It’s Mental Health Awareness month, and I’ve read a lot of really good articles about people opening up about their mental health challenges, laying it all out so that people know that they’re not alone. It’s gotten me thinking about my stuff. It’s reminded me that I’m *not* alone.
It took me a moment to see it, but I’ve been depressed.
I’ve been depressed for a while. I’m someone who stuffs my feelings because I don’t like taking them out and parading them around. It’s just not what’s done, but then I have to take a step back and realize the damage if I don’t acknowledge it for what it is, and own what’s been going on.
So there it is. I’ve been depressed, and I have been for awhile.
Approximately three years ago, I, without clear explanation started piling on weight without any significant lifestyle changes. I gained over 100 lbs in a year. I knew some of it was the usual weight that people in happy relationships tend to put on. I also suspected that some of it was because I had gone off several medications, including Metformin and Birth Control that I had been utilizing to control my Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.
<SIDEBAR> What’s Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), you may ask? In layman’s terms, it’s a disorder that comes with lots of different symptoms, including not having a period and acne, and usually comes with some flavor of metabolic disorder.
There’s really no understanding as to what the underlying cause for this is, but it usually means that a woman has too much testosterone, that more or less throws off the entire endocrine system.
For me it means that I don’t have a regular period, have to work twice as hard to maintain a normal weight, get moody for no explicable reason, and have wide swings of depression. I have a little bit of unwanted hair growth, but I’m pretty lucky in the body hair portion of my life any way. I also have a condition called insulin resistance, which means my body isn’t so open to absorbing insulin, so my body stores it like a champ, preparing us to be the winner on Famine: The Reality Show. This increase in insulin is believed to be the underlying cause to a lot of these issues, along with inflammation. At the end of the day, what PCOS means is that my body is out of whack, out of balance, and makes me hate it with every fiber of my broken ovaries.</SIDEBAR>
Recently, I also discovered that I have a thyroid disorder. Luckily, it was determined not to be an auto-immune disorder, which is positive, but the addition of thyroid issues on top of my PCOS, just means that my body is all manner of out of whack.
Back to my point, I went off the meds I was on because I didn’t like the side effects, and I just straight up didn’t enjoy being on pills.
Birth control was a little more complex than that. I knew I was getting to the age where I wanted to start thinking about future spawn and I had been on birth control for over a decade. I also hated who I was on birth control. Through the years, I’ve tried many different kinds and the only kind that I had any success with was the high estrogen kind, and those have been phased out over the years because of their negative heart side effects.
At first, going off the birth control was positive. It made me not hate everything and everyone, but not adhering to any of my regime, I think threw my body into complete chaos. Prior to this whole thing, I had at one time been able to brag that I had lost over 100 lbs. I didn’t use surgery, drugs, or any sort of radical diet. I exercised, started the regiment that I then quit, and monitored what I ate. It was a huge accomplishment, and having it all back just came crushing down hard on me.
It was a super weird shame spiral that I launched into when this happened. Every time my pants were tighter, I was not only a failure because of my weight, but I was a failure because of everything in my life. There were several things at the time that were not ideal, even if I was in happy new relationship land. But I allowed this to let me get defeated. My new-old body was starting to take over my thoughts in ways that I didn’t expect.
It wasn’t until recently that I considered the fact that I was constantly trying to make decisions around my size.
I didn’t want to go to such and such a place because I was afraid that the seating accommodations would not be sufficient.
I avoid travelling by plane because I’m always worried that I’ll sit next to someone who makes some mean comment about my size.
I worry about how I’m dressed because I’m worried that someone will judge me because my arms are bare, or I’m showing my calves.
I don’t do activities I enjoy like yoga and dance because I’m worried people will judge me.
I don’t like going back to where I grew up because so many of those people were there with me as I went on my weight loss journey before, and now there is no way to hide the fact that I failed miserably.
I started to develop a fear of people watching me eat, because I am concerned someone will come up to me and judge what I’m eating, not knowing any of my backstory or why I am the way I am.
When I hit this realization, I also hit a wall.
Like I stated previously, my two conditions make losing weight an uphill battle that feels completely unwinnable. So instead of launching into a series of healthy lifestyle changes, I slid into complete defeated-ness.
There was no point in trying. There was nothing that was ever going to change. My body was broken, and I hated it. I found myself staring in the mirror imagining what I would do if I were to get some kind of drastic surgery what would I do? Could I carve off my chin? Make my cheeks less puffy? Lipo my arms? If there was a way to cut it all away, would I do it?
The other piece is that even though my boyfriend and I are not in an active place of trying to have a baby, every time there wasn’t one, it felt like a complete slap in the face. Other women seemed to be able to pop out babies no problem, and I was starting to doubt that it was something that could ever happen. Much like weight loss, this thing that I wanted so badly, began to feel so far off.
