Since tomorrow is the “Bell Let’s Talk Day,” I felt it apropos to have a mid-week supplemental blog and do my part in bringing awareness to the topic of mental health. Once again, I will iterate that I am not an expert on the topic, but simply sharing my personal experience.
During my second marriage, we were unsuccessful in our attempts to conceive a child and took to putting our faith in doctors; hence spending many years putting my body through a litany of infertility treatments. During those treatments, I felt myself slip into a vortex of the darkest proportions. I knew I was suffering from a medication-induced depression, but did my best to muddle through it. The depression was an out of body experience in the most literal sense, and I found myself watching my life go by like a bad movie. Finally, after more than three years of living my life in two week increments, I waved my white flag and swore off fertility treatments forever.
Six months after my baby-making mutiny, I was still feeling the stronghold of depression and could not understand why. My body had long since purged itself of the meds, so why was I still in a fog? It was then that I sought professional advice and was diagnosed with severe depression.
The day I received my results, I asked the doctor, “Now what? Are you going to pump me full of drugs and send me to a shrink?” She explained that it was one of the most popular avenues, but I would not be forced to do it. With that, she filled my hands with pamphlets and I went on my way.
As I poured over the reading material, I felt a relief wash over me—I finally had an explanation for the turmoil I had been living with from my early teens. The lethargy, self-loathing, feeling that I couldn’t smile, irrational reactions to various situations, suicide attempts… It all made sense now.
I sat my daughter and then-husband down and shared my newfound information. I explained to my then-husband that, rather than pointing fingers, we now had the answers and could start finding a way to deal with it. My daughter simply asked, “Mommy, does that mean you’re going be sad and quiet all the time?” That was how my six-year old perceived my depression. I gently explained to her that I was going to do my very best not to be so sad anymore. I further offered her the power to tell me if she felt I was being too sad; and if she didn’t feel comfortable telling me, she could tell any of the other adults in the family so they could speak to me. To be honest though, I thought I had been faking it well in front of her, up until that point. I guess I wasn’t the award-winning actress I thought I was.
I began to recognize the signs of my emotional spirals. I could compare it to the “nesting” instincts of an expectant mother—my work habits would shoot up 200% about a week before I was about to crash. I suppose it was my mind’s way of getting as much accomplished as possible before I became a complete write-off for, what seemed like, an infinite amount of time.
For those who have never experienced what it feels like to be in a depressed state, let me explain how it affects me by using some simple visuals. Below is a chart that represents the emotional level of an average person during their day-do-day, versus how Buffy the cheerleader and I spend ours:
Now, let’s take a look at how I spend my day at work. My jobs have always involved the public, clients, and many colleagues, so I must bring my energy level up far higher than my “normal,” in order to appear “normal” to the masses. Think of it like revving a car engine:
By the time I get home at night (after spending an entire day “revving my engine”), my vehicle is exhausted and needs to shut down to recover and prepare for the next day on the road. It looks something like this:
When I hit that low I don’t want to speak or have any noise around me—I just want the world to be silent. My forever-husband understands that about me, but it hurts my heart knowing that I spend my whole day revving for others and then shut-down when I’m with my beloved. Those guilty feelings of not being “on” for him, often exacerbate my state of mind. Although, this is not a daily hurdle I must deal with, when it strikes, it takes some gumption to get my vehicle back to its regular idling level.
So how do I deal with it? What did I do after I was diagnosed? Did I hit the leather couch and pop pills? No. No, I didn’t. I did it the Veronica way. I mustered up my best superhero pose (complete with long, flowing red locks and cape blowing in the wind), stood with my hands on my hips, chest puffed out, threw my head back and said, “Eff you Depression!” I then began the battle of fighting mind over mind to pull myself out of that abyss.
Back when I was diagnosed, I was still carrying a considerable amount of weight thanks to the infertility roller coaster, so, knowing that depression is a chemical imbalance within my system, I decided to try a complete dietary detox. I heard great things about the 7-Day Detox Miracle by Dr. Peter Bennett and decided to go all in. I read it cover to cover, bought all of the recommended supplements and took six days off work in order to give it my all. I followed it to the letter—diet, meditation, exercise, hydrotherapy—everything.
On day seven, I walked into work with a feeling I’d never experienced before—I no longer felt like my head was in a fog; and the weight on my shoulders was lifted. I thought maybe it was how “normal” people felt. As I stepped through those doors, everyone in that area literally stopped and stared (I even heard gasps). They could see it too. They could see an undeniable glow surrounding me—I felt like I was floating. To say that the experience changed my life would be an understatement.
Eleven years later I still control depression with my diet. No, I’m not on a diet—I just maintain a balanced diet to keep it in check as best I can. Yes, I partake in naughty foods that may potentially throw me off-kilter, but I keep my eye on it and know the signs if my bad behavior is going to have repercussions. Will this work for everyone? Probably not, but have you thought about it? Have you thought about how the performance of your “vehicle” might be affected by what kind of fuel you use?
Do you know what else I do to piss off depression? I don’t empower it. Although I’ve talked about it here, I never refer to it as “my depression”—it’s my way of letting it and everyone know that I, me, my, and mine are all controlled by me, me, me. Not anyone or anything else. I didn’t knowingly sign up for it, so I will forever be in denial that it is “mine.” It’s like that mole on my right butt cheek—large and unflattering, but easy to hide. It’s my choice if I want to reveal it… Which I think I just did. Oops.
You will note that I said “suicide attempts” earlier—there were a total of three in my life (the last one being right after my first marriage began). Do I still have those thoughts and urges? No. From the moment I discovered I was pregnant, I made the choice to live. Since I had accepted the responsibility of motherhood, I was no longer living my life for just me, and decided that it might be a sign that my life was worth living.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to let you in on a little secret about our bubbly friend Buffy the cheerleader. Buffy may not be the spunky little firecracker you think she is. Did you know that many of the Buffies in this world carry a deep dark secret? They too have their pedal to the metal—revving their hearts out for the world—but their world might actually look like this:
Are you a Buffy? Do you know a Buffy? Do you see signs that maybe her pom-poms might not be as bouncy as she’d like them to appear to be?
If this strikes a chord with you, for any reason at all, know that you are not alone and do not need to feel that you have to do this alone. I’m not ashamed of the recipe that is me. This is me and I’m okay with talking about it and living it… butt-cheek mole and all.