What you don’t hear about depression

One of the most terrifying aspects of living with depression is that it’s nearly impossible to share your darkness with the people most affected by it. It’s hard to accept our own thoughts and feelings sometimes, let alone burden people we love with a glimpse into our world of doom. I’ve had friends reach out to me recently, sharing their struggles with depression and asking for advice. So, I’m about to share what I go through and then hopefully you won’t feel so fucked up and alone. Why don’t I write something uplifting you say? Because this is real shit and it needs to be talked about.

Symptoms

We’ve all heard about the standard symptoms: fatigue, irritability, aching muscles, digestive problems, loss of interest, feeling hopeless, blah. But what does that look like in real-life? We need real life examples. Ready for it? Let’s go there…

In a nutshell

My day began like this: hit snooze on my alarm and thought, “fuck me.” Laid there in bed feeling paralyzed, desperate to keep my head on that pillow. Like so desperate, I could have bawled. I didn’t even mind that I was laying in a pool of sweat, a fun little side effect of my medication (I’ll talk a little about that later). Somehow I got my heavy, rundown ass out of bed and made it to the shower where I stood for an eternity, wondering how the hell I was going to make it through the day. Had to make myself get out by turning the water cold.

Got an eggnog Americano on the way to work, my morning hug in a cup. That was nice. Let some chick pull into my lane and she didn’t wave to thank me, so I raged, calling her a stupid bitch. Don’t worry, she’s fine, she had no idea. Made it to work, only to avoid eye contact in the halls, so I didn’t have to fake a smile over and over. Shut my door and blinds in my office and sat there wondering if today was the day they’d figure out that I don’t know shit (for the first time I actually feel like I belong and I do know shit, so this is particularly frustrating). Then the daydreams began – visions of going home where I could sit on the couch with a soft blanket, take a deep breath, and then have anxiety about all the shit that needs to get done and what a loser I am. Yep, the big black cloud is back.

A deeper look

Depression is much more than feeling sad. And feeling sad is not depression. It’s a body and mind thing.

Body stuff

My carcass is drained, heavy, and lethargic. Like I’m a thousand-pound sloth.

Weird aches and pains give me paranoia. My back hurts for seemingly no reason. I haven’t taken a satisfying shit in over a week. I’m always hungry, but then I binge on food and wallow in guilt afterward. Sometimes I pick the hell out of my face to the point that I cannot leave the house for hours. Someone might as well be sitting on my chest, it feels so tight and heavy. Often, I discover my jaw has been clenched for so long, I’ve given myself a headache.

Mind stuff

Escaping the negativity is like trying to get out of quicksand. I feel like a failure because I can’t will myself into being more positive. There’s all this pressure to get positive – websites, apps, social media pages – all devoted to it. Positive affirmations make me feel like shit, putting the focus on how I really feel. When did it become a thing to try to avoid shit anyway? It doesn’t do any good to deny your shitty mood. I’m in a shitty mood. So be it.

My thoughts get stuck on stupid, icky, sometimes terrifying shit. So disturbing at times, that they conflict with my personality and values and make me feel like an imposter. Swirling around in my head like vultures. That’s when I’m really afraid of the dark. I’ve tried to think of an example that won’t have a psychiatrist or the cops land on my doorstep…I’ll just leave it at that.

Some basic life tasks go undone and I judge myself hard. My house isn’t clean, the laundry isn’t folded, and my hair will continue to look like shit for months to come, as I spritz it with dry shampoo and twist it up into a bun. I’ll continue to wear jeans and a sweatshirt every day because it’s what’s comfortable and I don’t have the energy to do more. My car desperately needs a wash, but it’ll just get rained on again, so why bother?

I’m irritable as a mofo. Something as simple as my husband tossing a handful of cashews into his mouth. That sound the nuts make when they hit his teeth ignites an internal rage and I instantly loathe him. And when I get over it I feel like an evil hag who doesn’t deserve love.

And the real kicker – I can’t remember shit. I’ve taken a dementia test at my doctor’s office because I’ve fucked so much shit up due to my shitty memory.

Making it better

It’s important to mention that throughout all this bullshit, on the outside I probably look just fine. It’s also important to mention that I do have a happy life. Even the happiest of people can have depression. My depression says nothing about how grateful I am.

