You Say Depression, I say Tomato

I can't ignore it anymore. Four days of wearing the same clothes, falling asleep on the couch and feeling my heart seize up in my chest at the thought of socializing has made it painfully, blatantly obvious:

Something is not right.

If I were a younger gal, it would be pretty easy to diagnose: either you're depressed or there's something more...postpartum depression, maybe. Stress-induced anxiety/panic. 

But I'm middle aged now. And that means it could be so many things. Or nothing. 

I could be legit depressed. It could be yet another sign of menopause. It could be the thing I've referred to for years...my thyroid. Every time I gained weight in the past I joked about it being my thyroid. This was during my WebMD years, when I spent many sleepless night clicking on "Symptoms of" and diagnosing myself with a vast array of maladies. At one point I had heart disease, hypothyroidism and HIV. That was a scary week.

My favorite part of hypothyroidism is "unexplained weight gain". The other symptoms aren't as convenient, and honestly I'd probably be really worried if my hair started falling out. But unexplained weight gain is right up my alley. 

Only problem is, my weight gain is very easily explained. It's what happens WHEN YOU DON'T MOVE and YOU EAT A LOT. 

Here's the thing about feeling blue when you're in your forties: It's kind of common. From what I've heard through the old lady grapevine, these awful mood swings are fairly typical. And when I say mood swings, I mean mood swings. 

Like, picture my moods wearing sparkly unitards and swinging on trapezes like this:

And this is on a good day....

There are days I am "normal". I shower, I get dressed, I put makeup on and leave the house. I work, go to Target and sometimes even meet friends for cocktails or conversation. Laundry is done, I vacuum a room or two, clean the bathroom.  And all is right with the world.

Then there are the bad days. The days I don't shower, I don't get dressed (just keep the same clothes on that I most likely slept in). I leave the house only under duress, and then it's with a cloak of anxiety wrapped around my shoulders. "What if I run into someone I know? How will I explain the fact that I look and smell homeless?". These are the days I don't cook or shop for groceries. The days I heat up the oven and put in a few Party Pizzas and say "DINNER IS SERVED, MONKEYS" to the kids who are at home.

And even worse than the bad days? Those are the empty days. The days I go about business as usual but I'm like a corpse dressed up and walking around. There is no sadness, no despair. There is NOTHING. I literally feel nothing. Those days are the worst. I'd rather have any feeling, any one at all. The non-feeling days scare me because it makes me wonder how many people are like this all the time.

I don't want to be like that.

I'm not dumb. I know what depression is, I know how it presents itself, I know the treatments. I've talked myself off the ledge before, I've helped my son off that very same ledge. It's not rocket science. 

Sometimes exercise helps. Sometimes medication helps. Sometimes just the act of NOT sitting on the couch, feeling paralyzed and exhuasted and eating soft warm comfort food makes all the difference in the world. 

Today I put on clean yoga capris. I have socks on. My hair is up, my contacts are in. I'm eyeing my running shoes and the dog's leash which hangs from the closet doorknob. And here I sit. I see the sunny sky and I see other people outside, walking their dogs and driving their cars and I think to myself, "You can be one of them. Just go."

And myself thinks back to me: "Oh. But I've gained 12 pounds. Look at my fat legs and my mushy belly! What will people think of me?". I think of all the things I should be doing. My mom needs me to color her hair. One of the kids needs to be picked up. We are down to two Party Pizzas! Then I look at my dog who is curled up, sleeping on his chair (yes he has his own chair). I worry that he's getting depressed too. The thought of having a depressed dog is depressing me even more. 

This is the wheel of nutty that spins in my head all the live-long day. Thank God people can't hear what's going on between my ears, can't listen in on the back and forth that keeps up at such a frenetic pace it's hard for me to decipher it. 

I think of what doctors have given me in the past. Adderall for my ADD. Which I loved. LOVED. I loved it too much, I think. I found myself becoming so in love with it that I stopped taking it. When your mouth starts watering at the sound of pills shaking in a bottle? Either you are Karen Walker or you may like your amphetamines just a little too much, yo. I also worried about something someone once told me, about the effect of Adderall and Ritalin and other ADD drugs on the heart. Did I mention that I had heart disease once? That was because of the Adderall. My chest used to hurt at night. When I took a breath, it hurt. That, combined with the drooling, was the reason I quit.

I was on antidepressants for a while. Citalopram. That was prescribed to me shortly after my husband left. When I was in the "can't get out of bed, and here are some suicide notes I wrote" phase. I will admit that the Citalopram helped me get out of that funk. But what I didn't like about it was, it took me out of one funk only to plop me right into another one. A less "I want to die" funk but a funk just the same. My most vivid memory from this pharmaceutical adventure was the absolute lack of emotion I felt. I didn't cry every day, but guess what? I didn't laugh, either. I was Zombie Jenny. I quit taking Citalopram after ten months. When I stopped, I felt again. I felt sad, yeah. But not as sad as before. And even better...I felt happy some days. I'll never forget how it felt the first time I laughed, I mean really laughed after that. It felt like clouds breaking and warm sunshine.

