As I watched a documentary on Bell's "Let's Talk" campaign recently after my Major Depressive Disorder was diagnosed, although I was busily leafing through a book, of which I couldn't read one single line as my brain was a muddle of fog and pain, I refused to look up at the screen as Clara Hughes discussed of her personal struggle with depression.
Still very convinced that there was nothing really wrong with me, and that I would snap out of this consuming cloud of darkness; as my family was listening intently to Hughes's story, staring at the TV, their eyes squinting and their mouths open, seeking answers to my plight; I pretended my novel was far more compelling that the story of Clara sitting on the floor outside her hotel room, distressed and lost.
It wasn't until TSN's Michael Landsberg began sharing of his lifelong challenges that I allowed one ear to hear his words. Although much of his discourse was inspiring and detailed, the words that still resonate in my head involve the fact that he will be dealing with this mental illness his entire life. An entire life of wrestling emotions so violent and gripping that long moments in time are spent contemplating deadly alternatives to the torment. His words are never far from the forefront of my mind.
I've had several differing opinions on how long I've been dealing with MDD. Some psychiatrists and psychologists have told me that it's situational, and as soon as my situations are under control, so will the depression. But then there was one family doctor, who, by taking time to listen to the history of the moments in my life when keeping my eyes open was just as difficult as standing upright, declared that I've never been without this illness. That Major Depressive Disorder goes as far back in my life as my training bra days.
This revelation at once terrifies, yet thrills me. It explains the dark circles under my eyes during my adolescence; the breathless panic attacks when my best friend wasn't at my locker on time; the frequent visits to the school counsellor's office that had me explaining why I was no longer smiling and why my attendance was dropping so much so that graduating might not be an option.
The words, "You've been dealing with depression since you were 14 years old" justified why I spent my young adulthood sleeping; why my first year of university was spent staring at the ceiling of my dorm room; why I failed my first year of university. Although I am now able to pinpoint every moment when MDD was sucking the will to live from me, hearing Michael Landsberg's words; that this has been and can be a lifetime of treatment and fighting back against the demons gnawing every speck of happiness from my soul, leaves me at once prepared to bear arms, but also exhausted at the thought of the battle ahead.
Of course antidepressants and antianxiety meds help to soften the psychological hits to the head. Like a quarterback, I stand back up, and wobbly, I continue to move ahead. On the days where happiness enfolds me in yards of rainbows, I actually question my sanity. Those are the moments when I feel I may be going crazy. Because happiness is not part of my psyche. What is this emotion and what does it want? After several hours of smiling and laughing, I begin to think that Michael Landsberg and I have nothing in common. My MDD will not choke me forever. See! I've been giddy for 12 consecutive hours.
But then, in the same second that I am gleeful and free, something as minor as a negative comment from a family member slaps me in the face and sends me careening backwards until I plummet to the ground. And once I'm down, I can no longer get up. Sadly, this is the feeling I know. This is my comfort zone. Perhaps forever.
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