Depression… it runs in the family.

I had no idea. No truly. NO idea.

I was doing a little research today, on a couple of my medicines, and I stumbled upon references to a depression questionnaire that medical professionals use to grade the severity of clinical depression. I don’t mean the down-in-the-dumps blues. I mean the bigtime stuff. The stuff that warrants, no necessitates, medical intervention in order to shake.

Yeah that kind of depression.

I say I stumbled onto a questionnaire… actually I found several different ones. Just for kicks, I decided to screen myself. Grade myself, if you will.

Mind you, this is after being on 2 different anti-depressants for about 3wks. Meds that, in all honesty, I was taking only because my doc told me to. NOT because I thought I needed them, but simply because I wanted to be a good patient and do what I was told. I looked up the usage of these two and found that when used in combination at the right dosage they were helping fibromyalgia patients with pain. That coupled with the fact that the doc had prescribed one of them to help me get to sleep… not for depression… made me feel so much better about taking them, if you know what I mean.

Anyway. I almost maxed out every single screening and questionnaire there was. No kidding. Severe depression was the result on every single one.

Do WHAT?!

Were they wrong? Did I somehow mess up and answer something wonky and skew the results? Are they flawed? What in the world?!?!

Nope.

Thing is, despite the fact that I have felt -emotionally and mentally- better in the last 2-3 wks than I have in I-don’t-know-how-long, apparently I truly AM still “severely clinically depressed”.

Talk about an eye-opener. I honestly, truly had NO idea that I was not ‘normal’. Ok, scratch that. I’ve known for years and years I’m not ‘normal’. What I mean is I had no idea that the way I feel about myself and the way I live day-to-day emotionally/mentally speaking was depression of any kind, let alone “severe depression”. That’s what I mean.

Turns out, I’ve been living with severe depression for a little over 20 years… probably 23 or 24. I’m not quite 30. You do the math.

So basically? I don’t have a clue how the majority of folks have been feeling/living. I don’t have a clue what is normal. I’m not “getting back to normal” so much as I am just plain ol’ “getting normal”.

Now, you might think “well gosh! Didn’t her mom think something was amiss when she was depressed at 7 or 8, or even by her teens? SURELY her doctor at least would’ve noticed something was up…”

Yeah, not so much. For a start, I didn’t see doctors much growing up. Major illness or something requiring a cast or stitches warranted a dr visit and well… none of those happened very often. Then there’s my mom.

See, my mom and I are a lot alike. A lot. It’s more likely than not that SHE would also come up depressed on a screening. I won’t say with 100% certainty because she might take offense to that, but knowing what I know of her… if she answered honestly… yeah it’s likely.

And here’s the kicker… Mom doesn’t “feel depressed” or see herself as depressed either. Know why? Cause she is “normal for her”. That is, she feels no different now than she ever has.

Catch that?

Yup. It’s a strange world we’ve been living in, though it does not seem the least bit strange to us. This, (that we know as “just life”), being the strange world is what is strange. Just the idea that the way I feel could actually be different, be BETTER is strange.

Matthew being depressed doesn’t come as a surprise per se, and I’m not even kicking myself in the rear too much for not catching it and doing something about it sooner. THAT is, in and of itself, a new experience for me. I’ve recognized that I really couldn’t have realized he truly needed medical treatment any sooner because I didn’t know better, and so I’m not beating myself up with guilt over not doing anything sooner. That’s simply amazing to me.

Always, ALWAYS, before even if I knew rationally that there was no way I could have been “at fault” or “guilty” about something with the kids (like not getting medicine sooner, for instance), I would still -despite totally and fully realizing it was not rational- feel tremendous guilt. I’m talking bone-crushing guilt. The kind of guilt that leaves you chewing yourself out in your mind for days, sometimes weeks, on end.

I feel like a brand new babe, learning feelings and experiencing things for the very first time. I’ve never seen life like this before. That probably sounds cliche, but think about it for a minute. Your earliest clear memory, I mean really clear memory, probably isn’t much further back than your sixth or seventh year. I remember a few snapshot-like moments from the time I was 3-5, but the memories don’t really become clear, fully defined, complete with emotions, until I was closer to 7.

Second grade. I remember fleeting moments of first grade, but not enough to hold onto and evaluate in terms of emotions and thought-processes at the time. That doesn’t come till second grade.

It was second grade that I talked about killing myself and of wishing I was dead. It was second grade when Mom took me to a counselor to make sure I didn’t really mean it. The counselor assured her I was just “throwing a fit” and offered the suggestion of encouraging the tantrums when I had them. The ol’ “reverse pyschology” ploy at work… if Mom wanted me to throw a really good fit, then I wouldn’t want to anymore and so the tantrums would stop.

They did… mostly. My behavior just morphed. I have been told that at times I appeared to be possessed because of the “pure hate” pouring out of my eyes. Mom did not know then, what I did not know with Matthew… that depression in children often manifests as anger, frustration, aggression, etc.

She also did not know (nor did I with Matthew) that depression in children can also cause the child to “be a loner”. I did not play with many other children. One or two at a time, at most, and frequently I played alone. Well, mostly I read, but that’s beside the point.

The point is, I can remember feeling and thinking in second grade pretty much the same as I do now. Or maybe I should say, have up till now. It’s like… I’m almost thirty, but I feel the same as I did at 17 or 18. I’m sure most people are that way. They don’t feel thirty, they just feel like themselves… they way they have for years and years, since high school is generally what people say. I can take that back further. To second grade.

Oh sure, as a kid I felt younger in that I was well aware I wasn’t an adult. I mean it’s not like I felt or thought in a mature manner as a 7 year old, not at all. What I mean is I have felt the same emotionally in terms of feelings overall since at least second grade. I’ve felt the same way about myself since at least second grade. I’ve felt the same way about other people since at least second grade. I don’t remember feeling any other way. I can remember how I felt and how I thought in second grade and it was no different than the way I answered those questionnaires and screening tests earlier today.

That’s what I mean.

So when I say I’m learning feelings and experiencing things for the very first time… I mean it. At least for the first time in my memorable history anyway.

The good news? The meds are definitely working. I know because if you’ll recall I said way up there that I “almost” maxed out the screenings. “Almost” being the operative word, here. Being honest I can say that a few weeks ago (or at any point in the last 20+ years) I would have maxed out the screenings. A few points lower today and I would’ve pegged out for “moderate depression”. So while I’m still falling in the “severe” range, it’s headed towards “moderate”.

It’s going to take some getting used to, for sure. I think I’m kinda scared of it, in a way. I’m hesitant to “let myself” feel different, if you will. Almost like… I’m afraid it might all be a dream. It’s like I’m being offered a butter rum lollipop…  and I’ve gotten a tiny taste, but I’m afraid to close my mouth around it lest the lollipop will be jerked back out of my reach, knocking teeth loose, leaving me battered, bleeding, and aching for that delicious buttery sweetness.

This is so weird. But then, weird is normal. Weird is what I know. It runs in the family.

I’m just sayin’.  =)

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