DEPRESSION…AND HAPPINESS

Is it possible to be both depressed and happy?  Common sense would tend towards no.  But I’m thinking that it is possible to be both, at the same time, without even being aware of it, especially if your ‘normal’ state is some degree of depression.  I think that depression runs the gamut from mild sadness occasionally all the way to severe clinical depression.  I cannot honestly remember a time that I was not depressed, though if asked now, I would say I am happy.  What does that mean?  Being happy?  Obviously, happiness is subjective.  What makes me happy will not necessarily make you happy, and vice versa.

I can remember clearly the first time I was aware that I really didn’t want to be in this world.  I was 14 years old.  As I am thinking about this, though, I suspect that this idea occurred to me when I was far younger.  I simply do not remember.  Much of my childhood is a blur. I have very few actual memories, but knowing myself as I do, it makes sense that it would have come up long before I was 14.  So much more is known and understood these days about depression and the genetic link.  I am definitely predisposed to suffering from it.  My brother and uncle (my mother’s brother) are both diagnosed bipolar.  I believe that my grandmother, though not diagnosed, also suffered from it.  And plain old depression runs rampant in my family.  Two of my brothers have died as a result of it.  It is something I continue to struggle with, though certainly not to the degree I have in the past.

I think part of the reason that depression is still so misunderstood and seen by many as some kind of weakness, is because it is possible to live with it and function almost normally.   I did it for many years before I finally took the antidepressants I needed to get my chemicals back in balance.  I’m sure I even had times that I felt happy in the midst of my suffering.   I remember when my grandmother found out I was taking an antidepressant, she said, “You’re not depressed.”  Ha!  I told her that just because she didn’t see it did not mean it wasn’t there.   I was very good at hiding it from everyone.  I knew for years, and other than a few attempts at therapy, I did nothing about it.  My mother’s attitude was, buck up and stop feeling like you do.  Oh, okay.  Too bad I didn’t think of that.  Unfortunately, that is the attitude of a lot of people.  If you were stronger you could do it.  It does not work that way.  If your chemicals are truly out of balance, no amount of wishing, hoping, talk therapy, exercise or anything else is going to change it.  You must get the help you need.  What made me finally break down and admit I had to go on medication was being in Key West, the sun shining and I was feeling nothing but darkness.  I thought, oh crap, my therapist is right, I do have to take something.  I was always able, when I lived in Chicago, to blame it on the weather and the lack of sunshine, which were definitely contributing factors.  But when I was in sunshine and warmth and still had such negative feelings, I knew the time had come.

When I got back to Chicago, I asked my therapist for a recommendation of a psychiatrist so that I could do what needed to be done.  When I first went to him (I do not even remember his name now) and he confirmed that, indeed, I needed medication, I asked how long I would have to take it.  He told me that usually a year, maybe a little longer was considered ‘normal.’  I said, “Okay, but that’s as long as I plan to take it.  No longer.”  He agreed, and I continued with my therapist and once a month saw him as well.  All I can really say about the drugs were they accomplished what needed to be done.  I have always described the process of being on them as hateful.  I was first prescribed Prozac, which just about killed me.  Every bad side-effect that was possible to get, I got.  Finally, he changed it to Wellbutrin and though I hated it too, it was not quite as bad as the Prozac had been.  In the end I took it for 14 months, and when I was done, that was it.  Luckily, he agreed, and I went off of it.  I felt better than I had in years.  At the time, too, I asked if I would ever have to take it again.  He told me that I might, that there was no way to really know, sometimes people did and sometimes they didn’t.  There have been times when I thought maybe I should probably be on something again, but until my attack, I never seriously considered it.

If you’ve been reading this blog all along, then you already know what happened when I attempted to take something for my depression, post attack.  Because I had had such a negative experience with antidepressants, even though they did help me, I really did not want to take one if I could somehow do it more naturally.  So, Suzie, my amazing therapist, recommended St John’s Wort, which is an herb.  I thought this was a suitable compromise.  Well, just as the prozac almost killed me, the St John’s Wort almost made me kill myself by jumping off the Coronado Bridge.  Thing is, I did not realize it was the pills, I just thought I wasn’t getting better.  I did not tell anyone, including Suzie, for a couple of weeks.  I finally told her and she immediately knew it was the supplement that was causing the problem.  I had to wean off of it, but because of that and the fact that every other thing I had tried taking and had had such a bad response to, I was afraid to try anything else.  I had to white-knuckle it the rest of my therapy.  As I’ve said before, my depression after my sexual assault was situational, not clinical, and I was able to do it.

