Friday, October 11, 2013

But How Do You REALLY Feel?

I'm going to assume that most people have asked for reassurance at some point in their lives. Asking a friend if an outfit looks good. Asking a coworker to look over something for you. Asking someone to wish you luck. It's a nice feeling to know that someone else believes in us, no matter how trivial it might seem.

But wanting reassurance from time to time is a lot different than needing constant reassurance. You know that friend or acquaintance that's always asking people things like, "We're friends, right?" or "You're sure you like hanging out with me?" The person that seems to be forever fishing for compliments or positivity; talking about how terrible her singing voice is or how he'll never find a significant other. The person that you really did like once upon a time, but all of the negativity and neediness has just gotten to be too much and you're not as sure anymore.

Yep. That's me. I am that person.

Or maybe it was me. I like to think I've grown past some of that, but I do find myself with that itch for someone to tell me I'm doing a good job or that I'm as funny as I think I am. It's a hard habit to break. And it's a possible risk factor for depression.

Ru Paul is famous for saying, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?" This is more like, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell is anybody else gonna love you?" 

When you have low self-esteem, believing in yourself is pretty much impossible. Or at least it felt that way to me. So I went looking for other people to believe in me. And while I loved the reassurance and praise, the positive feelings I took away never lasted. I was constantly wondering if the reassurance had been genuine. Did they really mean it, or did they say it to be nice? And for that matter, do they even really like me or are they just putting up with me? How could I know for sure?

And so I kept asking. I'm sure to a lot of people it seemed like I was purely fishing for compliments, but it was beyond that. Pardon the cliche, but it's like an addiction in some ways. You go looking for the reassurance. You get some and it feels good. So good! But only for awhile. Then you come down and you feel worse than you did before. You need MORE reassurance. So you go looking for more, and the cycle repeats. 

At a certain point, your questions become ridiculous. Even after someone has reassured you, you ask, "Are you sure? Is that how you REALLY feel?" And my bet is that gets old REALLY fast. Logic told me that if people were willingly hanging out with me, they were friends. If they confided in me, shared things with me, they were good friends. Maybe even best friends. But depression kicks logic to the curb. I would start wondering if particular friends really liked me, or if it was something else. Convenience, maybe. Or just being nice. Or maybe they needed or wanted something from me (though, I couldn't imagine what, since I thought I had nothing to offer). I thought K (yes, my "sister") was only my friend because we've known each other my whole life. I thought Bestie was just being nice to me. Hell, I even thought Hubby was just trying to be a nice guy and cheer me up when we first started dating.

Even now I struggle from time to time. It's impossible to know exactly how someone else feels about you; you can't read minds (much as you might try). Some people are going to lie or sugarcoat things. But for the most part, if you consider someone a good friend and you genuinely like them, there's a good chance the feeling is mutual. I know that my sister doesn't just put up with me. I know that Bestie is one of the best friends I've ever had. And I know that Hubby loves me to no end. I know this because it's how I feel about them. And unless they ever give me a reason to doubt that, I'm going to choose to keep believing it.

So piggybacking on my last post, if you know a habitual reassurance-seeker (or if you are one), don't assume they're just attention whores. Some of them are. It happens. But if you see some other potential symptoms of depression or low self-esteem, they may just need to be reminded that they ARE worth something. And they might need a nudge, push, or shove toward a long-term fix. You can't be there to reassure them 100% of the time, but you can be a friend 100% of the time. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Everybody Hurts Sometimes, But Nobody Should Hurt All the Time

Life has been busy since June 6th's post. Brief recap.

June: I turned 29. Hubby turned 30. K came home for the summer (a drive that I was lucky enough to help with again). Saw Barenaked Ladies at Summerfest.

July: Aside from the traditional July 4th festivities with K, not much in July. We did go camping (which was great) but I forgot batteries for my camera (which was NOT great). Hubby's cherished project car (the '81 Camaro) burned to the ground. Oh, saw Paul McCartney at Miller Park! That was epic.

August: Went to State Fair. Hubby and I went on vacation with the puppers (road trip to/from Medford, OR). Fall semester started at the end of August.

