A Letter to the People Who Stay With Me Through My Depression

I like to think I’ve done a pretty good job of keeping a lid on things when it comes to how difficult life has been lately, and honestly for a while now. Hell, if you work with me, you might not even know I’ve been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and possible borderline personality disorder. I take my meds and I smile at work and I act like everything is okay but at home, behind the mask, I am dying inside. And that is why I’m writing this letter. A lot of people don’t realize that depression doesn’t look the exact same on every person; it doesn’t sound the same, act the same, or look the same, because it isn’t the same.

For me, depression is like the worst, most insensitive, degrading, unsupportive, abusive significant other you have ever had, but it lives in my head. So instead of breaking up with it and telling it to leave or physically leaving it myself, I have to do my best to silence it when it is quite literally the voice inside my head. The best way I can think of to explain the illnesses I have and their interconnectivity and the way they effect me is by quoting a metaphor from a letter just like this one that I read not too long ago.

The mental illnesses that I struggle with are like long distance friends from high school or college who aren’t really your friends anymore (and honestly never were) but you stay in touch because you feel obligated. You hope and pray that they don’t come in to town often, because when they do they insist on staying with you and they always overstay their welcome. Usually, they WAY overstay their welcome, and they also interfere with your day to day life in a million ways, some small, some not so small. For starters, trying to keep up with them leaves you exhausted in every way a person can be – mentally, physically, emotionally, psychologically. And then there’s their actual actions, like stealing things from you, trying to keep you confined to the house, keeping you up all night with stories that you know aren’t true and that seem targeted to make you feel bad. This results in you sleeping the days away later, trying to reclaim the lost sleep, or just keeping you in bed, unable to sleep or rest but feeling so, so tired.

Anxiety tells me that my friends don’t really like me, that they’re just pretending so they can use me. Depression tells me not to care. Anxiety tells me to care too much and freak out about it. Depression tells me to cut myself and make sure I can still feel something before I try to determine how I feel about this particular. And then, for a few blissful seconds, ADHD chimes in and distracts me. But then Depression reminds me that I’m a piece of human garbage because I didn’t go to the gym this morning, so I don’t deserve to eat and in a moment of weakness, I listen. I skip breakfast, and soothe my Anxiety with a cigarette and my Depression with a cup of coffee. I take the Adderall I need to function at work with my ADHD and then my appetite goes away anyway, so did I really need the food in the first place?

 

But honestly, I’m lucky. And here is why: while my mental illnesses do their best to rip me apart, I have a few stalwart souls that surround me and do their best to push me back together and hold me that way, fighting back against the warring voices in my brain. I have friends and family who pray for me, people who leave their phones on at night for me in spite of a six hour time difference, people who will come and sit with me while I cry – no questions asked – and comfort me, people who support me no matter what is going on in my life. I have friends who will literally do my laundry and dishes, who will drag me to the gym, who will bring me ice cream, who will just snuggle up with me and binge-watch anime even though there’s a million other things I “should” be doing. And those people are the ones that keep me going.

 

Now here’s the catch: Depression (who is just an asshole) likes to lie. Depression EXCELS at lying, and being believable, which makes them even more dangerous. And they will lie to you and tell you that no one cares and that you are a burden and that you’re bothering people and that everyone has their own problems and they don’t need to hear yours.

So if you have a friend, loved one, colleague, acquaintance, anyone in your life who you know struggles with any kind of mental illness at all, help them. A text message, a phone call, a visit. Check on them. Let them know you’re there for them. Because honestly, I have friends who have unwittingly saved my life simply by being in the right place at the right time, or by just texting me something like, “hey, wyd?” So be the one to reach out and offer a hand, because sometimes all we need is to know someone is there and someone cares.

 

(Also, and I wish I didn’t have to say this, but I do… people who suffer from depression and other mental illnesses are not lazy or selfish. We do not need hackneyed advice or to be told to “just cheer up.” It doesn’t work like that. If someone with any sort of mental illness expresses a need for help to you, it is coming from a very vulnerable place, so please try to be mindful and don’t be an asshole.)

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Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

This was probably the worst weekend of my entire time at this duty station, but it did bring about some good, so I can’t speak too harshly of it, if I’m being honest. It was pretty bad, though. Instead of just telling you what the event was that ruined my weekend, though, I’ll tell you the whole story.

