Saturday, August 10, 2013

Depression and all its not cracked up to be

At the risk of upsetting my family and friends - or sparking an "are you ok?!" frenzy - I wanted to bring up one of the topics that I have to deal with - that I think is highly misunderstood - and something that I think is still stigmatised to a certain degree, simply because it's something too personal to have a "one title fits all" cover.  Depression, anxiety and suicide.

For the past month or two, I've spiraled backwards. Initially I thought it was because of my body's response to the surgery - it disliked it (immensely) and has fought me wholeheartedly the last 7 months since my monster staph-infection burst me at the seams.  I thought my crazy fatigue was from my body trying to heal itself - my emotional imbalances were from the poor results and the 'hurt' that comes with bitter disappointment.  I thought my weight gain was a kickback because of the emotional imbalances and a rebellious "what's the point" attitude that was filtering through.

… but then winter kicked in, the sunshine disappeared, and my yearly bought of SADs came to fruition. I've seen this pattern for the past few years - now that I'm more aware of my routines. SADs (seasonal affective disorder) isn't a rarity - I see it a lot in other people. Winter is a bugger for bringing this out in so many of us - and I'm certainly no stranger to the "winter blues" when it comes around. I live in Bathurst - it's cold and miserable in winter (with occasional bursts of sunshine to bring your hopes up - followed by a dismal day to drag you back down again!) - and if you're really not expecting it, there'll be snow in outlying areas, and the potential to see a penguin cross your path downtown!!  It's such a great place for feeling shit during winter (haha!) - which up until I lost my substantial layers of blubber, didn't even bother me!  It's been the last couple of years at "half my size" that it's really affected my body, and in turn, my head…

So as it turns out, I took a rapid spiral downwards - between the body not dealing with its recuperation, my headspace in a disjointed "I can't believe I messed my health up" guilt trip, the crazy anxiety that I'm STILL having issues with many months later…  and then the SADs knocking so violently on my doorstep - it was going to take me down.  I just got a little ignorant to see it coming.

… and down I went. 

I've been effectively "in hiding" for the past month or two. No - I wasn't ok.  I deleted a bulk lot of social media 'friends', I deleted myself from numerous groups and networks. I was ashamed of my weight gain - and the fact I was falling to pieces at the drop of a hat just seemed to bring me down even quicker.  I'd come home and bawl my eyes out, over seemingly nothing.  Granted, there were "life" things going on (SO many of them this year), and I was dealing the best way I could… but it wasn't enough.  I was hanging on with the skin of my teeth.  Fabulous teeth, yes, but pretty ineffective for holding onto things!

Then my body shut down entirely.  My joints packed it in - my knees hurt so much trying to do my weights class that I had to stop attending.  My few days a week of gymming came to a grinding halt.  I'd drag my sorry bum through my door of a night and be that fatigued, I'd fall asleep if I even dared put my head down - despite the fact I wasn't even training anymore!!   … and I'd just cry.  All the time.  Cry.

I thought I was losing it - again.  I've been here before - this isn't new to me.  In the past it's been MUCH more aggressive, and generally had little to no real 'for a reason' - but that still wasn't measure enough for why it was taking me down again.  I felt like a great big failure - and everything around me felt like pressure, to the point where my anxiety would flare up reading something online, or I'd think about trying to get control over my emotional binging, and the tight chest and brain-swirling would hit again.  EVERYTHING was too much - and nothing was working to dull it down.   Some people turn to alcohol or drugs (or any other 'addiction' style thing)… me, I turn to food - eating myself into food comas and it rarely hitting the sides.   I have an eating disorder - and when I'm not right in the head, I can't control it.  It consumes ME - and the pitfall is weight gain - and the hatred flares again when you hate what you see.  Round and round in circles… and further down I'd go.

When people talk about depression, I think there's still a huge misconception that you've already hit "rock bottom" when its the most obvious.  I can't speak for all those who suffer - I won't pretend to know it all - so I'll talk only about how it feels for ME.  I have "undiagnosed depression" - I've never intentionally sought help with it - I've mulled through my down-days and sadness - and for the most part, have managed to overcome it and push through.

