardly ever splurge, and we’ve had a ridiculously stressful year, so we decided to go for it. Lou is buying some original art. And I staked out the Edel website all morning and bought tickets as soon as they went live. Our splurge money should just barely cover the cost of a conference ticket, one round trip flight, and a delicious gin and tonic that I will nurse the entire night. I am unbelievably excited to go. And if you read this and plan on going, hit me up on Facebook so I can force you to hang out with me at the conference.

Literally. So. Excited. Somebody hold me.

3. June. Having a two-year-old is my favorite thing in the world. Sure, it’s trying. I haven’t gotten proper sleep in months since my particular two-year-old won’t sleep unless she’s on my pillow with her nose pressed up against mine. Two year olds are relentless, and mine specifically has no understanding of why she can’t have cookies and goldfish crackers for every single meal of the day, and she physically takes my face in her hands and turns it toward her when she thinks I’ve been looking at Henry a few seconds too long. I mean, it’s darling, but it’s frigging exhausting too.

But aside from the constant attention she demands, my two year old is a delight. I swear I spend a third of the day wanting to rip out my hair and the rest getting snuggles, hugs, and laughing at the ridiculous things that come out of her mouth. Such as:

June: Mommy, what this book say?

Me: The title is, “The Naked and the Dead.”

June: NAKED?! NAKED?! WHAT?! NO!

[opens it stealthily, closes it immediately]

June: I saw a bum.

* * *

Me: Do you think you’ll be a doctor when you grow up, June?

June: Nah. I just be a pretty lady.

* * *

Me: June, can you hold my hand in the parking lot, please?

June: Nah. I good.

* * *

June: Mommy, Jake say ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

Me: Oh, that’s inappropriate. We don’t say those words.

June: Mommy, Barney say ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

Me: He did, huh? Well those are rude words. Tell Barney not to say those words.

June: Mommy, daddy say ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid’.

Me: Really? Well that wasn’t very nice. Thank you for telling me.

June: Mommy…Shut Up and Stupid said ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

Me: I think you’re just trying to get away with saying ‘shut up’ and ‘stupid.’

June: …. shut up.

* * *

June [to a dog that got close to her face]: Excuse me. I need some space.

* * *

June [whispering, at a church tea party]: Mommy … let’s get out of here.

* * *

June [at the same church party]: Mommy …. God told you to get me a cookie.

Precious baby.

Her favorite thing right now is to change into her Monsters, Inc. pajamas and watch “Monsters, Inc” in the basement with her daddy after he gets off work. At least once a day she asks to do a “craft,” which consists of either cutting up pieces of paper (just sitting and cutting random shapes) or mixing snow and chocolate milk mix in a big bowl and eating it with a spoon. She loves puzzles. Blocks. She adores watching TV, which I let her do a fair amount of since she does it so darn interactively. She can quote whole snippets of dialogue from her favorite cartoons and knows pretty much every nursery rhyme, thanks to Barney. Basically, if she’s drawing, doing a “craft,” watching Adventure Time, or “helping” me clean, she’s a happy girl.

And as long as she’s asleep by 730, I’m a happy mama.