What only people who are close to me know is that in addition to being obese, I also bear another social stigma. Fortunately, it is sometimes easier to hide from the general public than the fat I carry on my body.
Doctors diagnosed me with depression about six months after my second daughter was born. I had a hard time pulling myself out of bed to do simple things like change a diaper or feed hungry babies. I didn’t care about myself or my life or anything at all, really. To this day, I fear I missed many precious moments when I could have cuddled and loved my babies more, but was too trapped in my own despair to make the effort.
They put me on medication and it seemed to work, so I did what many people do – I declared myself cured. I started a job and had energy to spare enough to cook and clean and bathe and be a mom and a wife again. It was a short-lived experience. It would take years of repeating the same pattern – depression, medication, feeling good again, stop medication, spiral, depression, etc. – until I recognized the symptoms before I was drowning in them, and until I accepted that I’d likely be taking medication for the depression for the rest of my life just to feel normal.
One of my symptoms of depression – and one that I have never seen on any of the bazillion handouts or websites I have read on the subject – is selfishness. Yes, I believe my depression causes me to be selfish. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to consider other people’s feelings and needs when you are so wrapped up in your own despair.
I used to imagine myself trapped in a mirrored glass ball, all alone with my misery. Everyone on the outside of the ball laughing and happy and carrying on with their lives oblivious to the girl they are unable to see staring at them from beyond the mirror. I want to be like them, but I don’t know how. I become obsessed with the task, watching them, envying them, and trying things – sometimes awful things – in an attempt to push the depression from my mind. I try to turn away, but each direction I turn are more people going on with their happy lives. I begin to feel sorry for myself until, eventually, I just stop feeling at all. I start to think that my life has no meaning. I loathe myself, and yet, I am all I can think about.
Some of the symptoms of depression that I have read on pamphlets and websites are decrease in appetite, weight loss, and ceasing to find joy in things that once brought the individual pleasure. Lucky me! I happen to be one of the oddballs who actually gains weight when I am caught in my depression. I eat mindlessly. My appetite decreases, but I eat anyway. I don’t even care what I’m eating. I just do. Anything I can find to munch on to pass the time or to perhaps gain a slight endorphin rush. Food is my alcohol, my drug, my means of dulling the pain of life. And then, guess what happens as my clothes begin to tighten and the scale creeps up?
I become more and more unhappy. More and more depressed.
Is it the depression that makes me eat? Or the eating that makes me depressed? I’ll likely never be able to answer that. All I know is that it feels like a circle of hopelessness.
When I began this blog well over a year ago, life was good. Aside from the fact that I was fat, I had been taking my depression medication faithfully for years and I felt as though I had everything under control. I was able to write with wit and sarcasm and a general positive outlook.
Things started falling apart this past spring, however, as we approached my oldest daughter’s high school graduation. I recognized the symptoms early on, though I thought it was odd given that my medication usually controlled the depression so well. Then my husband lost his job and finances tightened right around the time I was supposed to buy her a graduation gift. My solution was to immerse myself in my work even more than normal and to start eating – a lot. Then, in August, my world crashed in around me when my boss decided to restructure the company with which I had come to identify myself. Out of work, adjusting to a child leaving home, having an identity crisis, and weighing more than ever before in my life, I was lost. Even on my medication, I found myself in bed all day, avoiding answering the phone, turning down invitations to visit with friends. I even eventually stopped doing one of my single most favorite things – writing.
The fact that I’m writing again now is a good sign. It’s taken months, an increase in my dosage, and plenty of time soul searching before I am finally seeing cracks in the mirrored glass ball I’ve been trapped in. I still have a ways to go. In the meantime, thanks for hanging in there with me. If anyone else out there experiences these feelings of hopelessness and despair, then please, I urge you, talk to someone about it. See a doctor. You are not as alone as you feel.