When mine flares back up - as it's done so nastily lately - there's only so much patience you can have when it's the same-old routine you've seen so many times before.  It's gradual - it builds on itself.  You think you're doing ok one day, but then the next you lose your footing and BAM, another cry-day.    … but when I started resurrecting old haunts about believing I'm worth more 6-feet under, THAT is when I started to panic.  THAT was the moment I got the shits with myself - my perpetual negative brain - and got scared. 

Now, before anyone rings the emergency help line when I talk (so candidly) about suicide - take a breath and let me explain first.  NO, I'm not about to top myself. Far from it actually. It's actually got little to do with "being dead" at all.  To try and verbalise how it feels - when my headspace says "I want out" - if you can imagine someone taking a big eraser, and just quietly rubbing me away - slowly and very undramatically - no pain and no ridiculous TV-inspired over-dramatic traumatic bullshit…    When I say "I just want to go away" - I mean just that.  I just feel like sometimes I want to disappear. 

… but that sucks.   It's shit.  NO I don't want to be dead.  YES I want to be here and part of the world, and live long and prosper!   .. but I'm exhausted.  And fighting that sometimes takes a backseat to letting the feeling of 'nothing' take over, where you think you already are / destined to be.

I had a very blunt conversation with a friend recently - talking very openly about this very topic.  The conclusion of our talk came to something like this…  It's not that I wished to be dead - it was that killing myself wasn't feasible. I couldn't do that to my family, friends or myself.  It's the fear of hurting someone else that stops me in my tracks.   … but in doing that, in "staying" - you suffer, alone, in silence. 

…. but this is where I'm wrong.  I'm not always alone.

Despite my crazy anxiety attacks - the decline in my headspace and spiral back into depression - the fleeting thoughts of believing I'm worth nothing again (that got scrubbed very quickly - I find this a HUGE level of progress)…  and my intermission with being a total recluse and loner again…  there were a few key people who wouldn't let me stay down where I'd put myself.   I wasn't alone.

The few key people who have been whispering their thoughts and genuine concerns in my ear lately have been my little rising bubbles, helping me to come up faster than ever before.  I might have been on my way to hitting the bottom again - but I already know I'm on the way back up.

Except this time I'm taking a different approach.  No point banging on about how great things are when these cycles keep on happening - there's a reason why I keep coming unstuck…   Keep smacking my head against issues that I haven't been brave enough to deal with before - or too immersed in the wrong things to see what's really hurting me.  

I let my surgery dictate a 'happiness outcome' that never happened - it let me down like nothing else.  I let the weightloss rule my world and thought it'd make everything "bunnies and rainbows" afterwards, but it didn't.  I tried to make new friends and find love - but I seemed to be drawn to the wrong people and miss the ones who stood behind me, holding me up instead. 

If I'm really honest - and I am - this year has been one hell of a messed up wakeup call.    … and I'm very glad it's happened.

I hit my rock bottom (though nothing as fierce as the ones I've hit in the past) - my health is in jeopardy (I'm waiting on test results to find out what damage the surgery has done / if any / or to give me SOME idea WTF is actually going on?!) - my weight has piled back on (hello 15kgs gain) - my body is fatigued and severely fucked up from toxic yo-yo weightloss, binging, restriction and over-eating - and I'm so confused about who I am, where I want to go, what i truly want to do.  Some days I'm just plain exhausted by what's happened in the past six years of transition…  I never "lived" so much emotion as I have since I opted to change my life "for the better"… !!!    (there's extreme irony in that).

… but I'm grateful it's happened.  It forces me to question myself and look at ways of working smarter - to be brutally honest with myself and question what's truly important - and makes me stronger.  It builds my worth.

Last week I sought answers and help.  I'm not the same girl I was a decade ago (the one who hid away in shame, believing I wasn't worth fixing).   Nope - I need things to change, and I need help in doing that.   I know myself - now - well enough to know there's a time and place for everything.  And last week I marched myself into the Dr's surgery for answers.  Bloods were taken and a counselling session was initiated.

