Locked inside your mind.
If I have to describe what depression feels like in one sentence, above is the phrase, I will use.
I get locked inside my mind.
When depression relapse hits with all of its glory, I feel imprisoned inside my body and part of my mind. I, as I know until that moment, will be gone from this face of the earth.
I have spent a good amount of last decade reading and researching about depression. And yet, I was not prepared for what hit me this time. In hindsight, I do feel it was a clean reset, more on that on later parts.
It all began with lightheadedness. I felt a rapid heartbeat along with nausea and dizziness during my trip to India in early May. I chalked it up to the nerves of meeting my new family and a stressful quick trip. When I came back, I saw my doctor, and he suggested I meet with a cardiologist.
There are a million things that needed my attention, so I ignored the advice as I do with the most information. (Self-care sucks) Eventually, the high heart returned, and I ended up in the cardiologist office to find out the cause. He suggested changing the anti-depressant I was on as the high HR is a side effect of the medicine.
My doctor changed the medicine, in a few short days my heart rate came down to a reasonable level. Life continued with deadlines, kids pickups, regular fights with the spouse. Somewhere along the line, I stopped writing, reading, painting, and more. What I failed to notice in the middle of chaos is that I had gradually stopped living and started to exist merely. I had lost my will to live.
Depression shows up as physical tiredness, sleeplessness, and loss of interest in everyday things. You will go from being an active living human being to someone who stares at the world and wondering why you can not get up out of bed. Sadness plagues you fully. Part of you knows you are not well, and yet unable to do much of anything about it. This time around, I gave in to the feeling of hopelessness. I wonder now, sitting here, how could I have not seen it coming. In the business of life, I had let go of my self-care routines. And when medicines switched, along with situations, I fell into the deep dark ditch of depression.
I fell so far in that I prayed for days to get to an end. I felt sad beyond I have ever felt. I felt trapped inside with no voice left. I felt like life as I know ended. We ended up back in front of the doctor again. The medicine regime was changed, and some intense therapy was suggested. Followed by self-regulated pushes to get going with small things.
It is not easy. It is very discouraging in fact. You look in the mirror and see a ghost of yourself. The side effects of medicines are brutal. You have a mind that is at best can be described as a cloud-filled sky. All that you have is the hope that things will change.
Being said that, medicines to help. On the third day of my new meds, I was in a lot of physical pain. But I woke up and made a to-do list with five things in it. One of the items being as simple as "Take a shower." By the end of the day, I was able to do 4 out of the 5, and that gave me a slight sense of relief. The fourth day I woke up in tears as the pain had reached a point of unbearable. This is normal. Antidepressants are at its best a trial and error. My logical and rational brain struggles to understand why permutations and combinations cannot lead to better-educated guesses, but for now, I am grateful that I am in a place where I can get help.
I am a week and some into the medicine regime. I am also part of an intensive program to supplement my recovery. It is hard and full of shame. I struggle to function 50% less than my optimal self. I am a perfectionist, and I struggle to accept this me who is struggling to get going with an average day. The hardest of all is the thought that I am letting my family down.
Once in a while, I step away from myself and try to look at this woman who is struggling with empathy. It is not easy. What is natural is to blame, shame, and criticize her. To arrogantly say that it is all in your head and logically challenge. But it is not all in my head. I do not have enough education to speak what or where it is. I can, however, say that I do not want this intentionally. I do not think anyone would wish to this deliberately. And this is more than just a seasonal blue. Sadly this is an ongoing fight. By now I have been living with this illness for a decade. Life has not been effortless in the last decade and triggers did bring relapses. The best I can do is get out of it and be mindful of the beast.
As I make slow progress in recovery, I do feel discouraged and frustrated. It is not fast enough. It will not be unrealistic to expect this event never to occur again. I will have to be guarded for the rest of my life.
On a positive note, this does give me a unique perspective on life and everything life offers. I find everything in life much more precious, whether its the hug of my children or the kiss of my spouse, or the sweetness of dark chocolate, or the warmth of sunlight.
Life is full of events. Good, bad, ugly, and breathtakingly beautiful. I find depression to be life-changing by challenging me. Believe it or not, accepting this illness as a constant companion had made me a better person.