So, there are lots of things I planned on writing about this month, but I am going to talk about something I never intended to talk about: depression. And there are lots of ways I could start this month’s little diatribe, but I am going to start by saying that I really appreciate my doctor. She is personable, interested, engaged. (You can check her out at drlizmd.com). I go to her because she is a specialist and has helped me get over chronic migraines, and I have to go about every six months for a check-in and update on my medications. Last Monday, when I went to see her (for my normal checkup) and she asked me how I was, I broke down in tears. (I unreasonably cried in the car all the way to the doctor’s office even though nothing was particularly wrong….) I told her through my snuffles that I was generally fine, but really really depressed and I felt that being depressed was making it harder to maintain where I need to be with my physical well-being. She asked if anything was wrong. And I said – “No – I mean, I am busy, and I am stressed, but that is normal life for me. I should be happy. But one day it was like the focus in my binoculars shifted and everything in my life was the same but I was really extremely unhappy.” She looks at me and says: “We can fix that. It’s your hormones.”
“My hormones?” She was prepared with a two-sided laminated chart on her desk – she flipped it over and showed me the impact on hormonal changes in women as they age. Hey – great – people warned me about hot flashes, but did not warn me about the likelihood of me totally losing my shit. I said, “I haven’t been this depressed since I was 16.” And she replied, “Your hormones haven’t been going this crazy since you were 16.”
So, that is great, I guess? But, really, how many people know this crap? And how many women are taking piles of anti-depressants that they don’t need to take because what they really need is to get their hormones balanced out? My normal general practitioner doctor – also very nice – wouldn’t have taken the time to find out about my depression or would have just given me anti-depressants. And, in the long run, would that really help my depression or my overall physical and psychological well-being? Or is that too existential of a question, like asking “and how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”
I just started taking my new hormones, and I am not sure how long feeling better is going to take, but knowing that I am not going fucking crazy was a first start in making me feel a little more like a normal human being again. That was a plus. And so few people know how really awful I was feeling, because apparently most of the time I mask it pretty darned well. One of the first days after I started feeling really depressed – not a little depressed, but one of those, I really don’t know if I can even get out of my bed, let alone function with other people on an interactive basis kinds of depressed – one of my coworkers emailed me with some annoying questions and then calls me on the phone. Now I am depressed and annoyed, but I pick up the phone and start dealing with him. During the call he tells me “You are certainly in a good mood today!” (Note: he was not being sarcastic.) And I think “Really? Apparently what I am is an amazing fucking actress….”
So, if you didn’t know I was depressed it is because adult Red Velvet looks like this when depressed:
Whereas, the 16-year old depressed me was a noticeable wreck. See depictions of what my 16-year old self depressed would have looked like in pictures below. (Note: if you couldn’t figure it out these pictures aren’t really of me at 16.)
My adult depressed self smiles, nods, has deeply empathetic conversations with others and acts pretty much similar at work to what the non-depressed adult self acts like. My adult self gets my ass out of bed, goes to work, does the laundry, the shopping, continues to make costumes and teach classes and generally pulls my shit together because that is fucking life. My 16-year old depressed self would come to school and face plant my head onto my desk and stay there unless I was forced to respond to a teacher or (on rare occasion) other student. She would cry uncontrollably (adult self does that too, but typically only when alone or when someone cruelly asks how I am and actually has the audacity to MEAN it…) She would go home and become practically catatonic listening to music in her room while staring at record album covers. My 16-year old depressed self would drag myself to school every day but would sometimes miss extracurricular activities because I couldn’t get myself up and out of the bed twice in one day. Now I think, my god, with this terribly blatant depressed behavior why didn’t anyone get the 16-year old depressed me any help? And then adult me realizes that the 16-year old depressed me was likely surrounded by so many other fucked-up 16-year olds that it really wasn’t very noticeable. Ah, the turmoils of being a teen.
So I know, from previous mental health issues, that depression and other mental health issues don’t have to make sense – they keep spiraling in your brain and making it worse. My perfect example of that is what I have decided to call my ‘Corn Story’…. I have a history of eating disorders and when I was 30 I was deep into an anorexic episode. At that point, one of the things I stopped eating was baby corn – you know, those little baby corn cobs that come in a can. I figured (in my anorexia-addled thinking) that since a full-sized corn on the cob has about 80 to 90 calories unbuttered, that a baby corn on the cob had to have way more calories since you were eating the WHOLE ENTIRE CORN – including the center. Obviously that makes no sense. It is like saying that I can’t eat an egg because I am eating the whole chicken so it must be more calories than eating an entire roast chicken because you aren’t eating the innards and the bones when you eat a roast chicken, but they are there as part of the egg. I am not an idiot, (this should be self-evident if you know me) and I logically KNEW that this made no sense. But the sick part of me thought that it was perfectly logical. And this is how the fucked up brain works. There are more and more illogical things that you believe every day that your brain is fucked up. It is like being fucked up makes your brain more fucked up.
So, being depressed makes you more depressed. Because you are depressed. And people say, well, take it easy because you are depressed. But then, you have more time to think about how depressed you are, which makes you more depressed. And you think about all of the things you should be doing if you weren’t depressed, which also makes you more depressed. And it goes on and on…. It doesn’t have to make sense – it just IS…
So, here is my normal happy brain thinking while driving in San Francisco:
“What a beautiful day. The weather is great. I am going to put the top down on my car. The wind feels so good. Look at all of the beautiful Victorians. I love to drive and I have a great car. I love this city – could I live anywhere better than this?”
And here is my depressed brain thinking while driving in San Francisco:
“Look at the ugly cement. It is hideous. Why do we have to build such ugly ugly things?… Well, the Victorians are nice…. But compared to what? What would be here if there weren’t Victorian houses. Nature! Nature would be here and how can we compete with that? Nature is much prettier and we destroy it. For what? People are so greedy and ugly and we have to change everything to suit our own petty needs – killing wildlife, destroying ecosystems. People are so selfish we destroy all life around us to make our lives so called “better.” Why do we exist anyway? People are miserable creations. All humans should just die.”
So, I didn’t write this because I wanted you to say “awww, poor Red Velvet.” This is not a pity party posting. This is the way shit is and this is what I have been dealing with. And Red Velvet is a lot of things, but I also try to be real and let you in on my brain. And if you laughed at some of my comments – then, good. They are supposed to be funny. And if you can laugh a little about it – that is a good thing. (Note: I don’t think being depressed is funny, but when you can start laughing at your fucked up brain and how it isn’t working and the stupid things you are thinking – it helps. You can laugh or you can cry and sometimes you do both at the same time because that is how shit works, too…)
And I also write about this because it is important. I know a lot of other people are out there dealing with mental health shit – whatever it is caused by – it is REAL and it is HAPPENING and it can be really fucking serious. And we need to be there for other people and listen to them and help them if we can. That is important. And because how many people are out there, feeling shit that maybe they don’t have to feel, because things in their body are just really fucked up? Are people making stupid decisions about their lives – perhaps even ending their lives – just because their hormones are fucked up, they feel like shit, and they don’t know how to stop it? I think they probably are and that is tragic. Hot flashes are annoying, but I somehow think hating your life and/or yourself are much more tragic impacts of hormonal changes and imbalances and NOONE TALKS ABOUT THOSE… So, I am talking about them. Because people need to know about this shit. And they need to know that they can get help and that they aren’t just going fucking nuts.
And that is my version of a public fucking service announcement. Deal with it… or don’t. Frankly, I don’t care. And if I did, would you even know? – because I am a pretty good fucking actress when I need to be…