“As I was sitting on the floor crying my eyes out with no explanation as to why, a thought came to me: could I be depressed? Over the last six months, a small voice in my head kept saying the same thing: this is depression.
Clean clothes were piled up on my dresser. My treadmill had become a stand to hold cords, a laptop, dirty dishes, and dirty clothes. Old protein bar wrappers and coffee cups were all over my nightstand. The bed wasn’t made, and the clean clothes were all over it. ‘This is depression,’ the voice whispered. No! I’m just busy. I’ve had a lot going on. That’s all!
I opened my eyes. It was morning, but I didn’t feel rested. Nightmares kept me awake and anxious for most of the night. I was confused as to why they were happening again. Some nights they got so bad when I woke up screaming, I needed to remind myself I was OK. ‘My name is Ashlee. I’m 38 years old. My husband was next to me sleeping. I’m safe.’ That voice whispered again, ‘This is depression.’
As I was driving down the road, my finger rubbed over and over against my thumb. I picked and picked and picked. I bit. I pulled. I bled. It hurt. The pain didn’t stop me. I went to the next finger, then, the next. My hand bled, and the pain was always there. ‘This is anxiety,’ the voice said.
Lying in bed at the end of the day, sitting next to my husband, watching Friends, my teeth found that spot on my lips. The one I never let heal. They couldn’t quite get it, so my fingers started pulling at it. Pick, pick, pick. Two episodes of Friends later and I finally got the skin long enough to rip off. Oh, the pain! The blood. The pain is always there. Again, I pushed that voice away that is trying to tell me that this, this is anxiety and depression.
I told myself I was just hormonal, or lazy. The doctor took tube after tube of blood because I was sure something was wrong. The doctor put me on supplements, told me to try different diets, and kept doing more tests. I figured at some point they would find the answers, so until then, I kept telling myself I just needed to get over this. I needed to do the next thing.
Once again, I was on the floor, tears streaming down my face, completely overwhelmed, when I heard it again. ‘This is depression.’ ‘No!’ I said audibly. F**k this! I wiped my eyes and got off the floor. Over and over again, I kept saying to myself, ‘Just do the next thing.’
I picked up a shirt off the dresser and put it away. I picked up the next, and the next. Then, I picked up the trash. I took the dirty dishes to the sink. I made my bed. I swept. I mopped. The room was completely clean. I was looking over the room proud of myself when I heard it again. ‘This is depression.’
Day after day I got up. I have children who I must take care of, so, I did the next thing. I cooked the kids their lunch. We had a dance party in the living room. I took them to appointments. ‘This is depression.’ I got on the treadmill. I ran. I took a selfie. I hosted a party. I laughed with friends, but in every situation it was there.
Finally, I’m starting to listen to that voice. Depression/anxiety is lying in bed, nightmares, picking my skin, having no energy, but depression is also going on a date night with my husband, dancing with my children, laughing with my friends.
I opened up to a friend. At this point, blood work was normal, but I felt like I had lost myself somewhere. My hair began falling out. I had stopped going to the gym. I was crying more than I wasn’t. I was quiet. My friend told me I needed to see the doctor. I did. The doctor prescribed a liver cleanse. I was devastated. My friend said that it sounded like I was completely stressed out and needed a little help. Finally, I was ready to believe that this was depression/anxiety.
I called the doctor back, but they weren’t listening. They told me to call after the liver cleanse was completed. I called another doctor. They got me in right away. They gave me a questionnaire to fill out, and by the second question, the tears were so bad I couldn’t see the paper anymore. The doctor walked in and I explained my symptoms and gave him my blood work from the other doctor. He told me I was stressed. He listened to me, and together we made a plan. A prescription for antidepressants, a list of therapists in my area, a peptalk, and a reminder to get back to the gym… And hope.
I am learning that depression/anxiety is not lying in bed sleeping all the time. It isn’t giving in or giving up to be put on an anti-depressant. Asking for help isn’t a bad thing. The pills aren’t a cure-all. I still pick up my skin and have nightmares occasionally. I’m still not back at the gym, but I am sticking to a workout plan at home. Each day, I get up, and I make the choice to do the next thing. Every day, I get a little stronger. I may not get the old me back, and that’s OK. I’m learning to love myself even with the depression/anxiety.
Depression/anxiety is a tricky thing. It’s as sneaky as a thief. It’s a good liar. It is great at hide and seek.”
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