My brief adventures in the land of the unmedicated have led me to finally accept that depression - that ugly, cumbersome diagnosis - will be a part of me forever. It's a realization that's been a long time in coming, and it sucks. No one wants a chronic illness. Especially not one that falls into the dreaded "mental health" category.
For the longest time, I thought my depression was clearly ante-natal and post-partum, and that was it. All the indications were there, and I never poked further (mostly because I didn't want to know). Looking back now, I can clearly see that I had some depressive episodes in high school. I clearly remember reading an article years ago about the signs of depression in young children, which more or less convinced me that I had some depressive episodes as early as first grade. Given the crazy that is so very firmly wrapped around nearly every branch of my paternal family tree, none of this is terribly surprising.
Even before pregnancy, I had some undiagnosed depression, but since I was 18 and really started having depressive episodes (that weren't diagnosed because I never did anything to get them diagnosed) there was always a clear hormonal trigger: birth control pills, birth control pills, birth control shot, birth control pills, pregnancy, nursing, weaning, another freaking
unwanted unplanned pregnancy, nursing, and weaning. It's always been so easy for me to blame my body's apparent over-sensitivity to hormones for throwing me in the path of the crazy train.
By now, things aren't so simple. I weaned my last child over a year ago. I haven't had any
parasites pregnancies recently (nor do I plan to have any every again, thankyouverymuch). I avoid hormonal birth control like the plague. There's not a non-normal hormonal thing happening inside my body now. So when I got off of all of my medications and things still went awry, there's nothing to blame but my brain.
My brain, which I've always been fairly fond of, has gone and betrayed me by failing to keeps its chemicals regulated. And living life with whacked out brain chemistry is no way to live. I have lots of experience in it, and I don't care to keep repeating it for the rest of my life.
When I first went off of my meds, I felt fantastic. And I may have been having a wee bit of a hypomanic episode, but let's just ignore that. After a week or so, I felt "normal." At least, I think I did. I felt the way I imagine most people feel every day. Not flying-high happy, but also not soul-crushingly sad. I felt nice and even and middle, and I liked it. But as with every other gain I've had over the past four or five years, it only lasted until my monthly lady hormones started doing their thing. By the time all that started, I was once again firmly mired in the hopelessness and despair that were my normal state-of-being for so long. That was when I knew.
I knew this wasn't an acute, temporary disease that will go away. Not for me, anyway. Rather, it's a chronic condition because my body is deficient in making (or keeping or using or something) certain chemicals that are needed for normal mental functioning. I can work with my docs and my counselor to get it into "remission," if you will, but it's never going to go away.
And I've accepted that. I don't like it, but I've accepted that it's a fact of my life now. My brain chemistry is...off...and probably always will be. I'm taking medicine to correct it, and I probably always will be. It sucks - no one wants to be sick - but it's part of me now, just like my bum tailbone or my curly hair.
My counselor loves to tell me that "we deal in realities," and this illness is my reality. Honestly, it's not the worst chronic disease I could have ended up with. But I'd much prefer to just be healthy. Really.