Losing the battle with depression

The dark clouds of depression

When I was growing up, I was molested repeatedly by more then one person while growing up.  I was also sexually assaulted during that time.  My grandparents knew there was something wrong and confronted by parents (in front of me) and my parents just dismissed it.  The molesting got worse.  I never told anyone about it.  I just stayed quiet because I was afraid and scared and I knew no one would do anything about it.

To cope I never thought about what was happening.  I just focused on keeping everyone happy.  If everyone was happy, no one would hurt me anymore.  Or so I thought.  Eventually the molesting stopped but I was still focused on making people happy.  That made me likeable in the church, with my boyfriends, family, and at work.  I was there for my co-workers and customers liked me.  It also put me in a lot of bad situations in relationships, with my family, and even at work.  I was always taken advantage of.  

Even now one of the major sources of conflict that Jordon and I have is how badly I allow work to treat me.  I am a part of a strong union that protects workers rights but I keep thinking that if I keep doing what helps others, it will be okay.  The end result is that I ended up taking shifts during family holiday, over Christmas (despite having booked them off), and even on my 40th birthday party.  Part of it is that idea that I don’t deserve nice things but the other part of it is that I hate to let people down, even a company that doesn’t care at all about me or any other workers.  

When I met Jordon, we started to date, were engaged, and got married.  It was a stressful time.  My mother-in-law was dying of brain cancer and we were focused on dealing with that.  After she died that spring, things got really bad for Jordon and I.  I withdrew and started to lie to Jordon about things.  He didn’t know how to handle it and was extremely frustrated by it.  He was grieving but I wasn’t helping by putting him under a lot of stress.

We went to Waskesiu for a vacation in late August of 1998.  One night while we were chilling out in our rented cottage I told him that I had been molested as a child, for how long, and how intensive.  He was there for me through that time and took me to see a therapist.  We talked for a bit but I thought I had things under control and I was able to work through it.  I thought that being honest about being molested would allow us to fix some problems we had as a family.  Was I wrong about that.

When I told my parents they were shocked and upset and then stopped talking to me for six months.  Then my relationship went down hill from there.  It kind of reaffirmed my belief that they never valued me or cared enough to look into allegations when I was a child and they never cared that much about me as an adult if I wasn’t making everyone happy.  I wasn’t making everyone happy anymore and they cut me off.  They met Mark for one hour over a decade ago and they have never met Oliver.  I don’t even think it bothers them.

As for the depression, my mom thinks it is a reflection of my lack of faith.  I also think she thinks it is God punishing me for being molested.  I was taught growing up that good girls don’t get raped.  Well it happened to me.

To explain my disappearance from Brandon, they gave a wide variety of excuses which were all lies.  Now there are so many lies about why I stopped coming home, I can’t come home.  I was a disposable member of the family and when I didn’t play my role, I tossed aside. I joke about it and dismiss it but that was a major part of how I saw the world.  I only had value unless I was pleasing others.  When that stopped, not even the family cared.

Jordon is not like that and has always been there for me but as stupid as this is, I wake up every morning and think that Jordon and the boys are going to leave me.  It’s how my life is going to end up.  When that happens, I see myself as alone and with nothing to live for.  It seems stupid but when I picture the end of my life, it is me alone.

I start to think that I need to do anything I can do to make Jordon happy, even if that meant lying to him and keeping things from him.  So I started to lie some more but the problem is that Jordon is Jordon and sees through the lies and was hurt horribly in the process.  An intelligent person would realize what they were doing but I have always kept on doing it.

Despite wanting to make the family happy, I do anything but take care of myself.  I don’t keep up with friends, I don’t reply to emails, I don’t do anything for Jordon and the boys.  Jordon asked me once to name one time that I took the initiative to do anything with them and the answer is never.  It is always Jordon telling me that I have to be a mother.  Mark is 14 years old.  Oliver is 6.  I have never once took the initiative to do anything for them.  I know that is wrong and I know that I am a horrible mother but for some reason it never changes.  The fog never lifts.

I treat Jordon much worse.  He turned 40 this year.  I kept saying I wanted to do something special but I talk a good game and that is it.  As the day approached, I didn’t do anything.  I didn’t buy him anything.  Finally he booked a couple of nights in a hotel in Edmonton.  He was great.  He chased the boys around the mall, he bought them stuff, and found some great places to eat.  I pouted for an evening because I wanted to go to the Olive Garden where we had terrible service and food.  Despite spending an entire day in Canada’s biggest mall, I never bothered to shop for him or even look for a single gift.  I don’t know why.  At the end of the day I felt horrible but I was only focused on myself.

