The public face.

I’ve written before (here, here and here) about my struggles with depression. It’s not something I enjoy talking about. I’m not embarrassed by it, I just have a hard time explaining it to people who haven’t experienced it so it’s just easier to not bother. Also, it’s not like it comes up in casual conversation. Most people don’t know when I’m struggling because I’ve become very good at maintaining my “public face.” I do it out of habit and out of necessity but it is exhausting.

Pretending that you are “fine” when you have a heavy weight the size of your fist in your chest is hard work. Smiling and talking when you would rather just sit and stare at a wall is hard work. Cuddling and loving your darling son after a very long day of wearing your mask is hard work. Eventually that mask has to crumble, it’s not possible to go on day after day and not get worn out..to not get emptied out, emotionally. It’s not possible to keep taking hit after hit emotionally and keep your balance. Sooner or later you hit a tipping point. I have hit mine.

I can’t tell you precisely when the slide started, depression is sneaky like that. It has always been cyclical for me…I slide, I struggle, I rebound. Twice I’ve struggled to the point that I sought outside help but for the most part I’ve been able to get through it. It is very hard for me to ask for help. I always assume it will get better and, eventually, it does.

I assumed that is what would happen this time too. There is no reason for it not to. I am very happily married, I have a son I love more than life itself, I have a good job, our finances are good, our future looks bright. There are, of course, issues…everyone has them they’re part of life but there are no issues I would expect to tip me off balance. In the past, when I’ve needed help, there have been major outside issues that influenced my emotional state…stress, fear, hurt, loneliness, etc. None of that is true this time so I assumed this would be one of the lower points but that I would ultimately be OK.

Somehow though this turned into something bigger. The slide did not stop. I began to wonder if this feeling would ever start to lift. I withdrew emotionally into a shell, the only pieces that seemed to escape were bright flashes of anger and frustration and shame. I knew I was not at my best but I had lost the ability to see myself clearly and to see how withdrawn I had become. I started to feel hopeless. I would think about the many long years ahead of me and wonder how I could possibly live like this year after year.

I would come home from work and go through the motions until Monkey was in bed. I used up every ounce of my energy getting through a work day and being his mom. I wasn’t always successful, either, which broke my heart. He has enough struggle in his life, he does not need a frustrated and short-tempered mom. Once he was in bed, I turned off. I would sit and mindlessly surf the internet or I would escape to our bed with a book. I would read or surf until I couldn’t keep my eyes open a moment longer, which often took until 1 or 2 AM , and then fall asleep. I wasn’t being a very good wife.  Poor Duhdee was left with nothing of me but the worst bits.

Duhdee watched on helplessly throughout all of this. He suggested a few times that maybe I should see my Dr. and I agreed but I put it off. He would talk to me about feeling shut out and I felt awful about it. I would spend a few days or weeks doing better, being better, and I would even start to think maybe I was going to bounce back. It was all just too much work and I couldn’t maintain it. I would slide right back to where I had started. That feeling of hopelessness grew because I could not dig myself out, no matter how I tried. The feeling of letting down my husband and son was so incredibly painful to me.

Last month, Duhdee approached me again. This up and down struggle had been going on for almost a year now and he was reaching his breaking point. He sat me down and told me how he was feeling and I got angry. I wasn’t angry because he was wrong or being unreasonable but because he was right. Not very rational, I know, but I felt guilty and I immediately tried to justify myself and shift blame. A lesser man would have let the next few days blow up into a fight, possibly into one of those fights that marriages don’t fully recover from if they recover at all.

Fortunately for me, I was able to see through all my anger and see what an effect my emotional state was having on our family. He reassured me that I was not neglecting Monkey, that I was still being a good mommy to him.  I knew though that I was not being the best mommy I could be. I finally decided that Duhdee and Monkey deserved better. I called my Dr. and had a physical. I asked her for a referral to a psychiatrist. I managed to keep that appointment despite the fact that I was willing to do almost anything to avoid it.

