Jenster's Musings

Saturday, March 21, 2009

I Can't Be Depressed. I'm A Christian.

WARNING: The following post may be lengthy, convoluted, angsty and just plain lousy.

I have always been a pretty happy person. Things never really bothered me, I got along well with just about everybody, I was usually good for a smile or a laugh. I'm still that same person, but something has changed over the last couple of years.

Depression is just not something I've ever had to deal with. Oh sure, I've been sad - I suppose I've had situational depression. I would guess everybody has that at one time or another. But I've never suffered from clinical depression. Even when I was diagnosed with cancer; even when I was going through chemotherapy; even when Todd was living 1200 miles away - I don't think I was clinically depressed.

Now? I'm not so sure. Not ever having experienced it before I'm not positive what I'm going through. The word depression has flitted through my conscience, but I dismiss it as soon as it shows up. I'm hesitant to go see my doctor about this because I fear he'll take the easy way out and say, "Yeah, you're depressed. Take a happy pill once a day and you'll be fine." Now I'm not opposed to that if it's what I truly need, but I want to be sure before I start popping pretty colored capsules on a regular basis.

A friend of mine used to suffer from severe clinical depression complete with feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts. She fought professional help because she had been told one time or another that good Christians didn't suffer from depression. She also tried to kill herself. Thankfully she has since gotten the help she needs and today she is a happy, thriving, GOOD CHRISTIAN, who manages her condition with medication and counseling. I remember feeling so angry on her behalf that she would have such baggage. Real depression is a physical condition, not a weakness of the mind.

What I'm struggling with in no way mirrors my friend's struggles and yet I find myself thinking, "If I was just closer to God I wouldn't be feeling this way." Makes me want to smack me. Now don't get me wrong. I wholeheartedly believe Jesus keeps me stabilized. In fact, I KNOW Jesus keeps me stabilized. I'm sure my emotions would be even messier without Him! But there's definitely something else going on that hasn't before.

So what IS going on? Is it because my hormones have been totally out of whack for the last few years? I suppose it could be. I've also read (but I can't remember where so I don't know how reliable this source is) that chemotherapy can cause the chemical imbalance which, in turn, causes depression. I know it's not a thyroid issue (which can cause similar symptoms) because I get that checked every six months.

But I'm always tired and run down. We missed a party last weekend because by 4:00 my head felt like it would explode and I just wanted to sleep. We made it to a different party this past Friday, but as much as I wanted to go (and did have a great time), I would have been content to stay at home and chill on the sofa. Today I was going to go into Philadelphia with a friend of mine for fun and a free photography lesson (she's an awesome photographer). I had to back out because I've been "too tired and distracted" to finish up something I'd committed to do a while go and it needs to be done by tomorrow.

My house is a wreck and I hate it like this. I've never been an exceptional housekeeper, but neither have I ever been as bad as I am now. I care and yet I don't care. I want it to be clean and tidy but the effort is too much. For a while I just figured my cleaning skills were stagnant from being waited on so much during treatment. That was over three years ago, however, so that excuse has gotten pretty thin. I'm just plain lazy. Except I was never this lazy before.

Most of the time I don't feel sad so I can't be depressed, right? I'm just always tired. Unless I'm busy doing something. I love my job and I don't seem to have the lazy or tired problem there. But when I get home I'm too exhausted to do much of anything. If only I would eat better; exercise regularly; pray and or study my Bible more I would feel like I used to, right? If I would lose weight I would feel better about myself. If my house was clean I would feel better about myself. If I would accomplish something worthwhile I would feel better about myself.

This morning as we were getting ready for church I complained to Todd about having a headache and being tired even though I had a good 8 hours or so of sleep last night. Very cautiously he said, "I'm going to tell you something and I don't want you to get defensive. I just want you to think about it. You might be depressed." Instead of getting defensive or thinking about it I told him I thought he might be right.

We talked about it more this evening and I've decided to call my doctor tomorrow morning. Todd came right out and said I've not been the same for a while. The funny thing is I was fine during the year from hell. So why am I not fine now? Who knows? I suppose I don't have to know.

There's a part of me - a fairly large part of me - who hopes I am depressed. It would explain so much of my behavior that I don't like at all. My laziness, my lack of concentration, my inability to stick to any type of exercise regime or eating plan - things I never had problems with before. Gosh! Maybe that's why I don't read like I used to. If there is a medication that I could take temporarily and would help me straighten out my wonkiness that would be great!

But here's my fear. From the minute I was diagnosed nearly four years ago I became the sole object of Todd's focus. He treated me like a queen, doting on me every second. When I had my mastectomy the following week he would hardly let anyone near me. He emptied my drains, bathed me, Veeted my legs, brought me food, set me up in the chair or in bed, made sure I was comfortable -- you name it, he did it. I worried that as soon as he was left alone and given time to think about our situation he would have a breakdown. Ten days after my surgery he got in his truck and left for the 1200 mile drive.

The first day was fine and he drove to Bristol, Virginia. The next morning after about an hour or so of driving he ended up in an ambulance on his way to a hospital with heart attack symptoms. It all caught up to him and he was put on an antianxiety and an antidepressant. After we were reunited as a family and everything was good again he tried to go off the antidepressant. Turns out the withdrawals from this particular medication are as bad as the original symptoms. So he's on this drug indefinitely and he hates it. I'm afraid of that happening.

I hope this post hasn't given the impression that I'm always sad or mopey or distraught. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm not severely depressed - I don't feel hopeless and I'm not having suicidal tendencies AT ALL. It doesn't effect my job or my marriage or my parenting (I don't think, anyway). I would guess most people I know have no idea I've been having these struggles, though there were a couple people at church this morning who could tell something wasn't right. But that's because all of this came to a head today.

So why tell you all this? I'm not sure. Maybe for some wise words from those of you who have similar struggles. Maybe for prayers. Maybe because writing all this down is good therapy. Or maybe just to say that even a good Christian can be depressed.

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