So, the Bizzy Mama is depressed. Not like, sad or bummed out…but actually depressed. As in, Major Depression, diagnosis code 296.33. This depression, in my case and many others, as I am learning, is bosom buddies with crushing anxiety, panic, and sometimes a little agoraphobia. You know, just so they have a posse. One illness on its own is apparently not enough.
I chose to write about this because one of the biggest struggles with these illnesses is the fact that most people who have them don’t look sick. And if you look at many of the symptoms, it can come across as laziness…or even sloth. Unless some people really want to take a bit of time to learn about these conditions, it can be very difficult to understand how willpower alone can’t touch these symptoms…and quips like, “Just get it in your head to get up, start moving, and get through the day” get received as so demeaning and guilt-inspiring…can actually make the symptoms worse. This is a physiologically-based illness, just like diabetes, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s…and so much of the traditional perception of what makes someone ill is based on what you can see or observe about a person. When you see someone staying in bed all day with overflowing laundry and dishes in the sink, you think lazy. When you see an Alzheimer’s patient disoriented, you think, oh how sad…I hope that never happens to me…is there a medication for that?
And then when someone commits suicide, I often hear people say things like, “How selfish! Why didn’t he just reach out for help?” Truthfully, depression-related suicide is far more likely to kill us than things like liver disease, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s. There’s a mortality rate to this shit I’m dealing with. And it’s no small potatoes.
I’ve battled forms of depression my whole life, with my first flare-ups in high school (only diagnosed retroactively, though) and an official first diagnosis in college. It became particularly bad about a year after the birth of my first son, and I’ve been treated for it more intensively for the past fifteen years or so. I also have some features of Bipolar Disorder, which do not meet the specific symptoms of Bipolar I or II, but can be nefarious enough to be ready to treat at the start of symptoms.
A few weeks ago, I shut down. I’ve had an incredibly challenging year (I operate on a school-year schedule) with my boys being in a car accident, my mom being diagnosed with cancer THE NEXT DAY, and my spouse battling illness during the winter. Work has also been tough, with new evaluation systems, curriculum, and teaching expectations…that make it a place virtually unrecognizable in relation to what I experienced twelve years ago when I started in that district. I’ve had ups and downs all year, many of which I attributed to being situational – see above. But even when things started settling down, my migraines intensified to two – three days a week. Migraines cause exhaustion for me, and I began to spiral downward, even while my doctors were trying to find me some relief. In the quest for some answers, they found my thyroid to be
Completely out of whack, and all of that created a recipe for disaster. I could hardly leave my bedroom…or even my house.
So, I’m working on it all. I have a lot to say – things about the symptoms and the thoughts that run through my head; things about the impact on the people close to me; and things about my treatment. It will come. But I thought I would let you know what’s up – and I’m also determined to show that hey, “normal” (that’s like foul language) “high achievers” can suffer from mental illness. No, you probably won’t understand or recognize us unless you’ve been there yourself, but I’m here. I want to try and help one person the way others are helping me…and if I do, sharing all of this will be worth it.
I won’t forget to write about the biz or the Biz, but considering how paralyzed I’ve been, I’m just happy to get this out to you! Thanks for reading.
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