I’m just going to flat out say it, since there’s no real other way to put it: I’ve been suffering from depression. Deeply. This has been really weird for me because I have never been the depressive type, even remotely. Everything always has a solution, and I could always put mind over matter.
Near as Jessica and I can pin it down, it started around July of this last summer. I attributed it to a bunch of stuff going on, not the least of which was that it was my 49th Birthday, which meant 50 was looming. We did nothing exciting for it, or anything at all, really, and that really bugged me; more than it should have. The timing seemed right and it seems as legitimate a cause as any.
Throughout the summer and the rest of last year, it got worse. Things I typically took joy in, I didn’t. Things that typically bothered me a little turned into mountains which then turned into anxiety, which then turned into sleepless nights, which then turned into deeper depression.
I knew something wasn’t right. Jessica brought up, over and over, that I walked around with a cloud over my head.
In September, I stepped on the scale. I had not started to work out and train like I had said I would. And, frankly, at that time, I didn’t think it was a big deal. Pretty much nothing mattered. I’d go through the motions of running the business, but did just enough, nothing more. There was no going above and beyond for people. The same was true of family and my kids. I’d do what they needed, but knowing that I was not feeling right, I’d retreat to my bedroom given any chance I could get. I’d take naps during the day and then I’d be up all night, tossing and turning.
When I stepped on the scale in September, I got a shock. 232 pounds. It was the heaviest I’d ever been. I actually decided I needed to do something. Maybe working out would help me with the doldrums. Maybe it would help me to see life differently and snap me back into mental shape. Maybe. Maybe it wasn’t the age. Maybe it was the weight.
I got myself a membership at the local club and hired a personal trainer. I figured having someone I paid would at least help keep me accountable. Plus, he might actually show me the right way to do many of the exercises I’d done in the past, but no doubt did incorrectly.
I started working out regularly. First going to the club two times a week, then three, then workouts at home on top of it. I started watching my diet. I started losing weight. I was feeling happy with the weight loss, but it did not do anything to change my general outlook on life.
Jessica and I would talk about it. We both knew something was wrong, but we didn’t know what. And if you know me, you know that I’m a “fixer,” so I kept analyzing. I kept trying other things. Over the counter mood enhancers. More naps. More alone time. No change.
DEPRESSION IS WEIRD
I’m not going to speak for everyone who suffers depression; especially chronic sufferers. I can only speak to my own experience, and hope that somehow I have gained somewhat of a window into what it feels like for others so that I can be more empathetic. For me, I knew I wasn’t right. I knew what the right things to do were. I knew what I *should* have been doing. I actually *cared* about doing those things. I just had no inclination to do them. Unless it was something pressing where others were depending on me to take care of it, I rarely lifted a finger. It was not for lack of wanting so much as a pure lack of motivation. An actual lack of the ability to even envision myself doing it. As a fly on the wall, I could ask myself, “why am I not doing this or feeling this way?” But I just was unable to get out of the funk. I left a LOT of people hanging. A LOT. Knowing that, you’d think that would be motivation enough to make me do things, but it wasn’t.
My kids would want to play. I’d play as minimally as I could and then bug out. To be honest, I don’t even recall noticing if they had fun or not. The world around me was going on, but all I could focus on was myself. And while I could logically look at things, my emotions were in a completely different world.
I remember there being two nights very recently where Jessica and I were talking in bed and I said, “I hate my life.” These are words that never before had I ever uttered. I HATE MY LIFE. We’ve all done it. We’ve heard someone say that and think or say, “look at them! They have it all, and they hate their life. What ingrates.” I know I’ve said it. What’s funny is even as *I* uttered those words, I had that same thought: “Look at me. I have everything going for me. A beautiful family. A home that’s ours. A growing business in a community that I like. What an ingrate!” It just made things worse.
I am certain that the only thing keeping my thoughts from turning totally dark was the fact that I was, at the very least, keeping to a regular workout schedule. And while I didn’t necessarily feel GREAT after the workouts, I think they helped me feel “good enough.”
