I'm a worrier. I get an idea and I put it in my head and let it gnaw away at my thoughts. I worry about other people's thoughts and feelings. It sounds nice in theory, to be concerned for others, but I do it too much. I do it to the point of my own self-centered paralysis. What will they think (of me), what will they say (about me), what will they do (to me), will they like me...
Coupled with the worry is apparently a profound lack of physical ability to handle stress. For years now, stress has manifested itself physically in different ways. Sometimes it's headaches, other times it's been vertigo, nausea, a lingering cough. Most recently, my internalized stress triggered (not caused - my doctor was very firm that there isn't necessarily a causal relationship; this is a chemical problem that elevated stress levels may have aggravated but that was already lurking in my brain. Because that was supposed to make me feel better?) depression that I dealt with for almost nine months before finding the right professional help. It wasn't debilitating depression, but it had gotten bad enough that I was crying more days than I wasn't, I snapped at my husband and my kids ALL the time, and I was just never happy. I felt like there was a huge weight on my chest and I constantly let out deep, heavy sighs to try and relieve the pressure. When the symptoms finally became too obvious to ignore, I attributed them to really bad PMS and talked to my OBGYN about birth control pills to regulate my hormones. After three more months, it was obvious that wasn't the problem. She asked if I could be depressed. I shrugged. Well, after leaving a horrible job in April and just finishing (finally!) my bachelor's degree in December, what would I be depressed about in January - and what would I have been depressed about since oh, I dunno, May? She suggested we try Zoloft, so I agreed because I was ready to stop feeling the way I felt.
I have been taking Zoloft now for just over two weeks. I've been hesitant to tell many people about what's going on with me for a couple of reasons. First, I am not sure even now that I completely know how I feel about this situation. I'm not ready for too many other opinions on the matter until I have my own opinion, and that alone tells me this is serious. Second, any opinions I get now need to be able to be objective, and as I've found, there aren't many objective opinions in the depression and drugs discussion. Most people I know have a pretty strong opinion, based on the fact that they work in healthcare, are currently taking depression medication, know someone who has taken depression medication, or their beliefs about the true cause and nature of depression. None of these opinions help me, because I already know those sides of the story.
I know that drugs have helped and continue to help a lot of people. I know that depression can be a horrible chronic curse that ruins families and lives. I also know that sometimes when people say they are "depressed," they are just sad, down, stressed, or unhappy about a particular event or circumstance. To me, that is not the same as the person who is depressed in a way that prevents them from seeing color in their lives or enjoying a single moment of any day or even functioning. My struggle is that I fall into neither of those groups. My bad days were bad, but I still got up, showered, cared for my children (sort of and with lots of yelling), went to work, prepared dinner, helped with homework, did my own homework, etc...Until the end, I was even still having sex with my husband, though of course, not as much as he would have liked. But that's a whole different topic. The problem was that even while I was doing those things, I was miserable and sad and felt dead inside for no apparent reason. Things that should have been completely benign set me off into uncontrolled tears. A couple of times I sobbed in the bathroom, unable to stop, worried that my husband or children would hear and would ask for an explanation I did not have. I have struggled with and reached a point of acceptance with the fact that, while my depression is mild and liveable, and even unnoticeable to most people I know, it is true depression and I need help to treat it.
A few days ago, I think I reached a turning point where the medication started to have some effect and the difference in the days since that point and those before has helped me to finally accept what is happening to me and the fact that it is not something I can either control or fix on my own. I do not want to be dependent upon a drug to live my life, though I don't have any practical reasons why. I never thought I looked poorly upon people who take drugs to function, but maybe I secretly did. I don't think so, but why else would it be okay for them and not for me. I think it all comes back to control, and for me, depending upon the drug is losing control. In all truthfulness, I am pissed off that I can't get better on my own - just suck it up and be happy. And so I struggle to be okay with taking the drug, even while I continue to take the drug, and believe the drug is helping me.
So, all of that to say all of this...
Now, I'm worried. What triggered this disease for me was a job change. I don't like that, but I believe it. I am not sorry I left my old job. I am not sorry I took this new job. While the new job is still, ten months later, not yet challenging me in the ways I had hoped or providing the opportunities I thought it would, I am learning new things. I feel appreciated and, most of the time, that I am able (or will be able) to contribute something of value to the department and the company. One of my dear friends is my boss, and she is terrific. The corporate culture here is everything I could hope for. I can't explain enough how happy I am to work for this company, and how thrilled I am to no longer be an employee of the other. However, I worked for that company for nine years. It was my first 'real' career job. The decision to leave was agonizing, even through the misery. I was sick to my stomach for a week. I didn't sleep. I couldn't concentrate. The first month I was at the new job was much of the same. Looking back now, I see that is when I first started showing signs of the depression that was growing.
Now, things are better. The stress of school is gone (though finishing school was another big change that rocked my system), the "new job" feel has settled. I have work to fill my day, but am not so busy that I don't have time to breathe. When I leave work in the evening, I truly leave work. I am able to enjoy being at home with my family.
But there's a problem: I am in Finance. I don't like finance and I am not now, nor will I ever be, an accountant. My husband is an accountant, and that is as close as I need to get. I work with the system that runs our financials. I have worked on this system for over seven years (first at the old company and now at the new), but until I took this job, my main focus was first HR and after that, Payroll. I miss HR and even (God help me) Payroll. It is my comfort zone and - to me - so much more interesting than debits and credits. Recently, I referred a former co-worker for an open position in the HRIS group. It was my perfect dream job, and I helped him get it instead. Why? Well, Silly, because I felt guilty. And I worried.
What would my friend/boss think if I jumped ship so soon after she rescued me from the other sinking ship? I felt, and still feel, that I owe her at least a year of my time. So finally, we're to the current problem. The year will be up at the beginning of April. The HRIS department is discussing the probability that they will need another position similar to the one my friend took. You know, my dream job. And they are throwing my name around as a likely candidate for the opening. So what's the problem, you ask? Silly, haven't you been paying attention? Guilt. Worry. Stress. Depression.
First, have I really repaid my friend enough for hiring me? The projects she hired me to work on were delayed or cancelled. The big projects coming now are due to start this spring - right when I would be leaving. The guilt. What will she think? Will she be upset or angry with me for leaving Finance to go back to HR? Will I be taking the easy way out instead of sticking it out here and learning the Finance game? The worry. If I were to take the job and switch, will the stress of this job change do to me what the last job change did? Will it cause the depression that I am just beginning to grapple with to worsen? I feel like I am crawling up out of a dark hole and the thought of going back down there to the dark is terrifying.
I am trying to remind myself that I can't even see this bridge yet, let alone do I have to decide whether or not to cross it. But that's where the worrier in me comes in. The thought is in my head, festering, digging tunnels in my brain. It sits on my shoulder and whispers things in my ear. Unintelligible, worrysome things, full of dread and dark, caused by something I want desperately.
And there's the sigh. It's here this afternoon. The pressure is back on my chest, though it's not as heavy as it might have been a week ago. I worry that the very worry I am worrying will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing me to slip back into the dark. Again, I am self-absorbed with the internal workings of my brain and body. It's hard to concentrate on a job or contribute to a family with the constant checking of my sanity.
I spoke briefly with a friend this afternoon and explained the situation, though I didn't go into elaborate details about all the angst and she doesn't know about the depression. She told me not to be an astronaut floating in space with just the cord to keep me attached to the ship. I should pull myself back in and wait until the asteroid hits before I start to panic. I love her analogies. One day, I'll record them in a book and make millions. Until then, I'm checking my oxygen tank and trying to head back to the ship and not think about the asteroid that may or may not be headed my way.