By Timna Zucker – It’s been awhile. A long while…since I have been me. Since I have been writing. Much has gone on…most of which you would not believe if I told you (so, wait for the book. kidding. maybe!). You’d probably react with a loud, “NO! That sounds like one of those fictitious made-for-TV movies that gets played on the Hallmark channel during the Super Bowl.” I agree!
It’s been three years of a hellish divorce, a melanoma in situ, a child in active opioid addiction, 3 deaths of people close to me, a new diagnosis of a chronic illness (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility Type) and all of its implications, premature empty nesting, financial insecurity…FEAR (and NO, this is not the acronym for false evidence appearing real- it’s ACTUALLY real!)….but also, a relocation back to where I belong, a new love like no other, the deepening of relationships with my sister, my dad, and my stepmom….new friendships, and the rekindling of old ones, and so much more. However, one of the so much more items happens to be depression….medication resistant depression.
Here’s what I believe: if you tell your story, it will help someone else. I know that to be true from when I shared about my anxiety disorder related to my health (after first melanoma diagnoses). And I am doing that now, as it relates to depression. Yes, I’m talking about it. Real talk.
The best way for me to tell the story is to break it down into three parts – 1) What it was like, 2) What happened, and 3) What it’s like now. Within part 1, I’ve posted something I wrote during the downward spiral, in hopes of painting a vivid picture of just how dark things became. Part 2, will illustrate the breaking point….and part 3 is what I am doing now…What is working…what has made it possible for me to be writing this.
Here we go……buckle up!
Part 1 – WHAT IT WAS LIKE
Something I wrote, 2018…That which you thought was, was not. What you never imagined could be, is. That it’s possible to be in shock every single day, even multiple times a day. That a new level of hate will develop and you will be scared by it. That fear will take over every inch of your body. That your smile will fade, and maybe even disappear for good. That you will feel a dark, heavy pit in your stomach most of the time. That if you let yourself think a lot, you will fear a breakdown, and not know what that might look like. The idea of checking into the psych ward sounds like the much needed vacation you can’t seem to plan. That you will become so sick of your thoughts, of yourself, of talking about this wretched filth, of feeling like a prisoner of war, of everything really. You will wonder if you will ever meet yourself again…as in, does any part of your soul still exist after all of this rotting? Is the core of who you are still there? You won’t know. Your wishes become sinister (at best), your fantasies savage. All the while, that element of surprise will linger, even though you will like the emotion of surprise should not be possible anymore. It will be. And you will hate yourself for being surprised. Each and every time. You will often say to yourself and/or out loud, “How did this happen?”, and often will come to mind, “I must be really stupid!” You may be called naive. I was. By a former judge/mediator. Yea. I never thought I’d be called that word. You will start to see it is true. That being unsuspecting (trusting?) is dumb. Let’s not forget, that you will go into debt trying to seek justice. OH! Justice. Right. That word. Let me state for the record (cuz, ya know…now everything is on record), that you will no longer believe in laws, justice, the world having order…none of it is real. You will see (whether or not you want to) that NOTHING actually goes the way it is “supposed” to go- that yes, there’s a law for this, and a law for that, but in reality, those are just words in some law book…that sit on a page. A page your lawyer once studied. For hearings. For trials. For cross examinations. For a long time….and you will see that when you get your invoice. Each month. For roughly 36 months. You will sometimes think about how much money you have spent. And for what? Nothing really. Again, nothing, and I mean NOTHING is what it seems. You will learn that when you are forced to get aquainted with words such as indemnification clause, breach of contract, forensic CPA, summary judgement, calendar call, and many more. You will want to puke so hard to get rid of all that you feel inside, or cry so loud that you can’t hear your thoughts, or drink so much, that your brain shuts down (almost a decade sober, so, NO to that). You will thing that Gwenyth Paltrow’s book entitled Conscious Uncoupling was a typo, and that she forgot to put UN on the beginning of the first word. You may start to feel you can understand all of the heroin documentaries you watch….that you too could become one of them. That being numb seems like the only way to continue this. The upside of all of this insanity, is that you will see fear fade around things that you never thought would lessen. For example, you will no longer fear flying, nor underground parking garages. Your fear of being mugged or killed will fall away. And that’s the upside. Right there. YAY! You begin to realize that you are no longer the great driver you once thought you were. You now run over curbs upon turning, speed dangerously, follow the ca in front of you too closely (on purpose). You may blast the music in your car, in hopes of going deaf…so that you will never have to hear anything ever again. Your nails may hurt from being bitten so low, and your cuticles will surely bleed. Your therapist may die (YES he did!). Your lawyer may die too (YES she did). And this is “just” 2 years in…with no real end in sight. You may wonder what will come next. You won’t be able to know. Ever. Things like hope and faith seem like ideas of the past, good ones, but not graspable in the now. You will feel too tired to try to search for these things that once came naturally. You will want to lay down. And not get up for awhile. But you will fear that if you do that, you may never get up. And then what? You can’t know. Be sure still more absurd “advice” will splatter on your face, such as, “Why not take a tennis lesson?” or… “Go pet animals at the shelter.” when all you really want is to be heard and understood. There are not enough tennis balls and animals in this world that can get you out of this. You can try. There are glimpses of goodness. Indeed there are. That’s what will allow you to exhale once in a while. You may even find that in the throws of this horrific mess, you will experience laughter, even when you feel so sad. You will find love, even when you feel so much hate. You will find sky and the moon and shooting stars, even when you don’t believe. You may experience firsts, even when you feel too old for that. You may be able to envision the life you want, even if foggy or dusty with the present mess.
