Something most people know about me is that I have an invisible illness. Endometriosis. Endo is what inspired me to write my first memoir. Endo is what has kept me fighting all these years to become a stronger, better me. But I actually have two invisible illnesses—four or five if you count the things wrong with my head. But one is much more common. Migraine.
Last week I had something terrifying happen. Half of my body went numb. My face tingled. My head spun. The pain in my head felt like the pounding on a bass drum. I thought I was having a stroke. My family thought I was having a stroke. At 28 years old. I was rushed to the ER.
Come to find out I had a rare type of migraine. One yet to be defined. Atypical or hemiplegic we’re not entirely sure, but it was terrifying to say the least. You know what else it was. Straining on my families’ relationships. Sure we love each other and I know they want what’s best for me, but in those moments after my incident, I felt alone even when I was surrounded by family. And I think anyone in my situation would have been too, to be honest.
Let me explain. When I was in the ER my aunt never physically left me alone except to put a fire under the doctor’s behinds. At home, my grandfather constantly came to check on me. My mother, who lives out of town, came back to Georgia to make sure I was okay. My dad and sister, who also live out of state, checked on me constantly. I was never actually ALONE. But in in the depths of my mind I was.
In my mind no one was doing enough to help me. But that’s what depression and anxiety do to you, even when you are taking your meds. They make you think that you’re alone no matter what others are doing to help you. I was terrified of what was happening to me and it felt like no one understood. How could they? It wasn’t happening to them. It was happening to me.
Depression is an uphill battle. And adding anxiety to the mix brings a wave of paranoia to the show that no one ever expects. So all that, mixed in with fear, literal paralyzing fear, and what do you get, kiddos? One angry, defensive, immediately shutting down, manic depressive person that will not and cannot express herself like the college educated adult that she is.
That’s depression and anxiety.
Depression is more than just “being sad”. It’s not being able to function when you need to. It’s not being able to sleep when you need it most. It’s not eating, but gaining weight anyway. It’s shutting people out when you need them, but not realizing it until it’s too late. It’s crying for 36 hours straight and not being able to explain why, but not feeling any emotion at all while doing so. Depression is exhausting. And it is always there.
Which is why in the ER with my aunt, I all but shut down. I retreated into myself and stayed there…for days. I’m just now starting to come out, but even still I’m afraid. Afraid that my freak incident will happen again. For days I was afraid to drive. Terrified that it would happen while I was behind the wheel, killing me and someone else. What if next time it’s worse? What if next time it’s so bad it really is a stroke? What if next time I don’t get to the hospital in time? What if this is my new normal? Why do these things keep happening to me??
Anxiety is pretty screwy too, ya know.
But that’s where having a stellar support system comes in. And I really do have one of those. My parents are pretty great, but don’t tell them I said that. And my grandparents are the best. My aunt and uncle tend to be good in a bind too if I do say so myself. I have great friends, that even though they’ve been weeded down, they’ve been trimmed down to the best of the best. Sometimes things work out in ways you never expected them to.
But honestly, this post has been really hard for me to write. I don’t talk about my depression much or my anxiety for that matter. Those things are personal. More personal than the woman’s disease that invades my ovaries. But we need to talk about mental health more. And I feel, for me, this post, feeble though it is, is a start.
I hope to write an essay to add to my endo stories about my depression soon. But that may be too hard to come by. Who knows, maybe my support system will jump into action and whip me into shape one more time.