July 18th, 2017
| Survivor: Liver Cancer
There are a few things I thought I knew about myself for sure: that I am strong (at least it makes me feel brave to say so) and I am an action-oriented, problem solver. Depression was something that happened to other people, not me. How could I of all people have been depressed?
When I look back, yeah, I was. In fact, there were several early signs of depression that I wish I would have known about. They weren't the classic images of depression that I associated with it -- they were subtle, they seemed to hide behind bigger issues, like surviving cancer. But that's the thing about depression - it's deeply personal and it looks different on everyone. For me, here are some of the signs that I missed:
1. Going From Social To Antisocial
One of the first major differences was not hanging out with friends. They would ask me to do things and would plan get-togethers, but I just had no urge to go. I am normally fairly social, so that was atypical for me. One of my friends even said that she was starting to have her feelings hurt because I never went anywhere. That was one red flag, but it seemed a far cry from depression at the time.
2. Having Random Bouts of Irritability
Another thing I noticed was this horrible irritability. I would come home from work and if anyone said anything to me, I would snap at them so bad that they would think twice before speaking to me again. I lashed out at friends and family especially. I was awful, really… but I didn't see it that way at the time.
3. Becoming Apathetic
I was not finding joy or pleasure in the things that I once enjoyed. I'm an avid baker, dog lover, and reader, but I slowly stopped doing all of those things. Right now, I couldn't tell you the last time I baked, took my dogs on a nice, long walk, or finished a book. None of that seemed interesting to me anymore.
These were the beginning signs. These lasted for several months without me picking up on there being a problem. Then it got much worse, which is when I realized I needed to seek help to diagnose my depression.These next two symptoms are when I knew I had depression.
4. Sleeping Way Too Much
I started coming straight home from work and getting into bed. Like, getting into bed at 5:30PM and not getting out of bed till the next morning. My mom and some friends commented on it, but I just attributed it to cancer/post-surgery fatigue.
5. Physically Disassociating
After all of these other symptoms started going in full-swing, I started barely showering. Like, showering weekly. I'm not sure if anyone noticed or not (hopefully not!) but this was very unusual for me. On top of that, I was gaining weight, which made me feel worse about myself, too. I was having difficulty concentrating at work and getting easy tasks done at home.
About this time, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist who pretty much immediately diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder. This sounded really awful, but when I read the criteria, it wasn't as bad as it seemed (especially since I already met almost all the criteria).It actually let me breathe a big sigh of relief to finally have a name for what I was going through. Before this diagnoses, I had felt like I was just tumbling through space, slowly deteriorating and having no anchor to stop myself.
When I finally received that diagnosis, it was like a lightbulb turned on. I had a path laid out in front of me to help me out of the darkness, and I was able to finally get myself some help that, you know, helped. I has completely changed my post-cancer life for the better. If you're feeling lost and untethered -- you are not alone. Find help that works for you.
What are some other symptoms of depression that may be hard to spot? Share in the comments below!
Photo courtesy of Thomas Griesbeck
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