Emerging from the fog of depression

“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

It’s been six weeks since I last blogged. Six. Weeks.

I’d like to say I spent the last six weeks doing something terribly exciting or productive – like taking a European vacation or building a chicken coop or perhaps an entire barn – but the reality is I didn’t do much at all.

I was tired.
I slept. A lot.
I couldn’t focus.
I existed.
I stayed afloat.
But most importantly, I began to wonder if something might be wrong with me.

I’ve been living with generalized anxiety disorder for a couple years now (at least since I was diagnosed), but I’ve never been diagnosed with any other mental illness. I may have had some situational depression in the past, but I muddled through and it always passed.

Although I’ve been seeing a therapist regularly for a while now — especially since my sister died — it wasn’t until I started talking with some friends that I realized I might be depressed. At my worst, I slept in four hours past when my kids got up because I just. couldn’t. get. out. of. bed. I took a nap one day while they played in the backyard. Yes, we have a fence and they were safe, but if something would have happened I would’ve been clueless. Despite thinking about this as I laid in bed about to fall sleep, I didn’t care. It was that feeling of being so tired I honestly didn’t care about my kids’ well-being that triggered something in my brain to think perhaps something was amiss. I’m not generally the type of parent who just “doesn’t care.” Sure I have my “bad” days like anyone else, but this was more than a bad day. I honestly was neglecting my kids on a regular basis and I didn’t feel I had the ability to do anything to change it. I felt lazy and like a failure.

I began to think perhaps I had anemia again since I felt so tired. As I did some online research, I began to look at possible reasons for excessive sleep. Depression popped up. Although I had several factors in my life that could contribute to me being depressed — my sister dying, my dog’s failing health for two weeks which culminated in having to euthanize her, and several other things that I’m not able to blog about — I figured since I wasn’t crying all the time, I wasn’t depressed. After taking a quiz from WebMD and receiving the results, “Your answers are similar to what individuals suffering from major depression usually provide,” I decided to talk to some friends about it.

“Take the first step, no more, no less, and the next will be revealed.”
– Ken Roberts

My friends — who’ve had experience with depression themselves — encouraged me to call my therapist and tell her what was going on — the sooner the better. I decided to email her and told her the same things I told my friends and that my friends thought I should contact her. She spoke with my doctor and they agreed that I was having classic signs of depression and suggested I increase my anxiety medication (Zoloft) by 50 milligrams. I was hesitant to increase it that much and told her I prefer to take an additional 25 mgs first for a few days and then do 50. She said she talked to the doctor and he didn’t think I would have any side effects since I already had the drug in my system and it would only help me start to feel better.

The next morning, which was March 21, I took my new dose. I also had acupuncture that morning (another thing I’ve been doing regularly to try to combat my migraines). I began to feel an almost immediate improvement in my mood. I was no longer tired all the time. I wanted to plan things to do with my kids. Over the course of the next week, I got out in the yard and did a bunch of clean-up work. I signed the kids up for swimming lessons. I began caring about my blog again. I got my hair cut (it had been more than four months since my last cut). I have the motivation to start exercising again, to cook dinner more regularly, to plan a family vacation, to think and care about the future.

I’m not sure when the depression started — it was definitely a gradual buildup starting after my sister died — but I feel so very fortunate I was able to recognize some of the signs and connect the dots with the help of my friends and my therapist. It had really gotten to the point where it was no longer manageable. Now that I’m on the right dose of medication for me for right now, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel hopeless or simply disconnected from my life. I can live it again.

I’ve worried in the past about “needing” to take medication to treat my anxiety. It was absolutely not my first choice, but after trying many other things I realized it was the right choice for right now. I don’t know that I will ever go off medication for anxiety/depression, but that’s not something I have to worry about right now. Right now I know that it’s helping me be a functional person and an attentive parent and that’s good enough for me.