Ask me if I’m happy now, and I’ll say YES.  Some times I am happier than other times, and I still have issues that definitely challenge me, but, over all, I am happy.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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A LINGERING SADNESS

In the fall of 1973, my mother gathered my (then) 3 brothers together and said, “Since we cannot decide on what kind of car to get, do you think we could decide on what kind of baby?”  (Note – In August of 1972, my mother had married Mark Shriver, who then adopted  me and my 3 brothers.  We had had a VW bus since 1965 (actually, we were on our second one by then) and since we were now 6 people, the bus just wasn’t big enough anymore, and so the need for a new car.  I do not remember what my brothers wanted, but I thought we should get the metallic blue beetle.  Yeah, like that was big enough!  In the end, we got a Dodge Sportsman Van (long before minivans were around) and a Mercedes 450SL.  Clearly, the van was for the kids and the 450SL was for the adults.) I, of course, wanted a girl and my brothers wanted a boy.  As I would be almost 14 years old when the baby was born, I’m not really sure what good a sister would have done me.  Really, I wanted a girl so I could make her little dresses.  I got another brother.  Andrew Mark Shriver was born on 29 April 1974.

When he came home from the hospital, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  My mother had brought home a red baby!  I did not even like him until he was about 3 months old.  Then I fell in love.  He became ‘my baby.’  Although I was not his mother, I did have a huge influence on him, the main thing being I did not ‘allow’ him to have a southern accent.  Oh, no!  Since none of us had been born in Atlanta (me and my brothers in WV, my new father was born in NJ, and my mother in Missouri,) and none of us had southern accents, I decided he would not, could not, have one either.   When he started pre-school and came home saying things like, ‘ya’ll’ and ‘fixin” and ‘cut on the light,’ I knew I had to step in.  I am proud to say that I was quite successful.  So much so, that when he went away to college in Maine, when I went to his graduation, he introduced me to his friends as ‘she’s the reason I don’t have a southern accent.’  No one could believe that he had been born and spent his entire life in Georgia and did not speak like his mouth was full of cotton balls.

We went to the same private school: me, only for my senior year in 1977/78 and Andy, from 4th grade on.  Because there were so many years between us, and even Brian, who was closest in age to him was still 9 years older, most of his friends did not realize Andy had older siblings.  When people saw us together, they just assumed I was his mother, and were always surprised to find out I was his older sister.

In my mind, Andy had it all–he grew up in a family with 2 parents who were not divorced, he was, in essence, an only child, he had every advantage and he was a good kid.  He never did drugs or smoked (I do take credit for this since I told him if he ever smoked cigarettes, I would make him eat them, lit!) and he did well in school.  He went to college and actually graduated in 4 years, like you are supposed to.  After graduation, he went back to Atlanta and got a job.  He had lots of friends and seemed happy, seemed being the operative word.

Pretty much everyone in my immediate family suffers from either depression or has bipolar disorder.  I now know that I spent a good part of my life clinically depressed.  I am the only one who has every gotten help with it.  I have been in therapy various times through my life.  I took antidepressants, which were hateful, but they did what they were meant to do and got my chemicals back in balance.  I asked at the time whether I would ever have to take them again.  My doctor said maybe, but that there was no way to know for sure.  I have read and participated in all kinds of self-help seminars.  I have worked really hard to stick around, which is my way of saying I’ve worked really hard not to kill myself.  The same cannot be said for anyone else in my family.  Is it fun to deal with all the crap?  Ah, no, it’s not.  But there is something in me that makes me have to do it.  Just as after my attack.  Even my therapist said I had a choice to do it or not, but I never felt that I did.  I absolutely had to do it.

Andy was suffering from depression, but he never let anyone know.  He was also suffering from a completely ‘fixable’ heart condition.  Again, he never told anyone.  No one knew that he was, essentially, a ticking time bomb.  And that bomb went off on 14 June 2011.  He died from an aortic aneurism.  I will never forget the call I got telling me that he was dead.  How could this be?  He was 37 years old.  He was my ‘baby.’  And as it turned out, the only ‘baby’ I ever had.

Yesterday was, what should have been, his 40th birthday.  I spent the day feeling pretty crappy.  I was able to work, and while I was working, I could keep my mind off of him.  I worked until about 8:30p, and that’s when I realized that working had kept me from dwelling too much on his not being here.  I miss him more than I can say or even understand.

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ANOTHER PART OF THE (VERY LONG) PROCESS

After coming out of shock, the fun was just beginning.  Believe me, I use the term ‘fun’ very sarcastically here.  As you will read in the next several entries from my journal, my initial conversation with the D.A. that precipitated my coming out of shock only served to confuse me further when I met with her the day before a scheduled hearing to see what was what and where everything stood at that point.  Really, I was a complete mess at this point in the process.

