Previous posts in the Stamp It Out series: Just Keep Swimming and Branches of a Tree
When I was 14, I was hormonal as most 14 year old girls tend to be. I was a drama queen because I lived and breathed theatre. I played different characters everyday. What my closest family didn't know is that my best acting job was the role I played everyday: myself. When I had an outrage of epic proportions I was labeled "dramatic" or "hormonal". But what wasn't see was the way I acted behind the scenes. I would crawl in the corner of my closet with my knees to my chest, sobbing hysterically because I didn't know how to control my intense emotions. I thought I was an annoyance to my peers, a burden. I would sob over not knowing what the next scene would be in the little play called "my life".
I remember one time I was really depressed and I wanted to slit my wrists. I tried to do it with a safety pin. The wrong way. Which actually resulted in scratches on my wrists. I showed them to my friends the next day and my friends just looked at me as if I were crazy in a dramatic, crying for attention way. And I was, but looking back on it, I was depressed and trying to find an answer of some sort. Pathetic, yes, but an early sign to future problems.
Despite these hidden interludes of madness I was a ray of sunshine and happiness to most people. Don't ask my mom, though, she will tell you, with good reason that I was the exact opposite of sunshine to her. But that is for another blog...on another day.
When I was 17, my depression decided that hiding was not an option anymore. In November of my senior year of high school, my grandmother had multiple heart attacks and almost died on the operating table. In December, my father was pushed out of very prestigious position in a federal credit union. I began looking for colleges, my boyfriend broke up with me and I was a general disaster. We went from a family who never had to count pennies to a families who was pinching pennies. I began to lose myself quickly and my world was spinning out of control.
In January, I stopped eating. I know that when I am severely depressed two things happen: I like to sleep a lot but wake up consistently at 5 am. I also stop eating. I started smoking for two weeks, I began failing my classes. My mind was in crazy town. I ripped out magazine pictures if skinny girls, hid them in my bathroom. My loss of appetite became a moment of seeing how thin I could get. In the beginning of January I was a size 6 and 120 lbs. three weeks later, I was a size 3 and 109 lbs.
I was in a show at the time and I was being measured for costumes (by my mom) and the measurements were drastically different than they has been in the past. I was secretly elated and then terrified my mom would notice. She noticed, but didn't say anything to me at that point.
In February, my English teacher talked to my mom about the differences she had seen in my behavior. You see, no one said anything before because I was a really good actress. I was the happiest girl in the world, right?
My teacher noticed that I was withdrawn and didn't care about my work. My grades were sliding in an epic way. In fact, I fell out of the National Honors Society because of my lack of work in January and February. That English teacher saved my life.
My parents confronted me one night and I lost it. I went catatonic for over an hour. I showed nothing, no emotion, no desire for anything. It was at that moment that I knew there was something bigger than my usual mood swings, something I couldn't control. I didn't know when it would end. It scared me to no end. I eventually came out of my catatonic state. I begged my parents to send me to a mental hospital, anything where I wouldn't burden them. I went to bed and when I woke up the next day, there were appointments being made to see a psychiatrist.
I missed three dates of school, the first three of many mental health days I would take. I was evaluated by a psychiatrist. I fell into the "happy go lucky" girl during the evaluation. The dr was hesitant to prescribe medications. But with my parents persistence, I was put on Prozac. In the first 48 hours of being on it, I was sick. The dosage was too high but I auditioned for the spring musical in between sick episodes. My medicine was adjusted and I stayed on it. It kept me level to deal with life. The medicine along with my first psychologist helped me navigate my way through stressors.
The interesting thing is I still had no idea what depression was. I had no idea it was genetic. I had no idea what was going on inside my brain.
When I returned to school, it was clear that people knew something had happened with me. But it wasn't discussed. I was "sick" and it was thought that I had the flu. There was shame in it all. I kept it hidden. Everyone knew and at the same time, no one knew.
More to come....
The fear of the bottom
If you need help, get help. Talk to a professional now. There is no shame in it.