This post was originally posted on tumblr here on May 7th 2014. I’m starting to blog both there and on WordPress now, and I thought that this post gives a fairly good impression of who I am now. Upon posting it again however I do want to emphasize that rather than being “better” (as much as I want to believe that) I’d say I’ve just become better at dealing with my problems and I’m better able to recognize them, and catch them before they go too far. I still have bad days along with the good, and I’m probably always going to have to keep adjusting.
So hello, nice to meet you, and here is some very personal information about my life. Welcome to my world 🙂
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week! It was just Mental Health Awareness Week in January, but maybe that was just around here. I feel like no one is more aware of mental health than me, but I like the idea that I could help share information and experiences with people who are not so aware.
Now that I’ve had the conversations I needed to have, I feel comfortable saying that I’ve been on medication for my depression since the beginning of March. I’m going to talk about my experience with it so far, because there are a LOT of pretty strong opinions out there. At least at my university, the most popular opinion by far is that medication is awful and pushed on everyone for no reason. And of course sometimes that’s completely true, and it really isn’t for everyone. I never thought it was for me and I resisted it for years. So I’m going to share my experience, because people should know that it’s not always a horror story, and some people just honestly want to know what it might be like. I know I did.
I’ve suspected that I had dysthymia since high school, but I was only diagnosed with it this year. Dysthymia is a form of low-grade depression that is chronic and lasts for many years. It can last for so long that people simply believe that it is who they are, and don’t realize that there is anything ‘different’ about them. This was the case for me. If you want a bit more info, the Wikipedia article is actually very good. I believe that my dysthymia has been following me around since elementary school, when I first started to dread going to school and had anxieties surrounding friendships – probably around the first or second grade. When I was in high school I was “triggered” into experiencing more severe depression due to a horrible breakup and subsequent bullying situation that resulted in the loss of many of the people who were closest to me.
I never wanted to be on medication. It was suggested to me when I was 17, and I refused, because I felt like medication should be a last resort, and I was 17 for goodness sake. I should have been in therapy at that point in my life, but there was no space for me and I couldn’t afford a private counsellor.
So I just dealt with it on my own, and for a while it did seem to get better, but eventually I realized that I had just become numb in a lot of ways. I was never truly happy. I never managed to pull myself out of that depression, I just pushed it down.
Fast forward a couple of years – I’m now nearly 20, and it’s the summer before my third year of university. Things are the same as they’ve always been for the past two years. I’m living with my new boyfriend in Toronto working a job I hate and generally bored out of my mind. Then something life changing happens.
I was in love with someone back in high school who loved me back, but did some not-so-great things and then left me for someone else. I didn’t think I would ever see him again, let alone form a relationship with him. I saw him at a few parties and realized that I was still in love with him. He told me that he’s sorry for high school and that if he didn’t mess that up, we would still be together now. He didn’t say he still loved me. He didn’t actually say much. But I looked at his eyes and they were so sad and said everything else. It was one of the few times in my life that I’ve felt something right down to my core. It broke me out of the numbness that I had been feeling (or not feeling, rather) and pushed me into action.
I couldn’t just let that go. I broke up with my boyfriend and moved home. We “hung out” for several months and said all the right things and had such lovely plans for the future. The reason I’m saying all of this is because he was the ONLY person I have ever met who could break through the cloud that was constantly hanging over me. With him I didn’t have dysthymia. I was just me, the best possible version of myself. Knowing this in hindsight, it’s easy to see why I loved him so much.
But that didn’t last. “Perfection” fades, and as it did my depression returned stronger and stronger until everything screwed itself up again. The only thing that could make me happy was perfection – otherwise, nothing was good enough. After a while I could only see the bad and I couldn’t feel the good as much, and I nitpicked about things that in hindsight really didn’t matter. I couldn’t truly feel love, either for someone else or from someone else, and I wasn’t the best version of me any more.
What happened in the year that followed isn’t really important. It can be summed up by saying that I just kept getting worse and worse and that, left untreated and coupled with unfortunate social situations, led to suicidal ideation and serious depressive episodes. This can happen in cases like mine, in which dysthymia is left untreated for a long time and triggering experiences keep happening. This is called double depression (also referenced in the Wiki article). I was a loose cannon. Even I couldn’t predict myself. Mid-February of 2014, at 21, I landed myself in the hospital for a night. They couldn’t (or wouldn’t) help me, but luckily by the end of the month I got into the counselling centre at my university where I had previously been on the wait-list, where I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with dysthymia and again suggested medication.