But there didn’t seem to be any light. I tried all kinds of things, and still felt depressed and full of anxiety. It sucked. Seriously. If it had not been for the people around me who were so capable, everything would have fallen apart. Luckily, it didn’t.
THE PRICE OF MAGIC
If you’ve ever watched the show, “Once Upon a Time,” you might have noticed that since the beginning of its run, there has been an underlying theme: Magic comes at a cost. Always.
Last summer, I had gotten to the point where I was suffering severe migraines. They had increased in frequency and were lasting longer. It took more to make them go away, and usually, the relief was temporary. It got bad enough that I decided to go to a neurologist and see if there was any sort of treatment I could go on to permanently get rid of them.
He ran a bunch of tests and said he couldn’t find anything neurologically wrong with me, but that he’d start me on a low dosage blood pressure medication as he has seen results with others and it’s a fairly common treatment. While my blood pressure was fine as it was, this might help stay the migraines.
It worked. I started taking them every day and my migraines went away. I was elated. Excited that finally, I had found a cure for my headaches. In fact, I was convinced that it was possible that I always had a migraine going, even if I didn’t feel the effects, because mentally, I felt totally different once they were gone.
I was so thrilled that I didn’t bother to notice the signs.
I’m sure you can see where this is going by now but I’ll wrap up the story, none the less.
Last weekend, I was in Orlando visiting some friends. I also reconnected with another friend of mine whom I had not seen since high school. She is a nurse and we were talking. I had explained to her that I have just been depressed for months and cannot seem to figure it out. Later she looked at me and said, “you know, one of the major side effects of that BP medication you’re taking is that it causes depression.”
I had been so wrapped up in the fact that my migraines were gone that I did not even bother to consider or research the side effects of this other drug I had been taking. I vaguely recall my neurologist telling me to be sure to tell him if I had any suicidal thoughts. . . vaguely. But it had never occurred to me that it might be the culprit. And I never really had any suicidal thoughts.
I went back to my hotel that night and looked things up. One of the studies I read showed that various levels of depression were suffered by 74% of the test cases. SEVENTY FOUR PERCENT! Holy CRAP!
It was suggested that I try halving my dose to see if it helped. Instead, I opted to cut it out completely. I’ve lost a bunch of weight and I figured that that, in and of itself, might have an impact on my migraine frequency. Either way, I decided that I’d rather have the migraines than the depression.
Within 24 hours of discontinuing the use, I could feel myself feeling better already. Brenna called me on the phone, and rather than going through the motions of picking it up and asking her the usual questions, I felt excitement that she was calling. I actually talked to her and had actual emotional reactions. Same was true when Eli asked to Skype. On Monday, when ‘C’ called me in Facebook Messenger, I was excited to talk to him. Within 24 hours, I was seeing light again. I was feeling like there was no problem that couldn’t be faced down and overcome. Sure, the things that bugged me before still bugged me, but I didn’t get anxiety over them. They went back to simply being a problem that needed a solution.
My sleep has been sound. The stress that I felt when being around others, including my loved ones, is gone. It turns out that, at least for me, the price of the magic pill was too steep.
It’s now been a week and a half since I stopped taking the pills and while I did suffer from one migraine, I was able to put it to rest very quickly. I am hoping the weight loss, and diet change has had an effect on that. Oh, and bonus. . . another side effect of this particular beta blocker is that people experience weight gain. I suspect that was the reason I had gotten up so high before I started my exercise and I now suspect that things may happen a bit faster when it comes to the weight loss.
Lastly, I want to reiterate that this was my experience and mine alone. While I think everyone who suffers from depression can relate to some of it, I know that it’s a much deeper issue for many and my short stint only scratches the surface. I do not mean to, in any way, marginalize anyone who has been or is battling depression. But if you do suffer, and need someone to talk to, I’ll do my best to listen and understand.