Part 2 – WHAT HAPPENED
My divorce FINALLY ends. My son floats in and out of active addiction. I do get the call that he is being taken by ambulance to the hospital, with Fentanyl in his system. My other children wonder why doing the right thing IS the right thing. My situational depression…………REMAINS. Like Suzanne Vega sings, “It’s a one time thing, it just happens, a lot.” Yes, I pray, I meditate (sometimes), I help others, I go to meetings, I go to therapy, I’m in love, I have friends, I have family, I travel to amazing places, I have gratitude, I have 3 children, I love where I live…the list goes on. But the depression seems to have set up shop in my brain…permanently, like tattoo ink set within the dermis. What happens when that happens? I resist. I don’t want to add another diagnosis to my long winded, existing list. I keep on with the resistance, because somehow I think that if I don’t want something, it will go away (a bad “coping” strategy). Medications. Dosage tweaks. More therapy. More meetings. More medication. Resist. Resist. Resist. Until I slam into that place called UNBEARABLE, the place where I surrender…to the fact that this “situational” depression is no longer that, and that this can not be how the rest of my life is going to feel.
If I could leave depression in the past I would. If I could “just move forward”, I would. It doesn’t go like that. My depression didn’t care that the final divorce agreement was signed and sealed. It’s not a “just let it go” kind of thing. It’s not a “make a gratitude list” thing either. If it were, don’t you think people would be doing just that? Believe me, they would!
Part 3 – WHAT IT’S LIKE NOW
So now what? I seek further treatment for depression. And find it. I am currently doing TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation)…every day…for 6 weeks…and guess what? It is working! How do I know this? Well….at the intake interview with the doctor, she asked me many things, one of which was, “What do you enjoy doing?” to which I responded (after a pause that seemed to last too long), “I used to have a melanoma org and would educate others about sun safety, and write blog posts. I LOVED writing.” And she asked what happened to that. I told her the past 3 years have sucked every ounce of creativity out of me. Depression does that.
After about 2 weeks of TMS, I started to have ideas. Creative ideas. A desire to write, to connect with the world again, and that’s when I knew my treatment was working. I felt little pieces of me coming back. Slivers of excitement. A desire to create. All things that had dissolved over the past 3 years.
Life will continue to be lots of absurd moments strung together, as well as incredibly meaningful ones too, but, my depression does not have to come with. Let’s get rid of stigmas! Let’s talk openly. Let’s tell our stories to help others feel less alone.
I think of the times when my daughter would say to me, “But I don’t want to have food allergies!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And I would tell her, “I know. We don’t get to pick these things we get. Everyone has stuff. But what you can do, is educate others, help people, and make change.” And that is exactly what I am telling myself about my depression.
About The Author
Timna Zucker, founder of Respect the Rays, is a four-time melanoma warrior. After her second diagnosis, she decided to create something positive out of her experience. So rather than be imprisoned by fear, she focuses her energy on educating others about sun safety and melanoma. Respect the Rays is a multifaceted organization that serves grades K-12 via developmentally appropriate education programs, fund raising, advocacy, blogging, and writing for many organizations. Timna is an educator by trade, with a Master of Arts in Education, a mother of 3 children, a travel enthusiast, writer, postpartum doula and stigma stomper.