*Warning: this post may contain triggers for self-harm and material about depression which may be upsetting. Please stay safe and steer clear of this post if you have these triggers.*
January 31: “How do you see and define yourself?
“I see a broken woman with tons of health problems. I see a woman who can’t bear a child for her husband. I see a woman who thinks she isn’t really worth much of anything that the world might be better off without. I see a woman who is so depressed that she can’t even do the things she used to love, like read a book. I see a woman who would rather be alone and depressed than interact with people. I hope that wasn’t supposed to be a happy prompt.”
February 3: “It would be wonderful to just die and not have to worry about any of this anymore. Not that I would take my life, because I wouldn’t. But if I could just somehow die all of a sudden, I think everyone would be much better off.
“I can’t see any purpose for myself right now. Nothing I do makes a damn bit of difference in anyone’s lives…Maybe if I’m lucky, I have a brain tumor. Although the chances of that are basically zero. I’m sure these headaches are just due to significant stress…
“This can’t be all life is. This can’t be what my life has turned in to. How did I become this person? This person who cuts herself and wishes she would die…Why have I turned into this?”
What you just read are excerpts from my personal journals. I wrote a lot (and still do) during my really hard times, so there’s plenty of material to demonstrate what it’s like to be depressed. I will use a lot of personal quotes in this post because I believe sometimes the words just speak for themselves.
If you’ve read any number of my blog posts, you know that I have a lot going on in the chronic illness department. A recent survey has shown that for endometriosis alone, approximately 25% of women surveyed in the UK with the disease have contemplated suicide as a result of the condition. So that disease in and of itself is enough to make someone depressed. To read about my battle with endometriosis, you can check it out in part one, part two, and part three.
But I didn’t spiral down the rabbit hole of depression just due to endometriosis. I likely have scar tissue from my last surgery that causes me constant pain that has become severe over the past year. And it is well known that chronic pain can contribute to depression. So while chronic pain is not the sole cause of my depression, I do think it overall contributes.
As will be related in future blog posts, my husband David and I are struggling with infertility. There’s nothing I want more in life than to be a mommy. I couldn’t care less about the number or gender of children we have or if we are called to be the parents of children with special needs. We welcome any challenge with open arms and grateful hearts.
However, it was the constant failure of fertility treatments about which my OB/GYN had said last September, “Don’t worry, this will work.” (In hindsight, probably something a physician should never say…) By the end of December, I was in a very bad place emotionally and psychologically. At first I thought it was just because of the Clomid…
…but when the sadness persisted I began to have thoughts of cutting myself. I realized perhaps it was time to start taking an antidepressant. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get in to see my doctor until March. Upon attempting to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist, I was told none of them were taking any new patients. Ok then? (Oh, the sad realities of healthcare these days, even in some of the country’s best healthcare systems.) I figured I would just tough it out and make myself feel better.
But then one night, I couldn’t handle the emotional pain and I cut. I just wanted to feel physical pain to distract me from the emotional pain that was strangling me. The next day, I went to the walk-in employee behavioral health clinic at work. David was able to accompany me. After filling out the clinically validated questionnaires, it was determined that I had major depressive disorder (MDD) and severe anxiety. Based on that, I was started on Zoloft. Unfortunately, I knew it could take up to 8 weeks to start working, but at least I was on the right path to getting better.
It was a long road to euthymia (that fancy term doctors use that means you’re not depressed.) When we came to the realization in January that this particular fertility treatment was not going to work and we were going to have to see an infertility specialist, I lamented:
January 8: “I’m so depressed. I can’t handle this. Failure over and over again when everyone else is popping out babies with no problem. It’s very difficult to deal with. I hate myself.”
I began to have migraines almost daily that led to missing a whole lot of shifts at work in January and February. The stress of missing work all the time and not knowing what was causing my migraines made my depression even worse. I was still cutting and at one point completely lost myself and carved the words BROKEN, LOSER, and FAILURE into my arm with a box cutter. I was in a bad place and not coming around any time soon.
February 2: “I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to talk about anything. I don’t want to listen to music. I don’t want to watch TV. I don’t want to read. I will literally just sit and stare at a wall and become unresponsive to anything. I communicate via shrugs or head shakes. Because I don’t care what’s going on around me and I don’t want to care.”
After some visits to the emergency room and appointments with numerous doctors, the reason for my migraines was discovered: I had a benign brain tumor, specifically a prolactinoma, which was also contributing in a major way to my infertility. Briefly uplifted now that we had some real answers, my outlook started to improve. My brain tumor could be easily treated with oral medication, the tumor would shrink, I would get pregnant, and everything would work out just as planned!
There are two medications that can be used to treat prolactinomas. (Surgery is rarely curative because the tumors have a tendency to grow back). Both medications have unpleasant side effects, and after 3 months of treatment trying both, I learned that unfortunately I am one of those patients who can’t tolerate either medication. I missed a great deal of work over the past few months due to these side effects, including vertigo, nausea, and dizziness. I still cannot return to work until I have safely tapered off the medication and the vertigo has resolved.
June 26: “How is my mental health doing with all of this? Probably the worst it’s been since January, when the Zoloft was still trying to kick in. I’ve had so many thoughts of wanting to cut in the last 24 hours. I want so badly to carve the world USELESS somewhere on my body. But I know I shouldn’t. Especially with my surgery coming up. Otherwise I wouldn’t care.”
I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon later this week to determine if I am a surgical candidate, which I somehow doubt I am. But right now I face the possibly of my tumor growing back, the migraines returning, not being able to get pregnant, and going through all of this all over again. Not to mention the possibility of losing my job if I continue to not be able to work.
So am I in a happy place right now? Am I cured of my depression? Is the light at the end of the tunnel on? (Well, maybe, but I think it’s the light of an oncoming train…) But no. I’m two feet in the rabbit hole and ready to fall in again.