Four years ago I was diagnosed with depression. I believe I had it long before I was diagnosed, but just believed I was weak or abnormal because I couldn’t cope with things other people didn’t even seem particularly bothered about. So I put on an act. My friends and family saw a happy-go-lucky professional who loved to party and socialize.
Behind closed doors it was another matter. I would regularly go days or weeks without bathing, I would eat to comfort myself and then feel awful about how I looked because of what I was eating. My teeth have suffered too from my diet and (lack of) personal hygiene.
I would be unable to motivate myself to do the simplest things, like getting dressed, and would be stuck on the sofa or in bed all day. My back would ache but I couldn’t move to alleviate it.
I would sit in my self-created isolation and believe my thoughts when they told me I didn’t deserve my friends and family, that I was a loser, destined to die alone and unhappy. And so I would wish for death to come, sooner rather than later. I would think of ways to die, but wouldn’t have the energy to follow through with it. Resulting in my feeling of failure again, and so the cycle repeated itself.
At work I would live on caffeine to keep me awake and concentrating, and after work I would collapse in my room from exhaustion. Imagine having to act a part that was completely not you from the moment you wake, to the moment you go to sleep, day in, day out. Imagine how tiring that is? That is why I have been tired for the last 18 years. I have been putting on an act for so long, even I don’t know the real me.
I am now awaiting an assessment to determine what type of depression I have. My doctor and I suspect I may have a type of bipolar depression.
The diagnosis itself doesn’t make me anxious, but the stigma attached to whatever the final diagnosis is, and the treatment required — those factors terrify me. What if I can’t handle it? What if I can handle it just enough to be able to go back to work?
I find myself reliant on help, and feel bad about that. We live in a society where professional success and complete independence is encouraged and congratulated, but the small successes I manage are seen as nothing, seen as something everyone can do, so why should anyone be proud of me for doing it?
But small things are major accomplishments for me, and I for one am proud of myself if I can appear to be “normal” every once in a while.
Depression is not who I am, but it is a part of me I must live with. And I must learn to accept that, and so must others around me.