I have functional depression.
Like so many traits and descriptions of mental health disorders, the description of this one is often about how it looks to others, not how it affects the individual suffering from the depression.
Let me explain.
My depression manifests in the following ways:
- Getting up after one snooze of my alarm to get the kids out of bed
- Get my autistic 7 year old’s daily medications and breakfast ready before school
- Get the toddler up, changed and ready for breakfast
- Make breakfast for both kids
- Get the 7 year old changed and ready for school
- Deal with multiple whining/demands/requests from both children
- Meet those demands
- Somehow make coffee
- Feed toddler
- Help 7 year old with breakfast (“can I have a banana/orange/etc”)
- Unload dishwasher
- Put dishes in the sink
- Get 7 year old ready for school (help with coat/hat/school lunch)
- Put 7 year old in transportation for school, holding toddler on hip
- Sit on couch while toddler plays in living room
Seems like a functional and typical morning for any at-home parent.
Here’s what you DON’T see:
- Stuffing down the dual desire to scream or cry and just apathetically leaving everything and going back to bed
- The continual nagging that there is “so much more you could be doing right now – this house is a disaster”
- The continual nagging that “you suck as a mother. You’re barely holding it together and your kid can feel it. Why can’t you just play with him? Why are you ignoring him? Oh. Look. You TRY to play with him and he wants nothing from you. Because you aren’t an attentive parent. You really suck. No wonder he loves his daddy so much more than you. No wonder HE’S the preferred parent. Really? It’s so freaking clear. Why even try. You’re never going to amount to anything.”
- Mindless scrolling through social media. Everyone’s life is so much more together than mine. Oh look. ANOTHER person booked a commercial. Oh hey, they just booked a theatre gig. Oh and there’s my friend doing another guest star on that show I can’t seem to even get in the room to audition for.
- I haven’t posted anything in days. People are going to ask questions. Ok. Ok. Here’s a picture I can post on instagram from the other day. When the kids looked cute. No selfies going on here because – hey I haven’t showered in 3 days.
- I’m going to try to just eat what I’m planning to eat. I probably shouldn’t have gotten on the scale this morning. Yeah, I know, the scale is a dirty liar but right now it feels like reality and why can’t I have any self-control? Why am I such a damn loser? Why can’t I be the person who LOSES weight when I’m feeling sludgy rather than GAINING. It’s not like I’m eating everything in sight. This is bullshit.
- If these kids loved me they would go to sleep tonight.
- I literally cannot wait for the kid to nap. Is it nap time yet? Can I coax him into nap time? I’m dying for nap time so I can also nap. Or at least have quiet. I need to just watch stupid TV and lay in bed and just not care.
- Why can’t I just book a damn job? Why did I have to choose a creative career that relies on my worth being whether or not I’m hirable? Maybe if I lost some damn weight I’d be hirable. I should stop eating. No. That’s crazy. But I really should limit my eating. It’s all about the eating. I mean, it would also help if I just worked out. But I’m so damned tired. I never sleep.
- Why can other people do this? Why am I the worst? Other moms have no problem handling this. Why is it so hard for me?
- Ugh. There’s soooo much stuff on the counter. I need to sort through it and take that stuff upstairs. Ugh. It doesn’t even TAKE that long. Why can’t I just get up and move it? What the hell is wrong with me?
- Dammit! Why is the kid whining? What? YOU JUST ATE BREAKFAST WHAT COULD BE THIS WRONG?
- I have to pee. But I don’t want to get up. Sigh. Stupid bladder.
- Damn. I have to see people today. That means I have to figure out when I can shower. I don’t want to shower. I don’t want to go. Maybe I can find a way out of it.
- I just want to sleep.
- Why isn’t this coffee working?
- Why does this breakfast taste like hot garbage? WHY AM I STILL HUNGRY?
- Hold it together. Don’t cry in front of the kid. It’s not his fault. Shit. Don’t mess up this one. Yeah, yeah, it’s a total myth that it was your fault the 7 year old is autistic. But still, it was a little your fault. Right? You know it was. If you hadn’t been so anxious. If you hadn’t gone off the rails and cobbled together your OWN prenatal vitamin situation. If you had taken better care of yourself. If you hadn’t waited so long to get pregnant. You are pathetic. So damned pathetic.
- Why are we constantly bleeding money? Why can’t I save more? Do more? I should be working but childcare/daycare is so expensive! And what am I going to do? I haven’t been in the workforce for years. I suck. I literally suck. I can’t even be a GOOD stay at home parent. I have to vacuum. Look at this disgusting place. You’re a pig. You live in squalor. Thank goodness you have no friends because if anyone stopped by you’d have to shoo them out with a lie that everyone is sick.
- When will you ever amount to anything?
This barrage plays out constantly in my head. Over. And. Over.
But my texts sound “normal”. And even if you CALL me and I ANSWER I sound just fine. But I’m not fine. I’m not close to fine. I’m a freaking mess. And I can’t tell you. Because I can’t really face it myself.
Depression has been a part of my life since I was a child. Childhood trauma often shows up as anxiety and depression in adults. It’s not uncommon.
However, since my depression didn’t manifest as a constant state of crying, apathy, can’t-get-out-of- bed-and-function type of depression, I just figured it was normal. And somehow I was just not strong enough. I was this weak and pathetic person who couldn’t handle regular life.
This was the depression talking.
When I finally (FINALLY) decided to get some help with my depression (this was after my cycle of depression had lasted MONTHS. Not days. Not weeks. MONTHS), I had to wait 3 months before the only Psychiatrist in my insurance network who was taking new patients had an opening.
I had to wait 3 MORE MONTHS.
The Dr. took one look at my intake, my history, my descriptions and recommended medication.
I was hesitant to start medication. I’d been on a baby dose of Sertraline (Zoloft) for about 17 months (since the baby was born) to help with anxiety. For whatever reason I could recognize and not feel as ashamed about the anxiety. Maybe because anxiety also helped me be productive to some degree. It didn’t debilitate me like depression.
Either way, we tried upping the dose of Sertraline since I was already on it and acclimated to it.
That did not work.
I felt about the same. But now with added headaches.
So we tried Fluoxetine (Prozac). And after a few days that seemed to make a difference.
A big difference.
I was able to do the laundry. I was able to fold it. And even put it away.
I was able to clear off the counter. Eventually.
I could unload the dishwasher.
I could smile.
I could laugh.
I could text and really mean the nice things I said.
Every single thing didn’t feel like a chore.
I sort of found my way back to myself, mostly.
This road. It is long. It is insidious. It is isolating. It is beyond scary. It feels never-ending and also inevitable.
Depression is so much more than what it looks like to an outsider. “You don’t look depressed” was the response I got from family and friends. All well-meaning. All reinforcing I was just weak and lazy.
I’m grateful for good meds. I’m grateful for therapy. I’m grateful for space and grace. I know this journey is not over. Not by a long-shot. But I intend to, at least, treat myself to a future of feeling better and thriving.
I deserve to do more than just survive.
So do you.
**If you need help you can call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline
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