The other day I found myself finally telling my sister I had depression—almost five years after my diagnosis. I was in the middle of a seven-day “depressive episode” and during that week and I felt awful. I wasn’t in the mood for anybody.
After that episode was over, I realized I don’t know who I am when they occur. If you were to ask my closest friends, typically I am open and honest, funny and intelligent, loud and I love to poke fun at them for sport. With my depressive episodes, all of that joy gets thrown out the window. It’s like a giant black blob has snuck through my nose in the night and invaded my entire body while I was sleeping.
When I wake up, I’m no longer Angel. I am physically different, weaker (I’m typically weak due to cerebral palsy anyhow). My body feels heavier and my muscles ache. I become mean, extremely sad and intensely emotional. I don’t know what to do with myself and neither do my friends and it makes me feel like a burden. I can no longer see the great things they see in me and feel like they hate me. I feel out of place and dealing with this for 3-7 days, once or twice a month is no easy task. It pauses my entire life, I don’t want to do anything but sleep. Sleep often becomes the only peace I have.
I’ve never been able to determine when these episodes will occur. Before I received treatment, they lasted an entire year and caused me to fail out of college—twice. The depression is also easily set off; most recently it was caused by career rejection. It took less than a day for me to begin to feel completely awful. Other times, I’m triggered by arguments with loved ones and need reassurance that they still care. Unsurprisingly they aren’t always willing to do that because they feel I should know better. Angel does indeed know better, but this new person, caught in the throes of depression, doesn’t know or believe anything from anyone.
For me, the combination of medicine and counseling has been a wonderful treatment, but still doesn’t “fix” things. My episodes are a normal part of my life and a huge part of my illness—they both have to be managed carefully. I have learned to be patient with myself during these times. It is critical for me to ask for the patience of my friends. I don’t expect them to be available 24/7, 365, but I do ask that they love me through it and listen, even if they don’t reply. I am still learning new things about how to communicate what’s happening to me as well how to not let the episode takeover entirely. I know that takes time, but as long as I’m trying, progress is being made.
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