Monday, July 9, 2012

The State of Your Mental: 7 Signs You May Not Be as "Okay" as You Think

I'm just coming out of a depression. This came as quite a surprise to me because I had no idea that I was actually in a depression. As I think about what I am about to write here, I'm not certain why it's such a big a surprise given my life over the past few months. First, I found a lump under my armpit. While I knew that to be a sign of lymphoma/leukemia, for me, it actually turned out to be nothing. Praise God. But the stress of knowing it was there until I found out it was nothing was almost unbearable. The day before I found out my lump was nothing, my mother died of uterine cancer (a huge, aggressive uterine tumor), just six weeks after I found out she was ill, and the day before her appointment to get scheduled to have a hysterectomy and have it removed. The day after I returned from my mother's funeral I found out that I too had uterine tumors and would need to have a hysterectomy—a similar issue that had just killed my mother. Yep. This was my life inside of about one week.

Yes, I was sadder than sad. Afraid. A bit panicked. But I had no idea I was depressed even though I should have expected it. To me, I was just "okay."

Everyday, I got up and went to work. I took care of my son. I continued trying to write novels, although found it a little more difficult to concentrate. I social networked, although maybe curtailed it a bit. This was my view of my life. Overall everything seemed relatively normal to me. And every time someone would ask me how I was doing, I would say, "I'm okay."

 My dad knew better.

He's been keeping an ultra eagle eye on me through all of this, especially since I began my post-surgery recovery, and I couldn't figure out why. When he'd ask how I was doing and I would tell him "I'm okay," he would say, "No, really, how are you doing?" I now realize he saw in me what I didn't.

If depression can happen to me it can happen to anyone. And the thing is, you don't always know you're in that dark place until you return to the the light again. But as I look back on this period in my life, these are a few signs that I should have realized signaled something wasn't quite right with the state of my mental.

1. Insomnia. If you can't sleep, even with a sleep aid, you might be depressed. I had problems sleeping. Even taking Percocet!I went to bed exhausted. Woke up in the middle of the night. Sat up for hours. And usually fell asleep right before my natural body clock was preparing to wake me up. The lack of sleep was really the first part of the depression cycle for me...everything else kind of went downhill from there.

2. Lack of energy. If you don't have the energy to go about your usual day, you might be depressed. For me, every day was a slog. I thought I was just exhausted from the lack of sleep but now I realize that my lack of energy was probably part of the whole avalanche effect that comes with depression. You're depressed so you can't sleep. You can't sleep so you have no energy and the couch becomes your best and worst friend.

3. Emotionally Withdrawn. If you don't want to socialize or talk to people (and you usually do), you might be depressed. My friends and family would call to check on me and I couldn't talk. Not wouldn't talk, couldn't talk. The thing was I thought I couldn’t talk because I was tired and had no energy from the lack of sleep. No, mentally I was just in a dark place and didn't want to have to tell people I was "okay" when somewhere inside I felt like a hundred pounds of hot diarrhea. Bleck.

4. Over-eating or Under-eating. If you don't want food or want too much of it, you might be depressed. I'm an emotional eater anyway. So when I came out of surgery wanting to scarf down everything in front of me then I should have known something was off, especially with all the pain and medication. When I came home, I didn't want to eat at all. If my dad didn't come and prepare my meals, I probably wouldn't have eaten much of anything for the first few weeks. Didn't want food.

5. Irritable. If you're cranky with the ones you love you might be depressed. I was a big time cranky pants, snapping for no apparent reason. And I'm usually way more even-tempered...nice even. But between the pain from the surgery, the sleeplessness and the lack of energy, I thought a little crankiness was to be expected but as I come out of my slump I realize, no, I was really depressed.

6. Emotional Meltdown. When you overreact emotionally to something you'd normally take in stride, you might be depressed. Okay so the power went out in the house last week due to a freak storm. When the power came back on, I only had power in half the house. I'd never heard of such. So, immediately I thought the problem must be with my electrical system. And all I could think about was the thousands of dollars it would cost to hire an electrician and get the stuff replaced. When it rains it pours, and boy did I let it pour. I cried and cried and cried. But as I laugh about it today, I realize now I wasn't really crying about the electrical. It was the first time I had really good cry (even with my diagnosis) since my mother's funeral and the surgery.

7. Loss of focus/concentration. When I'm down in the dumps, I usually write my way out of it. Well, because of the above I couldn't focus well enough to do the one thing I love more than anything else I could do in this world. At that point, I should've known something was really wrong. Me not writing? Unheard of. In two years I haven't started. Thankfully my mojo is coming back--and you have this blog to prove it.

Experiencing one of these symptoms at a time may be tolerable. But experiencing most or all of them at the same time is a huge red flag. My cousin Mary Lou described depression as being "sneaky" and she is so right. It crept up on me without my even being aware. If you get a cut you bleed. Depression is not that clear cut. You have to be aware of your body’s warnings. If someone had told me (as my father tried to), that I was in a depression, I would've said "no, I'm okay." I wanted to share this blog because it might help someone else who is in the State of Denial on the State of their Mental. When we are dealing with stressful lives and traumatic situations, we have to be mindful of how we "really" feel. We may not be as "okay" as we think!

The Good News: I’m coming back
What Doesn’t Kill You Will Only Make You Stronger!

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  1. Yeah been there, done that. In 1996, my brother died of spinal/brain cancer--after a year long battle and paralysis. In 1999, my dad died due to medical malpractice in conjunction with a heart problem. He was sick over a year before he died--he went from a man who never stayed home--to a man who couldn't get out of bed. Then my nephew got joint cancer--he died in 2005--at Christmas.

    In between there, my aunt was hit by a car, my cousin killed herself and I couldn't concentrate.

    Since 2005--life has continued to be very stressful--but at least the deaths have slowed down.

    It just wears you down. You wake up one night at 3am when NO ONE is awake but you...and you just want to not think. The tv irritates you, there's no place to go, you can't write. You wander around the living room in your PJs, knowing you have to get up in four hours but unable to sleep.

    I never want to talk to anyone so bad as I do at 3am in the morning. It's like every thought I ever had crawls up my spine and bangs about my head.

    I have good days, good weeks, sometimes a good month. But I am probably depressed more than I'm happy. But I'm overall functional in society so if I say to someone---I'm really struggling--they give me they your life is roses speech. Blah.

    Sometimes you just need a connection to something or anything.

    I've taken to just being really busy all the time. If I don't have time to think or dwell--I can't sink into depression---but all that running makes me tired to.

    And I'm really tired.

    Really, really tired.

    But sometimes I wonder if everyone is...and a happy person is rarer than a purple polar bear.

  2. Wow. It's like I was reading something I wrote to myself.

  3. I totally can relate to the majority of the symptoms that you wrote about, although it's never occured to me that that might be what it was. I just thought I was being "me."
    You are in my thoughts alot, K. You were always nice to me in high school, and I considered you a good friend.
    I hope that you will find peace, and continue to be the amazing woman that I know you are. Your writing cracks me up.