As for advice, check out an older blog post that still rings true for me on 7 ways to help yourself through seasonal depression. And I have something to add to it:

Meds can be your friend. The raging antidepressant debate continues and some people are real assholes about it. I’ve felt the pressure to get off them before and it has not gone well. Yes, they have side effects, some more than others. Patience is key. Meds are subtle. For me, they take away the scariest part of depression, where I tend to wonder what the hell the point is. I used to have this sudden onset of panic that would pull on my heart with an eerie hollowness that wanted to eat me alive. Meds took that away. For that I’m grateful.

No shame

Depression is one of the most common conditions in the world, yet it’s the least understood and most stigmatized. Please don’t be ashamed. Shame eats your soul. Too many people suffer alone because they’re ashamed to speak up or don’t want to burden anyone. Don’t be one of them.

I didn’t just share some of my deep dark bullshit for the hell of it – you must realize you’re not alone, you’re worthy, and you can do this. The more we deny that we have a dark side, the more power it has over us. There’s light all around and within you. “You can’t shine your light without darkness, my dear. You can’t be brave without the knowledge of fear.” Be as kind to yourself as you can. You’re doing just fine.

Hope I reached someone.

Thanks for reading,

Chrystal

Winter is here…and so is depression

I’m desperate for some sunny warm days. They lift my spirits, give me energy, and make me feel more like getting out and doing things. Today is miraculously sunny albeit fricking freezing, but these rainy, dark days in Seattle are depressing the hell out of me – if only I could sleep for a solid week. It’s so hard to get out of bed in the morning, to shower, or to even make a phone call sometimes. It doesn’t help that I was laid off from my job and am stuck at home with my 4-year-old who is on a brief hiatus from school. Don’t get me wrong, hanging out with my kid is priceless, but I love going to work, being productive, and having adult conversations. The uncertainty and stress of my situation is only deepening my seasonal depression.

This pattern of mood changes has a dramatic effect on my life and it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Best acronym ever. Depression associated with SAD has physical symptoms too, including fatigue, increased sleeping, increased appetite, and social withdrawal. These symptoms tend to occur through the months of November until March. Let’s not forget about that fabulous routine 10-15 pound weight gain, too.

I’ve started a healthy diet, don’t oversleep, and manage my stress to the best of my ability. But you can throw all the drugs, lights, and herbal tea you want at me and I am still barely keeping my head above water. I am so tired of feeling like five months a year are lost to fatigue and depression. It totally blows and makes me wonder if I’m living in the right place. I feel like a terrible Washingtonian bad-mouthing the only place I’ve ever called home, but hot damn. I used to tell myself the amazing summers here were worth the wait, but living through almost half the year like this feels like such a waste sometimes.

I’m looking forward to taking a cruise to the Caribbean in January. That is helping me carry on. You can bet your sweet ass I’ll be posting tropical paradise pics on Facebook like all the other lucky assholes.

I went to an AA meeting the other night – brought a newbie with me. I couldn’t help but imagine how she was feeling throughout the meeting and it brought me back to the beginning of my sober days. Man, am I glad I’ve worked through my anger – anger and depression don’t mix well. Being there also reminded me that I’m not the only one who is having a hard time. It’s good to have those reminders. It helps by making me feel not so alone and scared.

If you have SAD, misery sure does love company – I’d love to hear from you. It’s disgusting how debilitating and isolating it feels. Knowing that I’m not alone in this makes me feel connected and hopeful. I’ll be going to more meetings for sure. And Spring will be here soon, but I’m finding those small moments of joy in these dark days and holding onto them with all my might. My cute little family reminds me of how good life really is. I am hell-bent on becoming more present during these shitty months because they deserve the best of me. Letting it fly also helps, so thank you for reading my blog. May it find you healthy and hopeful this season.

If you’re feeling hopeless, believe me I have been there, too. Please reach out to someone, anyone, even me. We are all in this together and together we can help lift each other up. You are worth it.

-Chrystal

Surviving a shitty day in sobriety

Yesterday was a shitty day. The kind that will surely stick in my memory for the rest of my life. The details don’t matter – everyone has their own problems. All I want to say is that I made it through a gutting and painful day without taking a drink – and if I can do it anyone can. This girl so desperately wanted a drink – 5 or 6 glasses of wine, actually. I even caught myself licking my lips, fantasizing about that first full-bodied grapey gulp. I imagined that pre-passed-out drunken state of nothingness…and I desperately wanted to be there. To feel my body and brain let go in that old familiar, reckless way that only alcohol could sufficiently lend. I intensely craved that feeling from my long-lost steady friend.

