Most people who know me, here in the virtual world and in the real world, don’t realize how I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety attacks in my life. Why? Because I don’t talk about it. I put on my happy face or my face that says, “don’t come near me” and go about my life.
I’ve touched on it briefly in one or two past posts, that’s about it. I’ve seen more and more blogs with the title ‘Blogging for Mental Health’ or something similar. A lot of my blogging buddies are writing posts on their battles with different mental health issues.
Now it’s time for me to do the same. If I can help just one person, then I’ve done a good thing. I’ve kept quiet about my issues because that is how I was raised and taught. You have a problem? Don’t tell. You were abused? Don’t tell. You are depressed? Don’t tell. You can’t step a foot out the front door because it terrifies you? Don’t tell. Make up excuses for not leaving the house for days at a time, weeks at a time. Sometimes, months at a time.
I’ve never been professionally diagnosed with these mental health issues. I’ve never talked to a therapist, psychologist, or any other medical person about these things. I’ve read though, I’ve read books, journals, and anything else I could find about depression and anxiety attacks.
I’ve gone through months and even more than a year inside a deep dark hole, where all I wanted was my life to end. I would say that’s depression. I fight it every single day that I breathe. That deep dark hole is a terrifying place to be.
I’ve gone months and more without stepping foot outside my front door. I would go to the door, open the door and be terrified. I was positive that if I walked outside something bad would happen to me. I would then slam the door shut and make sure it was locked, then I would go and check all the windows and other doors in the house to make sure they were locked.
Then I would sit down with my fur babies and cry. Because deep down I knew it was wrong to feel this way.
I managed, by myself to crawl out of that deep dark hole of depression and stay out. It’s a fight, but I do it daily. I managed to walk out my front door and rejoice in the sunlight on my face. I did it without professional help. It’s not something I would recommend. I did it without drugs or therapy, but again, not something I recommend. It’s hard. It’s damn near impossible.
Most days I wonder if I have the strength to keep doing it.
Why did I decide to ‘come out’? It’s time. It’s time to help some others if I can. It’s time to quit being afraid of telling.
When I saw the blog posts going up around me and then checked out Blog For Mental Health 2015, I knew it was time I started talking about my mental health too. So during this year I will be writing more posts on my depression and anxiety attacks and how I overcome them. How I can keep smiling real smiles and how I can walk out my front door without fear.
I will also be talking about the times I can’t overcome the darkness or the fear.
“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2015 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
Tell us about a situation where you’d hoped against all hope, where the odds were completely stacked against you, yet you triumphed. Be sure to describe your situation in full detail. Tell us all about your triumph in all its glory.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us LONGSHOT.
Years ago, when I was married to my ex, I had gone to a doctor because I had a small red spot under my chin that itched but wouldn’t go away. It had been there for more than six months and my Mother-in-law thought I should have it checked out when I told her about it.
So she made an appointment with my father in laws dermatologist. My MIL was on a kick about spots on faces as my FIL had small spots on his face that had to be cut out with a laser. So she insisted I go and see what the spot was about.
The doctor did a biopsy of the spot and a few weeks after that he called me to come see him. He told me bluntly, I had cancer. I almost hit the floor. I remember things becoming blurry, distant. I could hear the doctors and my mother in law’s voice, but nothing much registered.
All I could think about was….. I had Cancer. I can’t have cancer! That’s what my mind shouted while I fought the dizziness. No way I had cancer!
He said I had a rare form of lung cancer, the beginning stages. I was told that it rarely showed up on the outer body, but did in some rare cases, the doctor told me I was lucky it did show up on the outside of my body, as usual, with this type of lung cancer people didn’t know they had till it was almost too late. I just sat there stunned. Did he just say I was lucky?! What the hell kind of thing is that to say to someone you just told had cancer!
I asked him about treatment. He said at this stage the treatment that is usually done was steroid shots through the chest cavity into the lungs. I looked at him as if he had lost his mind. Shots through the chest into the lungs? Wouldn’t that hurt? Yes, he told me it hurt, but it was the best treatment.
I know we talked more about the treatments, making appointments with specialists and everything else that goes with that. But frankly, I don’t remember much of that. I was trying my best to keep it all together and not go running, wailing out of the room.
I had cancer. Now what? My ex and I had no insurance. How were we going to pay for it? Hell, how would I live through the damn treatments! I was in shock. The doctor told me to make an appointment with a cancer specialist as soon as possible. I said sure.
My mother-in-law took me home. I know she was shaken and scared for me, but I had no reassurance to give her. I was all ready slipping into denial. She asked if she should stay with me and I told her no, that I would be fine. The ex wasn’t home, of course, and I had no way to contact him. Didn’t want to at the time anyway. I needed some time alone to process the information that I had cancer.
I went in the house and sat at the kitchen table and cried my heart out. I was certain I was going to die.I felt more alone at that time than I ever did before or after in my life. I cried for hours that day alone, except for my dogs who sat around me trying to comfort me. I decided that I wasn’t going to call my family. I hadn’t talked to them in several years and I was not going to call them with the news I had cancer. I would deal with it alone.
