I most certainly dropped the ball on the Blog Every Day In May challenge last week - for this I offer my apologies! I had an extremely busy couple of days followed by a couple of extremely 'can't be bothered days' - I was considering trying to catch up with all the posts but I think instead of that I will just start afresh from today, and try to keep up.
So, day 20: Get real. Write about something you're struggling with right now.
Ok, I can do that. Be warned though, its not going to be pretty.
It's no secret that I suffer from depression. I've written about it on here several times, and alluded to it many more. It's not something I write about with alarming frequency, partly because I don't want to come off as being all 'woe is me, look how terrible my life is' (it isn't), and partly because I don't want a medical condition to define my life and what I do with it. And ok, partly because I'm embarrassed.
I've suffered from depression, to the best of my calculations, since I was about 15 - possibly younger. 15 was the age at which I became aware of being 'a bit different' - a bit more melancholy, a bit more analytical, a bit...angrier, than my peers. Of course the word 'depression' wasn't really part of my vocabulary at that age - I just thought that was how I was built. It wasn't until I got to university that I was diagnosed with depression, and even then it wasn't a conclusion I came to on my own. I went to the doctor with extreme fatigue. By this point I'd already joined Weight Watchers and had lost a couple of stone. My mind made the connection between the weight loss and feeling worse - but it didn't quite figure out that the reason was because I was no longer self-medicating with food. After a chat with my doctor about my options, I was prescribed a course of antidepressants - which I didn't take - and referred for counselling - which I didn't attend. I didn't want to be labelled as depressed. I didn't want to take pills or go to counselling or be 'that girl'. I was adamant that I'd be ok. I'd be ok once I'd lost the weight, I'd be ok once my exams were done, I'd be ok, I'd be ok, I'd be ok.
That was towards the end of my first year at university. My second year was worse. Far, far worse. I didn't like my course, I didn't like the majority of my housemates, and I definitely didn't like myself. I was angry all the time. I wouldn't leave my room for days - and if I did I timed it so that I wouldn't have to speak to anyone else in the house. On the rare occasions that I went out I got hideously, embarrassingly drunk. I started regaining weight. It was a bad, bad time. I never ever planned to hurt myself in any way, but I was in a bad place. I saw a tv ad, one of those road safety ones in which a teenager gets knocked down and killed, and I thought to myself 'if I got hit by a car and killed tomorrow it wouldn't really bother me'. I made a doctors appointment for that afternoon.
This time I did everything right. I took the tablets, I went to the counselling sessions. I started losing weight and exercising again. Gradually I started enjoying things again. Under my doctors advice I took the antidepressants for well over a year - a few months for them to take effect, and a year feeling 'stable' on them. Just before Easter last year my doctor advised that I start coming off them - gradually. My dose was decreased every month for three months until I stopped taking them. This coincided with my final exams, graduation and starting full time work.
With hindsight, it was a stupid move. In a time of great upheaval, the last thing I should have done was stop taking them. I queried it when my doctor suggested it, but you just sort of go with it, don't you? I mean, they're doctors. They know what their talking about. I should have insisted I stay on them until I was settled. Everyone has 20-20 hindsight, right? And in fairness, I was ok. A few mopey days here and there, but overall it was fine. Towards the end of October I started feeling the familiar pangs - what I can only describe as a sense of hopelessness, and the inability to see the point in anything. I attributed it to being bored with my job and having a lacklustre social life. It wasn't until early February that I finally realised it was happening again, and that something needed to be done. So on Valentine's Day (and they say romance is dead) and had a very frank discussion with her about where I was at and what was bothering me. And I mean, very frank. We're talking home life, work life, sex life, the lot. She told me what I already knew - that there is no logical reason for me to be depressed. I had a happy and stable childhood, in spite of my parents divorcing when I was nine. I was well cared for and well provided for. I've never been abused or assaulted or neglected. I've never lost a parent, or sibling, or child, or spouse. I have a stable job, a good education, I'm in good health. My life isn't perfect, but by any standard it's pretty damn good. There is not, nor has there ever been, any external reason for me to be in top third of the depression scale.
Internally, it's a completely different story. Because my depression isn't caused by a traumatic event. It is, quite simply, a chemical imbalance in the brain. A chemical imbalance that is genetic and that is never, ever going to go away. Sure it can be treated. I can be made to feel better with drugs and counselling and cuddles (never underestimate the power of the hug). A healthy lifestyle will ease the symptoms, but they will never truly go away.
I was told there and then by my doctor that she was happy to put me back on antidepressants, but it would be under the assumption that I would be on them for the long term - possibly for life. Alternatively she told me to work through some of the stresses in my life to see if that improved how I felt about things generally. I took the latter option, still terrified of spending the rest of my life dependent on the little white pills. Still not wanting to be cast as 'that girl'. Still desperately trying to believe that if I could make everything in my life perfect then it would all go away. So I dealt with the stresses - I got organised at work and reduced my stress there, I got my finances sorted, I spent a long time chatting with my mum about the way things were at home, I had the dreaded 'relationship' conversation with the boy. Three out of four of these things went my way - the final one threw me for a little while, but I'm getting there. Slowly.
I gave it three months. Nobody can say that I didn't try, because I did. I had the conversations I didn't want to have and I dealt with the consequences - one of which being the end of a fledgling relationship. I know that part of the issue was him, but if I hadn't pushed, if I'd let it run its course, things may have been different. He wasn't ready for there to be 'labels and expectations', and I'm too neurotic and insecure for there not to be. It's that simple.
I gave it my best, like I try to do with everything. Eventually I had to accept that it wasn't going to be enough, and I'm struggling with that.
I'm struggling with the knowledge that there's something wrong with me - that there's a part of my brain that just doesn't work the way everyone else's does. I'm struggling with the fact that, to all intents and purposes, I am broken. That all the weight loss, all the dream jobs, all the fantastic friends, all the wonderful family, all the kings horses and all the kings men aren't going to be able to put poor little Lauren's brain back together again.
I'm scared of what this means for the future, because people don't like the depressed girl. They like the happy-go-lucky, bubbly, perky girl, and that is never going to be me. I'm scared of how I'll cope - not only with work but with life in general. How will I manage if, god forbid, I should lose someone close to me? How will I manage if and when the time comes to have a baby? Am I going to be one of those mothers crippled by PND, unable to bond and resenting her kids? Am I even going to be able to have kids - am I going to meet someone who is willing to take on all the stuff that comes with this problem?
How am I going to explain it to people? How am I supposed to look people in the eye, people who have gone through far worse things than I ever have, and tell them that I'm depressed?
So yes, I'm struggling. I'm also angry. I'm angry at myself for being like this, and at whatever genetic anomaly it is that has resulted in me feeling this way. I'm angry that I have to remind myself of all the wonderful things in my life, instead of just being able to appreciate them. I'm angry that my options are either medication or a constant, oppressive feeling of hopelessness. I get to decide between Prozac or a life spent wondering 'what's the point?'. Lucky me. I'm angry, and sad, that part of this problem is the constant over-analysis of everything. Everything is a puzzle to be solved. A conversation is obsessed over, a sideways glance from a stranger on the train is picked apart and examined for every possible meaning. It's exhausting and it's maddening and it doesn't endear me to myself or anyone else. And knowing that it's not going to get better, that this is what my life will be...that's what I'm struggling with.