I'm not a fan of medicine. I'm the mom who questions every vaccine, the one who said no to antibiotics for repeated ear infections and sinus issues in my kids. I'm the one who got through 3 c-sections with nothing stronger than Advil. 

Medicine does help in some cases, of course. Duh. It's a miracle for some people. Some people in this house, in fact. But for me? I'm one who will try every other option before getting pilled up again. Could it be as simple as moving my body? Maybe. It could be that simple. It could be cutting out sugar. Or carbs. It could be all I need is a conversation with a friend. Or it could be much more than that. It could be something deeper, darker, harder to pinpoint. Who knows? For once, it COULD be my thyroid (although I think it takes more than one symptom, Jenny). 

So now, when I find myself stuck in a shitty rut like I've been in for the past 3 weeks, I start to wonder. I wonder if I'm becoming depressed again. I wonder if this is just one of those mood swings, only my swing is stuck on Low. 

One of the benefits of getting older is that your toolbox is bigger. You have gone through more and you know what to try before waving the white flag. 

That's what I'm doing today. I am opening up my toolbox and tinkering and seeing if this is a DIY job or one for the pros.

First step is one that I learned when I first found myself alone with four kids and house to run: 

Lists. I make lists. Right now, I am pretty certain that a lot of this mental paralysis I'm experiencing is due to the OVERWHELMING amount of things I need to do/buy/make/arrange/set up/complete. So here's what's on my list so far:

  • Get taxes done. My tax lady was on hiatus in April, so I filed an extension. Now Charlie needs my 2012 tax info for his FAFSA form. In like, three days.
  • Figure out why I still don't have the title for my car after a year and a half
  • Get caught up with last year's hockey dues in order to sign William up for this year
  • Get William signed up for Cross Country but only after they say it's okay if I wait until after the 15th. You know, so I can pay for it.
  • Color my mom's damn hair
  • Get Molly's senior picture session set up
  • Lose the twelve pounds I've gained this summer. And then the forty I needed to lose before I gained the twelve.
  • Color my damn hair
  • Walk my depressed dog. Oh and get him into the vet for his check up. Which was due in May
  • Get the house in order so it's all good when I leave this week to help my BFF in Wisconsin. She broke her leg and needs help. I will need 24 hour police patrols in front of the house to make sure Risky Business 2 isn't being filmed here while I'm gone (I'm bringing the two younger boys with me, leaving the two older kids. Ugh.)
  • Vacuum. So I can say I did it in August.
  • Find an outfit to wear to my job interview tomorrow. Did I mention that? Life changing job interview tomorrow. No pressure!
  • Try to stop thinking about the fact that I received my first official "REJECTION" notice from a literary agency. They liked my writing but my book isn't a good fit for them. They asked me to submit future works to them, which in my opinion is the same as telling someone "We can still be friends" when you break up. Sigh.

I think I'll start with that walk. 


  1. Good luck on the job interview! Nothing forces you out of a slump like HAVING to get up, get dressed and actually leave the house. It's too easy to be sloth-like without some actual routine, even if it is job-driven. And stop worrying about the weight -- it bothers you 100% more than anyone else, really. It's come and gone before, right? Keep your chin up.

    1. Thank you. The weeks I'm subbing are SO MUCH better than the weeks I'm not. Cannot wait for school to start again so the routine is back in full force.

      I am so sick of the weight thing. It has come and gone before, you're right. It's all up to me and apparently I'm slacking. BIG TIME.

      Thanks for your nice comment!

  2. I'm giving you an internet (((hug))) right now even though they're fucking annoying.

    Because I feel EXACTLY the way you're describing. This is so embarrassing... I haven't showered in FOUR days. Today is seriously the fourth fucking day. I did swim one of the days, though, and chlorine's antibacterial, right? And I washed my face this morning. But only because I need to use stupid Proactive Solution to prevent EVEN MORE acne breakouts all over my 34-year-old face. The reason I haven't showered? I need to work out. If I shower, I won't work out, because then I'll have to shower again and I hate wasting water. I've never been depressed before... (have I?) I don't know how to do this. Ugh.

    1. Well, here's an annoying internet (((((hug))))) right back.

      Ahh..the adult acne. That's a fun one too. I get big giant random zits now and then. Just for kicks, I guess.

      I do the EXACT same thing, though. I get up, put on clothes that I can walk in, and then DON'T DO ANYTHING. I say to myself, all day long, "Oooh I should go for a walk." Or, "Hey I should check out that gym I pay for every month" but next thing I know it's 9:00 and I'm falling asleep on the couch, still dressed in the damn exercise clothes.