Jordon takes care of the big finances but I will make some payments and help out with some of the small stuff.  One of those is the lot fees and taxes for our cabin.  Jordon loves that cabin.  It has strong family connections for him and he has always wanted a place for the boys to grow up in like that.  I had to pay the lot fees and taxes.  I did not.  Jordon would ask me about it all of the time.  The last time my depression got bad, I did the same thing.  We almost lost the cabin.  It was devastating for him.  He worked all sorts of overtime to bail me out while I just pretended it didn’t happen.

I went through therapy, had my medication radically changed and promised myself that it would never happen again.  It did.  Three years later we got a letter saying our lease would not be renewed.  I had told and assured Jordon that I had made all of the payments.  I had not.  

When confronted with it, I expected Jordon to fix things but he didn’t.  He worked until 9 that night, came home, picked up Mark and they packed up our tiny cabin and said goodbye to it.  I was angry, not at myself but at Jordon for not bailing me out again.  For not taking responsibility for my depression and my lies and covering things up.  He didn’t.  He just cleaned it out.  Jordon isn’t very materialistic but he loved that cabin more than anything else that we had ever owned or ever will own.  We had the money.  I just wanted to do other things with it.  To be more fun.  To make things better and in the end it cost Jordon so much.

Our cabin is cute and fun but I never felt like I deserved to have something nice.  I was never worth it and for some horrible reason, I never think of anyone else.  It’s just all about me. Last week we went to Evening Under the Stars.  I loved the idea of going but all I heard was that I wasn’t worth it so I never got the time off and then lied to Jordon about it (who saw right through it).  I finally got something done and had a great night but then Jordon told me that we had never had a night out like this.  I had passive aggressively destroyed everything.  The next day I got the note that I hadn’t paid the cabin fees and the lease was gone.  The day after that was a note about the taxes that I told Jordon that I had paid.  I hadn’t.

There is other stuff that has alone would all justify Jordon divorcing me.  Friends have told Jordon to leave, pastors have told Jordon to leave.  Even my friends are telling him that he needs to leave.  I don’t know if he will or not.  

Everyone tells me that I need to get help.  I do what I always do.  I call my family doctor.  My family doctor changes some medication.  It may work or it may do what it did in the past, make me so tired that I can’t stay awake while I am standing at work or even stay away when we drive on Circle Drive.  It may make me violent or suicidal.  I am not justifying not getting help but this idea that seeing a doctor or a psychiatrist makes things better is a joke.  

For me it is trying me on some medication, ramping up the dosage, going for blood work to see what it does to my body, finding out it doesn’t work, being weaned off my medication. Being off my medication, trying another family of medication, ramping up the dosage, going for blood work to see what it does to my body and figuring out if that works.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  Except it takes 6 months of being in a fog.  During this time I will be put on a waiting list to see a clinical psychologist.  There is a shortage of them in Saskatchewan.  He or she may help but if I don’t assistance for 6 months they close my file so after 8 months when I need help again, I have to start to process all over again.   The only way to get immediate help is to be suicidal.   When I hear people go, “they attempted suicide as a cry for help”.  Of course it was.  It is hard to get help when you are like this.

Jordon sent me this post by Rob Delaney.

I deal with suicidal, unipolar depression and I take medication daily to treat it. Over the past seven years, I’ve had two episodes that were severe and during which I thought almost exclusively of suicide. I did not eat much and lost weight during these episodes. I couldn’t sleep at all, didn’t even think about sex, and had constant diarrhea. The first thing I did each morning was vomit. My mind played one thought over and over, which was “Kill yourself.” It was also accompanied by a constant, thrumming pain that I felt through my whole body. I describe the physical symptoms because it helps to understand that real depression isn’t just a “mood.” These two episodes were the most difficult experiences of my life, by a wide margin, and I did not know if I would make it through them. To illustrate how horrible it was, being in jail in a wheelchair with four broken limbs after the car accident that prompted me to get sober eight years ago was much, much easier and less painful. That isn’t an exxageration and I hope it helps people understand clinical depression better; I’m saying that I would rather be in jail in a wheelchair with a body that doesn’t work than experience a severe episode of depression.

To clarify the timeline, I got sober eight years ago and my first episode of depression was seven years ago. I had been in talk-therapy with a psychologist for months and was getting used to life without booze. It’s my understanding that it’s not terribly rare for someone in early sobriety to get depressed. I started to exhibit the symptoms I described above and had no idea what was happening. My psychologist urged me to see a psychiatrist, as did my family, among whom alcoholism and depression are old pals, so to speak. Everyone wanted me to go on medication, except me. I felt that it would be “weak” to do so and that I could soldier through and get a handle on it. But everything got worse and it was terrifying. Most of my thoughts were telling me to kill myself and I began fantasizing constantly about suicide. The images of my head being blown apart by a shotgun blast or me swimming out into the ocean until I got tired and drowned played over and over in my head. My whole body hurt, all the time.

