A little under a year ago, I came out as living with depression.
I think coming out with a mental health issue was harder for me than coming out as gay. Being gay is celebrated. We get parades. We get TV shows like Will & Grace and Queer Eye. We get community.
Living with depression is definitely not celebrated. There’s no parades that I’m aware of. Very few television shows tackle it. And instead of community, there’s often isolation.
When I came out on Facebook about my depression, I was greeted with such warmth, love, and support. People shared with me publicly and privately their own battles with depression and anxiety. There were people I never would have thought who shared this illness with me. And for the first time, I felt a sense of community with something I had always felt alone in.
When I last wrote about this, I had been taking Lexapro and Abilify, and though they provided temporary relief, they ultimately weren’t helping.
They seemed to be affecting my mood in a negative way, in addition to making me gain weight. A pill that makes a gay guy gain excessive weight is not a solution to curbing depression.
So I took myself off the pills. That was not a smart idea. The withdrawal was horrible. I felt hollowed out. The combination of those pills and the decision to stop them affected every area of my life. I couldn’t connect to anything, and it was hard work making it seem like I could so that people wouldn’t worry about me. I knew I needed something more to help me.
My next step was to see a psychiatrist.
So I did. And it was horrible.
I had been told by my primary care physician that psychiatrists are generally pretty clinical, and are more interested in figuring out the answer to the puzzle than assessing individual journeys.
In my experience, that was an understatement.
I chose a psychiatrist in my network and at our first appointment, we talked for less than five minutes before he prescribed me a new pill. Wellbutrin. I got my parking validated and left, with no sense of connection or empathy from the doctor.
The Wellbutrin had little affect on me. The complete disconnection I had felt in the weeks before did get better, but all that meant was that instead of severely depressed, I was now just regular depressed.
After a few more five-minute appointments that resulted in increased doses of Wellbutrin, I decided to stop going to the psychiatrist. And I weaned myself off the pills. The withdrawal wasn’t as bad this time because I didn’t go cold turkey. But then I was left with the overwhelming feeling of “Now what?”
During these ups and downs of medication, a few things changed in my personal life. The most significant being that my relationship of almost seven years ended. The ending of the relationship was mutual and wasn’t wholly a symptom of or cause of my depression. But as he and I transitioned from being boyfriends to best friends, my ability to put on a brave and healthy face to the outside world and to myself decreased.
My performance at work got bad enough that I was given the worst performance review of my career. It was then that I decided to come out again as someone living with depression, this time to my bosses. I didn’t want them to see me using depression as an excuse for my performance, but I needed them to understand that it was a factor. They were understanding and pointed me towards our HR department to help find a better doctor to help me with my needs.
I haven’t done that yet. That’s the thing about depression, it often prevents you from doing the things you need to for self-care. I will. In fact, the act of writing this is encouraging me to set up a meeting tomorrow at work.
The last time I wrote about my depression, two of my friends had lost their battle with depression and committed suicide earlier that year. This time, as I write, the recent suicide of a dear friend of mine’s young son is still fresh in my mind.
My depression as an adult has never taken me to the edge of suicide. I can’t honestly say the same for when I was a teenager. It is dark and it is scary and it is isolating.
And that is why we NEED community. Depression robs us of connection, and as humans, we are nothing without connection. Connection to each other. Connection to ourselves. Connection to whatever you believe in.
So every day I am thankful for connections. My connection to my preschoolers makes me feel young. My connection to my Improv students makes me feel important. My connection to my friends makes me feel valued. My connection to my improv troupe makes me feel supported. My connection to myself makes me feel loved.
So where am I today?
I’m not on any medication. I am not anti-medication. I just don’t think I’ve found the right one(s) for me. Before I decide whether or not to try any new pill, I want to go back to seeing a therapist. One who will challenge me on my behaviors. I start that by setting up an appointment with my HR specialist tomorrow.
I am feeling more connected to myself these days than I have in a long time. I’m taking classes that challenge me in new ways. Singing. Stand Up Comedy. Narrative. I’m writing material that for the first time in forever feels like something that might be truly good.
I’m becoming more aware of my goals in life and how to make them come to fruition. I’m being more social than I ever have before and am creating new friendships while trying to nurture and grow the ones I’ve had for years.
And I still live with depression. It’s not always easy to get out of bed. It’s not always easy to strike up conversation. It’s not always easy to be a good friend.
But I’m trying.
And that’s where I am now.
Originally written Sunday, April 15, 2018