Monday, May 9, 2011

Dealing with Depression -Part One

It's nearly 2 o'clock and as I'm writing this, using a blue gel pen, half a scrap of paper and steadying it on a book entitled Celtic Gods and Celtic Goddesses, I'm just now soaking in a bath of hot water and peppermint essential oils.

It's a late start to the day, even for me.

If you follow me at all you'll assume this is due to my RA.  Intellectually that would make sense, especially because I ended last night with FIVE of my aspiring chef son's coconut oatmeal melt in your mouth deliriously delicious cookies.  (Yes, they were THAT good!) Honestly though, my RA isn't half as bad as I expected from that bedtime indulgence. 

No.  Today my late start is due to something else.  Something much deeper and darker than a chronic auto-immune disease.  Depression.

In the past I'm mentioned the correlation between chronic disease and depression.  Recently I've wrote about how I finally found a therapist and how much I believe she is helping me deal with my depression and it's relation to my disease.  Only nonchalantly have I mentioned the other 'stuff' she's helping me deal with.   Today, because it seems to have grabbed hold of me, I may be able to delve slightly into the depression that has plagued me my entire life. 

Me and Star, my best friend
As a child I was 11-15 years younger than my siblings and therefor grew up without confidants close to my age.  My parents were in their 40's when they had me and both worked full-time running their business.  We only lived a few miles from town but I seldom spent time at my school friends homes as I was terribly shy and, well, just different than the other girls in my grade.  I was quite the tomboy and though our town was small and I knew everyone I still didn't have real true girlfriends.  My best friends were my animals and I had a lot of them over the years. As a child I remember I was often sad for no apparent reason and I knew I shouldn't have been.  My parents were wealthy enough they could buy me nearly anything I wanted but any happiness I received from the gift quickly wore off.  My mother often scolded me for being moody, shy and ungrateful and deep down I kinda agreed with her but didn't know why I was always so sad and I surely didn't know what to do about it.

Do I even look intoxicated? Maybe, maybe not.
Once I was old enough to drive (in rural Nebraska this is 14-15 years old) I quickly found that the right mixture of alcohol and boys kept the sadness away. (I want to clarify, I wasn't a drunk, I just drank enough to be happy as I've always hated being "drunk".  It's a loss of control thing and since I'm a control freak, losing control is out of the question.) I was constantly changing boyfriends and going to beer parties trying to find that level of happiness I hardly ever experienced sober and alone.  This worked for me all the way through college and even into my first marriage.  It was easy for me to drink just enough to numb myself but not enough for anyone to realize what I was doing nearly every day. 

The photo to the left is me the day I was accepted as an initiate in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority my freshman year of college. I remember I was super stressed, mostly because I didn't want to join and knew I wasn't the type, but my boyfriend at the time, whom I thought I'd eventually marry, insisted I join his fraternity's sister sorority. I drank my breakfast that morning just to get through what every other girl there thought was going to be a memorable day. I didn't even want to be in college in the first place.  I wanted to be at any one of the art schools I'd been accepted to but my parents insisted college was a better future for me.  Because I was so unhappy in college instead of art school, and because my boyfriend was a mean drunk and beat me, I spent a good portion of my freshman year slightly numb, yet I got high enough grades I was named on the Dean's List.  My sophomore year I smartened up, dumped my boyfriend and moved closer to home and family where I met my husband.

The first couple years of marriage to my first husband was pretty easy, really. I was finally 21 and could use my own legal ID to buy and didn't have to hide my all of drinking anymore. When I was 17 I paid $100 to an acquaintance to steal the driver's license of his girlfriend who could have been my twin and who was already 21.  I was never caught though I was carded at bars and liquor stores and even by a few police.  I continued to go to college, work part time and drink during the day and then we would relax with a few beers at night or party on the weekends. As far as I know, he never knew I drank during the day. I often quietly accepted cash from my mother to buy clothes or other things a young couple couldn't afford but would spend half of that on vodka I hid from my husband.  Then I got pregnant and as any good mother would do, I quit drinking on the spot.  I look back on those days and wonder how my first husband stayed with me as long as he did between my pregnant hormonal swings and the depression I couldn't drink away.   For the next four and a half years I was either pregnant or breast-feeding.  While pregnant with out second child our marriage fell apart and at the time I didn't understand it. Looking back at it though I can see how his seemingly easy going happy wife suddenly turned into a sad version of her former self. 

After my divorce at twenty-five I suddenly became too busy being a full-time working mother to be depressed.  That and the joy my three beautiful little boys gave me was the best anti-depressant in the world. During those eight single mom years I found my inner Type A personality.  I worked hard at my job, was an attentive and loving mother and worked long hours after the children went to bed on my hundred year old (reading between the lines here you'd find the descriptive words severely neglected, abandoned ten years and haunted) Victorian home my sister helped me purchase.  I also finally experienced my first true friendship of my life with a woman.  Though we are no longer close I credit her for helping me break old family habits to become the mother I wanted to be and am today.  Relationships with men were still emotionally difficult and at best were just games to me until I accidentally fell in love with one I picked up at a steakhouse.  That man taught me more about the world, myself and my depression than anyone I've yet to meet before or since.  After our relationship ended I went back to the games that kept men away from my heart.  As far as my drinking went I kept it very much under control around the boys. Occasionally I'd have one glass of wine with dinner but overall, if I was around my children I was very conscious of how my drinking might effect them.  On the weekends they were visiting their father and grandparents in another town however, I often started drinking at lunch and continued dosing myself like medication throughout the day, to get myself through the anxiety, depression and loneliness of being without my boys. 

A month after 9-11 I met my future husband and in less than a year we were married and living on his ranch in western Nebraska.  Though newly married and busy with the job of caring for children, a new husband,  horses and a ranch I continued to numb myself whenever I'd feel any sort of unwanted emotions. Which, to be honest was more often than not.  It went like this.  If I was paying bills, which has always caused me severe anxiety, I'd pop open a beer.  While cooking dinner, I'd have a glass or two of wine. If I was contemplating going to my parents, I made myself a cocktail first. If I was cleaning house I'd fix a margaritas.  It was never huge amounts but it was all the time.  Maybe not everyday but most days.  To be the optimistic, happy and easy-going wife I portrayed myself to be, I needed to be numb.

This worked fine for a few years, that is, until I started feeling the pain that my then undiagnosed RA and fibromyalgia was causing.  Then I upped my drinking to counteract not only my emotional pain but also the physical.  At one point before I became a raw foodist and quit drinking entirely I was up to an entire of bottle of wine... every night.  

When I decided to became a raw foodist I attacked it with everything I had.  If I was going to do it, I was going to do it right.  Perfect, 100% raw foods, no alcohol, no prescriptions and no chemicals on my body or in my hair.  And it worked!  Not only did the raw foods help relieve my symptoms of my disease they seemed to make me... Happy.  The emotional high from eating raw foods was something I'd never expected or experienced before.  It was wonderful! Eating raw, staying away from alcohol and being moderately active worked for me physically and emotionally for nearly two years.

Then we moved to Texas and I started falling apart.

To be continued....