Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Great Depression - Part Three

Continued from Part Two.

So I managed to graduate from University with my Master's Degree. Quite an accomplishment, really. It's a lot of hard work, and considering that I was obviously dealing with an untreated mood disorder, I should have been more proud of my 20-something self than I was at the time. I worked through it, ignored a lot of shit I should have addressed, and got finished.

And then I moved to Texas. If there is something that can both cause me to ignore my moods as well as ultimately add to them, it's a big adventure. The excitement of going on a trip or moving I suspect actually distracts me from how I'm feeling. The physical-ness of the adventure takes away from the emotion of it and allows me some reprieve for a while. I don't understand why, because moving and traveling are incredibly stressful and ultimately add to my problems, but for a while they help me ignore them, I guess.

So Texas. I moved thousands of miles away from home for an indefinite amount of time to a place where I knew no one. Looking back on it, it was certainly exciting, and a GREAT experience, but if I was looking solely at my emotional issues, I don't think I'd have recommended it.

I don't particularly remember any specific anxiety issues that came up in the 2 years I lived in Austin, but I'm sure they were there. Living alone, though, allows denial to live. While I was there, I did a lot of reading about Candidiasis, and spent an entire year on a yeast-free, sugar-free diet. I also rode my bike to and from work a lot of days. I was in great shape and physcially in better health than I'd ever been. That's what can happen when you live alone, have a decent income and don't have to commit time and effort to family. Looking back on it, Texas really was an idyllic time. Don't get me wrong - there were issues. And I know I wasn't always easy to work with (which is a common thread through my adult life). But personally, it was a good time. I made good friends, and for the first time went for quite a long stretch (about a year) without a serious man in my life.

But that came to an end. I had a work visa that only allowed me to work for one company. It was only good for three years and after two, the job I'd been hired for was over. I was homesick (sorry to my former co-workers for talking a little too much about home - I'm sure it was annoying) and the work offered to me if I stayed was not appealing - and being difficult to work with meant that the people I worked for had no desire to sweeten the pot. On the other hand, I had a good job lined up for when I got back to Canada. So I packed my Honda Civic and a small U-Haul trailer and drove (alone) from Austin to Texas. I told you I like a good adventure. It was a really wonderful and awful trip.

Back in Canada, life fell to pieces (which I can totally see in retrospect, but at the time I was just living it) - and it was likely at least partially due to mood problems. The job I had lined up was suddenly no longer there. The pipeline project that had been planned was cancelled and suddenly there were 20 unemployed archaeologists - all of whom had better connections in BC than I did. The diet I had been on successfully for a year had also fallen to pieces - it's really hard to eat a good diet when you're travelling, and once it's broken, it's pretty darned hard to get back to it - especially when life is in turmoil.

So a dear friend of mine got me a job doing office work. I think I worked there for about 6 months or so. I also got a contract job doing some web writing for the Vancouver Museum. But, in general, it was a bad time. My life had gone from being an M.A. with a good job in my field to being an office temp. If you think THAT isn't hard on your self-esteem, you're wrong. And when you have unacknowledged anxiety issues, it is just a whole lot worse.

Well, life continued in a very up and down manner for quite a while after that - about a year and a half (actually, longer). These anxiety issues took a long time to manifest, a longer time to acknowledge, and then even longer to get treated. I'll say it again ... DENIAL. Seriously. So as life went up and down, the moods just slowly spiralled down until they were no longer bearable. But not before I got fired from a couple of jobs, lost some relationships and had some really awful times.

You don't need all the details. Let's just say that over a stretch of about 5 years I went downhill, finally started to get meds for treatment and started to understand the beast I was dealing with (although I suspect this is a lifelong journey). I have to say that the medical system failed me. The first doctor to prescribe me antidepressants did so because I came into the office and told him I had depression issues. I don't recall him asking a lot of questions or getting me to fill out a questionnaire or anything, and there was never ANY suggestion of going for councelling. I just told him the family history and he agreed that I had these issues and I walked away with medication (which has since been taken off the market for causing liver failure).

I also have to say that there is still a lack of compassion in the world about depression. There is fear - both of the condition and of litigation in the case of employers. But people in general just don't understand the condition, what it does to people or what they can do to help. And a good part of that problem is the fact that the depressed person doesn't know that they are acting strange, externalizes all of their problems and in many cases don't even know that something is wrong. The veil of secrecy that my mother dealt with the the 70s and 80s is still there - it's just not QUITE as dark as it used to be.

It's been 12 years since I started taking medication. Arugably at least 17 years since the first serious symptoms arose. Seems longer. In the next posting, I hope to get down to the nitty-gritty of how this affects me - and how I affect the people around me.

As a post-script: I hadn't really thought of it until just now, but it wasn't until I understood the problem I was dealing with and started treating it that I was able to meet and marry my husband. Relationships were the road kill of my issues. I was needy, they weren't understanding. No one could take care of me the way I thought they should be able to - because, of course, no one else can take care of me at all (I know now) - I need to take care of me. No one else can make the bad stuff go away. And I thought they could. And I certainly hadn't got all the problems under control when I met my DH, but I was aware of them. And that was enough to break the cycle and to allow both him and me an understanding of what we were dealing with. And it allowed the intimacy necessary for that type of relationship.

Continued in Part Four.

3 comments:

  1. I'm honored to have played a small part in your big adventure in Texas.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Aw, Jer! Thanks. I'm glad to have known you, too. I'm so excited for your engagement. You deserve all the happiness you can get.

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