Updated: Dec 17, 2018
"The days that break you are the days that make you."
Or they just make you want to take a big ol nap! Long before I was "officially" diagnosed with depression, I would call them "Basement Days". They were the days you wanted nothing more than to go into the basement, where there was no natural light and just hide out. Waste the day away.
So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Which came first, the hangover or the depression? Hard to say. But what I do know, three years without a hangover and I still experience basement days.
Depression is tricky. Again, like so many other things today, there is that stigma attached. I think the stigma with depression isn't as sticky as it with other areas of mental health, addiction for example. The stigma associated with addiction is stuck together or stuck to the person with gorilla glue. Depression, not so much, the stigma is stuck together with more of a scotch tape. It's there, but it can be shrugged off rather easily.
Still, it is tricky - look at this definition for depression
"A mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life."
The reason I say it's tricky is because, you read that definition and think, that's not me. Hell no, I am not persistently depressed, I just have a bad day now and again - there is no way I should ever be diagnosed as depressed or clinical depression. Even though I could shrug off that scotch tape stigma, at that time in my life, it felt stronger than gorilla glue.
That was me. 100%. For sure, it suited me perfectly. Let's add a dash of denial and were all set. I went on about my business thinking basement days were a normal occurrence, happened to everyone, nothing to see here, business as usual, keep moving along. I was not "clinically depressed".
Along with my basement days, medication was a biggie. I was against any form of medication, I would barely take an Advil. So when it came to a medication that would re-balance the chemicals in my brain, I wouldn't even think twice about it. This would receive a resounding Hell to the No! I could push through, I would get through this on my own. Little did I realize, I was already self-medicating with alcohol and I was sincerely clueless to the true pro's and con's of antidepressant medication.
Almost immediately after I got sick I was put on antidepressants and it couldn't have worked out more beautifully. There was so much going, there were so many distractions, so many procedures, so many doctors, so many nurses, so many diagnoses and so many medications - it was almost as if the Lexapro was just stuck in with the mix. By the time I really realized I was on an antidepressant, I had been taking it for months, literally. Why stop now? And little did I know how very much I needed it.
Three years later - where am I now? I am still on 20 mg of Lexapro, my dose has not changed and I feel amazing being on the medication. I often ask myself the question, what if I would have done this years ago? Would the basement days stayed in check and not gotten away from me as they did? There is absolutely no point in going down that path because we will never have those answers.
This is where I tend to ask myself so many of the chicken & egg type questions, which came first? Depression or Anxiety? Depression or Addiction? Anxiety or Addiction? I could go on for days. Bottom line, these are all interconnected. Dual Diagnosis. Co-occurring Disorders. Substance Induced Disorders. Downward Spiral. I'm not saying one way or the other. It's a very personal decision, but I can speak from experience the sticky little scotch tape stigma with depression and treatment is nothing compared to needlessly suffering .
I was sharing with my therapist all about the positive benefits I've experienced from being on medication and she quietly reminded me, "you are putting in the work, the medication can only do so much" and she's right! Y'all remember a basement day once and a while is A-OK, it's called self-care, a mental-health day, caring for yourself, self-help, personal care. You do you! Just remember to keep pushing through!
This has been weighing on me, so I'm writing just a little follow-up a few days later.
Am I happy all the time? Hell no - this is not a wonder drug, magic pill. There is a chemical imbalance in your brain and this medication helps to level it off.
Another chicken or egg scenario - which came first? Do I feel better and have a better outlook or approach to life because I am on Lexapro and it's leveled off - evened me out? Or is it because I am sober or is it because I was given a new lease on life? You know what I think, it's a combination of all those things and more. I am the one doing the heavy lifting here, living my life with this outlook and approach and I am not willing to stop taking Lexapro to see. Right now it works. So I am going to keep pushing through.