In the past week I’ve noticed a significant improvement in how I feel and am able to function. My days aren’t perfect now, but I’m not shooting for perfection. I am hopeful. I am finding more joy in my life. I am excited to do things with my kids again. I am excited for spring and gardening and baby chickens! I still miss my sister like crazy. I don’t think that will ever change. But I’m able to live. To quote Robert Frost, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”

I’ve added the symptoms of depression below. If you think you may have depression, I strongly encourage you to talk to your doctor.

And now for a bit of bloggy housekeeping:
Moving forward on my blog, I will have some guest posts from various wonderful bloggers while I continue to blog as I can. Just wanted to give you a heads up that it won’t be all Amy all the time, or as has been the case for the past six weeks, NO Amy all the time. ;) I am grateful these bloggers have chosen to share their posts with me. If you have a post you think would work well on my blog, feel free to email me: crunchydomesticgoddess AT gmail DOT com. Thank you.

Detecting Depression from WebMD

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • fatigue and decreased energy
  • feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • irritability, restlessness
  • loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • overeating or appetite loss
  • persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
  • persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
  • thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).

Photo credit: Flickr: jronaldlee and aidanmorgan

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44 thoughts on “Emerging from the fog of depression

  1. It really is like coming back into the light, isn’t it? I’m glad you’re feeling better and very, very proud of you for being brave enough to blog it. There are probably a lot of people out there who needed to hear your story and know that there is hope!

  2. Amy, I admire your courage first of all in asking for help when needed, and second of all, blogging about it. i was very on the fence when i was diagnosed with bipolar II; i wanted to share my story and my years of suffering with the wrong diagnosis and wrong medications, but i was afraid of the stigma attached to mental illness. i finally did what i always do: wrote about it. i’m so glad i did; mostly i’m happy that others are doing the same and shedding light on something that has been hidden for so long.

    depression is very, very serious. the fact that you were able to articulate that feeling of “i know i need to be a mother, but i can’t right now” is very difficult to express. major high fives and fist pumps to your progress.

    i’ve got some blog posts on bipolar and mothering with depression if you want me to send them to you. i’d be honored to be a guest blogger :-)

    much love.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I think it’s great that you got help and are feeling much better. Sometimes we think getting help isn’t going to help but realize the right now is all that matters and if we need help right now instead of looking down the road thinking things will get Breyer, it probably will not!

  4. Hugs and love to you, my wonderful daughter. This is a very personal and inspiring blog and I am sure your story will help others. So happy you’ve gotten the help you needed and are enjoying life again. I am proud of you and hope that you are proud of yourself. Life is hard, but having some joy, laughter, peace and serenity makes it bearable. Love you and thanks. Mom

  5. Depression has so much stigma around it, but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do, no mind over matter to be done and the meds that are available are your saving grace.

    So glad that you’re feeling better, I hope things continue to climb back into the sunshine for you.

  6. I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better….depression is not something to mess around with. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Lots of hugs – I am glad you spoke up with the absolute honesty – it’s how it is. (And you’re right, this is not the time to debate whether taking meds is appropriate or when to stop.)

  8. Amy, I’m so glad you’re feeling better. I know how low those lows can be, and the relief of pulling through. Just remember there are many of us thinking of you, even on those darkest days…

  9. I am so glad you took this step. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety about 12 years ago and Prozac and Zoloft saved me and my relationships, especially after the birth of my kids when I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. I don’t advertise that I take these drugs but I don’t hide the fact either. If I had diabetes, I wouldn’t hide the fact that I needed to test my blood or take insulin so why should I hide that I need to take medication to control my seratonin? These are not recreational drugs so I wish there wasn’t such stigma attached to taking them.

    I don’t have the kind of depression and anxiety where I would kill myself but it was bad enough that my life sucked every single day. But that’s severe enough and even if it’s a mild depression, it still interferes with the quality of your life.

    I only wish I had been diagnosed in my teens – how different would my life have been? What else could I have accomplished?

