I was nervous. There’s something about depression and it’s ability to twist and turn your thoughts into outlandish, negative distortions.
I’ve always felt extreme guilt over being away while caring for myself.
My psychiatrist tells me “if you had diabetes and you were sick you would need to take time off to be well again.”
Sure, it sounds legit. I AM sick. Just not in the way most people understand.
Even a conversation with my own sister made me feel inadequate for taking some time. She asked why I was home on a workday and I told her the Doctor wrote me out.
“For what?” She asked.
She snidely responded, “you think your depression will be cured by Monday?”
I was saddened that my own sister would ridicule me and my Doctors decision to start me on a new medication and take the rest of the week off. I immediately left the room and tears of guilt and shame ran down my face.
She didn’t mean to hurt my feelings. She didn’t mean to belittle my illness or make me feel intense shame. She just didn’t understand.
And that’s what it can be like. When you can’t REALLY discuss your Mental Illness with people because you know it’s more trouble than it’s worth. Because they don’t understand and you don’t have the energy to try to defend yourself.
So, you just tuck it away. If you’re like me, you sometime attempt to reach out through writing and social media.
So yeah. Today I went back to work.
I was silent most of the day. I tried to focus on one assessment at a time. (I am a geriatric nurse).
At one point my coworker turned to me and said, “You’ve been really quiet today, are you ok?”
I looked at her and I know she could tell by the look on my face that I was NOT okay.
“I’m just trying to focus on these assessments.”
She drops her normal assertive stance. Her face softens, and she says, “Look, you’ve been gone for the last 5 days, I know something’s going on.”
“I can’t talk about it right now.” Desperate for her to stop asking questions. Don’t cry, Jackie. Hold it together.
She looks me straight in the eyes and says, “I understand if you don’t want to talk about it. I’m here if you do. I love you.”
And immediately, I could tell that the tenseness in my body dissipated for a moment.
Later that day I had a similar message from someone else that works with me.
“I understand darkness. If you want to talk or go to the gym or whatever, I’m not far away.”
These women I work with are incredible. They are supportive and understanding and loving. They’re the kind of women you want in your corner.
Sometimes it’s not even that we need to talk about every detail of our illness. It’s nice to have a person or two, but the biggest antidote to the shame and guilt is LOVE. It’s non-judgement. It’s understanding and empathy. It’s allowing us the space to get well, but knowing that you’re cheering us on.
Today wasn’t a day without Depression, but it was an improvement.