Depression is a liar

So even though it flies in the face of my last post about choosing to be positive and not dwelling on my problems, I can’t hide from the elephant in the room that is my depression.

And I mean, of course I’m depressed. I’ve had depression since kindergarten, but it’s been pretty relentless since trying to come to terms with my diagnosis. My hospitalization last year and the functions I lost really snapped me out of my denial. Trying to work full-time and being unable to was another blow. This isn’t the kind of thing you can just brush under the rug and move on.

I can’t find the exact citation anywhere now, but I’ve read that grief about having MS is most intense in the five years after diagnosis. Even though I was first diagnosed five years ago, I didn’t really fully believe I had it until last year’s hospitalization. And I have been in a state of grief about it ever since, so I guess that’s when my mourning period began.

High rates of severe depression are extremely common in multiple sclerosis. In fact, it’s one of the most common and most severe symptoms. In addition to depression being so much more prevalent, people with MS are more than twice as likely to commit suicide than the average population.

I’m not suicidal at the moment but I am definitely depressed. I’m reminded every day on FB of my friend Sarah, who lost her battle with depression last year. She probably understood me better than any other person has in my entire life besides my husband. I miss her all the time. And knowing how sad it makes me that she’s gone makes me not want to put anyone else through that experience.

But when you’re depressed, it tells you all kinds of lies. Like that nobody likes you, even though you know lots of people do. It makes you find it almost unbearably exhausting to be around people, even though you need them. Instead you want to stay where things feel safe, with the people who feel safe, which for me is my home and husband and kids.

I have a lot of things going on right now that aren’t great even when you’re not depressed. I’m sick. My hormones are out of whack with a prolonged PMS/PMDD phase. I had a breakup with a friend, which I still think was unfortunately a necessary and overdue thing, even though it feels awful. All three of the cars in our household need repairs right now and we don’t have the money to fix any of them. My husband is working two jobs now to help the finances and bless him for doing so — but that also means that I spend a lot of time without my rock to lean on and the day-to-day is a lot harder on me.

I miss my parents. I can’t believe it’s been almost five years since I’ve seen them. Our relationship was always kinda disappointing when I lived nearby and they never wanted to see me or the kids. But I see now that they were likely dealing with the same depression and resistance to seeing people that I’m going through.

Just because I can understand why people do what they do, doesn’t always make it feel better to be around them.

Yet despite that, I still miss them. I posted a picture of them on my Instagram the other day and I sobbed for an hour after sharing it because I just missed them so much.

Hell, I never really miss Michigan at all and never regret moving, but this super extended miserably hot summer has even made me nostalgic for cold Septembers there (even though it’s not actually cold there right now, either.) And fall is always the only time of year when I feel a bit nostalgic for home. I miss leaves changing colors and the kids avoiding raking them and getting hella overpriced fresh caramel apples bought directly from the orchard.

^^That is an actual picture of Michigan in the fall. Isn’t it gorgeous?

Halloween has also never again been as fun since we came down here, either, because everybody here does stupid, sterile “trunk or treat” events at churches instead. Dressing up in costumes and walking around in the heat from trunk to trunk in a concrete parking lot (usually in daylight) is so lame it’s not even worth it.

I miss Michigan Halloweens in our small town, even though it was invariably cold and rainy. (Some years, it even snowed on Halloween.) It was the one time of year when I felt most strongly like where we lived was a community, going outside of our home on foot to see our neighbors. It was fun. We got to know people.

I liked making costumes for the kids most years (and then my husband or I started helping our oldest make his own because he always had creative but impossible ideas.) I’d pass out candy to all the trick-or-treaters that came to our door (and there were always tons) while my husband took the kids around the neighborhood to collect their own candy.

Maybe what makes me sad is just nostalgia for when the kids were small. For as difficult as those years were in terms of our finances and my husband’s career, they were also really happy times with my children. Every day they did some new, cute, creative thing that just delighted me. My younger two were the best of friends and did everything together, almost like twins.

I’m not nostalgic for my own childhood at all, but I am nostalgic for theirs.

Then my old friend depression rears its ugly head again and tells me things that make me sadder. Like that maybe my kids will feel like their childhood was as sad as I thought mine was. Maybe my parents didn’t realize how sad my childhood was either and have memories of cute things I did, which I don’t remember.

It’s a vicious cycle. And because I know on some level that it’s lying to me, I can try to breathe through it.

Not get hysterical. Avoid people who make me feel worse. Appreciate the good things that I already have and make plans to do creative crafty stuff to distract me. Let my husband comfort me. Enjoy the hugs of my kids.

The hugs from the kids offer the one piece of hope that maybe my kids will feel differently about me than I did about my mom. I rarely hugged my mom as a teenager and she never asked for them. My kids hug me every day (my oldest does on most days I see him, which isn’t every day anymore.) My middle son does so several times every day.

I’m told that for teenage boys to voluntarily hug their moms — even in public, which they do — is pretty rare, so I’m taking that as a victory.

I know this feeling will pass because it always does. I’ve learned about the things that bring me peace and calm (and also about the things that disrupt my ability to be calm.) I have to stop my thoughts from getting carried away and recognize the cognitive distortions for what they are.

I’ve developed just rudimentary enough coping skills to get myself through until I actually do feel better.

I can resolve all I want to stay positive and that counts in terms of not allowing myself to wallow when I feel bad. Not seeking excessive attention from others when I feel bad. Drawing upon my self-care skills and trying to improve them.

But deciding that I won’t let myself wallow or talk about my problems all the time doesn’t make the depression go away, either.

It’s my cross to bear. I may never be free of it entirely, so I have to learn how to make peace with it. And for the most part I have, in my own small way. Now I just wait for it to pass.

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