  10. Thank you for sharing about your struggles! It has taken me a long time to be open and honest about my depression/anxiety. I too need medication to keep myself chemically balanced b/c my body just doesn’t produce the correct amount of whatever happy chemicals it’s supposed to be.

    When my therapist finally explained it this way, that if I had bad vision and needed glasses, I couldn’t be mad at my eyes for needed help seeing, just as I shouldn’t be mad at myself for my body/brain needing help to correct my chemicals.

    I finally wrote about it b/c like you I hadn’t blogged in a while. I hope you continue to heal. Here’s my article about my probs. http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=2102884611058436196&postID=223152822598313890

  11. Hi Amy!

    It’s Katie from Michigan (i’m writing from my blogsite). Anyway, i wanted to let you know that your sister and i have had this exact same conversation and we both came to the same conclusion through trial and error: that we could live without meds if necessary, however, our quality of life was greatly improved while using them as a tool with a therapist (or support group). I’m not sure how much she shared with you in regards to this topic about her own struggles, but it sounds very similar. I myself was diagnosed with depression at seventeen. (Then diagnosed bipolar, but that was while i was in rehab and everyone in rehab is diagnosed bipolar!)
    You’ve touched on something SO important that is a giant misconception about the symptoms of depression, and that is that mood is the only/primary area affected. Motivation/energy level should be just as high up on the list in my opinion. It is definitely the first area that i see it in my life. To people that haven’t experienced depression i describe depression as such: “It’s like wearing those weighted coats they give you when you take x-rays at the dentist. Except wearing it all the time. On your whole body.”
    Acceptance of your limitations and not considering them faults is the key. Taking meds isn’t selling out if you make an informed decision.

  12. Cheers to you for taking charge :) and not just being resigned to the way things are. Like another commenter said, it is what it is, so work with it to make life more than just bearable. You deserve it!

  13. Amy, I feel for you, but kudos on taking charge! I sometimes feel the same, grad school has started taking its toll on me… But make sure you have you vitamin D levels checked. I’m afraid of the sun, and I don’t get it a lot since I live in New England. 3 years ago, I had very similar symptoms, and my doctor suggested we do a blood test. My vit D level was 12 (instead of a min of 20)…

    I’ll be thinking of you.

  14. Thanks for your post Amy. I’m choked up as I read it as I’ve been asking myself if I’m depressed lately, too. For the last several months I’ve been stressed out and kind of hiding from the world. I don’t feel sad, just tired and finding myself sleeping past when my daughter does most mornings and sitting in front of the TV, taking naps. Did find out today I have had a sinus infection for 3 weeks, and fatigue can be a symptom of that, but I am also recognizing a pattern. Starting to wonder if it’s depression or just procrastinating/laziness?

  15. I’m happy to hear you’re doing better. My brother goes through the same problems. I feel so helpless, I can’t make it better for him. He & you will be in my prayers.
    Take care.

  16. thank you for sharing. i’m so glad you did something! i will pray for you & your continued healing!

  17. It takes courage to write so personally–you are a strong woman! And you will help others to overcome the stigma our culture has attached to depression.

    Consider having your thyroid checked (and not just the TSH which is notoriously inaccurate)–depression is often a result of hypothyroidism, though that is also often ignored. Anxiety can be a product of adrenal fatigue, and both adrenal and thyroid problems (which generally come together) can follow traumatic incidents or even childbirth. I wish I had been treated 16 years ago for the hypothyroidism I am dealing with now, as I did suffer from depression and anxiety during that time . . .

    See the website Stop The Thyroid Madness if you want more information . . .

  18. Congratulations. Sounds strange, but for taking care of yourself. As mothers, sisters, wives, we so often just keep going, we somehow say to ourselves,”Of course it is hard, it is supposed to be. And everyone else seems fine.” The whole mess of life is bloody stressful, to step back and understand that something wasn’t working for you and get focused on changing it, deserves kuddos. :) Glad you are feeling better!

