This week, I have had lots of people reach out to me and ask: how do you know if you are depressed or maybe just have the blues? Let me first say that I am not a doctor. If you think you or someone you love may be suffering from depression, please seek medical attention.
After much thought, I have decided that rather than rework the wheel, I will just reuse something I have already written that fits the bill. Below is an explanation of what MY depression looked like. Each person suffers in slightly different ways. When it doubt: seek help.
Concentration Problems: People with depression have trouble focusing, making decisions or remembering things. If you know me, you know that I menu plan. I plan 6 days of menus, shop for those ingredients and stick to them. I simply could not make a menu. I couldn’t think of what I used to cook for my family on a daily basis. Seriously. I could not do it.
Sleep Changes: People with depression can have either insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping). Most days, I am up by 5:15 getting Dave’s breakfast made, lunch packed and seeing him off to work. About the time Dave leaves I get Patton up for school and continue with my day. Unfortunately, I suffered from insomnia. I would be exhausted by 8:30, head up to bed and be unable to sleep. So, I would pull out my Kindle to read or my iPhone to watch Netflix. Either way, I would normally be awake until midnight or later. After a few days of this, I would crash and go back to sleep once Patton got on the bus and sleep until well after noon. I would lie to my family and say I had a headache, because the alternative was admitting my depression and I wasn’t able to do that yet.
Guilt: People with severe depression may feel helpless, view their depression as a weakness and be very self-critical. Yes, yes, YES! Everything in this house that went wrong, was a direct reflection of me. Patton isn’t doing well in school: I should have been more on top of his grades, pushed him harder, and monitored him more closely. No Christmas cards? Totally my fault. Messy house? Yep, couldn’t make myself do anything to fix it. And of course I saw my depression as a weakness—that’s why I left it untreated for so long.
Loss of interest in daily activities. People with depression have little or no interest in former hobbies, social activities or sex. They lose their ability to feel joy and pleasure. This is the one that affected me the most. Looking back I see so many times that should have tipped me off. I love going to the gym. In my mind, I knew that the endorphins released from a great work out would have made me feel better, but every time a friend invited me to TRX, I had an excuse why I couldn’t go. Eventually she stopped asking.
With Dave’s job, there are social activities that we are expected to attend, and I did. I put on a happy face and drank, laughed and seemed to have a good time. But it was so exhausting. I would sleep for hours and hours after an event because it was so exhausting to me. Or maybe I was hung-over, because drinking excessively (another sign of the big D) was another way to cope with being there.
Loss of energy. People with depression feel fatigued, sluggish and physically drained. Even small tasks are exhausting and take much longer to complete. Here’s the part where everything starts running together. I have no energy and getting dressed seems like an accomplishment most days, so the idea of a Christmas party or social event. UGH. I have trouble concentrating and no energy so cooking and cleaning were nearly impossible. I remember taking some clothes out of the dryer and realizing that I felt like I was moving in slow motion. It seemed like folding those towels was never going to end.
Anger or irritability. People with depression often feel agitated or restless. Their tolerance is low, tempers are short and everything (and everyone) gets on your very last nerve. Not only was I hypercritical of myself, but those around me as well. This was a big one for me and I am having trouble narrowing them down to pick one to talk about.
But there were two defining moments for me. The first came from my oldest, McKinley. I don’t really remember what the circumstance was but he said “Gosh Mom, you are the angriest person I know!” Ouch. That hurt. After that, I spoke to Dave about what McKinley had said wondered aloud if maybe I should go back on my medication. He responded with: “I don’t think that’s true, babe”. Apparently denial runs deep in our family. The final straw occurred in my Safe Haven since moving here: the Wood Shop. Dave and I had spent days working on a project and there was a problem with a cut. I was feeling like nothing I did was good enough, like Dave questioned everything I said and all of my ideas were cast aside. Things got a little out of hand. Have you ever seen the show “Scandal”? Ya know those parts when Millie goes absolutely crazy psycho yelling at Fitz? Well that’s what I did. We didn’t speak for an entire day following that.
This last part is going to be tough for my editor to read.
Suicidal thoughts. People suffering from depression may have thoughts of harming themselves. For me, it wasn’t about getting Dave’s gun and shooting myself or running my car into a tree. It was more like…what would happen if I took a Percocet and an Oxycodone? What if I added a few shots of vodka with it? How about an Ambien too? That was the day I decided to get help.
I really can’t explain how sad it makes me to read this excerpt from my original post admitting that I was sick. But at the same time, I am so proud of how far I have come in the last 9 months.
If you think you are suffering from depression, here is a quick online assessment that could be your first step in the right direction. Click here to get started.
I know I say this every week, but I am going to continue to say it over and over and over. Please reach out. You don’t have to do this alone.
~Tonyia Doyle is a Navy Spouse, mom to 2 handsome sons, and back with another round in her blog series, Tonyia: My Real Life. She continues to blog as a way of talking about her own struggles with depression and other mental health issues. Through therapy and medication, she is working towards her own healing and has chosen to again share her real life with MSoS readers in hopes of raising mental health awareness. Please join her over the next six weeks as she shares her continuing journey.