My name is Sheryl Hayes, and I battle with depression.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression in my early twenties. I have struggled with managing it on and off ever since. I have been on anti-depressant medications, but I have not had to take them for the last ten years. I have both a family history of depression and other mental issues, as well as events in my life that serve as triggers. The most severe one I deal with is the anniversary of my father’s death. In August 1985, he turned forty. November of that year, I turned fourteen. Four days later, he died.
This year, my birthday, Thanksgiving, and the anniversary of my father’s death all happen within a five day span. People who don’t struggle with depression may not understand why two of those events, which should be joyous occasions, add to my emotional struggles. The reason isn’t because of the holidays themselves, but the stress associated with preparing for those events. Add in the fact that someone who in theory should still be alive to share those days with you isn’t, it quickly can become an emotional minefield.
This year, I made it through those days with little emotional upheaval. When I was at the doctor’s for an annual checkup, I was given a standard self-evaluation for mental problems. While I did show signs of depression, the doctor, after talking with me, noted that I was very self-aware and agreed with my judgement that it was a situational depression that did not need chemical intervention. Work, due to the nature of my job and the holiday shutdown, was insane the day of my birthday. Thanksgiving went well. I passed 50k for NaNoWriMo on the 29th and called it done. And while pensive on the 30th, I had spent much sadder anniversaries. I thought that the rest of the year would be similarly low key.
December 2nd, I smacked head first into a wall of concrete depression. I’m still not sure what the trigger was, other than now that the key dates had passed, my guard was lowered and my neurochemistry took over. I held it together at work, but once I got home, I was ready to burst into tears if someone so much as looked at me. I wasn’t suicidal, but it manifested itself in a much more insidious way. I was certain that what I wrote sucked, what I was currently writing sucked, and anything in the future I write will suck. The fact that I finished over 50,000 words in November was pointless because not only was it crap, it was unfixable crap. There was no point keeping it, or the first novel I wrote, because no matter how much I worked on them, no one would be interested in reading them ever. I might as well toss them in the recycle bin and empty it. No point in trying anything creative at all, because it would suck. The last five years of my life had been a gigantic waste of time.
But here’s the most important thing I’ve seen people say. Two simple words. I went to my room and had a good cry to purge my emotions as best I could. I made a promise that I would see my doctor about going on medication if I felt like this for more than three days before I did anything as dire as running my hard drive through a shredder. Then I repeated this mantra over and over until I fell asleep.
I woke up on the 3rd with a much clearer head. While still not back to my normal level of upbeat snarkiness, I was feeling much better. I’m in an uphill climb to normalcy. I’m not there yet, but I will be.