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dysthymia

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Snake in the Grass

by Heather Loeb
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There are many things I’ve come to hate about depression in my 37 years. I hate how it steals joy out of your life, how bone tired you can be from doing the bare minimum and how long it takes for medications to help. But what I hate most is the sneaking. You feel like you’ve been making progress. You feel pretty good, actually. You sing and dance. You eat and enjoy your food. You enjoy your family and work. But depression is always lurking, a deft snake in the grass. I get too confident in my life and abilities then it happens. It’s a seemingly subtle shift, but you notice right away. You feel it. You loathe its presence in your body, the poison in your blood.

You break plans with your friends because you can’t get out of bed. You have to conserve your energy so you can do things like shower (if that’s even possible), brush your teeth and do your hair. You’re forced to take more breaks because your body can’t keep up. The guilt comes; you feel bad for being a different person than when you made plans with your friends or promised a deadline to your boss. You’re starting to realize that it’s only a matter of time before people see you for the fraud you are. You are only capable of naps now and languishing in a familiar pit of despair.

It’s hard to see that things will go back to normal. What, even, is normal at this point? Which part of you is the real you or the depressed you? It feels like it doesn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t.

Your body starts to hurt, producing aches and pains all over. Your jaw and shoulders stay tense. You grind your teeth. It’s irritability that sometimes accompanies anxiety, depression’s very best friend. And it ain’t pretty. You snap at loved ones, roll your eyes, beep the horn. But you don’t know what you’re mad, not really anyway. You don’t know anything.

Except that you don’t think that you can’t handle another episode, that you’re just not strong enough.

I realize that it will get better. I know that depressive episodes are temporary. But it just makes me a bit sad that happy times are just as temporary as the bad ones, and it always seems like there are double the bad times.

I feel like I know true joy because I’ve experienced real pain. But must it be pain almost all the time?

Can I not catch a fucking break?

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I’ve had some pretty good days recently, but like everybody else, I’ve had some not-so-great ones, too. Like today.

It started the minute I woke up. I could feel the dark cloud hanging over my head. My fuse was already short. I didn’t feel the surge of energy I’ve had lately, and all my limbs felt extremely heavy.

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I gave into the children’s request to get donuts, even though it was a school day. As soon as I finished my bag of donut holes, I knew that the day was going to steamroll me. And I let it.

The donuts didn’t satisfy me like I thought they would, nor did they give me a pick me up. They just reminded me of my recent weight gain and all the other poor decisions I’ve made. The self loathing was on full blast now.

I wanted energy, so I chugged Diet Cokes until my stomach hurt. The only thing I got in return was more self loathing. I was supposed to quit Diet Coke last year but didn’t last a month or two. Sigh.

By the time I got the kids dropped off, my blood was boiling. I recoiled when people would speak to me, and after I did a little writing, I retreated to the couch where I turned the TV on. I had been craving alone time all week but I felt restless and unsatisfied.

For some reason, I decided to order a pizza, even though I didn’t really want it. I felt terrible, mentally and physically, after just one slice. I tried to scrub my bad decisions and terrible mood off in the shower, to no avail.

I tried to rally before picking up the kids but even my Adderall* was no match for my mood. I went through the motions of the rest of the day, trying not to snap at my family.

I put Eli down (David’s with Isla) and I have some time to myself again. Literally, all I can think about is getting donuts tomorrow despite just recounting my shitty day, which began with seemingly innocent donut holes. Sometimes I really am a glutton for punishment.

Thank God I have an ECT on Monday. I hope they can reset my short-circuiting brain and help me forget this feeling — like I’m drowning in a sea of self hatred. And there’s nobody to save me. Therein lies the problem with depression — sometimes we’re our own captors, fueled by a faulty brain, sure — but I’m the one holding my head under right now.

I have actual plans in place for these types of days, such as a self-care checklist, but it’s so much easier to give way to the “Depressed Me” — or is it?

Monday can’t come soon enough. Because of the ECT and because the donut store is closed.

Download my self-care checklist below:

*I take Adderall, prescribed by my psychiatrist, to help get me moving when my extreme fatigue and dysthymia is bogging me down. Always consult your doctor before trying a new medication and never take medicine that is not prescribed to you.

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