I was used to dealing with things alone.
The ex finally came home but by then I had cried myself out and was calm. I told him what the doctor had said. The first words out of his mouth after I told him were, how would we pay for treatments.
I know it was the first thing that came into my mind, but it sounded pretty cold coming from him. That was pretty much all he ever said on the subject. The ex was not one for talking about unpleasant things, unless it was about himself.So just like he never talked about the four miscarriages, I had the preceding years, he never brought up the cancer. Ever. So I dealt with it alone. If you want to call it dealing. I ignored it. I just simply ignored it. I got phone calls from my mother-in-law and the doctor and ignored them both.
Now most anyone would have prayed. I didn’t pray, not exactly. I am not a religious person. I talked to my higher powers, the ones I do believe in. I talked to my animals. I told myself the doctor made a mistake, that I didn’t have cancer. I told myself the doctor was an idiot and that I was not going to take shots through my chest into my lungs. Hell, the cure sounded worse than the disease.
I also stopped smoking. I had been smoking on and off for years. I stopped the same day the doctor told me I had cancer. I stopped cold turkey.
Then I sunk into a black hole. A black hole of depression.
I started having anxiety attacks if I tried to go outside. I started having delusions about the phone being tapped, so I stopped talking on the phone. I started having thoughts that the ex was trying to poison me, so I only ate things I made. Which looking back was crazy, because if the ex wanted to poison me he could have poisoned anything in the refrigerator. But when one is sinking into that black hole thoughts don’t make much sense anyway.
I either didn’t sleep for days, or that’s all I did was sleep. It went back and forth, sometimes in the same week. I would sit at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and just space out. I would suddenly come out of it and realize I had been sitting there for hours. I would cry at odd moments. I would just start crying and couldn’t stop. I didn’t care about anything except my dogs. I kept enough sanity to feed my dogs and let them out in the backyard.
I would unlock the front door and then open it up a crack. Just enough to peep out and look at the front yard. Of course, no one was around. We barely got any traffic on our street. The block was full of houses that belonged to cops. Even so, I could not step foot out the door. I would start to breathe hard, my heart would race and I would have to slam the door shut and lock it again.
Between that hate of my ex, who ignored me and stayed away from home more and more, and the anger that was starting to boil inside of me I was determined to climb out of that black hole and stay out. So I struggled. I made myself do things I couldn’t months before. I forced myself to take a shower every day and get dressed. Every small step felt like I was walking through quicksand. But every morning I would get up and force myself to do things. I would push my fears aside and do it.
I finally moved my stuff into the extra bedroom. I told the ex that I didn’t want to disturb his sleep when I got up all hours of the night. The truth was, I didn’t want to be near him, especially in bed where he expected sex. He wasn’t getting any sex, at least not from me. He had girlfriends for that.
I kept telling myself I wasn’t going to die, then in the next breath I would tell myself if I died the pain would stop. Years before I had contemplated suicide and didn’t do it. I promised myself that day that no matter how bad things got I wouldn’t take my own life. I kept that promise, even after sinking in that black hole I kept that promise to myself.
I was in that dark hole for almost 2 years. Then I started my long climb out of the hole. What got me climbing out was that I didn’t die. Sounds crazy, I know. But in the beginning I thought I had cancer and was going to die. I didn’t die. I didn’t even get sick. Hell, I didn’t even catch a cold those 2 years. My brain took hold of that thought, that I didn’t die and wouldn’t let go.
My reasoning was if I hadn’t died by then of cancer I didn’t have cancer. I wasn’t going to die of cancer. Period. And if I wasn’t going to die of cancer I needed to get my ass out of that black hole. I needed to crawl my way out and get on with the business of living.
I got angry. I got angry with myself and I got angry with that doctor. I believe to this day, that is what saved me from living permanently in that black hole. It would take me another year or more to finally get out. A long year of fighting unreasonable fears.
Every day was a challenge. The first time in over a year that I managed to go out in the backyard with my dogs I cried. They were tears of joy. They were tears of achievement. I did it! Next I tackled the mailbox. It took me a few more months, but one morning I opened that front door, took a deep breath and walked out into the sunshine.
It wasn’t easy. I was terrified, but I kept telling myself that no one was going to hurt me. I got to the end of the driveway and opened the mailbox, grabbed the mail and ran back to the house. I did it! I might be breathing hard from running and fright, but I did it! The dogs danced around me as I laughed and threw the mail in the air! I don’t think I ever felt such joy before. It was that day I knew I would make it. I knew I would win.
Truthfully, I don’t know for certain I had cancer, at least the doctor was convinced I did. But I was so terrified of the ‘cure’ there was no way in hell I was going through that. Or, I never had cancer, the doctor had it wrong and my fear of needles was so strong at that time I would have rather died than go through the cure. I may never know the true answer. Unless one believes in miracles than I never had cancer and the doctor got it wrong, because here I sit today many years later.
So I fought two battles and won. Against all odds. Without any professional help. I beat cancer (if indeed I had it) and I beat depression. The odds were certainly stacked against me. But I beat them down, I climbed over them, I struggled on.