Fortunately, a tiny part of me recognized my thought process as “crazy.” I knew that if anyone other than me was describing these symptoms I would lovingly handcuff them and take them to the hospital and help the shit out of them, whether they liked it or not. So I tried very hard to step out of myself and look at the situation with a modicum of objectivity and “imagine” that I was someone who deserved help.

Quite literally I thought, “I don’t think anyone else would shoot me with a shotgun, so maybe, temporarily, I’ll postpone that and try this Lexapro that everyone who knows me is recommending.”

It worked. It wasn’t magical, but it addressed some chemical issues in my brain that allowed me, gradually, to feel better and actually experience my life. I ate again, slept again, got boners when I encountered attractive women, and made normal number twos when I went to the bathroom. I didn’t and don’t feel euphoric all the time or anything. I still get angry, sad, and afraid sometimes. But I also get happy, excited, and horny too. I experience the full range of human emotions, rather than just one horrible one.

Just under eighteen months ago, after a couple of years of both my marriage and my decision to pursue comedy full-time, I experimented with a lower dose of medication and had another episode. It was as bad or worse than the first one, but thankfully I had some idea of how to deal with it. This episode drove home the knowledge that, like alchoholism, depression demands respect and attention. Whether it’s a “good” thing or a “bad” thing, I cannot pretend to know, but it exists and it can kill you dead.

I read part of the post with envy.  One of them is that his medication keeps working.  For some reason mine does not.  Also I admire that he does know how to deal with his when things get worse.  I do not.  My depression also brings along paranoid delusion with it.  That’s not fun to write about and it’s not fun to have people know.  The problem is that as soon as you say that you struggle with paranoia and delusion, people write off everything that you say or do as paranoid and delusion.  

Therapists tell me it is a result of of the childhood abuse and how I coped.  Being abused at a young age made a life long imprint in my brain.  Dr. Gabor Mate explains it better than I can but childhood trauma rewires the brain waves in order to cope.  His research is linked in the area of childhood trauma and addictions.  He wrote this in

“The hardcore drug addicts that I treat, are, without exception, people who have had extraordinarily difficult lives. The commonality is childhood abuse. These people all enter life under extremely adverse circumstances. Not only did they not get what they need for healthy development; they actually got negative circumstances of neglect. I don’t have a single female patient in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver who wasn’t sexually abused, for example, as were many of the men, or abused, neglected and abandoned serially, over and over again. That’s what sets up the brain biology of addiction. In other words, the addiction is related both psychologically, in terms of emotional pain relief, and neurobiological development to early adversity.” 

He also wrote this.

“The greatest damage done by neglect, trauma or emotional loss is not the immediate pain they inflict but the long-term distortions they induce in the way a developing child will continue to interpret the world and her situation in it. All too often these ill-conditioned implicit beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies in our lives. We create meanings from our unconscious interpretation of early events, and then we forge our present experiences from the meaning we’ve created. Unwittingly, we write the story of our future from narratives based on the past…Mindful awareness can bring into consciousness those hidden, past-based perspectives so that they no longer frame our worldview.’Choice begins the moment you disidentify from the mind and its conditioned patterns, the moment you become present…Until you reach that point, you are unconscious.’ …In present awareness we are liberated from the past.” 

I never had access to drugs (thankfully) and was smart enough to stay away from alcohol.  In trying to please everyone, I tended to avoid things that would upset others so I don’t have the drug addictions but this incredible desire to escape from everyday reality.

More Mate

“Freedom in society is gauged by our success in getting what we want and conditioned by status and power, by race, class and gender. In the internal world of the psyche, however, freedom means something very different. It is the ability to opt for our long-term physical and spiritual well-being as opposed to our immediate urges. Absent that ability, any talk of ‘free will’ or ‘choice’ becomes nearly meaningless.” 