      It's a vicious, stinky cycle my friend. I'm sorry you're mired in it too. Hopefully we'll find our way out!

      Thank you so much for sharing. It feels better knowing I'm not alone in this.

    2. And today I went to the doc to have my paragard IUD pulled out because I found online a ton of other women complaining about how it caused them to break out worse than ever before, plus they lose hair in gobs, and I was like WTF THAT'S ME!!!! But when the doc went to pull it out it FREAKING BROKE OFF INSIDE OF ME. WTF WTF WTF. So I'm having surgery this Friday to get the thing out of me. Did I say 'WTF' yet?

      No, you're definitely not alone.

    3. OMG. Kristen Mae! I'm so sorry to hear this. I'll keep my fingers (and quite honestly, my legs) crossed for you on Friday. That sounds really scary...but lucky for you those gyno docs have seen and done it all. Please keep me posted!!

  3. Hey Jenny -- I feel ya, sister...depression and I go way, waaay back. Anxiety too. Like, to my early childhood in fact. It runs heavily on both sides of my family so not a surprise, I guess. I know about those bad -- and worse -- days...the seemingly endless weepy spells, the feelings of nonstop guilt and worthlessness (or at best, just blah), the empty, zombie feeling, etc etc etc...basically every symptom but the suicidal thoughts. And I only got my butt into treatment for it 15 years ago too. Like you, I refused stubbornly to go the meds route -- or the therapy route either. I guess I was afraid that if either one didn't work, I'd wind up even more f***ed up than I already was. But I basically got "sick and tired of always feeling sick and tired" in my mind, figured I would take the risk of going to treatment, and long story short, a couple of kick-ass therapists and psychiatrists, the right med (finally) and learning more coping skills have made ALL the difference.
    Only problem...until my current psychiatrist, NO ONE ever bothered to tell me that even if you're on an antidepressant, and even if it is perfect for you, it will not continue to always be 100% effective always, so you'll still get flare-ups. (Gee, that would have been nice to know sooner, ya think?) So I still get blue spells -- just had one that ended last week. They're a pain in the ass, but at least they're soooo much better than they were, and now I know that they're normal and will get better. (It's comforting, too, that both you and my doc have said depression is REALLY common among us perimenopausal types.)
    You do sound like you're very much on top of this and know how to handle it. Starting off by taking Walter for a walk (and no, I doubt that he's depressed too :) was a GREAT idea. Besides that, as you probably know -- just take it one small step at a time. You'll get things on your list done, and you WILL feel better.
    Besides that, I don't think you need a whole lot of advice. Just this, since I've been there & done that so often:
    -- Do NOT pay attention to ANY negative thoughts about yourself while you feel like this. When you're depressed, your brain is like a badly-tuned radio or TV station: it's full of static and not sending out a good signal. So any bad thoughts you have are bullshit. (Yes, that includes worrying about looking too fat or unkempt to leave the house -- NO ONE else will notice, believe me!) DON'T LISTEN to them -- tell yourself "I am VERY strong" or "I am a survivor!" instead.
    -- If this icky feeling keeps up and/or gets worse over the next couple weeks, then you may want to check in with your doc about it. If it's already getting better, I think you've got it!
    -- If you EVER need to talk to someone else who understands this, I'm right here.
    Take care my friend...and feel better!

    1. Awww you're so sweet Jenzi. I love the badly tuned radio comparison. All I'm gettin' is crap, I tell ya!

      Part of my issue with medication is the length of time it takes to see if anything is working. It makes me crazy(er) to wait and see if there's any improvement. And also, all of the antidepressants seem to make you GAIN WEIGHT!

      Thanks for all of the wonderful tips and advice and commiseration. I love you and all that you are.

  4. Oh, PS: GOOD LUCK on the interview tomorrow!!! And please keep us posted!

  5. Oh Jenny, hang in there--walk first, yes. But also, don't sweat the small stuff (vacuuming for instance), and don't feel bad about your agent rejection--it's a nice rejection and you just turn around and send your query/work to ten more agents. It will happen, my dear!!

    1. Kate this made me weepy. Thank you. I admire you so much, it's nice to hear this advice from a real live author!

      And thank you for the vacuum pass. I'll take it!

  6. My heart is breaking for you right now. I'm gonna get in the long line of people who want to give you an internet hug.

    I don't think I ever get really depressed, but I certainly get cases of the blues, ya know, tears and all, where I think maybe I'm depressed. My reasons are probably different, but we all have our demons knocking at the door.

    And good luck on your interview tomorrow! I've been a stay at home mom for a while now, but I know the day is coming soon when I'm gonna be going back to work. And I am SCARED TO DEATH! I feel like I have completely dumbed down. So I would probably be throwing up if I had an interview coming up.

