I have been wanting to write this post for a while, but every time I think about starting I get stressed out. I have so many thoughts and so much I want to say, but I don't know how. I feel like I don't even have the energy to begin this post--even thinking it DRAINS me.
I feel like it's my obligation, however, to write this post. I needed a post like the one you're about to read, but I could not find anything of the like when I searched online. I have a feeling that the reason behind this is the same reason why I've been putting this off.
That said--I guess I'll start talking.
Depression wasn't something I ever understood or could grasp until recently. I was such a happy kid, and in high school I was always very happy, well-liked, and content in my mental state.
My senior year of high school I had a boyfriend that struggled with pretty bad depression, and it infuriated me. I always blamed myself-- I was frustrated when he was amidst a strong episode of depression because from the outside looking in his life was fantastic. I tried to remind him of all the good things he had in his life, and he told me that my saying that didn't help anything. I didn't understand. I wanted to, but I have learned that you simply cannot understand depression unless you have personally experienced it.
Freshman year of college was when I developed my eating disorder. The next 2 and a half years were spent struggling with anorexia--it started slow and fully engulfed me by the end of my sophomore year. I constantly denied I had a problem to others and myself because when I researched anorexia I found that those who had the disease isolated themselves, were depressed, anxious, etc. I was not that way. I went out every night, I constantly was surrounded by friends, and I was actually extremely happy--no lie. Of course, I battled body image and food demons but truly and honestly I was happy with my social life and when I laid in bed at night I was happy--certainly not depressed or anxious.
Mid-junior year when my BMI hit single digits was when I got a very harsh wake-up call: I hit rock bottom with my (lack of) food and (excessive) exercise. One night as I struggled to fall asleep after eating a large amount of food and feeling awful, I felt myself dying. I knew I would die--I'm talking in HOURS or DAYS--if I didn't make a change immediately. I give all credit to God for this strange switch in my mindset, because I know 100% I would not have been able to decide that for myself given the deep hole I was in at that point.
The next day I immediately canceled my gym membership and began eating 3,000 calories every day. I'm going to fast forward to stick with the point of this post--I gained twenty pounds within a couple of months and ever since then (this was almost a year ago) I have been in recovery, trying to gain back more weight and get my mentality "fixed."
June of this year was when I first noticed something was weird with me. I didn't feel like myself--I often felt extremely hopeless for no reason. Some days I would be fine one moment and the next I would erupt into a fury of tears, panic attacks, and shallow breathing. I found myself making excuses to leave things early or just not go because I literally could not bring myself to do what I was supposed to be doing.
I was either feeling absolute euphoria or the most wretched, painful and desperate sadness. There was absolutely no middle ground. I didn't know why, and I didn't know how to explain how I was feeling. I didn't sleep. Ever. (I still don't.)
Upon talking to my doctor who had all along been helping me recover from anorexia, we decided that I was battling depression. It didn't shock me--I know it is prevalent in my genetics, and I already expected that diagnosis when I walked in the doors of her office that morning.
I was prescribed 7 different things over the upcoming months. Nothing worked--while one helped with my sleep, it made everything else worse. One of the medications (Prozac) gave me suicidal thoughts--something I had never experienced ever before. It terrified me and I immediately stopped any and all forms of medication. I don't like the way they make me feel.
Here's the thing I wish I would have known when I was going through this: It is EXTREMELY normal for someone that struggled with a restrictive eating disorder to be MORE depressed upon entering recovery.
The reason for this is because while your body was starved it was not feeling. Your emotions were little to nonexistent because a starved body simply lacks the energy to provide you with a plentiful and intense array of emotions--the same reason your sex drive was low and you don't get overly excited about many things, you also likely were not ever feeling negative emotions as strongly.
Once you start providing your body with much needed fuel and energy, it begins to produce all of those hormones and emotions again. Generally this happens after a few months of re-feeding. This held true for me--I consider the first couple of months from my recovery the "honeymoon phase" because I was extremely happy, energetic, and pleased by how simple things were. I did deal with negative body thoughts regularly, but overall I was much, much happier than I was when I was dying.
After my body regained some weight, the food started serving as fuel for my brain and hormones and FEELINGS. ALL OF THE FEELINGS. This is where depression came in.
I felt so confused at this point because first of all, things had been going SO well up until that point. Second, I felt like I was doing something wrong by recovering because I was not depressed while I was taken over by my eating disorder. It was like I traded one mental illness for another--this second one felt harder to me, so I often questioned my recovery and even sometimes would plan a relapse.
After about two months of this strange depression, things got better for a while all on their own. Maybe because I was so busy with school, working full time, etc...but it's hard to say, really. I now assume that it is simply because depression comes and goes with no rhyme or reason. How rude.
About a month or so ago, the depression came back. It came back stronger and harder than the first time.
Again, I questioned my recovery, wondered what was wrong with me, and had life-ending thoughts that terrified me.
My thoughts: I have a job. I'm about to graduate from college. I have the most amazing boyfriend, a house to live in, a supportive family, financial security, etc..... (I would constantly make gratitude lists and force myself to see how lucky and blessed I am, all to no avail.)
Those that I confided in with my depression did the same. Why are you sad? You have so much to be grateful for. My mom suggested it was a post-surgery depression, as can often times happen. Maybe so, maybe not.
The thing is, I'm NOT sad. I do not describe this feeling as being sad whatsoever. It's almost more of a numb feeling--talking begins to exhaust me and all I can do is sit in silence and stare. Cleaning my room becomes as challenging as running a marathon, and doing homework might as well be open-heart surgery.
Some days I don't want to live anymore. Some days I feel like I'm on top of the world. Some days I don't know how I'm going to get through it--but I do. Inevitably, it comes back. It goes away, but gosh...it comes back.
I still wonder...why did I have to trade one disease for another? Why is this so hard, and why can't it be easy like everyone says? Surely I must be a strange exception for struggling with depression while in recovery from anorexia and supposedly gaining my life back...
But I'm not. I know that people struggle with this and they just don't talk about it. Because it's hard, it's shameful, it's not the norm portrayed to society...
We share our highlights with the world--the things that we're proud of, the fun things we're doing, the awards we have received...
I'm not saying this is wrong. I just am saying that I would like to share BOTH the very glamorous and the horribly ugly sides of my life.
People don't see me as a depressed person--people see me as a happy, tiny ball of energy that likes to always tell jokes and make people laugh. I am willing to bet that no one knows I struggle with depression. Because depression isn't always what it's painted out to be: a person laying in a dark room sobbing, eating ice cream, binge-watching Netflix...
Depression is me putting on a full face of makeup, a new outfit, curling my hair and going to class. It's me hanging out with friends, walking my dog, and typing up blog posts. It's doing all these things whilst feeling like I cannot do the very thing I'm doing. It's holding back emotions and wanting to call in sick because I AM sick. But you can't call in depressed.
I would like to talk more about this. I want to show people that this is something that needs to be taken far more seriously and stop people from throwing around the term 'depressed' like it's a cool new word to say.
It's so much more complex than I could ever convey to anyone. I don't need to explain it to those who don't know what it's like--but I do need for people to understand that they do not understand.
No questions today--just thoughts.