September: Hubby and I celebrate our 3 year wedding anniversary (by going to the zoo, of course).

Sprinkle a few Brewers games, a lot of grilling out, and a few more zoo trips and you're pretty much caught up. Ta da!

The real reason I wanted to write today is that it's World Mental Health Day/National Depression Screening Day. Obviously I've written about my depression before, so I (hopefully) won't bore you by repeating myself too much.

Depression blows. Seriously. And it so frequently goes undiagnosed. Sometimes because people think what they're feeling is normal. Sometimes they don't recognize the symptoms. Sometimes they believe that it's something to be ashamed of, which is the saddest of all to me. 

So, let's look at those 3 quick. (Yes, there are other reasons, but this is my blog. Deal.)

1) It's normal to feel like this. Sometimes, yes. Everyone feels sad sometimes. And sometimes we feel so sad, we refer to it as "depressed" (because I think we like to use longer, more complex words for more serious feelings... or maybe that's just me).  If you feel down after an upsetting experience (a loss, maybe), that's "normal." (I usually hate the word normal, but hopefully you can see why i have to use it here.) It's normal to cry and hate the world and want to curl up under the covers until things get better. But what about those times when nothing all that bad has happened and you feel that way? What if it lasts for weeks or months at a time? Does that seem as normal? Doesn't that sound like it warrants looking into?

For example, when Hubby and I lived in our apartment (which now seems like AGES ago), I would have episodes of depression in which really (and I mean really) trivial things made me feel worse. I once dropped a box of macaroni on the floor and wound up sobbing and screaming over it, convinced I was an epic failure and couldn't do anything right. An appropriate reaction might've been swearing or being pissy about cleaning it up, but I had a breakdown. That's not "normal."

2) It's not like I want to kill myself or anything. Suicidal thoughts are only one possible symptom of depression. And you don't even have to want to actively kill yourself... you can want to die without wanting to take the action to do so. But even if you don't have thoughts about your own demise, there are a bunch of other symptoms that could indicate you have some kind of depressive disorder. Sleeping too much or too little. A major change in appetite. Having no energy or interest in doing things you usually enjoy. Feeling like you're worthless. Problems with concentrating and making decisions. Even physical things like unexplained aches and pains.

Right before I went back on fluoxetine in 2008, I was experiencing a lot of these other symptoms. I was sleeping every chance I got and was still exhausted. I wasn't motivated to get out of the apartment to do things, and I usually lacked the energy to do much anyway. I pretty much always thought I was worthless, and I let Hubby make as many decisions as possible; everything else I just kind of ignored. (What should I wear today? Meh. I'll stay in my pajamas.) Even though I didn't want to kill myself, I was definitely experiencing some depression.

3) I can't go to a therapist/doctor. I'm not crazy/sick or That would be so embarrassing. Newsflash: Therapy isn't just for the "crazies" anymore, friends. Even if you are completely free of mental illness, you probably still experience some stress and/or worry (and if you don't, please let me know because I'm pretty sure the scientific community would love to study you). And if this stress, worry, sadness, or whatever is at all impacting your life in a negative way, you could probably benefit from a visit to the doctor or therapist. 

I took myself off of my medication when I was younger because I didn't want to have to rely on it to be myself. And I was (mostly) OK for awhile. But when an episode hit, I wasn't really prepared to handle it. These days, if I drop the macaroni now, I just curse, clean it up, and grab the next box or look for another option. My medication allows me to function like a normal person, and I wouldn't have the meds if I hadn't sought help. And while I'm not in therapy at the moment, I'm definitely not opposed to it! Certain therapies can be more effective than medication, particularly in the long run... it would be nice not to need the antidepressants for the rest of my life, but they work well for now.

So where do you start? Wherever you feel comfortable. You can do some research or take an assessment. You can talk to someone you trust, or make an appointment with your primary doctor. And if you need immediate help and don't know where to turn, don't forget that there's always someone to listen at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).

Well, I hope I didn't sound too much like a bad PSA, and I hope you took something away from it! If nothing else, please remember this: No matter how you're feeling, who you are, or what you're going through, there is someone out there to offer love and support. You're not alone. Hey, you've got me, right? :)