I was depressed for a large portion of my late teens and most of my twenties. I was able to move through it and there were definitely “happy” moments. Right beneath the surface there was always something sinister lurking, threatening to swallow me whole.
There are many experiences that led to it, but I don’t think they’re relevant here. The important thing is I have worked out my childhood issues that led to the depression and have the tools, resources, and support to work through additional things as they come up.
I always refused the drugs offered by my therapists because I took so much medication as a child. I had terrible allergies and asthma and as a result had at least two major infections a year, even with allergy shots combined with daily allergy medication, including strep throat and bronchitis, and even walking pneumonia one year.
In addition to that, my brain chemistry is a little weird. I’m one of those folks who suffers from Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder (Summer SAD), which is essentially summer depression. It has something to do with my allergies combined with the summer heat. The chemicals released in my sinuses, called cytokines, travel from my sinus cavities to my brain and block serotonin and dopamine production. Great.
Although I know some people who have great luck with mood enhancing prescription drugs, I also know some, like an ex’s former assistant, who sleep walks and hides pizza cutters in her sleep. I have seen her do it. I know others who become oddly numb, like no emotion, happy or sad, passes through. I’d prefer to feel. Maybe that’s why I like that movie Equilibrium so much. It’s too much of a gamble, not feeling. I also feel like there’s a lesson in the pain somewhere. For me, the way out is through.
Not taking prescription drugs gives me the chance to work on things myself. I don’t even drink during those times. This method is not for everyone. No matter how deep it goes, I know I can find my way back to myself, with the help of a professional to talk to, even if I have to claw my way out. These days, I’m generally pretty even keeled, or have been for the last three years or so. That’s not to say that I don’t get upset about things from time to time. Clearly, I do, as referenced in the arguments SC and I have had. I allow myself to feel all of the feels and then I re-balance.
Awareness is key for me. I know what I need to do to feel like myself and feel well. When it first comes on, I feel like I am being sucked away into this sad place, a place that is not mine in a feeling that is not mine, trying to claw my way out. It fucking sucks. In the past, I gave in.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the dude I was involved with before SC, Ben, came in at the tail end of me dealing with some mental and emotional debris on top of moving towards a goal on a road filled with many unexpected hurdles and roadblocks. I was not depressed going into the relationship, just highly stressed. Depression came with prolonged exposure to Ben’s attitude. Dude was not helpful. He’d been depressed for most of his 40 years of life as an unwanted child with depressed parents devoid of affection, mourning the loss of the male child who came and died before he was conceived. Couple that with a failed marriage at the age of 22, a career path abandoned, and no support and he spiraled.
Thing is, we met after Ben had made it through. (Well, kinda. His progress is debatable.) He reminded me that he knew what it felt like all the while treating me like shit for having feelings relative to the things occurring in my life at the time. He offered no viable solutions only criticism. It’s bad enough feeling lost all the time and worse when your partner discredits your efforts, talks down to you, and devalues your goals.
I already felt like I had to fight for love, thanks to childhood BS, and then I felt like I had to prove to Ben that my struggle was worthy (more childhood conditioning) which created thought loops that led to another round of depression. Granted, dude told me he lacked empathy. It turns out he has narcissistic personality disorder. Fucker. I could blame him, but I packed up my things so many times and still chose to stay in that relationship. I needed to learn some things about myself and about relationships in that weird pairing that always felt something like purgatory.
Thanks to Ben, I know what it’s like to suffer from depression while being with a partner who is far from supportive, so when SC reminded me, “I am still depressed. Some of the events just before we got married have compounded it,” it all made sense. He still needs to get himself together as far as we are concerned. I can also operate with a gentler hand.
I forget sometimes because I see a light go on in him when we are together. I remember having that feeling when I first met Ben, like there is this person who shines a light in the darkness. Someone who you spend time with and forget all of the things that worry you, someone with whom you can be fully present…A SAFE PLACE.
The difference is, I’ve seen SC’s deepest and darkest. I allowed him to do that without judgment. Remember, he got that round of bad news a couple of months ago and I saw him through it. Through all of it, the anger, the verbal expression of an endless thought loop, the tears, the stomping, the yelling, etc.
He has been there for me and kept me from spiraling out of control.
SC is not a drain. Maybe he could be and I happen to know how to protect my energy better these days. I’m not sure.
He has some issues to work out. Some of them are rooted so deep and deal with things he has no control over. I remember being in my late twenties still angry at my parents for all of their bullshit. Some people never move past that stage. The one where you want them to know how much they hurt you and screwed up your life and you want that apology from them. You want remorse. The apology may never come.
I remember confronting my mom about some stuff while she was out here visiting me in the desert. It was 117 degrees and this woman got out of the car. She would rather walk 2 miles in that oppressive heat than confront some things. It wasn’t until this last year or so…7 years later…after I’d mentally and emotionally forgiven her and my dad, that my mom needed to absolve herself and apologize. My dad has yet to apologize for anything, but that is neither here nor there. His time will come or it won’t.
SC has got to stand up and work on the things he can control, which is something I see him doing in our relationship, which is pretty freaking amazing. Although I am not in his head, I do not think he wants to feel bad forever. Dude, he started washing dishes right after cooking; he did all of the laundry the past couple of weekends because he knows I hate doing it (even though I will, like tonight I will); he’s actually following a budget for the first time in his life; he cut down on his drinking after our blowout Wednesday. He’s adaptable. I hope he’s adapting because he wants to and not just to “prove” to me that he’s worth it. I already decided that when I chose to accept his proposal after turning others down. If he could just apply that to the things clouding his mind…
I’m holding space for him because that’s something I can do that’s helpful. Some of my friends reading this may ask why I’d bother.
- I signed up for this, for better or for worse.
- I changed my name already.
- This is a chance for me to hold space for someone. I had two friends in the recent past go above and beyond to hold space for me. They did more than that. They weren’t even friends with each other prior and they did not remain friends once I made it out of the hole I was in, but they came together for me. They made sure one or both of them was always at my place with me to ensure that I got up and out when I needed to. They passed me off between the two of them to make sure I wasn’t alone. They drove me to campus and walked me to class. If we had different classes, they left their classes early to meet me when my class was over. They made sure I ate and showered, made it to work and rehearsals. Yes, there is a chance I could have made it without them. There’s a huge chance I’d have killed myself or at least self destructed without them. This is a chance to pay it forward, to be present for someone I love dearly. It’s also a chance to do this service for the late teen and early twenties version of me who lacked support and always wanted the chance to give it if possible.
- I still spiral sometimes in the summer months. I can feel it and SC takes the time to help me ground.
- Working out issues is lifelong. I am a constant work in progress. As long as he’s doing the work, why judge?
- He’s not a wreck.
We’ll get through this, together.