This is a huge step in my self-development - I sat down with a total stranger to help me deal with "my life".  I've never been one for counselling - it's been suggested time and time again, but I was never really interested. I seemed to push through enough on my own (or with my friends - before they'd tire of trying to deal with my headspace) - but I can't deal with EVERYTHING that's happened now.  I'm exhausted.  Literally.

This year has taught me a HUGE lesson.  I put my surgery up on this hideous pedestal. I believed it would be the ultimate thing for me - to help me like who I am, love my body, and (again, with the over-sharing honesty) - help me find someone who'd like the package so I wouldn't have to be the single 34 year old that I am.  I wanted a LIFE and I wanted love.   … and I went to hellish measures, cutting myself to pieces just to do that.

If I had a dollar for every time someone says to me "but you have to love YOURSELF before someone else can love you" - then I could go buy myself a freaking boyfriend…  !!!   So let's not go there.    Let's just say that I acknowledge that this is a very large aspect of self-worth - and when you're lacking that in the tormenting field of weight-issues - there's just a monotony in believing that you're somehow destined to be alone forever because you can't figure out if you're worth loving, therefore can't love yourself first.  It's cyclical, and it's screwed!

… but I didn't factor in the self-hatred coming back into play - particularly when the surgery was less than successful and my health took a nose-dive in the process - and when my mental space has the capacity to decline so rapidly.

Knowing I was perpetuating the cycle - and even cutting myself to bits didn't solve the issue… it just all became too much.  Knowing I've messed up my superior health - the guilt trips came in thick and fast.  Having uncontrollable anxiety and depression symptoms ravaging me the rest of the time…  just too much.  Fucking too much.

I broke.   I sought help.

My first counselling session mid-last week scared the pants off me.  I DID NOT want to open a can of worms delving into what's already happened in the "long ago past".   I had little to no tolerance at all to break the seals on things I can't shoulder right now.  Everything that's weighing me down has everything to do with my surgery, the body hatred and my solitude.  Going in there to face up to my reality as it is right now - with a total stranger - was one of the scariest things I've had to do.   I can talk - I do that really well these days - and my honesty was right there on the table when she'd prompt…   No, I think my fear was more in actually overcoming issues and having to walk a new path - one that doesn't revolve around negatives. 

… what do I do if and when I actually get happy?  

I thought I had a glimpse of it when the weightloss came through - when the publicity boosted my ego - when people noticed I existed.   … then I fell back down, because I had nothing inside that believed any of that.  I couldn't see my worth - my value - my strength.  I knew I'd done myself a favour changing my world via my weight - but it wasn't enough - I was still alone, still mentally distorted, still 'ugly' in a mangled body.  Still as empty as ever - and even more acutely aware of all the beautiful things I was watching so enviously in everyone else.    Was easier to run away and hide - turn my back on them so I couldn't hurt so much.   … because I WANT that happiness - and I can't fucking find it.

So I walked into a Counsellor's office to get perspective.  I put my pride back in its box - knowing damn well I simply won't get any further ahead if I don't - won't ever get to have those things that make me ache inside - and end up living a messed up, solitary life full of self-hatred and cyclical negativity if I don't do something different.

… and she was lovely.  Post-briefing about my life, all the changes, all the tears and tantrums this year… she said "god, no wonder you're exhausted!!" - and that was enough for me.   No dogmatic preaching that I'm too highly strung or emotional - and she even questioned if some of my decisions (albeit my choice) have been pushed/swayed from outside influences - giving me permission to stop unceremoniously slamming myself with guilt and continuing the hatred for "what I've done to myself".   And I can already see she has the capacity to make me crazy uncomfortable when it's time to really challenge me...  It's about to get messy - and I'm ok with that.

I have homework - I'm working on a list of all the things I love/do in my life - things that make me AMY.  She asked for a list of just ten things - so far I'm up to three full pages.  I can't stop writing them - three days later and I keep thinking of new ones.  They're even coming up in my dreams!    … and what makes my heart sing, is that so far not one thing on my list is about what I weigh, or why I have to fight so freaking hard to try and impress 'whoever'.  They're just all ME - all my crazy, funny, silly, quirky Amy things - and I love it!  I'm re-connecting again.

