Photo by Orlando Pelagio.
The following takes place during the month of August 2016.
I was glad I could squeeze in an appointment during my trip to Arizona.
The nurse called me back to see my doctor. First she told me to get on the scale to check my weight. The number was shocking. For the past few years, I have never weighed more than 160 pounds and would fluctuate regularly between 154-160. Upon stepping on the scale, I weighed 188 pounds.
“There must be some mistake. Should I take off my shoes?” I asked, even though I know science doesn’t work that way.
“No, that won’t be necessary. This scale is accurate.” She said.
The nurse proceeded to take me back to where I would be seen by my doctor. I had all my symptoms listed and ready to go because I am prepared, boo boo. I don’t enjoy going to the doctor, the dentist, (or the clinic) so I am always sure that when I do go, I am ready to let them know what’s going on and get out.
I waited for a few minutes alone which gave me some time to examine the room and freak out internally about what I could have. My doctor walked in. (He has been my doctor since I was 14).
We shook hands.
“Long time no see,” he said. (It had been a while since my last visit, four years to be exact) and he asked me what brought about my visit as he checked my vitals.
“Well…” I began. “I have been super super tired lately. You know that feeling you get when you just wake up from a solid nap and your body feels like it needs to stretch and adjust to moving again?…Well, I wake up and my body just tends to stay like that throughout the whole day. I never feel like I’m fully awake. I am always on the verge of sleeping. Also, my chest hurts. I feel congested over my heart and in my back. My neck hurts all the time, my shoulders are very tense, go ahead, feel them.”
He paused to feel my shoulders as I instructed.
I continued. “I find myself losing interest in things easily and haven’t really been able to re-focus on my writing at all. I’ve also been sick about four times since I moved to New York six months ago. Basically, George, I think I have walking pneumonia. It has to be. I told my friend the symptoms and she said it all adds up. So where do we go from here? Do I take antibiotics? What’s the next step? I need to get better. I have a lot going on.”
“Robert, tell me a little bit more about your day-to-day.” He said.
“Well, I wake up, I walk to my desk since I work from home, hop online then at around seven or so, I log off, order something to eat or heat up a frozen dinner and go to sleep.”
“Do you have any friends to go meet up with?” he asked.
“I have some friends sure! My best friend just moved to New York around the same time as me. I’m not very good at making new friends, though. I realized all the friends I have I met through work or school. And plus I’m just so tired all the time. I never want to go out.”
My doctor walked lightly toward the trash can to dispose of the plastic thermometer cover.
“Robert, I don’t think you have walking pneumonia…You have depression.”
The word ‘depression’ left his mouth like a holiday ham and fell flat with a big thud. It just didn’t make sense.
“Oh, I see…” I said.
“We’re going to run some blood tests to make sure we don’t miss anything. But in the meantime let’s discuss a few things…”
I left my doctor’s office stunned. The two cups of coffee I drank prior to my appointment began to manifest into ugly tingles along my skin layered with tiny goosebumps as I arrived to my car carrying the news in sweaty palms. I would later find out that my blood results were fine and it really was in fact, depression. All of the reasons that may have contributed to my depression can not be fully disclosed at this time, but even with all of those reasons, I still hadn’t noticed its effects. I went in to my doctor’s office for antibiotics, but instead I discovered that I needed something else entirely. One thing was certain, I wouldn’t begin any type of medication until I made some serious changes in my life first.
In order to begin the healing process, I took a look at my life as a whole and identified ways I could bring more balance and harmony to my everyday existence. I am still figuring out my way here and working toward becoming better, so I will share with you my process in a few months. Thus far, I can say that I am now vegetarian and have been for a few weeks, I take 15 minutes every morning to breathe and stretch, I go for walks three times a day, I try to avoid processed sugars, drink tons of water and have put more of an effort to invest in my passions outside of work. I even began cutting out toxic people from my life and signed up to see a new counselor in the city. I am looking forward to checking back in with y’all to update you on how this is working.
Why I decided to share this story…
I felt hesitant in discussing this openly and presenting it on my blog in this way. Professionally speaking, talking about mental health can be considered taboo, but I believe (as well as many other people believe) that it’s something to be discussed as casually as any other physical ailment. After all, depression does have an effect on your body, and it was actually the disconnect from my own feelings and emotions that made me miss it entirely. Depression didn’t slap me across the face with suicidal thoughts like it had two winters ago, this time it fell onto me with 28 extra pounds, daily fatigue, sore muscles and frequent sinus infections. Both were wake-up calls, both called for changes in my life.
I want people (who may not already be aware) to know that if your body is going through some changes or you have felt sick for a long period of time, it could be a result of trauma that has since turned into depression. You don’t have to be crying every day to be depressed. It comes in all shapes, sizes and forms.
Also, I want others to know that depression can always come back. I solved some major issues in my life back in 2014 (which is not very long ago) and was able to come out of a deep depression. I assumed that once I solved my problems at that time, depression would be gone forever. But no, it can come back, and often at times when your life path is veering into another direction.
I will say this. Finding out I have depression is a tremendous blessing. My diagnosis smacked me awake. It’s sparked something in me to radically change my life and its direction. It has provided me with a deeper compassion for the millions (and billions) of other people who struggle with mental illness. It has given me a clarity I didn’t have before, to be more in tune with who I am and to listen to my body. I know that not everyone experiencing depression has it this way, and I know that my privileges of having a college education, a steady well-paying job, a middle-class background, and residency in my dream city, makes things easier for me in those areas as I cope and heal on my journey. I recognize my privilege and I stand with all who may not have it as easy. The path to getting better is a rough one but I am hopeful for the future. Deep down my spirit is smiling inside because I’ve learned that the best is yet to come.
I believe in my heart this diagnosis is a sign that I am reaching the end of my current phase in life and the universe is preparing me for the next one. I am grateful for the support I’ve received from my close friends and family. Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Truth is the force that guides us to where we need to be in life, but love is the power that heals us once we arrive there.” I feel myself being propelled to where I need to be and my spirit is grounded in the deep love I receive from my dear ones every day.
Sending all my love your way,