‘HUGOT FOR HOPE’

My bat­tle against de­pres­sion has left me weary and wary, bat­tered and bruised. And yet I keep fight­ing

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - By Pam Pas­tor @pa­jammy

• STILL HERE—AND WIN­NING • THANK YOU, MISSY • I MADE IT TO ER JUST IN TIME • YOUCANNOT GIVE UP • BACK TO THE IRON

In Septem­ber, I stood in a room full of busi­ness­women and said, “I’m still here, and I’m win­ning.” That’s how I ended my talk about liv­ing with clin­i­cal de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety, some­thing I have been do­ing since 2015. I dis­cussed how de­pres­sion is a bat­tle, and how it’s one you can win.

It is, but the truth is, it doesn’t al­ways feel like I’m win­ning.

It didn’t feel like I was win­ning when, ear­lier this year, my psy­chi­a­trist pre­scribed a new pill and it kicked my ass with its aw­ful side ef­fects: nau­sea, headaches that al­most never went away, brain zaps, strange vi­bra­tions through­out my body, the in­abil­ity to sleep for more than two hours at a time, and restlessness, a per­sis­tent, un­re­lent­ing restlessness I had never known be­fore.

It made me feel like break­ing out of my own body and leap­ing out of my skin. My doc­tor calls it akathisia, I call it hell on earth.

Big wish

It didn’t feel like I was win­ning when I wrote my big wish just be­fore I turned an­other year older: “All I want for my birth­day is to feel like my­self again.”

It didn’t feel like I was win­ning when, two De­cem­bers in a row, I found my­self cry­ing in my shrink’s clinic, about to start treat­ment. “It feels like we’re back at square one,” I re­mem­ber telling her last year.

It didn’t feel like I was win­ning when I was in Lon­don a cou­ple of weeks ago and I could have and should have been out­side, check­ing out the Christ- mas mar­kets, stuff­ing my face at Beigel Bake, grab­bing a pint at a pub, but in­stead I was in my dark ho­tel room, hid­ing un­der the cov­ers.

It doesn’t feel like I am win­ning on days when I’m so un­steady, when I’m con­stantly drained, when I feel like fold­ing into my­self, when ev­ery­thing, ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing both­ers me, when just open­ing my mouth to talk takes so much ef­fort.

Over­whelm­ing

It’s okay to not be okay, I keep say­ing to peo­ple strug­gling like me. But not be­ing okay can be re­ally, re­ally ex­haust­ing.

“There’s some­thing about de­pres­sion that al­lows you (or some­times forces you) to ex­plore depths of emo­tion that most peo­ple could never con­ceive of. Imag­ine hav­ing a dis­ease so over­whelm­ing that your mind causes you to want to mur­der your­self,“Jenny Law­son wrote in “Fu­ri­ously Happy.”

I think of Avicii, Kate Spade, An­thony Bour­dain and all the other peo­ple we lost to sui­cide this year. De­pres­sion is a liar and a thief that has stolen from us again and again. It makes me an­gry and it makes me want to keep fight­ing. And so I do. I ride the waves, I take my meds, I lis­ten to my shrink, I watch my­self and I cel­e­brate the good things. I em­brace the tri­umphs.

Like my fam­ily and friends who of­fer end­less, un­wa­ver­ing sup­port, even when I am silent about what’s go­ing on.

Like when my doc­tor re­moved that damn med­i­ca­tion from my cock­tail of pills and I started to feel like my­self again.

Or how it’s al­ready De­cem­ber and I haven’t found the urge to run to my shrink yet.

Or how af­ter a day-and-ahalf of hid­ing, I threw aside the cov­ers and found the en­ergy to ex­plore Lon­don.

Or how ev­ery time I write or post about my men­tal health jour­ney, peo­ple reach out to tell me it’s helped them feel less alone. (They make me feel less alone, too.)

Or when the light breaks through the dark­ness and I for­get my con­di­tion even ex­ists un­til I have to pop my meds.

I am weary and wary, bat­tered and bruised. And yet I’m still stand­ing and de­ter­mined to keep go­ing.

I think that’s still win­ning.

I ride the waves, I take my meds, I lis­ten to my shrink...

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