How I’ve Pulled Myself Out Of A Major Depressive Episode
It’s been a tough couple of weeks, if I’m really honest. I’ve been trying my hardest, but my bad patches came on in waves, almost on top of one another until suddenly there was no air to breathe and no good patches. I wrote last time about how it feels to have high functioning major depression (that is, not dysthymia, which is persistent low grade depression). Today, I want to talk about how I’ve tried and am trying to help myself to feel better.
- I told my psychologist, who referred me to a psychiatrist.
I’ve been in therapy for more than a year, and have been dealing with many of the issues of my childhood and adult life. I was sure that I was dealing with things, but my high functioning ways were still a barrier. I didn’t know how much I needed help. I was so used to just carrying on, I showed no-one — not even myself or my therapist — how bad I was feeling. I just felt bad, and carried on. It was only when the rug was pulled out from under me (from my chronic insomnia rearing its ugly head), that I finally broke through my high functioning and was able to break down. A week after I broke down in my psychologists office, I saw my psychiatrist for the first time. My psychologist had mentioned dysthymia, but my psychiatrist diagnosed ongoing major depression. The fact that I had functioned so well throughout the last four years was, she said, unbelievable. She has prescribed me an antidepressant and something to help me sleep, that won’t make me feel like a ghost. And (thank all the gods) it’s helping.
2. I started reading again.
I’ve always been a big reader. Since I was a small child, I used to get as many books out of the library as possible and read them all in quick succession. I’m voracious. But over the last few years, especially after having a baby, I felt like I didn’t have time to read. But I could spend ages scrolling through social media on my phone. My reading time was reduced to a couple of chapters before going to sleep at night. And it will surprise no-one that I was unhappy. I’ve done a lot of reading into coping with anxiety and depression, and one of the many pieces of advice is to return to something you loved as a child. For me, that was colouring in and reading. And although colouring in hasn’t proven that gripping for my adult brain, I could start reading again. Just picking up my book instead of my phone is so incredibly calming to my brain.
3. I put my phone down.
Speaking of which, my phone is a problem. Yes, it’s an essential tool for the modern parent, person and business owner, but it’s also an enormous time and life suck. I work from home, alone for the bulk of the day. When I’m bored, I scroll through my phone. When I’m eating lunch, I scroll through Instagram stories. When I’m procrastinating something I have to do, I watch IGTV (OK, maybe Instagram is the problem?) My major depressive episode started when I stopped sleeping, and lack of sleep induced some major, incredibly light sensitive headaches. So bad, that I wasn’t able to concentrate on the light of my phone. So I was forced to put it down and pick up a book.
4. I rested when I needed to.
This is a hard one for me. In my head, I call myself lazy (I still don’t know if that’s a true thing or just negative self-talk). But it makes resting, even when I know I need to, something I really struggle to do. I run myself ragged trying to get everything done, keep everyone fed, bathed and happy, and making sure the wheels don’t come off. But I sleep terribly and my mind is always whirling about something else I need to do. I think this is common among women, especially moms, and I had it bad. But then the bottom fell out of my whole world and I was literally unable to do more than the basics. I could make dinner for my family, but then I had to lie down. I could write an article for work, because I had a deadline, but then I had to take a nap. I could not do all the things or be all the people to everyone anymore. I had to rest so that I could do the things that I felt I needed to do. Oh, and I got a prescription for sleeping meds that is slowly changing my life. Is this what everyone has been talking about, feeling rested when you wake up?! It’s a fucking revelation!!
This diagnosis of depression has been in some ways one of the best and worst things I’ve experienced. I have felt horrible, truly and deeply broken, in the last few weeks that I have not felt in years. But I’ve also been able to identify and acknowledge that I also haven’t felt truly, uncomplicatedly happy for at least four years. Since before I fell pregnant. And that’s something I can’t live with anymore. I’ll write soon about all the things I’ve tried over the last few years, but for now, I’m grateful as all hell that I’m finally on medication and treating this for what it is.