Last week was awful. And strange. I came home Sunday evening from the event I posted about here. I was extremely tired, but I slept a lot and got up and went to work on Monday. It was a normal, if sleepy, day.
Tuesday morning I woke up and my brain said “No.” I cancelled my early morning appointment and went back to bed.
An hour later, I dragged myself out of bed, did my morning routine, and drove to work. I parked my car. I didn’t get out. I thought about the day I had ahead at work and I just couldn’t do it. It was like there was a wall between myself and the world, and I could not get through. So I called my office and let them know I wasn’t coming and arranged for people to cover my few un-cancellable obligations that day.
I went back to bed. I had three naps and five large meals that day. I was exhausted and starving from the weekend. At first I thought I was having a binge eating relapse, but I quickly realized that I wasn’t actually eating much past satiety and that my hunger was genuine. So I kept eating. I’m proud of myself about that because the temptation to limit myself based on perceived “portion size”s or ideal meal frequencies was hard to resist.
Wednesday I woke up and I felt a little better so I did my morning routine and drove to work. I parked my car. I didn’t get out. I called my husband to ask what to do, and he convinced me to go in to work.
As soon as I got there I knew that it had been a mistake, but once I was in I couldn’t leave immediately. I spent about four hours there catching up on exigent work and making a plan to clear my desk for Thursday. By the time I got home I had a pounding headache and felt like death. I went to bed. I only had time for two naps that day but they were really good.
Thursday I woke up. More of the same. This time I did not even try to go to work. I spent the morning puttering around and answering emails in my pajamas.
I had, in my panic, made an extra appointment with my therapist in the afternoon. When the time came to get dressed and go I almost could not make myself do it. I knew she would help, but I get agoraphobic when I am depressed and getting dressed and going out was almost too much. But I went. We talked for the regulation 50 minutes. She said a lot of helpful stuff.
I left feeling superficially much the same as I had since Tuesday. I decided to get a late lunch on the way home because I was very tired of house food by then. I ate lunch. It was a normal lunch. As far as I know it contained no special psychoactive chemicals.
When I finished the lunch I felt absolutely fine. Completely normal, happy, restored energy level, the same me that had been walking the earth the week before. Depression gone. No trace.
Went to work somewhat hesitantly on Friday, worried that work would be a trigger, but there was no problem. Worked a full day and even went out with friends afterwards.
I have been struggling with depression for decades. I explicitly remember being suicidal in middle school but I can’t say for sure that it didn’t start before then. So at least 30 years. High school, college, grad school, my first five or six years of grown-up-ness. All misery. I cut myself; I fantasized about killing myself; I lay in bed in a semi-catatonic state. I hated myself and wanted to die.
For the past 8 or 9 years I have been working my ass off to beat it. It was a slow crawl at first, because it’s hard to find the right providers and the right meds. There were setbacks, bad weeks, months, and years. Depression was my constant friend, my familiar companion, my home place.
Gradually, that began to change. Zoloft works. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works. I stabilized. I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t a danger to myself and I could do my job and live my life.
Then I found my current therapist, and we have actually been working through things for four or five years at a deeper level. I found out that people like me, and that I am naturally sociable and outgoing. I found hobbies. I got promoted at work and developed more confidence in that sphere. I found out that I didn’t actually give a shit about people who thought I wasn’t that good at some parts of my job. I found out that I could be myself and do what I wanted to do. I found out that I am a good person who is doing her best in the world, and I found out that that actually is enough.
I got better. Most of the changes were under the surface. There were still bad patches, but they were more like days or weeks instead of months or years. Energy was up. Resilience was up. I actually worked through some of my issues with my family.
The final ingredient was my introduction to body liberation and radical self love earlier this year. One day, after seeing my new nutritionist for a month or two, talking with her over those ideas but maintaining reserve and skepticism, something snapped inside. It was like “Fuck you, I’m awesome and I’m not afraid to feel it and say it.” Since then, things have been dancing. Lots of changes, above and below the surface. Lots of happiness and lots of love. My therapist actually said my depression was asymptomatic at this point and my psychiatrist reduced my meds. Victory.
What happened on Tuesday felt like I had woken up in a horrible flashback nightmare. I was 28 again and couldn’t deal; a wall had come up between myself and all my work and all of my recovery. In every detail it was a perfect mirror of the old me. The near catatonia and inability to talk or communicate. The light sensitivity. The desire to cut myself (although I successfully resisted). The extreme pleasure I used to take from sleeping, especially naps. The excessive REM sleep. Even the starting hints of some suicidal ideation.
I was shocked. I felt confused and helpless. And terror, because I didn’t know if it was back for good. Intellectually, I knew that somewhere inside I had a whole bunch of tools that would eventually lead me back to myself. But every time I tried to pull a thread in the knot, it would snap or lead nowhere. I didn’t know what to do.
I still don’t know what I did. All of sudden I was just fine again. It was like a broken bone that had been set, or a train being set back on the rails. It didn’t feel gradual and organic, like my work at recovery had paid off. It was just…fixed…gone…better.
Not that I’m not grateful. I’m incredibly grateful. I thought I was going to have to take a leave of absence from my job and start again at the beginning of the recovery. But I’m still terrified because if it happened once it can happen again. I suppose that’s why you can never not have chronic depression once you have had it–you just go into remission.
I wish I knew what precautions to take, what tools to prepare. My husband says I must have been a boy scout in a former life because I always over-prepare. And I want to over-prepare for the next relapse. But I don’t know how. I think I understand the weird combination of triggers that set me off this time, but I can’t guarantee that they, or others, will never catch me again. And I don’t know how to be ready if they do.