Off and on since my early teen years I've suffered with consuming feelings of sadness. It is painful, of course, but it can also be exhaustingly confusing. My husband usually sees it coming before I do.
One evening last fall, he brought it up as we laid in bed. "Winter is coming," he said,"It's going to start getting darker earlier, do you want to try and get something to help you before it gets too dark?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, defensive.
"Nothing, it's just, you seem to get sad in the Winter, I'm just saying if you want to try and get some help, I support you. I can call the doctor if you want."
The thing about sinking into depression is that I don't recognize it right away. It's tricky. The sadness feels completely justified and something inside me fights to keep it around. It feels like I need it and its strength cannot be weakened by logic. If I'm trudging through dark days and cannot pinpoint a real reason for the darkness, I know I have sunk. A typical thought process goes like this:
I feel sad.I just can't, it's just not going to get better. It's just so hopeless. What's wrong? What happened? What was that that was making me sad? I was worried about something, what was that? The kids are at school... should they be away from me? It's ok, no, it's ok, they have to go. I don't want to go shopping, is that why I have this feeling? Well, I don't want to go... What was that thing I was worried about? I'm worried, I feel scared. I can't do all this stuff I have to do. It's too much.
Before I recognize my sadness as depression, it is a very confusing to be consumed by this deep, dark sadness, and have no justification for it. In the first few years of our marriage I would attach my misery to the first thing that popped into my head after trying to locate a reason for my feeling, something my husband said, the way my son looked at me, or a converstaion. It worked the same way for guilt. My whole self would be consumed with hopeless feelings of guilt, I felt as if nothing I did was right and that I was deeply hurting everyone around me that I cared about. When I couldn't remember an actual experience that took place to cause these feelings, I would pick anything I did that day and make mentals lists about why I should feel bad about it. With depression, the feeling always comes first and then I search for evidence to justify the feeling, making it up and often stretching logic.
"Do I seem sad?" I asked my husband after a long pause.
"You just look tired and I can see when you're stuck in your head," he explained,"I just thought, maybe you'd want to get something this time, before it got too bad."
Two weeks later we were sitting in two cold chairs in the large exam room of my doctor's office. I began to sob before anyone even started speaking.
"What can I help you with?" my doctor asked, calmly.
"I just feel sad," I cried, "I just feel nervous, and embarrassed, and sad, and I don't know why."
My doctor sat patiently mumbling ,"mm hm, mm hm," and typing notes into his computer as I answered his questions. At the end of our consultation he spoke, "I don't think this is going to go away on it's own," he said,"it sounds like it is something you might be dealing with for your whole life. I can give you medication, but I think you should talk to someone too. If this is going to be a long term difficulty, you should have some other ways to battle it."
I took my prescription and walked home with my husband by my side, still sobbing from embarassment, "It's going to be ok," he assured me,"You're going to feel better, you're just sick, sometimes people get sick. I think it will be good for you to take the medicine and talk to someone if you want to. If you want I will call for you."