I know, I know, I just can’t seem to stop talking about my depression. It’s like I’m as obsessed with it as I am with Trent (who, if you’ll notice, did not appear AT ALL in my last post! Progress? Maybe). However, we did talk last night friendly-like for the first time in six weeks. My mentor finally thought I had made enough progress controlling my emotions to be able to communicate directly with him. I know, I’m 32, I make my own decisions…
Anyway, part of the conversation last night involved me reiterating to Trent that he did not cause my depression. I told him that he didn’t help it at all, but he also didn’t cause it.
So what did?
Like I said the other day, depression is different for everyone. There are almost as many causes and reasons why your brain gets thrown chemically out of whack as there are people who have depression (roughly 300 million of us). For me, my current fight with depression started a very long time ago.
I was diagnosed with weak adrenal glands when I was 13. I don’t have any adrenal disorders, it’s more like they have a very lassaiz-faire approach to helping me manage stress like they’re supposed to. They’re lazy. I’ve always had trouble dealing with stress. When I was involved with theater, especially when I was directing, I’d always come down with a fairly serious illness at some point during the production (I don’t remember what A Christmas Carol’s illness was, but Arsenic and Old Lace: a very violent stomach flu, King and I: major depression and probably a cold or two, True Love: mono, and the last show, [I forget the name]: pneumonia). My body and prolonged stress do not get along. at. all. In short bursts of stress, like “Anessa, please call the cops, this drunk guy is threatening me” type of situations they do just fine at the whole fight-or-flight thing (Yes, stuff like that happens more often than you’d think at the library).
Adrenal glands release hormones (chemicals) that help your body modulate stress and produce chemicals like serotonin in your brain. Since my adrenal glands are lazy they haven’t been doing that. The doctor said “it’s like your body said, ‘alright, that’s enough, we’re shutting down production.'”
So where’s the stress coming from?
Well, the obvious one was Trent dumping me. But there were a myriad of other stressors in my life leading up to that. I was depressed before he dumped me.
I got the flu in January, and it lasted the whole month, weakening me to the point where my chronic low-grade anemia could be discovered. So my body was stressed physically to start this fabulous year off.
My job is stressful. I know, I work at a library, how stressful can that be? Again, more than you think. Sure, there are the random crazies we get in we have to call the cops for, but there’s the everyday stress that is much more damaging to my system. We’ve been understaffed for three of the four years I’ve worked there. With each person who has left and hasn’t been replaced immediately (which is everyone who’s left) I picked up more of the slack and I’ve had a hard time letting it go again. I didn’t work any extra hours, I didn’t receive any additional compensation. My newest coworker told me just the other day “you do too much around here.” He’s right. I hate sitting around with nothing to do and I hate seeing things go undone when I know how to do them. So when the children’s librarian left last summer I ran the summer reading program and did storytimes for three months until a new children’s librarian was hired. When the circulation desk manager left this last March, I took care of a lot of her duties that nobody else thought to do because they don’t work at the front desk as much as I do. We’re supposed to have four part-time staff members (what I am). Right now we have three, which is an increase from earlier this year, (namely, in March) when we had one: me. Part time people are responsible for all the shelving at the library. So yeah, I was doing all the shelving, plus my retired full-time coworker’s duties for most of March.
Also, from January to March, I was planning a wedding. If you’ve ever done that, then you probably know that it can be a bit stressful at times. I was looking forward to wedding planning. I love planning events and I’ve directed 30-50 people in 2.5 hour long productions before, so I figured how hard could it be? It wasn’t actually that hard, but I found that poor communication on my part led to assumptions made by other people and poorly expressed opinions. Hurt feelings all around. I wanted to make Trent happy, and my mom and sister saw me giving up everything I wanted for my wedding in order to do that. There were some things I compromised too much on. Plus, my brother was planning his wedding, set for a month before ours. All happy stuff, but yeah, more stress. Then we broke up for six days in April, ending the engagement, which didn’t seem like it at the time, but was probably the most traumatic event for me this year.
Trent lost his job in June. I was already looking for a new job, one I could do remotely so I would have flexibility to travel back and forth between Indiana and South Dakota to see my family occasionally. We figured I’d want to visit my family more than a traditional employer would allow, so I was being kind of picky about jobs. That did not work well. We found Trent a new job that fits his talents and calling near-perfectly, and with an organization where I could finally put my degree and skills to use too (probably on a volunteer status, which made a flexible job even more appealing). Job searching is stressful.
When Trent and I made the decision to postpone the wedding, that stress off my plate was a relief. However, that was really the only stress I wanted on my plate. Nothing else got much better. And, something we discovered about me last year – if it’s not scheduled on a calendar, in my mind it’s not going to happen. When we never got re-engaged and rescheduled the wedding, I began to doubt we would ever get married. June was two weekends solid of other people’s lovely weddings, all the while believing that even though Trent and I loved each other and wanted to be with each other, we were not going to get married any time soon, if at all. More stress with a dash of despair thrown in. We had a span of three wonderful days where I think we were both feeling very positive about our relationship, we were both confident about us, everything was good, and then boom. He was done.
So was my brain. It had taken enough stress and it pretty much shut down at that point.
I know for a lot of people depression strikes randomly even when it seems like everything is going well. I feel blessed that I can look back and be like “yep, that’s a cause, there’s one, ooh, THAT’S a big reason why I’m depressed!” My circumstances and my physical well-being combined to make this perfect storm that took me down six weeks ago. Pretty much all my focus since then has been on trying to figure out why and how to get better.
My circumstances haven’t changed a whole lot. My job has gotten a bit less stressful since we hired a new circulation desk manager, but one of the other part time shelvers is somewhat lackadaisical about where books should go, so I still feel like I’m constantly fixing other’s mistakes. The other part time shelver we hired last week quit this week. Scheduling issues, nothing we did. But still, I feel more weight dropping on my shoulders, despite my coworker’s efforts to help. Still the same hours and the same pay. And guys, getting better is expensive. I’m asking God every day to give me my daily bread and I’m trusting Him because I’ve got a lot of bills coming up that I’m not quite sure I have the resources for. So money is kind of stressful for me right now, but I’m doing my best to turn it over to God.
There are still things about the relationship and break up I don’t understand. My mentor asked the other day “do you know that you may never know why on this side of eternity?” She doesn’t want me to go crazy trying to figure it out. I told her I think we’ve already hit crazy. She said “well…not totally, but it may seem that way.” Trent and I didn’t talk about it at all last night, which was perfectly alright with me. It was just nice to talk to my friend again. Again, trying to turn it all over to God.
Saying that makes me think, and this is kind of a side quest, but have you ever wanted to be God? I did (and probably will again at some point in my life). I told Him that the other day. I told Him that I wanted to be in charge and that I could arrange my life better than He could. He was like “really? You really want to be in charge?” No, not really. But sometimes I think I do and that’s probably where a lot of stress in my life and my job come from – from the feeling that I need to do it all and unless I do it, it’s not going to get done right. Stress isn’t only just physical ailments and challenging circumstances, it’s a heart issue of not really trusting God. Another thing I’ve always struggled with. This season of literally being out-of-control sucks, but it’s been very effective of showing just how badly I do when I try to control things and reminding me that God really does the best job at being in charge. And that even means working on His schedule, which I usually think is too slow. I am so blessed to have such a patient and loving Father, who I can be real with, and He deals so gently with me. Even in this turmoil He is tender and loving with me, and honestly, I probably needed this level of pain to get my attention, make me stop trying to do it on my own, and learn what He needs to teach me about relying on Him, to become the person He wants me to be. Fun and easy? No. Good? Yes.