I was very lost.    

… but I'm still here. 

Hibernation time is nearly over…

PS:  Yes, I'm ok! 


  1. Amy, I am cheering for you all the way.

    And I am someone who is sitting her facing her own 12kg gain, at the end of her own yearly hit of possibly the worst SAD she has ever experienced, despairing over her long, long term single state, feeling that she lost the person she once was and very, very disconnected to her body but slowly clawing her way out of the dark hole she's been metaphorically living in for far too long.

    I don't know how I can possibly express how much I relate to this post & where you are at.

    Maybe through the wonderful interwebs we can share our climb out together.

    Sunshine awaits :)

    1. It's there lovely! Spring is coming (YAY!) and I know that'll help lift it all too - if only a part ... but enough that we can push through the others bits too!

      One foot in front of the other!! xx :)

  2. Amy, it felt like I couldve wrote the part about the depression. I have suffered with clinical depression since I was 16 & have attempted to end my life in the past.
    I am medicated & I have attempted to lose weight around 10 times. I am at my heaviest & I also eat when I am falling into that dark hole of despair.
    I always try at least one positive each day.
    Good luck & hang in there. You're a warrior & will get your fight back :)

    1. It's a cruel and exhausting thing to have to live through - so I feel for you lovely, truly. One positive thing a day - you can count this one - thank you for reaching out! I appreciate it! xxx

  3. Darling girl, that could've been written in part by me. I've suffered depression since I was a teen. I've been on anti depressants for a few years and they have really helped. But what has helped the most is counselling, learning, reading and friends. I'm so proud of you for taking this step. It's sooooo hard! PS have you ever read or listened to Louise Hays book You Can Heal Your Life or better yet attended a class? I did and it changed my life. Here's a link:

    PS I'm not affiliated with them in any way, I'm just grateful to have found a class in Perth by chance in 2010. And I'm incredibly shy so it was hard but it changed my thinking in a great way. Still Facebook friends with the ladies I met! Xxxx

    Love Michelle xx

  4. You are an amazing lady Amy...

    Jen xo

  5. Amy, thank you for your wonderful heartfelt post. This could have been written about me, and several of my friends who have all been bitten by the black dog and are coping with gaining back our weight and losing self-respect in the process.

    I think you're amazing Amy, and I'm so glad spring is knocking on our doorsteps. You are going to make it Lady!!!

    Love Marney xx

  6. once again Amy - your honesty is so touching - I could really relate to a lot of your post
    good on you for getting help to move forward - wishing you good luck in your journey

  7. I have also had 3 c-sections when I had my kiddies & I know that surgery brings on its own depression. It took me a good 12 mths to recover from each one- so dont be so hard on yourself lovely ♥ You will get through this and I have always found counselling to be good- just for the perspective of somebody outside the circle :)

  8. Absolutely adore your authenticity as always! You are not your body, you are a beautiful soul! x x x

  9. This made me cry, this could almost be me right now. I am actually booked to see my GP tomorrow for my trip to seek counselling, I cancelled the first GP appointment. I have just gained 12 kgs as well.
    Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. I also just wanted to thank you for your authenticity & vulnerability. I long for people to be real, it can be a rare treat-sort of no wonder, pain is hard to sit with. I have a daffodil floweting in my garden so spring can't be too far away.

  11. I know all to well the feelings you're going through
    You're an amazingly strong woman who has been through so much - it's time to allow yourself some healing time, some proper Amy time to appreciate yourself!!
    It's a long journey, the weightloss one.
    I have currently lost close to 100kgs but most days I wake up far from happy
    Its taken a long time but I'm realising that everyone will always have an opinion - be it positive or negative, comments - well meaning or not will continue to be made and I can't stop or sway it
    But I can take control of my reactions to comments and my own feelings and I can remove the issue of weight from the equation and realise my own feelings and emotions and personality quirks are not defined by a number - they are defined by myself only and if I can wake up with a smile then to hell with everyone else!!!

  12. Thank you lovelies for all the replies! I'm grateful that I'm "not alone" in all this - and speak up for those who are a little lost with their own demons. I appreciate your support - thank you! xxx :)