It was Friday night. Due to the overwhelming number of responses from the friends I polled that I should, in fact, go out and have fun, I had decided to go out for a few beers and then call it an early night, because I’m a responsible grownup. Or boring. Boring works, too. Anyway. Rose had done my hair in two French braids for me and I had opted to go for clothing that was more “me” and more focused on comfort than looking good, because honestly when I’m me and I’m comfortable I’m confident and what is more attractive than confidence? I wound up wearing my Uh-Huh Baby Yeah! t-shirt, skinny jeans, and my slip-on Vans. I was comfortable, I felt more like myself than I had in a long time, and I was in a really good mood, something that didn’t often coincide with going out. As an introvert, more often than not, going out feels like a chore. Well, as I was putting the finishing touches on getting ready, Emmett texted me and asked if I was planning on going out. I told him I was and we made plans to meet up (with Nico, too) and go out as a group. We met up in Nico’s room, I helped him figure out what to wear, (I swear the boy is the most adorable diva on the planet), and then we went out. We went to Dardo first, since it was finally re-opened and we had all been missing Chicho. I had one drink (both of the boys had two) and then who should saunter in but dear sweet Rob Nixon. We promptly included him in our group and he informed us that his roommate was at Brixton. Well, Rob’s roommate is Chris, so I immediately paid my tab and headed for Brixton, because I wanted to see Chris’ handsome face! I adore that man.

Now, two things to keep in mind. The first is that Emmett and I were having a heated and hilarious gif war on Facebook Messenger while we were out, which had kept both us and Nico entirely amused while we were at Dardo. The second is that I had invited CJ to come out with us and he had blown me off on the pretense of wanting to stay in and have a quiet, chill Friday night at home. No one understood that better than me, so I teased him a little but didn’t push the issue.

So. Brixton. We all had a few more drinks (I had one and both of the boys had two), talked with Dave, Chris, and Rob, and chilled out. Well, I got a sudden, intense vibe that I should leave. I texted Nico and told him that I was probably going to head out soon, partly to inform him of my intent but mostly to see where he was at – if he was ready to leave as well or if he wanted to stay out for a while. He replied immediately that he, too, was considering leaving shortly (at which point I remembered that he had a volunteer thing the next day). About fifteen minutes later, as we had decided to wait on our friends to finish their drinks, who should walk into Brixton like he owned the place but CJ. I hid behind Emmett because I didn’t want to deal with CJ and decided it was time to leave. Emmett, who instantly realized what was going on, was leaving with me. I stopped by the bar long enough to hug Chris and tell him goodbye and then made a beeline for the door. Now, according to Emmett, he saw what was about to happen and tried his level best to warn me, but he was just a few seconds too late. As I had turned from the bar and started to walk out the front door of Brixton, someone slapped me on the ass as hard as they possibly could. I froze. I couldn’t even compute for a few seconds. And then, suddenly, I felt a surge of rage the likes of which I hadn’t experienced since the days when I fought competitively. I turned around to face CJ at a slight angle, almost in my fighting stance. His eyes widened and he backed away from me, blurting out, “Oh, God, she’s going to fucking hurt me.”

And then, in what I believe to be the most impressive display of self control of my entire life… I turned around and left the bar. I power walked home, headphones in and blaring music, with Emmett and Nico trailing in my wake, rage pounding through my veins and in my head. As I got back on base, however, the anger started to drain from me, being replaced by panic and terror and tears. I was holding it together fairly well until Emmett, who genuinely didn’t know any better, touched my shoulders to let me know that he was leaving. Now, I love Emmett. Absolutely adore the boy. He is one of the sweetest people I know, which is why I feel so bad that my knee-jerk response to his touch was to pull away like he was going to hurt me. He looked at me, bewildered, and I just shook my head and took off. Nico tried to touch me to comfort me, and I shied away from him, too. I wound up having a full blown panic attack, crying for several hours, and passing out.

 

It got worse during the following day’s conversation with CJ. He had tried numerous times to apologize to me and the previous night I’d merely responded with the information that he was lucky I didn’t want to bruise my Naval career by fighting because otherwise I would have put his ass in the ground and told him to never touch me again. The next day, he had continued to try to apologize but, when I didn’t immediately accept his apology and tell him everything was fine, he yelled at me, causing me yet another breakdown into tears and resulting in me telling him to leave me alone.

Now, I realize this may sound like an overreaction to some of my readers, but here’s the thing. The incident that I just described to you is sexual assault. A part of my body that is inherently sexual was touched without my consent. And the worst part, for me personally, was that it was someone who knew that I’d been sexually assaulted before – someone I trusted. It’s been two days and I’m still not okay yet. I’m still shaky and avoiding physical contact and feeling nauseated. There are no words to describe how violated I felt, and am still feeling today. It put me in a depression tailspin a little bit, but thankfully I had friends ready to pull me out of it and be there for me all day Saturday. I’m working on moving forward and I know I’ll be okay, but things like this are why I try to raise awareness for the reality that is sexual assault.