    Anyway, if you ever want company to go on a walk with Walter, give me a shout out. I'd totally drag my ass out to your neck of the woods. Then maybe we could color each other's hair afterward. My gray is showing :)

    1. Oh I'll take all the hugs!

      The interview thing is funny. I don't get nervous anymore. In fact, this interview tomorrow is a follow up to one I had last week (I'm a "finalist"!) and when that interview ended, we were all laughing like we'd just been to happy hour together.

      I just worry that I'm a: too old b: not skooled enuf and c: too schlumpy looking.

      We shall see.

      And I'd LOVE to meet you! Haircoloring or margaritas or whatever. That would be awesome. You're like the little sister I never had, LOL.

      Thanks for the awesome friendship.

    2. We have to set it up!!!

  7. Oh, and for a good pick me up, I enjoy watching the Kraft Zesty commercials. They always make me laugh. Let's get zesty.

    1. Those are awesome! Dude is smokin'. And yes, so zesty.

  8. Depression sucks. Have you tried Zoloft? It has a titch of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant mixed together. I don't think anxiety and depression can exist without each other. It's probably a messed up codependent kind of relationship.

    1. I have not tried Zoloft! If this thing doesn't go away soon I'm heading in to see the Wizard and see what needs to be done.

      The question is, which came first..the anxiety or the depression? Hardy har har.

      Thanks for chiming in Whitey ♥

  9. I shower and get dressed in clean clothes every day. That's sort of my equivalent of making a knot in a rope and hanging on for dear life when things get yuck. Also, yeah, exercise is important for mood management around here. Once you hit 40's and beyond, it's not even optional anymore, if you are at all prone to mood swings/depressive episodes.

    Can't hurt to check your thyroid, though - perimenopause can throw it way out of whack. I'm theorizing that's why my erstwhile best friend's anger management problem has gotten so out of hand that she isn't even talking to me anymore.

    The 40's sort of suck.

    1. SC..I showered yesterday and I kid you not for a while afterwards I was like an Irish Spring commercial, complete with the jaunty walk and the whistling.

      I'm convinced that my slump is 100% exercise based. I'm slothlike and it's killing me. Things gotta change up in here.

      The 40's do kind of suck. Which makes me sad, because they started out all "HEAR ME ROAR" and such.

  10. I so understand the extra physical weight and the mental weight pulling you down. I have things on my list like you and when added all together there are days where it is overwhelming. Try doing one thing-the least offensive thing and it will feel better.

    I can't remember if I shared this with you but...I felt like you until I realized I was extremely deficient of Vit B12 and Vit D. I actually wrote a Huff Post piece about the stress and anxiety that I felt before the doctor helped me.
    It might be worth a try to ask your doctor to check.

    You are not alone :)

    Not trying to be sneaky but have to put anonymous when I comment thru my phone...wierd or operator error

    1. Sure, Sneaky Pete...just kidding.

      Thanks for the love and the commiseration. Can you give me a link to your HuffPo piece? I'd love to read it.

      I'm crossing a few things off of my to-do list, it does make it a little less horrifying.

      Thank you Kelly!

  11. Right. there. with. you. even the I smell homeless part. I bought SAM-e and took it for a week. Then stopped. Maybe I should find that box and try again.

    1. I have St. John's Wort and Vitamin D and Magnesium here. Bring your SAM-e and we can have one of those crazy pill parties like the kids do!

      Only our goal isn't to get wasted, it's to stop smelling and feeling homeless :) I LOVE AGING!


  12. It's rough, I know.

    I would suggest finding a good therapist and talking to him/her about what your next steps should be. I hid my severe depression for twelve plus years, and it was absolutely terrible.

    I, too, was very, very resistant to drugs. I was scared and thought they would change my brain. It was one of the reasons I never said anything about what I was going through to anyone.

    It took my therapist five months and me having another psychotic episode to agree to try a medication. I am now on three antidepressants and xanax. According the books, my diagnosis has not changed, but I am finally, finally starting to feel better (although the idea that people actually change clothes AND shower every single day still baffles me, I think doing it once every week or so is bad enough). I give all the credit to my therapist who has had to deal with me, but we both know the drugs have helped a little.

    The point of that story was - finding a GOOD therapist (there are lots of bad ones too) may be the best step. S/he can advise you on what you can do to live your life more how you want to. It could not be depression at all. But, no matter what it is, a (and I repeat) GOOD therapist, will be able to help you take a step in the right direction.

    1. Hi Cassie

      Thank you for sharing your story. I'm sorry for the late reply...but wanted to let you know that saw this and read it and it did sink in :)

      Now that I have some great insurance, getting back into some form of therapy is no longer just a dream.

      Thanks again for speaking up!


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