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by woodlawn

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First Conscious Steps

My first evaluation of my difficulties.

Date:   4/17/2005 12:00:59 AM   ( 9 y ) ... viewed 1891 times

Depression has been my companion for almost as long as I can remember. I have a long family history of moderate to severe mental illness, so perhaps it is my birthright. My parents did the best they could, and my childhood was wonderful in many ways. But their own insecurities and difficulties were only magnified in their interactions with me.

Many depression sites I have seen have described the idea of returning to a childlike joy, but I struggled with depression by age six. I remember very clearly the anxiety I felt if I scored anything less than 100 on any school work, and I was compulsive and paranoid about anything related to school. I constantly and voraciously sought my parents' approval. Though my family members were extremely liberal with regard to many traditional issues (religion, drugs, sex, etc.), their judgements based on academic performance and physical appearance were harsh at best. I was always tall and slim as a young child, but I began to become slightly chubby around age nine (slightly chubby=perhaps five pounds heavier than my classmates, at five feet one or two inches tall). Every time I ate anything, my dad would say "Oh, you don't need to eat that." He constantly pointed out any new diet trend or exercise regime. While this seems helpful, it was constant and pervasive. Weight and appearance were the only factors he focused on, and he constantly complimented my friends' appearances. He told me I needed to dress loosely to cover myself up (I have always been a conservative dresser--I never wore form fitting clothes). To this day, I refuse to wear anything but long sleeves and skirts below the knees, because I am so embarrassed about my looks.

I stopped eating at age ten. I ran five to ten miles a day and became a vegetarian, and then a vegan, in order to have an excuse not to eat at my friends' houses or in public. By the time I was twelve, I was five foot eight and weighed a hundred and two pounds. Though this might not seem dangerously small, I have a large frame. I always had a round face, which I think prevented most people from seeing the problem. I look at those pictures now and I want to throw up.

My dad didn't tell my he thought I looked good, but he told me constantly that other people said I looked great. My mother, who had been fairly absent through my childhood (she gave up custody of me when I was four, settling for weekend visitation instead) began to threaten that she would check me into an eating disorder program. Though I have had problems with her for much of my life, I credit her with being the only one to recognize the problem.

Fortunately, I recovered on my own. By fourteen, I was tired of the obsessive thoughts and the constant hunger pains. I gradually began to eat again, slowly adding foods back into my diet. I still remember the taste of eggs for the first time (in flan!). I remained a vegetarian until I was nineteen. At fifteen, I swore never to calculate calories again. For years, I had had a constant running tally in my head, and I was sick of hearing it. Though this was an essential issue for me, I also think this decision has opened the door to my current problems with food. It is hard for me to limit myself reasonably, without rebelling against the changes I seek to accomplish. This is probably my number one difficulty. I have always been quite active physically, and have an athletic frame.

It has taken some time for me to isolate my issues with food as a manifestation of my depression, rather than the cause for it. However, I do believe that a conscientious diet can help me to regain balance.

After college graduation, I struggled professionally for a time, and then I discovered yoga. For the first time, I felt liberated from my despair. I felt free and joyful. While obsession has always played a role in my exercise pursuits, this time, it was enjoyable (I was, admittedly, very obsessive about my practice). When I completed teacher training, I thought I had found a path I would not stray from. And then I had my first full breakdown. I think it was, in part, triggered by a nasty breakup, but I am not fully sure. Maybe it was just time.

After four months in bed (I quit my job and lived in a cubicle in my parents' living room), I was diagnosed (unsurprisingly!) with severe depression. I began taking Wellbutrin, which helped me very much. I know many believe pharmaceuticals to be poison. Maybe they are. But when I began taking it, Wellbutrin unequivocably saved my life. Within days, I was able to function. I felt clean and authentic, as I did as a very young child. I did not feel artificially high--I felt the same way I often feel when eating a healthy meal. I felt a deep sense of rightness.

I have weaned myself off my medication many times, and returned when my mental state began to deteriorate too much. I am currently off my medication and am trying to find other ways to manage my depression.

Though I have gained a good deal of weight, I am returning to yoga. Today was my first class back. I felt full and sluggish. I hope I will feel better tomorrow.

I have begun a colon cleanse as well, in an effort to get my physical health more in line. I am trying hard.

Agorophobia is a part of my anxiety. I work from home, which both mitigates and exacerbates my tendency in this area.

I have always dealt with my depression on my own, but I am now part of a serious relationship. I live with my boyfriend, and I feel guilt about putting him through this. But I also believe that my preoccupation with him has led me to neglect my own interests. Ironically, having someone who loves me unconditionally has allowed me to fall apart more than usual--before, when I felt that I was unworthy of love, I was more likely to engage in activities that would make me more "desirable." More often than not, these activities made me feel better. Now, I am more apt to cloister myself at home.

Oh well. It is a journey, and I am determined to move forward, and hope that active self-evaluation will help me to overcome my hurdles.

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