I used to blog over here.
Recently, I was reading through some old posts and realized how much of my life I had recorded. Truly missing that over the past two years, I decided to start up again. Enjoy the Ride Today is still (obviously) out there. But I’m not continuing my life’s journey there. I stopped enjoying THAT ride. Actually, I wasn’t enjoying any part of my life.
Around the time or soon after I stopped blogging there, I started seeing a therapist. I had a certain goal in mind. But as is ever the way of the Universe, in therapy we ended up traveling toward a different focus. Two different people in the position of medicine or therapy, on two very separate occasions, said the word “dysthymia” to me. It was a passing comment. They didn’t even latch on to it or elaborate. I had never heard this word before. Of course, my ever inquisitive mind had to go look it up. What is dysthymia?
The really long, involved definition of dysthymia is:
“…persistent mild depression.”
Huh. That’s a “huh” as in a “lightbulb” clicking on in my head.
People around me have told me to get treated for depression at random times over the years, but for the most part, I ignored them. I thought, “I’m not depressed, this is just WHO I AM.” I did my research (cuz I’m that kinda girl). I didn’t fit with “that” kind of depression. I wasn’t having difficulty crawling out of bed. I wasn’t sobbing day in and day out. I wasn’t eating more or less. I wasn’t sleeping more (or less). I had the same interest I ever had in the things I participated in through life. I didn’t contemplate suicide. I wasn’t aggressive or reckless. My sleep hadn’t changed.
I was functional. I was busy. I was productive. A person suffering from depression has serious symptoms that debilitate their everyday life.
I wasn’t “depressed”.
Then the “diagnosis” of dysthymia came along and rocked my world. While I had many of those symptoms of depression, what I didn’t have was severity of those symptoms. I did always feel sad or down (but I covered it by saying I was tired). I did feel tired or had a lack of energy (but I pushed through, because that’s what you’re supposed to do as busy and responsible person). Everyone who knows me would agree that I had low self-esteem, was constantly critical of myself and felt incapable of doing anything well (or as good as someone else). And I had constant feelings of guilt or worries over things that were in my past. The big difference was the length of time and the mild intensity in which I had felt this way. I realized, it had been most of my life. THIS is dysthymia.
“Dysthymia symptoms usually come and go over a period of years, and their intensity can change over time. But typically symptoms don’t disappear for more than two months at a time. In general, you may find it hard to be upbeat even on happy occasions — you may be described as having a gloomy personality… Because these feelings have gone on for such a long time, you may think they’ll always be part of your life.” (source)
Well, hello there! Let me introduce myself. I am Eeyore.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. For as long as I can remember, I simply thought that this was WHO I AM. I didn’t realize it was a “treatable thing”; a real form of depression. The reason I didn’t identify it as depression was because depression’s “symptoms” were always started with “change in…” or “change from…” My appetite had never changed for better or worse, because it had always “been”. I never stopped being “as interested” in my hobbies because I had never truly be interested in them in the first place. It was just something to pass the time. It was who I was. It was a fault inside myself, I thought. It was my personality. I was just “born this way”.
In my research (again, because I’m that kind-of girl), I found this site. I was floored when I read this:
Dysthymia also has some symptoms that may not occur with major depression. The hallmark of dysthymia is the length of time that it persists. In adults, dysthymia is diagnosed when the symptoms continue for two or more years; in children or teens, the symptoms last for a year or more. You probably won’t have the symptoms every day. You may feel good for a few days or even a month at a stretch, but the symptoms always come back. This particular characteristic of dysthymia contributes to the perception that this is “just the way I am.”
Isn’t that what I just said above? It’s just the way I am!
It was as if the heavens broke open and sunshine streamed down and angels played harps and choruses of beautiful voices were humming. Yeah, not really, but it was very validating!
Dysthymia itself, because it often goes untreated, creates perceptions and beliefs that are not in line with reality. We may think people dislike us or are judging us, we are often sensitive to rejection, and we think we are not good at what we do. Beyond the help that medications for depression can give us, talking to a mental health professional can help us overcome these often long-standing ideas we have about ourselves and the world.
I cannot express how HAPPY I have become through both medication and talk therapy. Like a defective typewriter, I have to reprogram myself to hit a certain “key” that is more positive and upbeat rather than depending on my habitual touch-typing the negativity every minute of the day. Repetition. Hit the A key instead of the X key. A not X. A not X. When you have touch-typed for so long, it is hard to change the habit. But not impossible.
I haven’t done a complete turn-around. But there HAS been progress. I feel it. I am finding myself more and more happy with who I am… what I’m doing… and life in general. Color is returning to my world. Most of all, I feel more inner peace. All of which will allow me to really ENJOY this ride through life.
“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a ride!'”