I think I had a major depressive episode, defined as “a period characterized by symptoms of major depressive disorder: primarily depressed mood for two weeks or more, and loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, accompanied by other symptoms such as feeling emptiness, hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, guilt” per google. Yup, definitely did. It truly all started when I couldn’t taste and I felt like I was falling through the cracks of healthcare (as I am sure many do) and I was left to fend off this cold on my own. Then, it was my 29th birthday. Usually my birthday is a momentous occasion, celebrated by multiple dinners, different groups of people and lots of delicious food. This year, I stayed in bed all day trying to “rest up” for our big night out to The Bernard’s Inn, a place I have been wanting to go for 3 years. However, I couldn’t taste a GD thing. I was in full depression mode at this point. Was I really “resting up” for dinner or was I so depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed? I am honestly not sure, but most likely the latter.
When I look back on it now, it felt like I was surrounded by clouds and I couldn’t get them to go away and it was like a vicious cycle. I was feeling guilt for feeling like this and knew I should get up and be productive but, just couldn’t. I couldn’t taste for 9+ days, which, really affected me in a way that maybe it wouldn’t others, but I truly love food so much. I stepped down from my management position a few months ago to simplify my life, however, simplicity does not fend well in my life. Sickness, lack of concern by doctors, lack of taste and missing the hustle and bustle of my previous position really caused this. OH, OH, OH, AND I GO TO RADIATION EVERY FUCKING DAY. There is that, don’t forget. I also haven’t been working out regularly due to exhaustion plus my skin is starting to become itchy and it will peel soon and they say you should not sweat. Sigh.
I eventually got an antibiotic from the NP at MSK and thought, maybe this will help. This was the same day I made the appointment with the psychiatrist, for October 16. Yeah.
On Monday, August 21, I told myself I had to get my life together, because honestly, no one else is going to do it for you (Rach agrees). I have had this journal for the past few months. I have gone in and out of using it, but it really makes you think. You wake up each morning and write down 3 things you are grateful for, 3 things that would make today great and then a daily affirmation. At night, you write down 3 amazing things that happened that day and how could the day have been any better. It’s all about being aware of your life and surroundings, which is actually harder than it seems for some people. Hi, me.
Throughout the day on Monday, my taste was really coming back, HALLELUJAH! In the early morning, I talked to my boss who said, I need you, when can you take your old position? HALLELUJAH!! It was my last full week of radiation, HALLELUJAH AGAIN. By the afternoon, my spirits were lifted, and the clouds were really starting to dissipate. I was turning into myself again.
Is it really as easy as that though? No, it’s not, but it sure does help. I have anxiety and depression, it’s a fact. I can get anxious at the drop of the hat for no reason. I remember when I started my first job, I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a patient. I would be crying to my mom, going in on weekends, doing EXTRA because I could not stop thinking about it. Eventually, as I became more confident with my job, I felt better. This happened when I started my management position. Ask Kim (no don’t), I was A-N-X-I-O-U-S. Before we lived together, there was one night I was at work until midnight, and I called him on the way home saying I needed to be with him. For about two weeks straight I slept at his house because I literally could not fall asleep without him. That’s not normal. He gave me six months at the job to get it together otherwise I would have to rethink it. After a couple months, I felt more confident and fell in love with the job. The craziness, the issues I needed to solve, the abundance of new people I was meeting, it was amazing. This is going to sound weird, but it’s like the more craziness I have in my life, that I am ABLE to control, the better I feel. It fills my head and doesn’t allow me go off on a tangent of over thinking something else that is so minuscule.
Here’s the honest truth, we as a country, don’t talk about mental health enough. Be it depression, anxiety, or anything in between. Life can be extremely difficult and people don’t know how to ask for help and can get stuck in those clouds for much longer than 5 days. Be aware of those around you, your friends, family, and coworkers.
A few tips that I know help me, and maybe can help you in the future.
- Workout. Endorphins are real. I remember when I worked out in the morning before work 3-4 days a week, I NEVER felt better. Also, everything I read about life after cancer says WORKOUT REGULARLY.
- Do what you love. I know that some people have a job and some people have a career and there is nothing wrong with one or the other. However, if you are someone who has a career and are not happy, you need to move on. If it means changing total direction, then do it. It’s never too late.
- Stay organized. Last week I went to Home Goods and got a new planner. I started filling it out, making lists, on lists, on lists, on lists and I felt really good. My life is fairly busy and I have so many little things to do between paying medical bills, mailing out thank you cards, making doctor, dentists, any other appointments you can think of. You need a space to write things down, otherwise you may forget.
- Eat healthy. When you eat a well balanced diet; fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, protein, you will feel better. If you eat high sugar food, fried foods, salty foods, an abundance of alcohol, you will feel it, and you won’t feel good. You are what you eat isn’t just a stupid saying, it’s real.
- Surround yourself with people that make you happy. This is one thing I have under control at all times. If you don’t help me grow and flourish, I will not be around you. Maybe it can come off as being cold sometimes, but that’s just the way it is.
Life will have its ups and downs, it will not always be perfect but, it doesn’t have to be that hard.