While I have some of the right tools in my belt, I also have many important reasons for not drinking, but the “fuck it” voice in my head wanted to raise some serious hell. I obsessed about booze so profusely I began to shame myself. Somehow through the dark my heart overruled my brain and for that I am grateful. I’m grateful I’m not nursing a hangover and regret while I deal with how shitty I still feel.

Moral of the story is that when life gets shitty you don’t have to relapse. Take care of yourself as best you can and just don’t drink today. Just don’t drink. If you can get sober you can stay sober. Hard times always pass. Feel your heart beating and hear its truth. “If light is in your heart you will find your way home”.

Your sobriety is that light and it will always take you home.

 

 

 

Thanks,

Chrystal

 

7 reasons to get excited about Spring – and tips for enduring the transition

In the wise words of Samuel L. Jackson, “Enough is enough!” I don’t know about you, but it’s the first day of Spring and I could squirt some tears of joy now! The winter doldrums have long overstayed their welcome and I’m done. Although it’s the first day of Spring and gloriously beautiful outside, this is Seattle, so the gray days aren’t just going to peace out right away. I figured I could use a little pep talk, so here are 7 reasons to get excited about Spring and 7 ways to endure the transition.SpringIsHere

7 reasons to get excited about Spring

  1. More daylight – emerging from the dungeon of winter is pure bliss! Going to work and coming home, both in the daylight, is magical.
  2. Warmer weather – the warm embrace of a Spring breeze is just so darn pleasant.
  3. Color – whether in your wardrobe, blooming nearby, or on your toenails, color is back!
  4. Birds singing – as long as they stay the hell away from me, I love their beautiful songs!
  5. Grilling – simply an American favorite that’s morphed into a fine art! Bring on the beef, chicken skewers, pizza, corn on the cob, peaches – you name it, we grill it!
  6. New motivation – the new season puts a little spring in our step and rebirth to our goals, prompting us to de-clutter our homes, hit the gym, and start planning vacations.
  7. We’re one step closer to summer!!!

Enduring the transition…

  1. Make sure you are meeting your basic needs. Sleep, eat healthy, exercise, and drink lots of water, which is imperative for our brain health and functioning, and can help us tolerate the effects of stress and those lingering winter blues.
  2. Use a “happy” light. I don’t know if they work, but I think mine helps me, therefore it does, ya know?
  3. Stay connected. We tend to hibernate throughout the winter months and this isolation contributes to feelings of depression and anxiety. Reach out to the people in your life whom you feel your best around. Stay away from the assholes.
  4. Be patient with yourself. When you beat yourself up for feeling out of sorts, it adds a whole new level of distress. Easier said than done, but take some deep breaths and visualize the things you want.
  5. Talk about it. If you give yourself permission to talk about the effect seasonal change is having on you, you will most likely find that others understand and validate how you feel.
  6. Be aware. Now that we are out of the cold-weather drinking season, we arrive upon the most challenging and tempting period for me – with beer gardens and wine tastings at every turn. Being aware of your weaknesses and surroundings is critical to your sobriety. Always be ready.
  7. Buy some Kleenex, eye drops, and Claritin! Get ready for the scratchy-eyed sneeze fest…it’ll totally be worth it!

Luck o’ the sober! – sober on Saint Patrick’s Day

The vast majority of Americans who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day don’t give a shit about the Irish culture or Catholic background of this unofficial holiday, and that’s totally fine. They wear ridiculous green t-shirts that tell the rest of us how great it is to have another excuse to get belligerent. I’ve been one of those drunks.Irish I was drunk - NOT!

I’m happy to report that I no longer navigate this day with such scorn for those drunks out there, who still get to drink. Because for a long time I was furious about it. I don’t want to drink today. Tomorrow I’ll wake up refreshed, without regret. I feel pretty lucky about that and I’m damn proud of it.

Congrats to all my sober friends out there, and for the rest of you I have one plea: Go out with your green selves and have some fun, but

PLEASE DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE.

 

 

Thank you,

SoberChrystal