“Well, Rachel, it’s pretty clear what’s going on here,” she said, putting down the pad of paper she had been scribbling on and finally glancing up.
I felt her gaze sweep over me as I stared, hunched over, at my clammy, intertwined hands. It had been six months, officially, since I started going to therapy. Once or twice a week I’d come to this little house, go into this little room, sit on this green couch, and try to figure out what the fuck was wrong with me. I had spent hundreds, maybe thousands, to come into this woman’s office, cry for an hour, and then leave, hoping she’d give me some answers.
And now, here we were. Now we were getting somewhere.
“You have clinical depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder.”
I heard her say it, but it didn’t make sense. The anxiety, sure. That was old news. That was what brought me to her in the first place. The panic attacks, the neverending worry, and the constant nagging feeling that something was wrong — those had been a part of my daily life for a long as I could remember. It wasn’t until the unexplained fear of my loved ones dying kept me up at night, that anytime a call went unanswered I started hyperventilating, sure something bad had happened, or the gradual avoidance of situations out of fear kept me from doing the things I loved, that I knew it was getting out of control. Add to that pressing family problems and bam! You get the perfect combination for one long, panic-riddled anxiety attack. So, I made the appointment. I started seeing her.
But that didn’t fix things.
Sure, coming in and talking was helpful. Crying about everything. Screaming about the things I couldn’t change. Asking the hard questions and getting the answers that would help me go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning feeling a little less helpless. A little less out of control. Those were all positives. But those didn’t make me feel like “me.” Because that’s truly what this was all about. I had lost myself. Somewhere, somehow. I felt like a stranger in my body. Like a robot going through the motions. Like I was on autopilot, just waiting until the day someone shut me off.
Because the truth is, I didn’t even realize how bad things had gotten. Sure, I could say, “hey I’m worrying a lot” and call it a day, but that’s not how therapy works. They take what you say with a grain of salt and dig deeper. And sometimes it fucking hurts. Sometimes it opens wounds you didn’t know you had and realize that the world and the life that you thought you were living in isn’t your reality. That things aren’t what you think they are.
Over the past two years, I gained close to forty pounds. FORTY POUNDS. As someone who had a cliché battle with anorexia and bulimia in high school and college, that was a big fucking deal. But I didn’t even see it. As the weeks went on and we dug deeper into my issues, things started becoming clearer. I was avoiding social situations. I hated leaving my apartment. I needed plenty of warning before activities and even then, I’d be anxious about it all day, usually resulting in canceling the plans. I slept 11, 12, 13 hours a day and by 1 p.m. I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. I was constantly tired. Constantly avoiding the things I loved. Constantly avoiding the people I loved.
But I saw none of it.
That’s the tricky thing about depression. That’s what I didn’t understand. Because, while I would get tons of sleep and go through my day exhausted, I still woke up when my alarm went off. I still got up and took a shower and had some coffee. I still pushed myself through all of my work. I still touched base with my family and I still saw my friends for important events. I didn’t seriously contemplate suicide, and I didn’t start cutting my wrists like I had once done in high school. I wasn’t praying for death or giving away my possessions. I seemed fine. Okay. Just whatever. I went through all of the motions, but instead of living, I was on autopilot. I was running on fumes. Every task I did depleted me of energy. Every moment I was awake I was just counting down until I could go to sleep and fall into the sweet comfort of blackness. Of nothingness.
For high-functioning people, noticing you have depression is extremely hard. Hell, odds are you have no idea. You just know something is off. You just know you’re off. And it might take you years to figure it out. It might take years for the fog to lift.
But eventually, it can. That’s what you need to know.
Once I learned what was going on, it was a literal breakthrough. I got on Prozac. Then they upped my dose. Then they upped my dose again. I started tracking my sleep, eating better, and learning how to compartmentalize my anxiety. I took up fucking yoga. I started putting activities on my schedule and then I started to look forward to them. It wasn’t overnight. I’m still not even fully there. But I can feel the shift. I can feel the change. The old me is coming back, breaking through the surface.
Somedays are better than others. I still get exhausted easily and sometimes the weight of the world feels too heavy. The panic attacks still happen and sometimes when my guard is down, the old fears come for me at night, pulling me back down and engulfing me with the fog. But between getting a diagnosis, learning more, continuing talk therapy, and getting on a solid medication schedule, things are starting to fall back into place. It’s crazy how much work it can take to feel normal. But once you’ve been in a place where you don’t even recognize yourself, sometimes all you need is answers. Sometimes all you crave is normal. To anyone out there who feels a little lost, a little helpless, and a little hopeless, just know that it’s not forever. It’s not permanent. You’re still in there, you just need the fog to lift..