Finally

“Much of what we do arises from automatic programming that bypasses conscious awareness and may even run contrary to our intentions, as Dr. Schwartz points out:The passive side of mental life, which is generated solely and completely by brain mechanisms, dominates the tone and tenor of our day-to-day, even our second-to-second experience. During the quotidian business of daily life, the brain does indeed operate very much as a machine does.Decisions that we may believe to be freely made can arise from unconscious emotional drives or subliminal beliefs. They can be dictated by events of which we have no recollection. The stronger a person’s automatic brain mechanisms and the weaker the parts of the brain that can impose conscious control, the less true freedom that person will be able to exercise in her life. In OCD, and in many other conditions, no matter how intelligent and well-meaning the individual, the malfunctioning brain circuitry may override rational judgment and intention. Almost any human being when overwhelmed by stress or powerful emotions, will act or react not from intention but from mechanisms that are set off deep in the brain, rather than being generated in the conscious and volitional segments of the cortex. When acting from a driven or triggered state, we are not free.” 

Other than Jordon and the boys, you have no idea how much those immediate urges (like an addict) run my life.  I don’t even think about them because they are my first response.  I need to lie, cover up, hide in case someone fines out that I am not perfect and either leaves or starts to hurt me again.  Even weirder is the amount of conflict that Jordon and I have when I am cold.  I am not talking personality but rather physically cold.  When I am cold, all life stops until I am warm.  I turn on heaters, make a hot chocolate, sit under a blanket, even if I need to be doing something else.  It takes all sorts of conflict just to get me going again.  That impulse of being cold overwhelms everything else.  It’s not normal and I am told that it is from a lack of care and nurturing when I was young.  Now my body demands to be taken care of.  Just like an addict.

I wrote on Twitter about Robin Williams suicide.  We’ll never know why he decided to end his life but I can understand it.  I look around after the events of the last week and the loss that I cost to Jordon, the boys, and the anger that friends have towards me and it makes sense.   You do all of these things to “make it better” and in the end you hurt everyone and lose everything.  When you keep hurting and disappointing those around you (real or imagined), in some twisted way, suicide makes sense.

In the last couple of months I have lied to everyone, including Jordon in my attempt to control and not deal with things.  It’s been hard because so many people lack nuance in their understanding of depression and mental illness.  He is my biggest champion and advocate and yet carries the biggest burden.  I don’t deal with it and retreat to my safety zone.  He carries the burden with him all of the time.  

A boss of his who deals with a similar situation in their life told Jordon once that it wasn’t the stress of working in a high stress job that was so bad, it was the double shift of 16 hours at home that took the toll.  I kind of resented it at the time (because it was all about me) but I think she was right.  Jordon was on 24 hour call over what chaos that I would create and it takes a big toll. As Jordon once said, “it’s pretty exhausting always looking out for signs of me lying, my depression going badly, or weird financial transactions” that are a sign that I am struggling.  Sadly instead of being more transparent I have learned to hide it better.  

I ask Jordon once in a while why he stays when he deserves much better.  He just says that he still loves me and that he made a vow, “in sickness and in health”.  He jokes that he would have preferred a higher ratio of health than sickness but a vow is a vow.  He then tells me that we’ll get through this.  I don’t deserve him and he deserves far better than me.

I don’t know if I am ever going to get better but the cost of not getting better is paid much more by Jordon, Mark, and eventually Oliver than it ever will be by the men that molested me, my family or myself.  This is not the life that I wanted and for right now, I don’t know how to change it.  So for all of the talk out there about winning the battle with depression.  I am losing my battle with depression.  It’s getting worse and I don’t know where it will end up.

For those of you who never liked me, you had good reason.  For those of you who do despite this, I appreciate you more than ever.

3 comments

  1. Duane says:

    Thanks for writing. I follow both you and Jordan on Twitter and happily buy groceries from you from time to time. It’s nice to see you and have you in this community

  2. Janice says:

    Wendy, you should know that’s not how you look from the outside. When I talk to you (which hadn’t happened all that often but still) my impression is of this really quick, clear-eyed wit. I don’t know if you realize how your view of the world makes me and others laugh. You seem friendly, not a poser but honest.

    I’ve had low points but never what you have dealt with. The fact that you’re still here, still being an engaged citizen in addition to being a wife and mom tells me you have a great strength and a great will.

    I have a friend who is finally, finally getting progress and hope after a 25 year illness (with an alphabet of diagnoses). I hope you keep digging deep and keep on until you find something that helps bring back the joy in life.

    Janice

  3. Peter says:

    Hi Wendy – you don’t know me, but I know you. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for many years now. I have been on and off medication and had many high’s and low’s. Like you, I have the strong support of a spouse who by all accounts should have left me by now. And also like you, if you ever met me, you would never guess I have these problems. I am now in a good spot, but have no idea how long this will last. I am on medication, I work out daily, and spend as much time with my family as I can. I also make sure I get a good amount of sleep (8 hours or so). As soon as I slip up on any of those things, I hit the skids. For me, it is the magical solution. I hope you find yours.

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