The Dr. had read my history, he knew about Monkey’s diagnosis and he knew a bit about FX. All of this set me at ease. He ran through one of those depression checklists and I was experiencing nearly every single symptom short of suicidal ideation. He looked at me and told me “You’re having a very difficult time right now. You are struggling and you do not need to be.” It was like an explosion in my head. I was sitting in that chair because I knew Duhdee and Monkey deserved better than what they were getting from me but it had not ever crossed my mind that I deserved better too. I told the Dr. I was tired of the ups and downs. I was tired of feeling like life was such hard work.

He has prescribed b.uproprion which is a generic version of W.ellbutrin. I’ve been taking it for just over a week today and I feel better. I felt better as soon as I left his office, in fact. Obviously it’s not the medication, it’s what he said to me as I left.

He said, “When you come in here in six weeks you are going to feel better. When I ask you if you are feeling better you will say “Yes.” When I ask you when you started feeling better you will not know when.”

That right there? It’s hope. It’s what will get me through until the medication can take over.

I told my mom last Sunday that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s not quite true but I can sense it. It’s sort of like standing on the platform waiting for the train to emerge from the tunnel. If you are paying attention, you will know the train is coming long before you hear it, long before you see the lights. You will be able to feel the light breeze it creates, as it rushes toward you, caressing your cheeks.

11 thoughts on “The public face.

  • May 16, 2009 at 8:15 pm
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    This might sound silly, but I really do mean it in the best way. I am SO proud of you and Duhdee. It IS hard work to live that way, I know. And it takes a strong person to get help when she needs it; it also takes a strong man to be patient and understanding. I remember the “waiting for the train” feeling the first time I started meds. It is quite exhilerating. There will still be highs and lows, but the meds will help keep you above water, able to talk and work on your emotions in other ways.

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  • May 18, 2009 at 11:36 am
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    I am so happy you took the plunge. It is so hard to be miserable. I gave in over a year ago and am much better too. I am still crabby but the meds take the edge off the violent mood swings.

    My best advice: DON’T stop taking your meds when you start to feel better. You are going to want to. You will think it is a good idea. DON’T do it.

    To Dudhee: thank you for taking good care of my Umma. It is a rare thing to hang in there.

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  • May 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm
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    Yes, Duhdee is a warm and caring individual. Not many men like him around would understand the mood swings of a woman never mind a woman with some complicated moods. But of course, Grammy is prejudiced. He is quite amazing in understanding everyone in the family. Thank you for being you.

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  • May 18, 2009 at 10:44 pm
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    This post touched me deeply. I have been in almost identical circumstances, and I understand how hard it is. And most people in your network have no clue that you’re struggling. I am glad you sought help, and I am glad that Duhdee has been there for you. Peace be with you.

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  • May 19, 2009 at 1:30 am
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    I admire your courage for getting help and for sharing your story. It is also amazing that through this deep dark wellt hat was pulling you down you were able to lift yourself up enough to make it through the day, get out of bed in the morning, and put your face on for Monkey, many don;t have the stregth to do that, so i applaud you.

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  • May 19, 2009 at 10:38 pm
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    Thanks you guys, it is so nice…so…uplifting, to be understood.

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  • May 21, 2009 at 9:59 am
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    So how are you doing after what — 2 weeks now?? Feeling better?? You know we are all with you — and if you ever need anything, please don’t be afraid to call upon us.

    Love you always

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  • October 13, 2010 at 9:47 pm
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    Oh Umma! You’re so brave to share this with us! I’m glad that you can see the light after what must have been a very long time….so proud of you! I’m going to have to give you a huge hug when I see you…sorry, that’s how I roll!

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  • October 14, 2010 at 8:49 am
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    Thanks Paula, I’m pretty sure that right now the light is an oncoming train. I’ll be much better in a few more weeks though 🙂

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  • October 14, 2010 at 9:21 am
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    Ok…WOW! You made me cry. I’m so sorry that you are going through this. You are a wonderful person and an amazing parent, not that that makes any difference with depression, but you should just know. I also have been turning the idea of getting a Dr’s help with similar emotions. It’s like a shiftless feeling. Kind of like you need to fix stuff, know it, and can’t do much about it. I’m glad you know it’s going to get better. Oh, and your sense of humor helps!

    Reply

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