    :)
    Jen

  19. Thank you for your post. Reading it helped encourage me to call my doctor today and ask if I can bump up my own dose of Zoloft. I have been feeling an ever-increasing slide downward, particularly in the late afternoon and evening. I feel shame to be dealing with this all over again, but am grateful to read a story of someone else dealing with it and how getting medications straightened out can bring such relief. Thank you.

  20. Hugs to you. Grief is such a hard thing and depression is a natural outpouring of it. I am glad that you have found help!

    I wish you the best as you move forward onward and upward.

  21. You are so brave. I can’t even begin to fathom what you have gone through over the past year, and am so proud of you for taking steps to get better. Our son is on medication, and it makes a world of difference. Sometimes, we have to try new things, even if it’s not what we would have wanted…By being open, our lives can become so much better. I am trying to teach our children that if we don’t like how something is going, we have to TAKE ACTION to make it different. xoxoxox

  22. I’m glad that you’re doing better, and I’m also glad that you’re sharing your story. I’m sure that this will help someone else who finds themselves in a similar spot.

  23. Amy, I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve thought about you and prayed for you all the time, for months now – you’ve been through so much in life. Who wouldn’t fall into depression? I’m so glad you recognized the symptoms and are getting help.

  24. My dear Amy,I amso glad you are feeling better. I can sense it from the way you write as well.Will be thinking of you.

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  26. so glad that you are feeling much better now and that you’re taking a little break. i’m proud of you for doing what you need and what works so that you can live and *enjoy* your life. <3 ya a!

  27. GOOD FOR YOU GIRL!!!!!!!!!!

    So glad you are feeling better and way to go for taking care of yourself! Depression and anxiety are a regular part of Susan and my life and we both know how serious it is to take our meds. HUGS to you!!!!!!!!!

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  29. Glad to hear you’re feeling better. Depression is not understood very well and most of the stigma resides within our own minds. I’ve had my own battles with it through bad times and even good times.

    It’s a hard cycle to break out of, but once you recognize that there’s a problem, the hardest part is done. The road ahead is still difficult, and don’t be surprised by setbacks. I’ve been completely symptom-free for over a year now. This most recent winter was the first time the “winter blues” didn’t hit me hard at all. It took a long time to get to this point, through failed attempts with medication and less-than-competent therapists. I finally found my way with a modification of my diet (and continual reevaluation), regular exercise, and reevaluation of the priorities in my life.

  30. Amy,
    You’ve always been so honest and that is why people connect with you. I’m glad you are feeling better and got help. I’m sorry you had to go through that. Depression is something many of my family members suffer from and so I can understand from that angle.

    This is good to talk about so thank you for your honesty – as always!

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  35. Oh Amy, thank you again for being so raw, honest about your life. You are such an encouragement. I too have gone back on anti depressants after being off for 7 years.Life circumstances, my friend Gina’s sudden death took a toll and I too was very depressed. It is working for me and I can now “function with joy”
    Many blessings…

  36. what I found about depression is rather than let it alienate and change you, accept it like the colour of your skin. It is part of who you have become as is your happiness. Happiness comes and goes as does depression.

    I like that you are managing YOUR way for now and especially that you are easing off your blog until YOU are ready.

    I like that your internet gang are so supportive.

  37. Amy
    Sorry I missed this post and now understand more about what you are going through. I hope you are feeling better and am so glad you recognized this and did something about it.

    Blessings to you.

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  39. Thank you for sharing such an honest post. Seriously, after a conversation I had with a friend recently, I realized that many of us struggle with depression(even if its only from time to time).

    In 2011, (after giving birth to my 4th child) I developed chronic pelvic girdle pain. Initially, I thought I could handle things. However, after months went by and I did get better, I really fell into a depression and extreme anxiety over the situation. I prayed alot. I talked to friends and family alot. I tried to be as honest as I could about things.

    I never went to the doctor in order to get a diagnoses, but I completely knew something was wrong when I didn’t care much about what going on with my kids!

    I will keep you in my prayers and I applaud you for being honest about things and taking the steps you need to take care of you.

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