It’s been almost half a year since I last wrote on Shu Flies, the longest gap on this blog, which I’ve kept for almost seven years. To be honest, 2013 was a hard year for me. My life changed significantly over the course of a few weeks in fall 2012 and I kept thinking that when the new year rolled around, everything would suddenly snap back into place and be normal again.
I found out that, like many people, I had a deeply optimistic but completely misplaced belief in the restorative effects of the Gregorian calendar. I thought that the new year would give me a new start and when it didn’t, I kept waiting for something to happen each month. What did happen was that a depressive episode that had taken root in the fall blossomed, like one of those stinking corpse flowers, in the spring.
It doesn’t matter that I’ve been dealing with major depressive disorder since I was about 14. Coping never gets easier. And it was especially difficult this time, because I had to switch my prescription to a medication that had several serious side effects. I was grateful that it alleviated my depression so I could function again, but I could not believe the impact it had on my body. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say that in order to stay on the medication I had to make several major lifestyle changes, which include eating a forest’s worth of fiber every day.
When I was 26-years-old, I guess I would have blogged through the hard times here. But now I feel like if all I have to produce is several months of whinging, than I’d rather keep it private. I’m not sure if that’s the right thing to do, because I’ve always believed in being completely honest about depression. I want to do my bit in combating stigma. But it was the right thing for me personally.
Being hospitalized as a 15-year-old after attempting to overdose was terrible. Being hospitalized again–twice–as a college junior because my depression just would not go away, no matter how hard I wished, was traumatic. As I entered my thirties, however, I realized that the stakes were higher than they have ever been before.
My depression is no longer just my story. I know now more than ever that it is also the story of the people I love. I’ve never felt my responsibility to them more acutely than I do now. I know that they love me unconditionally and will help me no matter what, but I don’t want them to have to save me because I did not take care of myself. So I focused on taking care of myself, but it took so much energy.
Sometimes I think of all the periods I’ve spent depressed–for years at a stretch when I was in my late teens and early twenties–and I mourn for the time lost. But then I remember I’ve also watched at least seven seasons of “America’s Next Top Model” (shut up, it used to be good) and I realize that what I do with my time is only worth as much meaning as I’m willing to find in it.
I know some of you found this blog by searching for information about expats with depression. As always, I want you to know that if you are taking care of yourself, you are doing the right thing, even if you don’t feel like you are making much progress.
You are being brave, even if you feel like crawling up into a little ball in a dark corner and never coming out again. I know those things sound like platitudes, but they are true. I believe in them firmly. And I say them often to other people because I know that one day, I will need to hear them repeated back to me.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with this space, but I do want to keep writing. If you are still reading, thank you.