 

17 January 2012

I may have moved from shock to anger, but now I’m feeling a lot more depressed.  I am meeting with the D.A. today.  She needs to know who I am and that I am expecting her to do her absolute best to make sure cockroach boy pays for his crimes.  Oh, I definitely have mixed feelings about it all.  On the one hand, he violently attacked me and I KNOW he’ll do it again if he is not in jail.  I also know that in jail/prison he will just learn to be a better criminal and may do even worse things when he gets out.  So what’s the answer?  That I do NOT know.  And it turns out that cockroach boy apparently has bipolar disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.  Oh well, doesn’t excuse his actions one little bit.

 

18 January 2012

Off to the fitness hearing.  Oh, joy.

 

20 January 2012

And more joy — the trial/case/whatever you want to call it is postponed/continued for another 8-10 weeks.  I don’t know the exact dates yet since the D.A. didn’t bother to call and let me know.

 

21 January 2012

6AM  Feeling very overwhelmed and depressed, like something very heavy is sitting on me. Mother’s suggestion – just don’t feel it.  Ah, okay.  If only it were that easy.  I’m feeling like I did when I was still in shock and had no control over what my body was doing.  All I could do was go along for the ride.  This is so much like when I came back from Spain and no one knew the true extent (hell, they didn’t have a clue) of how I was feeling.  No way am I telling Bill.  I feel like I have to ‘put on my happy face’ around him.  It’s not that he wouldn’t be supportive, but I’m not sure he’d understand, not really.  No one can.  I feel all alone.

 

23 January 2012

I actually feel like I am not going to make it, like this is all too much, that the ‘injury’ my brain has suffered is just one thing too many in a life full of one thing after the other, that it truly won’t get better in time, that all the EMDR is doing is stirring up all the old crap and nothing good will ever come from that.

We didn’t even get to the EMDR today.  Suzie gave me the brain assessment test again.  Turns out I’m depressed and I have excessive anxiety and I’m a little something else, which I forget.  Probably has something to do with memory.  I even saved getting my Sprinkles cupcake until this morning when I was leaving La Jolla to go to therapy.  Of course, I couldn’t eat it when I got it because I had an empty stomach and a cupcake on an empty stomach isn’t such a good idea.  So I waited until I got home and ate lunch.  Then I finally ate it.  It didn’t taste so good to me.  Maybe I’ve reached my cupcake limit.

I can feel my heart beating ad I can tell my breathing is not right.  Also, I think Emily is pretty close to dying.  I held her when I got home.  She did purr for me but she won’t eat.  I told her it’s okay if she leaves.  I also asked God to let her go to sleep and not wake up.  It’s not that I want her to die, it’s just that I cannot take her to the vet and have her put to sleep.  I don’t think she would want that.  I just need for her not to wake up.  I can just add that to my PTSD list.  Her death, I mean.

 

24 January 2012

6:30AM  I can feel myself sinking further and further into the hole.  It’s just like when I was feeling that my brain wasn’t working properly and there was nothing I could do about it.  It’s a terrible feeling.

 

25 January 2012

I knew Emily would not be alive this morning.

 

27 January 2012

Still keep looking out the window to see Emily in her chair and when I slept until 7:30 this morning, I thought, gotta get up to feed Emily.  Can’t believe she’s really gone.

 

28 January 2012

It is so weird to NOT have to get up to feed Emily.  She is my first thought each morning.

Today is my 5th day of taking SAMe.  Do I feel better?  No idea.  It’s probably too soon to have kicked in, anyway.  It is sunny today, which does help, and it’s supposed to be 80 degrees.  That really helps.

 

So as you can see, I had a lot going on.  Dealing with my 20-year-old cat dying was just another added thing I clearly did not need.  And even though it has been a year now since she died, every time I come through my back gate, I turn to look at her chair, expecting, I guess, to see her waiting there.  I did bury her in my backyard, so I can ‘visit’ her whenever I feel like it.  It’s not the same as having her here.  Not even close.

Another strange thing is happening to me.  The other day I was talking with a friend I had not seen in something like 7 or 8 months and she was asking about the sentencing and all that had transpired since we last sat down and really talked.  I had trouble remembering the details, which, of course, at the time I thought I’d never forget.  I said to her that I hoped I had written about that experience.  Turns out I didn’t.  It is funny how our minds work, whether it is to protect us or to keep us safe in some way.  That’s why I think the retelling of what happened to me and how I felt at the time is so important.  What is also nice to know, is that I was able to completely heal from this.  I think I may have mentioned before that when I read or tell my story now, it seems like I am talking about someone else.  I feel a sense of sadness and empathy, but it doesn’t feel like it’s me.  I guess that’s good.  And my EMDR really worked the way it is meant to work.  (Thanks, Susie!)