Happy Monday! Let’s Talk Depression

Happy Monday! Let’s talk about depression.

A little back story, if you will. In 2008 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my oncologist prescribed Effexor XR to help alleviate the hot flashes I was having caused by chemotherapy. Effexor is an anti-depressant medication and often used off label to treat hot flashes. I took it for several years post treatment because I simply couldn’t wean off the drug. Effexor withdrawal causes incredibly debilitating side effects and I thought I was bound to be on it for life until I found a doctor who prescribed Prozac. You can read about that process of Prozac bridging here.

While I was taking Effexor for hot flashes, I was also prescribed Wellbutrin XL for a mild case of post cancer depression. You would think the Effexor would have helped with the depression too but it wasn’t. It was enough to manage the hot flashes but not enough to alleviate the depression. My GP suggested adding Wellbutrin XL. So, I took two anti-depressants for a good length of time.

When I was finally able to wean from Effexor, I felt ready to break up with Wellbutrin, too. I was just done being on all these meds that made me feel tethered. I was finally med free and felt normal and healthy and ready to move on.

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Fast forward to summer 2015. It had been nearly three years since taking any anti-depressant. I started to recognize changes in me that I knew weren’t normal. Mornings felt like Groundhog’s Day, my body felt like grinding gears, tasks looked like hurdles, social activities felt like obligations. I was bitchy, moody and mean. I was impatient with everything and everybody. I was completely self-loating, I didn’t care about my friendships, and my marriage was suffering. Everything that I had ever liked doing was no longer of any interest to me.

Yet, I pretended like there was nothing wrong.

To the faces at my daughter’s school, my friends, the people on Facebook, I would just put on a smile and act like everything was fine. I remember coming home and feeling exhausted because it would take so much effort to pretend like everything was OK. Existing in the world with a busy schedule and obligations and making small talk all the while just wanting to be left alone is really hard to bear.

I can’t pinpoint my breaking point. I knew things weren’t right when the one thing I really loved to do – make videos with Megan for Long Story Short – had started to lose its luster. It used to be a high that would sustain me for days but it was turning into an opportunity to self hate. We also went on a once-in-a-lifetime family vacation and it was all very blah to me. I found myself fixated on other families who were having fun while I was trying to figure out how to do the same.

I finally called my GP and a therapist.

The conversation with the GP started out as me telling her I didn’t feel good. I talked around the likelihood that I might be depressed. I suggested the lack of diet and exercise might being the culprit to my moodiness. I was embarrassed to ask about depression and afraid to jump into another anti-depressant after feeling like I didn’t need them anymore. I eventually agreed to trying out a new prescription.

Meeting with the therapist was much less anxiety ridden. I reached out to a therapist I had seen while undergoing treatment for cancer. I sat down and within 15 minutes had explained why I thought I was depressed. It was her professional opinion that I was indeed dealing with major depressive disorder and had agreed medication and therapy was my best course of action.

All the kinks haven’t been totally worked out yet. We’re still fine tuning the dosage of the new medication I’m taking. But, therapy has been wonderful. It’s been a soft place to land while I figure out the self-loathing and how to repair broken relationships. I feel lighter and interested in things and people again. Life doesn’t feel like a hurdle everyday anymore.

When I smile now, I’m not faking it.

This is What Depression Looks Like – Guest Post by JD Bailey

I am so honored to have JD Bailey taking over today.  She is an author, blogger, and the creator of Honest Mom, where she writes about raising her young daughters and managing her depression. With real candor and a good dose of humor, JD blogs to connect with other moms and create a space for women to both vent and laugh.  I really connected with JD and her post today as I struggled with depression the year after I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I wrote extensively about weaning from the anti-depressant Effexor XR and seriously consider somedays if I should still be on medication. Enjoy.  – Wendy  
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“I had no idea you deal with depression. You seem like you have it all together. You seem so … normal.”

That is essentially what I hear when I confide in someone that I battle depression. They’re always so surprised. Because on the outside, I look like a regular, suburban, 30-something mom of little kids. I generally look put together. In a decent mood. You know … normal.

When I’m depressed, I don’t look sad, angry, anxious. Like I feel like I’m falling apart. Like I’m ready to scream at my kids for every little thing they do. Like I’m worrying I will blurt something that will make their little faces crumple in sadness or worse – fear.

I also don’t look dirty, frantic, or bizarre. I don’t act erratic or crazy. I look and act like me. Just maybe a little quieter, a little sadder, a little less of myself.

When I am struggling with depression, I look normal on the outside. Because I AM normal. I just have depression, too.

If there is one thing I want people to understand about depression, it’s this: Depression often – usually – looks “normal.” Because “normal” people struggle with depression.

Some people will bristle at a comparison I am about to make – and honestly, I’m not sure why – but I think my depression isn’t different from many other chronic diseases. I have friends, acquaintances, and relatives who deal with lupus, fibromyalgia, Crohn’s, and other awful diseases that flare up and seemingly go away – just as my depression does.

I am not always depressed, nor do I always have to be on medication. My depression comes and goes. When it’s here, I take meds for it. When it’s gone, I don’t.

And yes, I know that many, many people have constant depression and have to take meds and go to therapy all the time. And you know what? I think their depression isn’t any different from any other disease that needs to be constantly monitored and cared for and medicated so the person who has the disease can feel as normal as possible.

(There’s that word again.)

It bothers me that there is such a stigma about depression. I can understand it – anything that messes with our brains is scary – but it still makes me mad.

And it makes me sad that I still worry what people think of me when I tell them about it. I am very open about my depression on my blog, but not in “real life” – because the stigma is there, and I have to be careful about being too open with the wrong people.

But I write about depression and advocate for women who deal with depression, and I won’t ever stop doing so. Because if I can help some of you out there feel less alone in your battles, and if I can help some more of you understand that regular people deal with depression – well, it’s worth taking the risk of putting myself out there.

If you have a friend or family member who confides in you that they struggle with depression, I hope you remember this: They’re just as normal as your friend with diabetes or your cousin with lupus. And they’re still the person you know and love.

I’m walking proof of that.

And if you’re struggling with depression, know this: You are not alone. There are tons of regular women just like you who are dealing with similar stuff. There is no shame in getting help if you haven’t yet, and if you do get help, it will get better.

I’m walking proof of that, too.

honest-mom-guest-post-buttonIn addition to her blog, JD Bailey is a co-author of the humor book, “I Just Want to Pee Alone,” and her writing has been featured on the Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Bonbon Break, and soon, Postpartum Progress, as part of their Mother’s Day Rally for Moms’ Mental Health.

In addition to her writing, JD is an outspoken advocate for moms who deal with depression. She was interviewed by Katie Couric about the topic and was featured in a recent Parenting Magazine article about parents and depression.

When she’s not writing or mommying, JD can be found spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, getting dirty in her gardens, or reading a really funny book.

Read more from JD Bailey here: Goodbye, precious lovey. Hello, first grade, How being a mom is like being on a soap opera, and Here’s why I freak out for a few days every month.