 

Until next time, stay frosty, nerds.

Stress

Three blog posts in one week?! It’s like Christmas!

I mean, it’s Cinco De Mayo, so close enough? Who doesn’t love a holiday that gives you an excuse to eat Mexican food? I mean, I personally don’t feel the need for an excuse, but some people… I’m thinking leftover tacos and maybe some tasty nachos for dinner tonight. Cinco De Mayooooo!

Anyway. There’s a point to this post, and it is this: in my ripe old age (of almost 26), I seem to have gotten a pretty good handle on coping with stress. I’m definitely better than I was, considering the amount of stress I’ve been under this week has been steadily increasing but I have yet to meltdown, have a panic attack, or even cry. It might seem ridiculous how proud I am of that fact, but given that I used to cry at work every day due to stress, it’s a monumental improvement. It really is. (To be fair, I did have a panic attack during my PRT, but that was due to not being able to breathe.)

This week has been pretty insane. Between my collateral duties at work dumping unexpected workloads on me, struggling to deal with walk-in patients with an already-full schedule, still coming to terms with my PRT failure, and numerous other stressors, I cannot believe I haven’t already fallen apart.

And yet, somehow, I’ve managed to keep calm and carry on, and do it well, if I may say so myself. The whole PRT failure thing aside, let’s talk about the rest of this week. It really wasn’t all that bad, but it would have been so much better if everything hadn’t all cropped up at basically the end of the week. If I had found out on Monday or Tuesday how much extra stuff I was going to have to do this week, it would have been completely copacetic. But, being that this is the Navy and we excel at last minute “by the ways,” it all happened on Thursday.

 

Being the TPO (training petty officer) for Optometry is normally a pretty chill gig, as my coworkers are normally pretty on top of it when it comes to getting their trainings knocked out. However, when the fiscal year reset and all of our annual trainings became due, they didn’t automatically get assigned by SEAT (Staff Education and Training) like they have for the past few years and no email went out, like it always has. This time, it fell to the TPOs to disseminate the trainings… but no one told us. So Thursday afternoon I got a polite email from the directorate TPO and my good friend with a list of delinquent trainings and a request to get them done ASAP. I also received a nastygram informing me that if my entire department didn’t have their trainings done by Friday, we would have to come in as a department on Saturday, regardless of who wasn’t finished with their training. Again, this normally wouldn’t have been that big of an issue, but our Training Thursdays (afternoons with no clinic schedule specifically for training) recently got taken away AND we have a brand-new boot sailor on-board who hasn’t gotten ANY of his trainings done because he’s been in face-to-face classes literally since he got here. I spent literally all day Thursday trying to get everyone’s trainings assigned, complete my own trainings, help run a clinic, and keep the stress from affecting the way I treat my junior sailors. It was definitely a tense day. Add to that the four walk-ins we had to squeeze into a full schedule yesterday and you start to get a picture of what my week has been like.

I’m also attempting to get myself and my clinic thoroughly prepared for our upcoming hospital-wide inspection in a week and a half, when The Joint Commission (TJC) and the Medical Inspector General (Med IG) come through. TJC handles hospital accreditation, so if we fail their inspection, our hospital gets shut down. It’s only the most stressful time of year, and combining that with the Med IG is making things really interesting. Unfortunately, we only recently got the hard dates for their arrival, and my only experience junior corpsman will be on leave, leaving me and a boot to try to make it through the inspections unscathed. That should be interesting.

And then there’s this morning – the final straws that might actual break this poor, tired, stressed out camel’s back. I have chosen orders not one, not two, but THREE times, and I still haven’t gotten selected for orders. On every single one, there’s been a flag that reads “PFA STATUS 1” which is the code for PRT failure. Unfortunately, I can’t help but worry that this might keep me from getting orders at all, much less getting sent anywhere I’d want to go.

Add to that having a huge discrepancy crop up with another of my collateral duties – I swear to God, if my old ALPO had just done a proper turnover, this would not be happening – which has added one more thing to my plate. I refuse to let this make me freak out, though. Thankfully, I remember all of my martial arts training, including the centering breath that helps me shed stress and focus, and also ADHD meds. I may have to work late today, but so help me God, this is going to get done. Just because the person who used to have my collaterals was a total dirtbag doesn’t mean the tradition needs to carry on.

 

It’s been a long week, but it’s almost over. I can do this!

Until next time, stay frosty, nerds!