Beating the Beast


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I have dysthymia.  I've had it for probably 25 years or so but didn't know it until about 10 years ago.  Its effects upon my life and my relationships are only now beginning to come into my understanding.  Dysthymia is an insidious form of depression.  It is long-term and cyclical.  It is classified as "mild to moderate", as if it were no big deal.  The effects on my life have been anything but mild to moderate.  It has robbed me of some of the best years of my life.  Here is a quote from an on-line article about dysthymia that says it all:

"If we think of major depression as a spectacular brain crash, milder depression can be compared to a form of mind-wearing water torture. Day in and day out it grinds us down, robbing us of our will to succeed in life, to interact with others, and to enjoy the things that others take for granted. The gloom that is generated in our tortured brains spills outward into the space that surrounds us and warns away all those who might otherwise be our friends and associates and loved ones. All too frequently we find ourselves alone, shunned by the world around us and lacking the strength to make our presence felt."


I did not realize that there was anything biologically "wrong" with me.  I just thought I enjoyed misery.  It doesn't hit you over the head, it just creeps into your life and feels like something you SHOULD be able to control but can't.  It feels like it is your personality.  It has made me put up huge walls around me.  I am afraid to have a truly close relationship and I don't even know why. 

As far back as I can remember, I have had episodes of depression, but I didn't know what depression was as a kid, so I thought it was just the way I was.  The most overwhelming feeling I would experience as a child and teenager during these times was a desire to not exist.  Not suicidal thoughts, just thoughts of not existing.  It would feel like a darkness creeping into me for no reason.   I have always had these "episodes" although I did not recognize them as such until much later.  I have had a few episodes of major depression on top of this.
It really started to worsen after I got married.  I would feel like nothing in my life was right, even if everything was perfect, and to rationalize these feelings within me, I would blame my marriage.  I lost interest in sex and thought that's all my husband loved me for.  I felt like no one liked ME as a human being.  My lack of libido and unexplained unhappiness eventually drove my husband away, and he left me with a 5-month-old baby with special needs.  I don't blame him.  A year and a half later, in 1995, I met my current husband, and only then did I begin to recognize that the SAME feelings I blamed on my first husband were resurfacing.  That's the first time I was able to recognize that the problem was ME.  I got my diagnosis and went on Zoloft.  It helped.  
But I have always hated feeling like I need a pill to be human, so I have tried going off of it a few times.  Then I start having episodes of EXTREME irritability, especially with my children.  My mood gets to be so inconsistent that it wears my family down.  And I start hating my marriage again and blowing things way out of proportion.  I went off the Zoloft again in April 2004.  Had a rough time but then things smoothed out.  Then in September, BOOM, another major depression.  Crying all the time.  Yelling at my children over nothing and everything.  Then incredible guilt.  Having NO motivation whatsoever to even lift a finger.  Slogging through the day in a dark haze.  Wanting to not exist again.  Wanting NOTHING except to be alone in my bed under the covers.  But wait, I home school my 3 children, so they are with me all the time.  I really wanted to do this, and I love having my kids with me when the beast is not around.  So I went back on the Zoloft in November 2004.  I am still struggling to feel some happiness.  It comes and goes.   I feel a pervasive sadness in the prime of my life, when everything is right and good in my life.  Almost everyone that knows me thinks I am a happy, fun person.  I am, when the beast isn't hovering.  Then I have to put on a face and act my way through life.  I feel as if the beast has been floating around me for a long time and I wish it would either come or go so I can live my life. 
I am planning to start talk therapy soon.  I still feel as if no one truly loves ME as a person.  I think that feeling is part of this disease.  I have no friends that I feel comfortable enough spilling all this to, because to the average person who hasn't experienced it, it sounds pathetic and I don't want to sound pathetic.   I have told some people that I struggle with depression, but I never go into much detail, and they usually don't ask or don't believe it because they only see the happy me, or the happy mask I wear sometimes.  I hate it.  I wish I could trust someone enough to let them really know me inside and out.  And then I wish they would love me anyway, and if they did, I wish I could believe it. 
I believe I will conquer the beast with the right balance of medication, therapy, support, and faith in God.  The hardest part is letting people other than my husband and children know the real me so I can have the support I need, and so I can (maybe, some day?) feel that it is okay to be the way I am, whatever that is.

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Revised: 04/02/05.

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