“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.” ― Barbara Kingsolver, The Bean Trees
Last week I went to the doctor. I wasn’t feeling well (I thought it was the flu) but I also needed a refill on my medication. I explained this to the nurse. She flipped quickly through my file and asked: Why are you depressed?
Obviously I was taken by surprise. I wasn’t expecting that question. And it isn’t the kind of question that could be answered in six words or less.
I shrugged my shoulders and laughed it off. I do that sometimes – laugh when I’m nervous or uncomfortable.
“Have you tried talking to Jesus? If you lean on him, he will save you,” she said.
The nurse went on to share how she was once in my position. And how talking to Jesus saved her and thankfully (she then knocked on wood) she didn’t have to depend on medication.
I nodded and smiled politely. When she handed me the business card for her church, I accepted it. I didn’t want to be rude. I’ve been going to my doctor for years. I like him. And I’ve known this nurse for years. She’s an older sweet Puerto Rican woman who usually makes me laugh.
But her question…left me feeling pretty crappy about myself. For a lot of reasons.
Her judgement made me reflect on everything I’ve ever felt about myself. And it made me angry that I couldn’t speak up for decision to take medication to treat my depression.
Because what I really wanted to tell her was:
Jesus can’t fix me.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety for more than half of my life. I’m 41 years old — that’s a pretty long time. Living with it for so long, I’ve learned to manage. I accepted my depression as something to cope with.
Five years ago, I started seeing a therapist. She’s made a huge impact in my life.
Last year, I started meditating with the calm app. On days when I meditate, I feel better about myself. The better I feel, the better choices I make.
Before I started meditating, I went through my adult coloring pages phase. It helped to keep me focused. It’s relaxing and it allows me to feel creative.
In January, I chose JOY as my word for the year. I wanted to commit to do only the things that bring me joy. And I’m happy to say that I make more of an effort to do more of what I enjoy.
I also declared I would go to the gym more. (Yeah…that’s for a whole other post.)
I did all of these things in hopes of conquering my depression.
But it wasn’t enough.
I felt hopeless. I felt weak.
A year into therapy, my therapist asked if I ever considered medication. At the time, I didn’t.
Medication was something for other people. I understand why people need it.
But for me, it was something else. For me, I felt taking medication was the “easy” way out. Like I had given up on trying.
These last six years, it’s gotten harder to cope. Everyday got harder. It took all of my energy to just get through a normal day. I was running on bare minimum. (Which is why I’ve barely written this year.)
I was exhausted. And it got to the point where I felt I could no longer function. It got to the point where I didn’t want to function.
I felt unfixable.
That’s when I decided it was time to try something different. That’s when I asked my doctor to prescribe an anti-depressant.
It wasn’t an easy decision for me to make. I was embarrassed asking for that kind of help. I was ashamed for feeling the way I did. But my doctor was extremely supportive and patient. He answered all of my questions (I had a lot) and addressed all my concerns.
That was six months ago. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I feel more like myself than I have in years.
You know when you’re in a foggy bathroom and the mirror is all steamy. That moment when you wipe down the mirror and you can see yourself. That’s how medication makes me feel. Like I’m no longer trapped in a foggy bathroom.
I can see things clearly now.