Laying in bed on a Sunday night, I had no desire to do anything. I didn’t even want to lay there, but it was all I could do.
I told Kevin I didn’t know if I was going to go to practice the next day. I had no excuse to miss it, no event going on, no demands at work. I just didn’t want to go. I wasn’t even mad, which I had been for quite sometime. I wasn’t avoiding practice this time to avoid people. I had absolutely no desire to leave the house, to put on skates, much less move from the bed.
That night, Kevin said, “I think you’re depressed and should call your doctor.”
I think your depressed.
It had been a phrase that I felt like I was running from all my life. A label I felt I should have but was never able to acknowledge.
I cried. I cried a lot. I didn’t want something to be wrong with me. I didn’t want to have to take medication. I didn’t want to be broken. I didn’t want to be crazy. I didn’t want to be like my mom. I didn’t want to be like my family.
Growing up, my mom struggled with her own mental illnesses and other battles. She had her good days, but she also had her bad. I remember her carrying a list of all her prescriptions so her various doctors could try to balance them all out. When I was in high school, they made a mistake and a bad cocktail of medication led to an issue my mom never should have had. She was never the same person after that and our family as a whole changed.
I didn’t want to become my mom. I didn’t want medication to ruin me. I didn’t want to loss who I was (regardless of if I knew who I was or not).
Mental illness is something that others in my family have struggled with in various capacities. With the crippling fear of stumbling down the path my mom had taken, there was the fear of taking their trails as well. What if I did need medication and didn’t stay on it? What if everyone was continually worried that I might take my own life? What if I had been drinking to repress pain? Was I going to be the next focal point of someones complaints? Would I become the annoyance to my family that it felt like others had been before me?
I couldn’t really be depressed, it had to just be the birth control. My tracker must have actually been making me crazy. That rational made it seem better that night. I agreed to call the doctor the next day and was able to fall asleep under the guise that everything would be alright, that the doctors would tell me this was normal with the tracker and that it would all get better soon.
The next day I woke up feeling better and came up with every reason there was to not call the doctor. I convinced myself that the weekend had been a one-off situation. But, I had promised Kevin I would call and in the pit of my stomach, guilt swelled at the thought of breaking that promise to him.
My day began early with the 4:15 am alarm telling me it was time to get up for work. My stomach twisted in knots, leaving an nauseated feeling behind. “It must be time for something to change,” I thought after arriving at work and heading down to get my morning water. “This is your body telling you it can’t take this any more. You can’t keep getting up at 4 am, working all day, playing derby and getting a few hours of sleep… somethings gotta give.”
I decided calling at work wasn’t a good idea because I didn’t want anyone to overhear my call and was worried I would get as upset as I had the night before. “Don’t be silly,” I would tell myself, “You are sure they are going to tell you this is a normal part of the birth control.”
I thought about calling when I got to my car, but the fear of being overwhelmed with emotion when I still had to drive home also didn’t seem like a good idea.
Hey babe, I am heading home now. Will call the doctor when I get there.
If I put it in writing, told him I would do it, I would have to, so I did.
That afternoon I must have foreseen how crippling this call could be, I sent this message to one of our coaches giving them a heads up I might be MIA…
Hey, I know you are in school, so no need to rush to reply to this one. I wanted to reach out to you to let you know that I have ever intention of coming to practice tonight, but I think I am currently experiencing side effect from my birth control that is making me somewhat of an emotional wreck. I know I need to be there for my team mates, and in the end that is what is driving me to make it tonight. But, I wanted to let you know in case I start to feel to overwhelmed after work and can’t make it or come and get upset/step off/leave early. I didn’t necessary want to share this with the whole C&T group, but I wanted someone to know. I am fine with you sharing with them as you feel necessary. Hope to see you tonight, Mosh
When I got home that evening, I changed into my gym clothes and gathered all my things for derby. I still had no desire to go, but felt that if I got ready that I might change my mind. It also gave me a reason to continue postponing the phone call I was dreading to make.
In sweat pants and my hoodie, I sat down on the couch with my medical record number in hand and called into the pharmacy. My first task was to ask them what all the side effects of my tracker were. I figured they would say depression and I would say, oh that’s happening and they would say okay, that’s normal it will end. That isn’t quite how the conversation went. The Pharmacist was hard to understand and I was to ashamed to really say what was going on. He read off the list of side effects and I said thank you then hung up the phone.
I remember thinking that I had technically done what Kevin had asked, I had called the doctor. Well kinda. But I still had not real answer or direction. I mustered up the courage and called into the nurses helpline.
In my nervousness I had shimmied my way to the floor. Sitting knees to my chest in-between the coffee table and couch I told the nurse what was going on…
“Over the weekend I had a few melt downs. I would get really upset, more upset than usual and I couldn’t seem to figure out why,” I began to tell her. “I have gotten upset in the past, but typically I could tie it back to something that happened and figure out why I was feeling that way.”
