A big theme in my book, LTAL, is communication or rather the lack thereof. In college, I majored in Creative Writing, but it wasn’t for fiction–it was memoir. I’m a notoriously private person and am trying (fighting) to scale that back a little.
Let’s Talk About: Seasonal Depression
Every November I, like millions of others, get hit by a wave of seasonal depression. Only, I didn’t know that’s what was happening until this year.
I’ve had anxiety since I was a wee one. Have had anxiety-induced depression and anxiety-induced insomnia and anxiety-induced You-Name-It-I-Got-It. My anxiety is pretty much The Queen of these here lands, but not in November. See, the number one difference this year in November was: I wasn’t anxious. Nothing was going terribly wrong. Everything was swimming along as well as can be expected considering the current state of my home country. And yet, there I was, with barely enough drive to get out of bed to go to a job I love and when I did get to work, I stared into space for hours and made HORRENDOUS rookie mistakes; going WEEKS without writing a single word for any of the WIPs I’d been working on and not updating any of my online stories; suffering from migraines for days on end because of constant dehydration; not grocery shopping or eating because it was literally too much effort to chew food; couldn’t tell you the last time I washed my dishes or vacuumed my apartment or did laundry; and basic self-care was basically non-existent–and not bubble baths and facials, okay? The basic every day get ready things fell by the wayside.
For a long time, I thought it was just me reaching peak winter laziness. I *could* get out of bed, but I just didn’t want to and so on and so forth. LIES. All of it. My brain was lying to me, which seemed unthinkable. I finally realized something was wrong on Thanksgiving. I look forward to holidays because it’s one of the few times I get to see my mom and my sister for an extended period of time.
That morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to get dressed. I didn’t want to pack up my cat, Tuna’s, things because she’s part of the family too and lug them around. I didn’t want to drive 90 minutes and suffer through Bay Area traffic. I didn’t want to be social. That’s not me. I have never been the person to say, “Nah, I’ll just see them at Christmas.” Never.
Me: *shows up three hours late* Hi, mom. Sorry, I’m late. I accidentally froze the turkey things last night.
Mom: Why are they frozen? It’s too late to cook them.
Me: Why? I bought them for today!
Mom: It’ll take too long to defrost them and I don’t like using the microwave. It makes the meat rubbery. I’m not doing it.
Me: *suddenly feeling desperate* …you can just put them in warm water for a little bit, right? That’ll work?
Mom: No. I’m not cooking them.
Me: *looks around the room feeling terrible and helpless because I ruined EVERYTHING*
Mom: And where is Tuna? Did you leave her at home?
Me: *feels an irrational wave of emotions supposedly because of turkey, ruination, and my absent cat* I’m going home.
Mom: No. Why?
Me: *bursts into tears*
Y’all. It took all of my energy to just get to her house and she was mad at me? HOW, SWAY? Didn’t she understand how hard I’ve had it lately? And then I realized, she didn’t. I’d never said anything to anyone. I isolated myself by not answering texts or emails. I couldn’t be bothered to lie, couldn’t be bothered to explain because even though I was quick to call myself “lazy”, I didn’t want anyone to know how I’d been living and felt so ashamed. But I didn’t know how to stop. I didn’t know how to *will* myself better or if I ever could. (Spoiler alert: I can’t.)
This should be the baseline for everyone, and I know it’s not, but the people in my life actually care about me. If I say I’m having a hard time, they believe me, point, blank, period. They will ask questions. They will offer to help. About two years ago, I had no food, no water, and was too paranoid to leave my house to go shopping. My friend dropped off groceries on my doorstep because she knew I didn’t want to see anyone and was in a bad place emotionally, mentally. Even now, thinking about that makes me cry. She didn’t even live in the same city as me, used her gas, time, and money without any expectation of being paid back.
I’m very lucky to know and love the people I do. I am definitely the suffer in silence type so I’m working on accepting that it’s okay to ask for help and to lean on the people that love you. It doesn’t make you a weak person to need others and be needed in return. What about you? What are you working on to help yourself get through this thing called life?
I wish this talk had a happy ending. As with all things mental health related, I’m still fighting that battle. December so far doesn’t feel as hard as November, but for everyone one thing that has gone right, two things have gone terribly wrong. I’m trying my best to not give in and hopefully, I don’t.
Going to see a doctor, acknowledging something might be wrong, and creating a treatment plan isn’t a step everyone has to take. It worked for me, but self-diagnosis is equally valid in my book. No one knows you better than you know yourself. If you’re struggling too, I’m here and this is a judgment-free zone.
We can be there for each other.