Am I Cured Yet?

If you were to ask someone close to me, like my wife, where I was three months ago compared to where I am today, I’m confident she would tell you without a shred of doubt that I am leaps and bounds better than I was.  If I look at the facts, if I look at this whole thing logically, I am mentally in a healthier place by far. Three months ago, I felt like I was stuck in that same familiar ditch I had been in many times before, except for some reason, this time I couldn’t see the light. I couldn’t see anything but darkness and that scared the shit out of me. I had always thought of myself as a fighter—confronting my depression and trying my best to kick it square in the teeth. When I lost that fight in me, I felt like I had completely lost myself. I think that scared me more than the depression—my desire to give up. Luckily for me, I can be reeeeeeeeallll stubborn and instead of surrendering, I asked for others to fight with me. I got help. That should feel like a victory in and of itself, right? Anyone who suffers from depression knows that our mind can be a powerful SOB. For me, learning to recognize my thoughts, especially the irrational thoughts, has been hard. My mind tells me, all the time, that I should be better. I should be farther along on my journey than I am. After all, I did SEVEN days of intensive therapy, am on medication, am eating right, exercising—shouldn’t I be 100% cured? Yes, friends, that’s my illogical brain talking and she can be a manipulative  bitch. Last week, I had one of the worst days I’ve had in a while. I was 10 days late for my period and was feeling the negative effects of my cycle being f*cked up.  That coupled with a particularly stressful work week was like the perfect PMDD/depression shit storm.  I was at work, hosting a company wide event, and had received a passive aggressive email that morning. Normally, I would mutter a curse under my breath, but I would let it go. But, my heightened emotions and hormones out of whack resulted in me turning into a sobbing, illogical, irrational mess. I unloaded on my boss, I cried in front of colleagues, and then for the rest of the day, I was so ashamed I didn’t even want to look anyone in the eye. Then the illogical B came and she was all “Everyone’s gonna think you’re crazy now! You’re probably going to get fired—might as well quit now and save them the trouble. You’re not better—you’ll always be like this.” Just like that, those thoughts threatened to erase all of the progress I’ve made.

I thought a lot about what happened last week over the weekend. I could easily listen to those thoughts and consider the PMDD episode as a setback—an inevitable failure. But, instead, I am choosing to take this as a lesson to reframe my thinking. Will I ever be ‘cured’? What does that even mean? I don’t think depression/PMDD is a curable disease. But, it’s treatable and I am working every single day of my life to learn to live with this. Will I have days that feel worse than others? Sure. But no day is ‘bad’ and no day is a setback. It’s part of my gorgeous, messy story—and I’m going to see it through to the end.

PMDD. WTF. SMH.

"It's like I get one person for two or three weeks, and then that last week, I get a completely different person. My notes for the past three months literally say 'hopeful' for two weeks, then hopeless and depressed for the last week or two of the month. I can't officially diagnose you, but I think you have PMDD" she said with confidence.

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I am not a failure. I am not a failure. I am not a failure.

Ever since I was a little kid, I've had this really terrible habit of giving up on something if I wasn't the best at it immediately.  At 30, I still don't know how to ride a bike because I gave up within the first hour of trying because I kept falling.  I remember my father telling me over and over again "It's going to take time! No one gets it on the first try." But I wasn't having it. No one was pressuring me. No one expected me to pop a wheelie as soon as my training wheels were removed.  But in my eyes, I was a failure.  I had gone into the experience (which I believe my father tried to make as memorable as possible) with outrageously unrealistic expectations of myself. And of course, when I did not meet those unattainable expectations, I felt utterly defeated and gave up. This pattern followed me all the way until now. I don't think this behavior stems from anything specifically.  As far as I can remember, my parents never made my sister or I feel like we needed to be perfect or to please them. Maybe it was a confidence thing. Maybe I was just born this way baby. Who knows. All I know is that if something doesn't come naturally to me, I have a hard time sticking to it, even if I'm enjoying myself, because I feel like a failure for not being better.

Sorry for the long walk for a short drink of water here, but I do have a point to my rambling.  During this past winter, I had one of the worst bouts of depression I've ever had. I typically notice changes in my mood when the seasons change and hoped that I would start feeling better as Spring approached. I didn't. So in April, I started to see a therapist again. We switched up my medication,  worked a lot on changing that negative self talk, I ate healthier, worked out, used different tools and apps, wrote down my feelings--did every thing I could possibly do in hopes I'd feel better. If my therapist had to give me a grade for my work on trying to beat depression, she'd give me an A fucking plus.

But, every week I'd go in and I'd tell her that it wasn't good enough. I felt better than when I came in, but why wasn't I fixed? Why did I still feel depressed? I gave it time. I did the work. I didn't give up. I stuck it out longer than I would have with anything else (and this ain't my first rodeo when it comes to depression). Hadn't I earned this?

What she said to me was a big dose of reality, but I desperately needed to hear it. She said to me (in an almost ARE YOU KIDDING ME tone of voice), "Who gave you a deadline to stop being depressed?" I didn't answer, clearly because this was a ridiculous question.

"You have these standards that you've set for yourself--that are so ingrained in you--and that are so unrealistic that they are impossible to achieve. But then when you don't achieve them, you immediately call yourself a failure. And you keep replaying that story in your head until you are convinced it's reality."

I say nothing, mainly because I am now choking back tears but partly because I am annoyed by her candidness. And her accuracy.

"We are trying to undo years, literally years of damage to the way you think, the way you look at yourself and talk to yourself. Do you think that's something that can be 'cured' in a few months? No. Are you a little better, a little stronger than when you first came in here? Yes.  This is going to take work. It's going to  be the hardest thing you've ever done, but it's not a race. No one is measuring your time, or keeping score or whatever else you tell yourself. This is a journey and you need to celebrate every single victory along the way."

I hate it when she's right and she is right pretty often. I guess that's why I pay her.... So with a bit of tough love, I continue to move forward, to hit bumps, to have really bad days and to have to ask for help. This is unnatural for me--to live without expectation-- to just trust the process and all that shit. So when I feel like throwing in the towel my new plan is to rewrite the story--to I just keep repeating, "I am not a failure. I am not a failure." Cause I'm not. I'm a mother fucking fighter.