I told her how I had moved to a new birth control and had been chalking everything up to that. I told her how recently my closest friends had “left me,” how my brother recently moved, how I had just ended a nine year relationship and jumped into a new one. I told her how a close friend of mine had been watching her husband suffer and that recently he had died. How another friend lost their daughter. How my mom is bipolar. How messed up some of my family members lives had become as they battle mental illness.
“But, I wanted to call to see if all of this could be a side effect of the birth control and if so, how I go about fixing it,” I said.
“I think that this is more than the birth control,” she replied, “I would really like you to talk to our behavior health department…”
She may have said more in that statement, I don’t remember. In that moment I felt like I had just been sucker punched in the face. I stared off at the table thinking how I was becoming my mother.
Through the tears on the phone, the nurse asked me a few more questions. We were determining the immediate harm I might have to myself and determined that it was low risk. The behavioral health department had closed for the day, so the nurse gave me their number with strict instructions to call the next day. Over the phone we reviewed some coping skills that might help me that night and until I could get in to see a doctor.
By the time I hung up the phone, I was in tears. It felt like my worse fear had come true, that there was something wrong with me and I was crazy. What if I was becoming my mom? What if ending my relationship with Henry and jumping into one with Kevin was the first sign? (My mom had divorced my dad and shortly after began dating her now husband.)
I wrapped my arms around my knees and rocked back and forth on the floor sobbing. I fell to my side and curled up into a ball continuing to cry. I shifted between those postures for 45 minutes letting everything out. I even cried so hard I gave myself a nose bleed.
I decided I was in no state to go to practice, no matter how good the nurse had said some physical activity would be for me, and pulled myself together enough to get upstairs and change into my pajamas.
Upstairs I lost it again as the thought of being called depressed swirled through my head.
“You’re broken,” my mind said. “They were all right, you are crazy,” it rang.
There is something wrong with you. You aren’t any good. This is your fault. You are going to end up just like your mother. He is going to leave you. You are damaged. You aren’t worth it.
With each thought I felt less self worth, I could feel myself crumbling. I was embarrassed and ashamed. I was sick to my stomach with myself, because deep down I knew there was nothing “wrong” with being depressed. I had grown up in an environment where everyone was supportive of battles with mental illness. I had seen my father, stoic, stand by my mother’s side through good and bad times. If I knew these things, why was I having these thoughts? What was wrong with me?
Before I knew it, I had found more tears where I thought there were none. The snot ran from my nose.
Sniffling and wiping away the tears, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror. I looked my sad, snotty, reflection in the eyes. “It is okay,” I said out load, “It is okay to be depressed, you aren’t broken. It is okay. You are okay. Everything will be okay.”
I repeated this over and over, eventually beginning to calm myself. Then my reflection sunk in, I could see the sadness and fear in my face and the tears began to flow again.
I moved to a new mirror and told myself the same thing. I took deep breaths and maintained eye contact… with me. Finally, in pjs and choking back tears I made my way back downstairs. I laid on the couch, pulling a blanket over everything but my eyes. I laid there allowing tears to roll from my eyes until they could no more waiting for Kevin to get home.
The next day I considered not calling the behavioral health department and again justified putting the call off with each opportunity I could get. Finally it was 4:20 pm and I had an hour drive home ahead of me, the behavioral health department closed at 5 pm meaning I needed to call then or explain to Kevin why I didn’t.
Sitting my my car I made the dreadful call. I explained how the nurse I spoke with the night before advised me to call in and talk to their department. I gave them a brief run down of what was going on and then they asked, “Okay, so do you want to make an appointment then?”
“Uh, I guess so…”
“Okay, do you want medication or no?” they asked.
“No, no medication. I don’t want to take any medication, I just… I guess I just need to talk to someone,” I responded.
Within a matter of minutes I was set up with an appointment with a therapist the following week.
Monday, December 19 I made my first trip to the behavioral health department. It was one of the last things I wanted to do and I wasn’t doing it for me at that point. I was doing it for Kevin, I wanted him to feel better about what I was going through and if getting this help was it, well then I guess that is what I was going to do.
In college I had tried to get help. I don’t remember what it was that lead me to make an appointment at the student aid center, but I did. I know I made it to one appointment and had the intent to go to a second, but when my car had was broken into the morning of the second appointment and I was standing outside with the police, I canceled and never rescheduled.
Kevin came with me, partly for moral support and partly because I wasn’t really sure I would make it there on my own. The receptionist handed me a clipboard and instructed me to complete the sheet and give it to the doctor when she came out to get me. I sat down next to Kevin in the waiting room and struggled with answering what would be the first of many check-in sheets.
My first appointment was an hour long. We touched on various things, including the fact that I didn’t want to take medication. I got my first take home exercise and was instructed to make an appointment to come back when I needed to. The ball to continuing this journey was in my court and my medical record officially listed me as depressed.
*Some names have been changed