There are many different types of depression and it affects everyone differently. Some of the common symptoms include loss of motivation for things you once enjoyed doing, difficulty sleeping or eating, low energy, poor self-image, and difficulty concentrating. Depression affects people of all ages. Sometimes it is prompted by a drastic change in circumstance. Other times, the cause is unknown. There are genetic tendencies; in other words, it can run in the family. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
It is difficult for me to say this, but I have been struggling with a form of depression since this past summer.
At first, I didn’t know what was wrong. I was tired. I couldn’t do things like I used to. I didn’t want to write or play video games – two of my favorite hobbies. I was content collapsing on the sofa binge-watching TV show after TV show. Seriously, I watched all seasons of The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Arrow, Supergirl, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield, not to mention a dozen or so movies. It’s crazy.
We were renovating our upstairs and we were proud of the work we were doing, but it was so hard to get things done. I used to be able to paint a whole room on my own in a day, but here it was taking much longer in smaller rooms. It wasn’t adding up.
School started and I was back to my regular schedule. Usually by the end of the first week, I know 98% of my students’ names. This year it took me three weeks to know them without hesitation. I missed a handful of days because I just couldn’t get moving in the morning and I felt unsafe to drive.
I was also finding it hard to make decisions, whether big or small. I couldn’t choose things. I couldn’t commit. My brain just wasn’t cooperating. My good friend got married and I had to push myself onto the dance floor, and I’m usually the one who has to be reminded to sit and eat.
In October, as I was looking back, I realized I was a shell of my former self and it was time to seek help. Even getting to the doctor’s office was a wild chore. I was misled by GPS on one turn and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it, so I drove around this extra loop for twenty minutes. I was in tears by the time I got there.
I have been on medication ever since. The first one helped me reclaim some of my energy but I was so dizzy, it defeated the purpose. The new medicine, I’ve had to wean myself onto very slowly. I’ve had three major concussions in my life and the doctor is trying to ensure I don’t have a similar reaction. It makes sense to take it slow, but I wish it would just work.
Each day is random for me. Many days, each hour is random. There are times that talking is a challenge. I have a hard time in groups because of all the interactions that take place. And concentration of any kind is draining.
What does this mean? My life passion of teaching has been extremely difficult. I’m the teacher who jumps on desks and sings songs and walks around the room. I do 5000 steps just from being on my feet. But this year, I’ve had to sit for most of my lessons. There has been more group-work time for the students. (That’s not a bad thing, actually.) It takes longer for me to grade things. And most unfortunately, I can’t always be there. It breaks my heart that my students aren’t getting the absolute best of me, but they’re getting the best of what I’m currently capable of.
I spend every off minute I can recuperating. I’ve asked for help where I can and I pace myself the rest of the time. With any luck, as the medicine does its thing, I’ll be more and more my old self.
On the one hand, I’m lucky because I don’t have the worst of the emotional symptoms of depression. Most of my feelings are due to knowing that I’m not able to do more right now. And I don’t know how to accept that. Everyone has been patient with me and I’m grateful for that. There are times where I just need to sit in silence and let my brain calm down and relax.
Photo by Mike Dennler on Unsplash.com
I feel like I am a smaller version of myself trying to pilot the full-size version of me. Think how exhausting that would be if each action, like moving your arm, required concentrated effort to move while also being several times its normal size. That’s about how it has felt. Every action is a chore. Draining. Difficult. Every day is like climbing a mountain in fog.
I’m mostly in cheerier spirits and I try to focus on happiness and on the things I have been able to do. I try to keep up with my awful puns, even if I can’t say them in the moment. I try to keep with my usual routines and that means getting out of the house for more than just work.
They say it’s one day at a time. I often feel like it’s one hour at a time. I push through where I can, I rest when I must, I do what I can, and I have to let the rest go. I’m glad I sought help when I did. Things would have gotten so much worse if I hadn’t. I’ve always tried to be the trooper and fight through, but sometimes we just need help. For me, this was one of those times.
And with all this going on, my mom suddenly, unexpectedly passed away one month ago. I don’t even know how to handle that on top of everything else. Some days it feels more real than others, that she is gone and I can never talk to her again or do lunch or go to a show. Other days it feels like I just haven’t called her recently. It is a strange pain. But I have her kitty with me everyday, a gentle reminder of how much love she had for the world around her.
I share this in case you are going through difficult times. Don’t let yourself suffer. Get help sooner, not later. There is no hero award for making it through without help. And to all those who see me with a little less bounce in my step, this is why. I’m ok. I’m just struggling. To my family and friends, let’s still get together and have some laughs. I will need rest breaks but it’s just how I have to cope right now. To my students, your well-being and education are still my priority. I’m just a little slower but I’ll be ok.
I’m not asking for sympathy, just understanding and patience. There are plenty of people literally fighting for their lives who are in worse situations than this. My heart goes out to those of you dealing with such things. May you find your light and hope in the days ahead.