I’ve been struggling for a while, but I did not know. My entire life the way I dealt with challenging moments was to keep going. I had no idea how damaging that behavior was. 2020 informed me. In February of 2020, I traveled to Europe for a long weekend. I remember being in Target and grabbing the last bottle of travel size Lysol and a travel pack of Clorox wipes. Little did I know, that would be the last time that I saw Lysol for 8 months! (Also, when I got on the plane, the Lysol did not even work LOL) I had been warning my close friends and family that we were probably going to go on lockdown. No one believed me. They all said I was crazy and maybe I was because I still got my behind on a plane for a weekend in Aberdeen and Paris.
I was excited for “lockdown”. That meant I got to work from home and I got a break from society. SIGN ME UP! I am dealing with chronic illnesses (endometriosis and adenomyosis) and my employer at the time was empathetic enough not to be accused of being indifferent. The day our office was forced to quarantine, I remember emailing my boss asking her to work from home because my pain was so severe and she blatantly ignored my email. The joke was on her; I got to the office and after a couple of hours we all have to go home due to a co-worker’s potential COVID exposure (She is fine!). I was READY, I had FOUR cases of water and my home to myself. I had no idea that the world was going to go crazy over toilet paper but luckily I had that in stock as well. Week one, I was a chef, a bartender, and a social media influencer. I woke up early, worked out, and found fun ways to stay connected with friends.
It only took a couple of weeks for the depression that my therapist had previously warned me about to kick in and take over. More and more I felt less motivated, less connected, less happy and I could not understand why. “I like spending time with myself.” That was not my problem. My problem was I had “walking depression” for so long that was being pacified with networking events and happy hours. Before the pandemic, my schedule was JAM PACKED with work, community, and social events. Now, I only had zoom happy hours. I no longer had enough events to distract me from what my therapist recognized months before.
Something is off, so now what? Fix it. Not only was I dealing with depression, but the pain from my chronic illnesses had also taken over my life, literally. I was (am) in pain every day, which added to my depression. On top of this, I did not feel that my physicians were taking me seriously (We can have an entire seminar on how black women are treated (or NOT treated) in the healthcare industry). So my primary care physician (who I was not too fond of) prescribed me an antidepressant. It seemed okay. Okay, until I found myself lying on my couch and a random thought crossed my mind, “If my mom and I died together, then I wouldn’t have to worry about her mourning me.” My immediate next thought was “Yep, time to get off this medicine.” I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician to transition me off the antidepressant (I learned in 2014 that you can’t just STOP taking antidepressants when I ended up in the ER) and I began my search for a psychiatrist.
I fell in love with my psychiatrist during our first virtual appointment. I felt seen and heard. She prescribed me a new antidepressant that would not only help with my depression but my anxiety and pain as well. I was hopeful. The first few weeks on the new medication were good. I started feeling like myself and feeling motivated again. At my next appointment, my psychiatrist asked me if I needed to increase my dosage, I told her no. The very next week, I felt myself slipping back into that dark place. “Oh crap, I should have taken the dosage increase.” I made another appointment. With the dosage increase, I began to feel better. Someone close to me asked “how do you recharge?” I did not know how to answer the question. He told me he felt that I recharged around other people. I found this to be accurate on a recent trip to Chicago. I felt like me: motivated, driven, inspired. That also would make sense, with COVID taking away my social interactions. But then came today, I found myself walking in the grocery store, sad for no apparent reason. The sadness was replaced with fear and panic: What If I am constantly increasing the dosage and never actually getting better? What if THIS is my life?
I came home and began googling “Major Depression” to try to better understand what I am going through. In the past, I would never describe myself as “depressed”, but the truth is, this is something that I have dealt with since I was a child. Then it was seasonal depression. A sadness I would feel around the holidays that would literally turn me into the grinch. It is one thing being a grinch for a month and a half. It’s another thing to keep that same energy all year long. “So what do you do Christina?” That is what I asked myself shortly before I started typing. My answer: Be honest about your journey, because you are not the only one with this struggle. Sometimes, we just need to know that someone else is there and they get it. So if you can relate, I am here, and I get it. Keep fighting.