My journey with mental illness has been a complicated one. When I look back in hindsight, warning signs of anxiety and depression flash through my mind in black and white. So clear. So vivid. But at the time, it was all a shade of grey. I thought I was just tightly wound. I thought I was disconnected from my husband and dissatisfied at work because I didn’t know what I wanted. Life was never enough for me. “Isn’t it that way for everyone?”, I thought.
Then I had DoodleBug. And I fell to pieces. Pieces of me sobbed on the floor while other pieces screamed at my newborn daughter who could not go to sleep. And still more pieces fell through the cracks, leaving me numb and joyless. I couldn’t love my baby or my husband. Christmas, which I usually revel in, held no magic for me that year. Trying desperately to survive, I let my perfectionism take over and the anxiety overwhelmed my life. It was like I was trying to put the pieces back together…but all I had left was some chewing gum and a few rusty paperclips.
When I finally asked for help, relief was still in the distance. Recovery is a process…even more so when you believe that you’re only suffering from PPD and that as soon as it is fixed, you’ll be your old self again. And though I really did start to feel better, through the therapy I learned that though the pieces fell apart with the birth of my daughter, I had been cracking and slowly chipping away at myself for years. Not until my diagnoses with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder did it all start to make sense. The years of worry, the obsessive need to please and perfect, and the melancholy which quietly plagued my life in periods since college. I now had a name for it all. And with a name, came treatment options.
I will probably always struggle with MDD and GAD. It’s certainly taken its toll on me during this pregnancy. BUT. I know what it is and what it isn’t. I know it isn’t me. It is a disorder I struggle with. Period. It isn’t my fault. I did not cause it and will not let it hold me hostage under the guise of shame. It is not a personality fault, a weakness, or a reason for anyone to love me any less. It is a burden I will carry throughout my life, but a familiar one. An enemy I now know how to fight.
It has taken years of therapy (and medication) to be able to separate myself from the depression and anxiety and to put them in their rightful place, but I’m proof that it is possible. If these are familiar enemies for you, know that you will get there too. Don’t believe the false reality they tempt you with. Hold on to what you know is true – and if truth eludes you, ask your must trusted friends and family to help you find it. You are not your depression. You are a person worthy of love and belonging…suffering from depression. The semantics matter, as do you.