I remember trying to explain to someone once how lonely and sad I was feeling at home while everyone was away at school or work. Their response was,”You sound like a bored housewife.”
After that, I rarely divulged that kind of personal information. Instead I just pushed through each month on those “sad and lonely days” until they subsided. After all, they didn’t last for more than a few days. Surely I could muscle-up enough energy to at least shower and get dressed before my family got home in the afternoon.
I don’t remember experiencing postpartum depression after either of my children. There was a short amount of time I do remember struggling with teen hormones and the grieving of a failed marriage, but for the most part, I have been able to face life with joy and optimism.
Depression only happens to other people, unhappy people, people who have stressful lives.
Or at least that is what I thought until I got remarried and moved to Michigan.
It didn’t happen right away, but after a few years of constant cold and overcast days, my mood began shifting dramatically. First, it was just in the winter months, so I thought it was SAD, but then it became more cyclical during the whole year. I chalked it up to PMS since it coincided with my period. I increased my calcium intake, B and D vitamins, made sure I ate healthy and exercised. I was determined to have less sad days. But that only helped for a little while. Finally, a few years ago, I was more honest with my doctor about how I was feeling and we decided to try Yasmin for birth control, which is also prescribed for mild PMDD.
The mood swings were less harsh each month, although still cyclical. Maybe it was a mind-game. I could predict when the bad days would come and just bare down, wait it out. I could numbly go through the motions. And even though I felt detached from my life for a few days, I was still productive. I was still able to be present. I could still greet my family with a smile, a clean house, and a hot meal at the end of the day.
But lately those sad days have turned in to sad weeks. Earlier this month I found myself crying in the shower for the third day in a row, until the water ran cold and my fingers and toes were shriveled and numb. My voice reverberated off the walls. I was depressed. I was drowning in hormone fluctuations. My house was frozen in dust and clutter while my family had been eating frozen dinners. The things that brought me joy only caused stress. I didn’t write. I didn’t practice my oboe. I didn’t seek out any of my friends or extended family. Luna and I laid in bed for days watching TV.
When I finally came out of my funk and resurfaced, I called my mom. She had left several messages during those ten days. I was chipper and optimistic when I told her why I didn’t call her back right away.
“But it’s fine now, Mom, ” I assured her, “The two weeks are just about done and I can get on with my life now.”
Mom took a heavy breath.
“Two weeks a month is half of your life.”
“What?” I asked.
“Half of your life, ” she said, “you miss out on half of your life. How is that okay?”
It’s not okay, but I had never thought about it that way. I only focused on the two weeks that I felt great, the two weeks that I had energy and enjoyed being with friends and family. I looked forward to the two weeks I wasn’t in a total brain fog, when writing and playing my oboe felt effortless and fulfilling. That seemed like enough. I had forgotten what it felt like to enjoy my whole life.
There is little to no stress in my life. My marriage is good, my kids are healthy and doing well in school, relationships with our extended family are amazing and finances are solid. There are no outside influences causing me to fall in to this darkness. This is not my fault nor is it in my control. The time has come to swallow my pride and finally succumb to my doctor’s yearly recommendation of taking a more aggressive approach.
No one wants to see themselves as depressed or dependent on drugs for happiness, but I doubt anyone wants to miss out on half of their life either.
I sure don’t.