The last year or so has been quite a roller coaster ride, particularly the last few months. Last spring/summer I was dealing with debilitating, unexplained pain which had me nearly wheelchair bound. This turned out to be severe endometriosis, which culminated in extensive surgery. I felt far better immediately after surgery than I did for the months preceding.
But then not long after I was allowed to resume normal activities, I spent several months fighting a recurrent sinus infection, which turned out to be MRSA in my sinuses. I haven’t had surgery for that, but it may be necessary soon, probably before cold and flu season hits full swing.
In spring of this year my daughter was struggling with severe depression, for which she ended up medically withdrawing for the semester and spending a short stint at a mental health hospital. Then at the beginning of summer, I broke my ankle. A month later, our 15 year old dog and my grandfather, who I was extremely close to, died within a couple of days of each other.
So yeah, the family has been through the ringer. I’ve been generally crappy at savoring anything lately, and not really accomplishing much at all, to be honest. I’ve been far more inclined to become a hermit. I’ve withdrawn from people, from activities, from life. But I am acutely aware that it’s not healthy for me to continue that indefinitely.
In the process of trying to diagnose my unexplained pain, one rheumatologist said he was pretty confident I had fibromyalgia. Not long after that they found the endometriosis, so honestly I kind of dismissed the fibro diagnosis. I think I was mostly hoping that with the surgery, anything that could not be attributed to my other illnesses would be resolved. Unfortunately, that has turned out to not be the case. I am still really struggling with “swiss cheese brain” (fibro fog), pain and swelling in various muscles, and profound weakness and fatigue which doesn’t respond as well to my Addison’s medication as I would like. So it’s put me in a state of not remotely caring about much at all. I haven’t even been doing things that I normally enjoy.
Of course, those of you who have dealt with depression know that this is prone to happening to someone who is sinking into that quagmire. We don’t feel like doing things, so we stop doing things we enjoy. We don’t feel like interacting with others, so we withdraw from everyone. Naturally, this makes the situation worse. Depression is a black hole that sucks you in and spirals down further the more you cut yourself off from those things.
I’ve talked before about depression, and I’ve been on medications for it at a few different points in my life. But not one doctor has urged me to see a counselor, or even suggested that it might be a good idea. I’m not trying to diagnose or treat anyone else, but I think that tends to be a mistake. I have become more and more convinced that in most cases, if your depression is affecting your life enough that you seek medical help, then medication PLUS therapy would usually be better than just medication alone. If you can find the right therapist, of course.
So I’ve been doing just that. If there is something I can do to help myself feel better, both mentally and physically, why would I NOT try that? Honestly, why haven’t I tried it before now? It may be partly because no doctor ever suggested it. It may be that I was subconsciously buying into the cultural assumption that only REALLY messed up people see a psychiatrist. But if it can help me cope better with the unrelenting, rapid-fire garbage that life has been throwing our family lately, it’s all to the good, and I’m in with both feet.
I’ve seen my new therapist a half dozen times now. I think one of the biggest benefits for me is that I feel like I’m taking some of the pressure off my husband. I am often a physical drain on him because of my health, I am a huge financial drain on the household, and I know the stress of worrying about me doesn’t help. But unloading to an outside person periodically has seemed to at least take some of that emotional burden off him. And although I’m not sure I’ve learned anything groundbreaking about myself, I think it’s helped me process the difficult stuff, especially the grieving. Stay tuned for progress updates, and cheer for the return of the enthusiastic, optimistic person that I am at heart. I’ve missed her, and I’m sure my family and friends have as well.
And if you’re struggling with depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. No matter how alone you feel, there is someone out there who wants to help you be well: a family member, a friend, maybe even someone you haven’t met yet, in the form of a doctor, counselor, or a hotline volunteer. Always keep fighting.