Saturday, July 14, 2007

There is just nothing easy about it. Part II

I didn't know I was depressed. Didn't think in those terms. I had moments when I felt good - like going back to school and getting my diploma - for a little while I felt smart and accomplished. I went to night school where they were used to disruptive 16 year olds who couldn't be handled in day school. I was 19, living on my own, and I wanted to be there. So yes, I suppose I appeared smarter - I was definitely more motivated.

However whenever there was a special moment, like my graduation, I always wondered why it wasn't as exciting to me as to other people. For me things were - okay. Not fun! Or great! Okay.

On my wedding day I was nervous for sure. But it was stage fright - not excitement about marrying the love of my life. There were no feelings of finally getting to a huge milestone I had been waiting for - rather it was - is this all there is? It's not such a big deal.

Watching TV you see women having babies - I marvel at their emotion, their tears and their joy. When my first child was born, while I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment for getting that baby out with only a little bit of pain medication, I did not feel the surge of love and amazement at the new little life I had just brought into the world. The one clear thought I remember having was "I wonder what this would have been like if it had been with someone I was crazy about..." It was a moment of clarity about my marriage, but a huge disappointment in the kind of crazy joyful emotions I thought I would feel. I was blaming my lack of emotion - on the lack of feeling for my husband. Yes, had to be the reason, didn't it?

Something had to be wrong with me. When my baby came home with us I totally fell in love with him. I would get tears in my eyes just looking at him and my heart felt it would burst with all the emotion I felt. Maybe I wasn't a bad mother, but - still - something wasn't right with me. As soon as those thoughts entered my head, I pushed them out. I was not ready to entertain the idea that there may be something ABnormal about me. Young Frankenstein. A B - normal. That was me.

People around me were always more enthusiastic, more outwardly happy about things, many things. It was rare when something got me happy or excited enough to exclaim out loud. After a trip, or receiving a gift or doing something I enjoyed - no one ever heard me tell them how much fun I had or what a wonderful gift or show or car or cake it was. It didn't matter, there were no exclamation marks in my emotional makeup.

But depression? Still didn't think of that. I had been having panic attacks since my late teens, and if someone has never had one they are very hard to explain. The only way I can express it is to say that whatever situation I was in when a panic attack hit - I simply had to get out of it. Immediately. Definitely exclamation marks there. Some nameless fear would propel me - whether I was in a car or a store - to find a way out - right then. It wasn't just fear it was flat out panic as if I were looking down the barrel of a gun. Something would happen if I did not remove myself. Have no idea what - didn't try to figure it out either - and it didn't matter. The panic attacks led to anticipation of panic attacks which made me want to stay in my comfort zone, the only place they never occurred, at home.

I was in my mid-20's with one baby and another on the way and I was borderline agoraphobic. I have tried to explain to my kids that my divorce was not only my husbands fault - which my daughter tends to believe because he handled it so badly. But to live with someone who is almost agoraphobic - had to be horrible. I knew it too - I knew he shouldn't have to deal with it but felt completely helpless to stop my fear and anxiety. I was grateful he would do the shopping or wait for my several trips to the bathroom because of my nervous stomach while waiting to leave to go somewhere with me. I was no fun, that's for sure. I didn't know why he stayed.

At some point, and I don't know exactly when, but I had a realization. It didn't just strike me one day but it was a hazy buzz behind my eyes that would peek in and out of the fog and let me see it a little one day and maybe a little more the next. Until one day I actually allowed it to become a complete thought. I did not know what things I enjoyed doing. I was so afraid to leave my house, so afraid of panic attacks, and things were not that exciting to me anyway - I did not want to go anywhere or do anything. I realized that if someone asked me what I liked to do - I would have had to tell them I didn't know. I simply and truly did not know. I knew I wasn't living anymore. I was existing. And what was worse - I couldn't see any reason that I did exist. There just had to be more.


The Family Jewels said...

Here is one of your touch the hearts of others. To show others that there is a name and there is hope for a clearing of the fog. Thank you for using your voice and your hands to help others. You are amazing. I am certainly glad that I found your blog. I am also glad for your kind words and support. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.


BetteJo said...

Tonia you're a doll! All of that occurred in the past, I am SO much better now. But I never avoid talking about it - because too many people won't. It was 1977 when I was 18 years old, and then - depression just wasn't part of the collective conciousness. Now it is - but a lot of people still treat depression as a "pull yourself up by the boot straps" kind of thing and it simply can't be handled that way for many many people.
I so appreciate your concern and support - you're really special!

palette48 said...

Wow Bette Jo,

You have overcome a lot. I too struggled with anxiety attacks and some depression. I never talked about it with others because they just didn't understand. I did get some help for it and it is a lot better but certain situations will still trigger it big time and then it's a struggle to manage it. I have found some people that have struggled with similar issues and it has been great to confide in them. You are so strong and to be where you are now, I am in awe. You really are an example to others.

BetteJo said...

palette48 - I'm no more special than anyone else, really. I am just aware that not everyone is comfortable talking about this issue and I am, so I do. :)

It always helps to find someone else who has struggled with the same things - too many people out there feel alone - no matter what their issues!

God knows we all have issues! :)

useless_rambler said...

(just got in from a camping trip and finally got time to catch up a bit ;) )

I've had one panic attack in my life. You're right, you really can't explain it. But it scares the life out of you. For real.

I'm in awe, reading your story, how much you have dealt with. It's completely raw and you are sharing it. I know it was some time ago, but I really respect your ability to be so candid, and with complete strangers, no less (although, that can be *way* easier than sharing with those close, huh?).

I'm really enjoying the reads and you certainly are helping, I can only speak for myself. Just knowing that others have traveled that path, to whatever degree, is comforting.

Thank you for being comforting :)