I floated here for a long time, and this is when the depression started sinking in. I started having such a horrific conversation with myself about my body that I started to disengage from it all together. I know that sounds strange, but that’s the only way I can think to describe it. I didn’t paint my nails. I didn’t put on lotion. I didn’t do anything with my hair. The one thing I did do was buy more and more clothes, because I figured at least if I could cover my body, I could get by. Even more destructive than just turning off any sort of compassion for myself and my body, I started self medicating with food and booze. I would eat to the point of discomfort night after night. I also started to disengage. I still went out with my friends and made connections, but when I was alone, I was nothing. I didn’t want to leave the couch. I just wanted to watch dumb TV show after dumb TV show, or play the same familiar video game over and over. It gave me a place to lose myself, and I could just be numb to the self-loathing that was threatening to explode.
This unfortunately is not new behavior for me.
When I was in college, I had found a similar way to self-medicate. At the time, psychologists weren’t accepting that Binge Eating Disorder was a thing. It existed on the fringes of that world, but when I asked my college therapist about it, they brushed me off and said I just needed to learn some self-control. However, as I felt myself doing this, I felt the familiarity wash over me. I had been here before. I had eaten and drank myself sick, and it hadn’t helped me then either.
What helped me was getting help…It was stepping out of my hole…It was accepting my diagnoses, the medical treatments that were available to them, and participating in my recovery. Wallowing didn’t get me anywhere, except 100 lbs fatter with no period to speak of for years, and the inexplicable urge to cry any time I was feeling an emotion of any time.
I at no point have been suicidal, but where I’ve been instead is a plane of nothingness. I resigned myself to my brokenness and my inability to do anything about it, and for a brief moment, I gave up.
As I started to give up, to release the reigns on everything that makes my life pretty okay, I started to feel that fear. There was still so much I wanted to do with my life. There was still much I had left to do. Except now I was left with this broken body that had been ill-taken care of for almost three years. I had new aches and pains, and everything that I had once fought for, seemed so impossible to attain again.
As I thought about this, and started to fall back into hopelessness again, it occurred to me that there were things that I could be doing that I wasn’t doing, and those things included taking my medicines.
I went in to get my annual woman-ly exam and have my blood tests drawn. As I was sitting there in anticipation, I had talked myself into a million different things. I thought I might have cancer or have finally developed diabetes, as is the fate of so many with PCOS. I was afraid my cholesterol and blood sugar had escaped the normal ranges under my watch, and that because I had been neglectful and adopted flawed coping mechanisms; my life was going to be even worse.
Even with this fear on my tailwind, I had resolved myself to doing whatever I needed to do. I was determined to work my way through this no matter what came.
When the results came back, they were far better than I expected. The PCOS diagnosis still existed, and now there was a thyroid issue on top of it, but everything else was good. Blood sugar was within the normal range, as was cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.…The only other issue was a pretty severe Vitamin D deficiency. All that was wrong were these three *treatable* issues. It gave me more hope than I had felt in a long time, and it reminded me that it has been a very long time since I have taken care of me.
So while I can see the depression clearly now for what it was, and what it is, I am once again seeing that light at the end of the tunnel. My burden is still heavy, and it still is weighing me down, but it feels livable for the first time in the long time.
As of this writing, I am on three different meds and Vitamin D supplements. I am taking 1000 mg of Metfomin, Spirolactone, Armour Thyroid, and 10,000 IU of Vitamin D a day. I am already feeling more like a human, and I’ve already seen the scale decrease 9 lbs. 9 lbs is a drop in the bucket for what I have to lose to get healthy, but I’m trying to get less off the numbers and more on the feeling. I’ll know that I’m healed and okay when some of the fears I mentioned stop directing my life and stop getting in the way of what I want to accomplish.
I’m trying to start a yoga habit and I need to start going to the gym and doing weight lifting, I just haven’t yet.
I guess that’s part of why I’m writing this though. I want to say these things and acknowledge them. I wanted to take them out and look at them and remember why I have to stay the course. This isn’t an easy path, and it won’t just happen. It’s absolutely something I have to put effort into every day.
But for now, I feel as though the black clouds have cleared and things are seeming a little brighter. While the task at hand is large, it’s not insurmountable. I wish when you were headed towards depression, there were big flashing lights, but there never are. It’s just a gradual sort of slip and you don’t even realize you’ve been there until you wake up and look around.
And when I look around, what I see is thing after thing to be grateful for. There are people who stuck by me through some truly ugly times, and I’m hoping that as the clouds start to clear, I can begin to be the person I want to be.
I hope that I can find a way for me to face my fears, push past them, and be the person I know I can be.
I’m the only one standing in my way, and at least today, right now, I am over it.
So to that sticky, dark feeling, at the pit of my stomach…
You don’t serve me.
You certainly don’t own me.
So to you I say, Bye Felicia.