The Blue Chicken or the Anxiety Egg?

Which came first? DownloadedFile

It’s the proverbial question.

Did my anxiety beget my depression?  Or am I worried how things will turn out because of my depression?

Worry-wort.  My own worst enemy.  Always running things through my head.  So sensitive.  Beating a dead horse.  All of these are terms used to describe me at one time or another.

I do have a tendency to perseverate.  I can’t let things go.  I worry them like a dog with a bone that is impervious to bite marks.  It’s not productive.  It’s not reassuring.  It’s a form of torment actually.

In college, after my roommate had left for the weekend, I would lie on my top bunk and stare out the window, wondering why I couldn’t go out and round up new friends as easily as everyone else seemed to be doing.  I would watch the sun set, thinking how alone I was.

As August neared its end one year, I bought a thin volume entitled, Why Are You Worrying?  As the cashier plugged my purchase into the register, he asked, “Are you a teacher?’  He said he’d bought the same book at the start of a school year once too.  While he may have bought the book for the same reasons I did, no self-help book could help me turn off the worry.  I triangulated every possible scenario in the classroom; how I would put out fires, cut off conflicts at the knees before they stood up, squash rebellion before it started.  But you can’t plan for every permutation.  The very nature of education is the X factor.

And this nervous nature – is that what plunged me into depression when life became so overwhelming as a mother of three?  I couldn’t control anything, didn’t understand and couldn’t fix the feelings I was having, and felt really crappy as a result.

Or is it viewing life through the dark glasses of depression that makes me see the shadows of worry in every corner?

It’s all tumbled together in the dryer at the highest setting anyway.

The only ‘good’ thing about all of it is that what I thought was a flaw on my part, a weakness, an inability to achieve, connect, push myself, believe in myself, is really anxiety.  I’m not this wimpy, pathetic, sad sack.  I have an excuse!  A reason, a rationalization, a disease.  Good for me!

So chicken or egg – it’s all part of the cycle of life.  All I can do is try not to get scrambled.

A Sit-com of Errors

I desperately want[ed] to pin my depression on ‘postpartum’.

If the hormonal let-down following birth was responsible for my troubles, then it was acceptable.  It was normal, natural, physiologically sound.  And it was temporary.  Once my body got back to stasis, it would go away.

Three years later, though the cloud has shrunk, no wind stiff enough has come through to sweep it across the plain of my life and over the horizon.

I don’t think I can ‘blame’ postpartum anymore.

My therapist said that my anxiety and depression are situational; that the heightened stress of my last pregnancy, the trauma following it, the continued stress of a three-child household all brought out my worst symptoms.  I argued that I may have always had some latent tendencies toward anxiety and depression.  Perhaps, she said, but up until this point I had successfully managed them.  I wanted to pinpoint the origin of my maladies, while she was focused on helping me overcome them.  In my mind, if I could find a reason for it, my depression might be more understandable, more valid, more easily admissible.

I think the term situational freaked me out.  Situational.  Just because I was in a shitty situation I couldn’t hang?  What kind of weak human was I?  This wasn’t a sit-com on network television that, after thirty minutes, left the sad sack sitting on the couch for a vibrantly-colored automobile commercial that told viewers to go out and grab life by the *#&@s.  My situation had grabbed me by the neck and wouldn’t let go, throttling me for much more than thirty minutes.

Now as postpartum fades in the rearview mirror, and my symptoms continue, some getting weirder (reemergence of night sweats), I’m turning my attention to other causes.  My aunt gave me Thyroid Power: 10 Steps to Total Health by Richard L. Shames and Karilee Halo Shames.  Since adolescence, my physician has tested me for nearly every cause of low energy: anemia, low blood sugar, mono, thyroid . . . you name it.  A few years ago, she diagnosed me with Raynaud’s Syndrome (because of my frigid, ubersensitive extremies), but that was seemingly unrelated and no other conclusive evidence could be found of a specific problem.  After reading this book, it seems this is the story of many other individuals with undiagnosed and untreated thyroid issues, which – you guessed it – is a major cause of depression and energy problems.  At this very moment, I am awaiting the results of a blood test much more detailed than the usual thyroid work-up, which often isn’t sensitive enough to catch subtle problems.

But even if I never determine the exact cause of my depression, does that make it any less real?

Whether my brain is misfiring its seratonin, my hormones revolted against another pregnancy, my anxiety makes it impossible to hakuna matata, or my thyroid is on hiatus, my depression is impairing my ability to live.

Yes, I need to analyze certain factors to appropriately address it (i.e. choosing SSRIs, hormone therapy, and/or just plain old people-to-people therapy), but my therapist had the right idea with simply moving forward; rather than looking back, looking forward with a positive outlook to improve my situation.

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It would be nice if the script-writer of my life could wrap it up in a nice, tidy episode, though.  To be continued . . .

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