I went to get my head shrunk yesterday. Not as unpleasant as I’d feared, but scary, nonetheless. And the scary part isn’t over.
My father has struggled with clinical depression his whole life. And by struggled, I mean “completely avoided treating until it was far, far too late.” I have never had a formal diagnosis, until yesterday, although I have suspected at many critical times in my adulthood that depression was a problem for me. The reason I finally made and kept my appointment with a therapist yesterday is that in the last two weeks, I’ve slid into a frightening place, a place that my therapist and my husband are trying to convince me is called a pretty severe episode of depression.
I haven’t blogged about it because I didn’t have much to say. Unfortunately, besides some familial drama with my parents (isn’t there always some kind of drama?) my life is the best its ever been. I recently married an amazingly wonderful man, who is the absolute best fit for me: he is as good as any fantasy man I could ever construct. I have a well-paying job, which, if it isn’t exactly a good fit, is in no way terribly burdensome most of the time. I have two cats and a doggy who fill me with joy every day. In fact, one is stretched the length of my left thigh right now, purring. We have friends, and free time, and a house with trees in the yard, and laughter, and passion, and… what the hell is wrong with me that I am plodding through my days like a zombie wind-up toy, winding down and about to fall off the edge of the table?
I am reaching a place I haven’t been to in about seven or eight years. I’ve been here before and its not pretty. That summer was a time in my life that was so viciously horrible that I wince to remember it. I broke up with my then-boyfriend, moved out of an idyllic roommate situation with my best friend’s family, withdrew from all my friends, quit all my jobs, and instead of working and saving for the upcoming fall semester, I crashed with an ex-boyfriend (not the recent ex, a prior one), and basically just laid on his floor all summer, zombied my way through my days and cried myself to sleep at nights. For no goddamn reason (beyond the breakup, which was not the worst of my life by any stretch of the imagination).
The frightening thing is I can feel myself tiptoeing up to that precipice again. That precipice is the one where the consequences of free-falling over the edge are no longer important, I just don’t care, anything has to be better than this. Everything has taken on a weird softness, like I can’t really reach out and burn myself on that hot pot, and that the people swirling around me at work aren’t really there and if I can hide in my cube quietly enough, doing nothing all day, it won’t matter. Things that used to fill me with motivation or desire taste like dry, unsalted crackers and I have no water to even wash them down.
Possibly even more frustrating is my deep ambivalence about everything. I am filled with opposing feelings; on the one hand, I am terrorized by my anxiety that I will be fired for my lack of productivity at work the last two weeks, on the other hand, I am nearly at the point of complete indifference if that is the end result, well, at least I’m not forced to show up and make inane small talk anymore. On the one hand, I am terrified that my husband will get sick of this and rightfully leave me, on the other, I am nearly pathologically driven to confess my deepest and darkests to him, and to reach out and plead for his help. I cried like a baby in his lap tonight, begging him not to blame me, not to desert me, to help me, to tell me its not my fault.
I have so much more to lose this time. I can’t afford to swan-dive off the edge because the relationship I have with him is the most precious thing I’ve been offered in this life. So, even though I have suspected for more than 11 years that I needed to seek therapy and possibly accept the idea that I might, too, have the depression that plagues my father still, I never had a reason good enough to pursue it until now. Because taking care of myself was not a good enough reason, but taking care of my husband and my relationship with him somehow is.
And that is why this is also about HAES and IE. I need to learn how to really take care of Mae, and she is hurting right now. If I had been concerned with taking care of Mae last August, I might have sought therapy instead of weight loss surgery. If I had been concerned with taking care of Mae as a teenager, I might have rejected the sick part of our culture that entices girls into bingeing and purging behaviors. I can’t go back and change those now, but I can start now.
I have learned, and continue to learn, so much from the FA blogs I read. Sometimes, it feels like they are speaking directly to me. The other day, this post from Shapely Prose opened my eyes to something I hadn’t even realized that is now undeniable: part of my intense suffering over the last 10 months, since my lap-band surgery, has been having to give up my bingeing and purging cold-turkey. I was using those behaviors as a way to self-medicate for my depression, and without them, I have been thrown into a very uncomfortable “detox” of sorts. I have made a half-hearted attempt to semi-replace them with one atrociously unhealthy habit, which is drinking wine when I’d rather be bingeing. I have, as far as recent personal research suggests, little to no proclivity for alcoholism, but any way you slice it, that’s a dangerously wobbly crutch. To a lesser extent, I’ve also tried to replace true binges with long, zoned-out grazings, but its also not the same. I have discovered nothing like the powerful combination of bingeing-and-purging, at least for me.
Guess what I have been trying to do, in the last couple of months, since discovering HAES and IE? I have tried to pull back from eating and drinking behaviors that I determined were coming from a place of disordered thinking, and tried to listen for true hunger. Maybe I did this too quickly, or, more likely, was fundamentally unprepared to attempt that at this stage, given my untreated clinical depression.
So, I consider it no coincidence that I am experiencing a severe depressive episode right now. Is it the true and final disappointment, knowing the band really doesn’t work for me? Is it an unveiling of how deep my bingeing and purging wounds run, now that I’ve tried to take away even the poorly-trained understudies? Is it a natural, cyclical occurrence, precipated by my recent family troubles, my wedding, my new marriage? Is it all of these?
I can’t say for sure. All I know is this is a terribly oppressive, lonely place to be. I can’t go on like this. I still am not sure that I accept the therapist’s diagnosis of major depressive disorder. I don’t want to have a broken brain, and I don’t want to have that stigma hanging over me. I don’t want to take medication that can cause (eek!) weight gain and sexual dysfunction. I don’t want to look ahead to the kind of life my father has led as my future.
My therapist told me only to try to accept it before I reject it. I need to sit with it, take it in as reality, feel myself understanding it as real. I still have the ability to reject her analysis after that. She said that the worst thing wouldn’t be to have major depressive disorder, but to let it go my whole life untreated, as my father did until recently. That would be the really bad outcome.
Also she told me that I don’t have to believe everything I think. I’m not actually sure that is possible, but I am working on it.
Ah, insomnia, my old friend, you appear to be back for an extended visit. How long are you staying? Please don’t wear out your welcome.