Depression is a Downer

I am going to tackle a subject that should not be hidden or dismissed. Depression. One of the many mental illnesses that affect more people than we know. It has affected me.

I have been struggling with depression for more than 35 years. Probably since my mid twenties. At the time, I didn’t realize what it was.

My ex-husband is a narcissist. His parents had him on a pedestal which he loved. He expected the same treatment from me. I was an introvert and had no self confidence. He used that. He tried to control and manipulate everything I did. Everything I touched, he would take and “make it better”. It got to the point where I didn’t try anymore. When it was for myself, I would hide it and not show him. There were times I cried myself to sleep.

As heĀ  climbed the ladder of success, things at home got worse. I was never given any credit for anything I did. Nothing I did was ever good enough. He always changed whatever I touched. It was especially horrible with our children which I always tried to hide from them. He was a good father when the children were young but once they started gaining independence, he changed.

I was threatened so many times to behave or he would take me to court and “clean my clock” or leave me with nothing. I was so intimidated and felt so worthless. So many nights, I would feel myself being sucked into a deep, black hole. There were nights I wished I could die. But, not once, did I think of ending my life. That was not up to me. That was for God and I would not go there.

It was during my children’s teenage years where I went to my family doctor to ask for help. I was told I had depression. My family doctor prescribed an antidepressant. There was one psychiatrist for our city (population size 600,000) in Canada. I would not be able to get an appointment with the psychiatrist for at least one year. Did I want to wait or just start on the antidepressant the doctor could prescribed. I went with what my family doctor recommended.

I finally found the courage when we moved to the States to leave my ex. I truly struggled with the decision. Every time the ex went on a business trip, I could breathe. The day before his expected return, I would start to have the shakes and I would cry. The straw that broke the camel’s back was an order that I was given before our son’s wedding. I couldn’t live like this anymore. I was seeing a therapist who gave me coping skills. But it wasn’t enough.

With the diagnosis of cancer, I was able to see a psychiatrist who has prescribed the proper antidepressant for me. The antidepressant has helped. However, when my oncologist started me on the estrogen suppressing medications, I am not certain if it was both the Anastrazole and the Letrozole or just one of them that put me into such a deep depression that I could not stop crying. Every night I would be sobbing. Such a deep, black hole that I was being sucked into. I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t stop it. I felt helpless. This wasn’t me.

There was never a day I couldn’t get out of bed. I could still perform everything I needed to do for the day. Seeing my horse was the best thing I could do for myself. However, the relationship with my husband was unraveling for me. I felt stupid, ugly, fat and undeserving of such a handsome man. I was falling apart. I was praying every day to God for relief. I wondered why this was happening. Was I seeing things that just weren’t there? I prayed and prayed.

One day, I started an argument with my sweet, wonderful husband. It just erupted out of me. I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know why I was doing it. I went upstairs to sob. I hurt and that black hole was sucking me in. I sobbed so hard and prayed. Slowly, I composed myself.

I sat up. It was like a switch had been flicked off. The black hole disappeared. I could breathe. Quite literally, the sun came out. If you have never gone through something like this, it is difficult to explain. It is a feeling of calm that comes over you. The tears are gone and I could breathe.

I know when I walked back downstairs and gave my husband a loving kiss, his eyes were pretty wide. He must have wondered, what the heck? I sat down beside him, took up my knitting and watched the television with him.

The next day was normal and I thought, I want to feel like this every day. How can I have this happen every day? I want to feel normal. God did hear my prayers. For over one month, I was being dragged by depression into the black hole. God pulled me out so I could see the sunlight.

Depression is a horrible illness. Trying to cope with it without medication or seeing a therapist is impossible. I believe in God but I know I need the medication as well. Just like a diabetic, they put their faith in God, but they need their medication to live. Hiding your depression is not healthy. Getting help for it and understanding that you need coping skills is vital.

Depression would not ever lead me to suicide. It has for others. I can understand it. But I would never do it. I have too much to live for. My husband. My children and grandchildren. My dear, sweet friends. My pets. And God. People with depression need understanding and compassion. That is all anyone could ask.

Anastrazole

Going through this cancer journey can really do a number on a person. When it is breast cancer for a woman, what it does emotionally to a woman’s sense of sensuality, really hits hard.

First, you are diagnosed with breast cancer. Then a woman needs to make the decision to have a lumpectomy or a mastectomy. I can’t imagine having a mastectomy and going through the healing process. A lumpectomy still leaves a scar and I also have scars from the lymph node removal but the breast is still left with a permanent reminder.

As a woman goes through chemotherapy, there is the hair loss. Total hair loss over the entire body. Men love women with long hair. Hair has such power with women. Beautiful long tresses. Thick, full hair. Gone. Eyelashes, eyebrows, gone. All body hair gone. Then the next step is radiation that burns the skin. Everything is tender and sore after the chemotherapy but then to lie in a room where no one but you is there, listening to the machine zero in on the spots in your breast and armpit, leaves one feeling exposed and cold and alone and unfeminine.

Chemotherapy and radiation is done. There is weight gain which has made me feel terrible and I am now on a strict diet. The hair finally starts to grow back. Eyelashes were huge for me. The lashes are not all there yet but they are coming. The eyebrows have come back and the hair on my scalp is doing whatever it wants. I don’t want to put any creams into my hair to control it. Then it will look flat. And I don’t want to go with the spiked look.

My oncologist put me on Anastrazole, an estrogen suppressing medication. But after two weeks of feeling extremely headachy, dizzy, lightheaded, wanting to throw up and having bouts of diarrhea, my doctor agreed to let me get off and see how I do. Another requirement was for me to see a gynecologist to have my remaining ovary removed. I had a hysterectomy at the age of 40 due to complications.

I saw that gynecologist today. We went over my health history and then he talked to me about Anastrazole. He said it is a powerful hormone suppressing medication. He also said that it will dry up my vagina into a little knot and be painful. He said sex will be impossible. After I said, I had no idea, he said I need to talk to my oncologist about these estrogen suppressing drugs and get all the facts before I make the decision to continue or not. We also discussed having my ovary removed. We will go ahead with this.

I left the gynecologist and burst into tears as I was driving home. It feels like I am being punished. First this breast cancer where I am still struggling to feel feminine. Where I am struggling to think I might be attractive. Those are all very real feelings and it takes time to work through all of them. But now this. Urinating will cause pain. The vagina will be in pain and no sex. I didn’t know. I was relying on my oncologist to tell me. I want to be able to make an informed decision. Especially since it will be affecting such an enjoyable part of life. I will be calling for an appointment where I can get the statistics and find out what the percentages are. Right now, I feel like a truck has hit me. I don’t know if I will ever feel like a sensual woman again.