I’m Coming Out
Some of you may already know that June is National Pride Month. It’s a time that the gay community, which now includes LGBTQIAPK–Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexual, Asexual, Pansexual and Polygamous, and Kinkiness–and those who support them (which includes myself) remembers the Stonewall Riots from June 28, 1969. It’s also a time that many cities have Pride Parades where people who identify as any sexuality can come to support and/or march with those who have unashamedly come out and are celebrating who they are. In honor of my friends and relatives who are part of the LGBTQ+ community who have bravely come out of the closet, I want to come out of my own closet this month, but it’s not the same closet.
Kate Spade, an American fashion designer, icon, and household name, committed suicide on June 5th of this year. Anthony Bourdain, a writer, celebrity chef, and world-wide traveler who made “strange” food cool, took his own life three days later on June 8th. I was at work when I found out about Kate Spade. I was devastated and immediately sent a text to my husband and a good friend to tell them so. I was also at work when I heard about Anthony Bourdain and, still not having gotten over the shock of Kate Spade, felt like I’d been hit by a ton of super-sad bricks. These two individuals seemingly had the world at their feet yet still chose to end their own lives because of a monster that I myself also know all too well.
Hi, I’m Dorian, and I suffer from depression and anxiety. I’m coming out of my depression closet in the hopes of bringing more light to this conversation that very few people want to have. I fear that until depression is treated as any other disease that people have no trouble discussing–heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.–suicides will continue to stun and confuse our society. There needs to be not only more understanding about this topic but also more acceptance of it for what it is–a disease that hundreds of millions of people battle daily.
I was formally diagnosed in 2012 but like most my symptoms appeared much earlier in my life; when I came out to my mom a few years ago we traced my first signs back to my puberty. My depression (“my,” because it’s different for everyone and I can only speak about my own experiences) manifests as anger and overwhelming sadness. Active depression states are often referred to as episodes. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight bias, I can finger-point on my jr. high, high school, and college timeline to all of my episodes. I can remember some of the things I said or did to people in these active states and most of it makes me cringe. While I am largely against conventional medicine and try to find a natural cure before turning to a pill, I currently take a pill daily for my depression and have access to pills for the days my anxiety starts to get the best of me. If I miss even just a couple of my daily pills I can feel it; I’m more on-edge and short-tempered.
My current psychiatrist has deemed me as stable and I now only have to see him every 12 weeks, unless of course I feel an episode and I need to see him sooner. My husband is a big part of my being stable. We have created an open-door policy where I can tell him if I’m feeling sad (unfortunately, he usually doesn’t get a warning if I’m mad) and he will listen to me about it for as long as I need him to without feeling worried that I need to be admitted to a facility or have an emergency session with my doctor.
One of the hardest struggles I’ve had with my depression came when I was pregnant. When hubs and I started actively trying to conceive, my doctor and I started scaling the dosage of my meds back. The problem was that I became pregnant after just seven weeks of actively trying, so instead of following the carefully laid-out six-month med decreasing plan my doctor put together, I quit cold-turkey. I’d read everything I could find about taking anti-depressants while pregnant and decided I wanted to avoid all risks and be drug-free during my pregnancy. Except I was miserable. Between my increasing pregnancy hormones and my unfiltered mind, I was an emotional mess. At my twelve week check-up, my OB asked how I was doing and I broke down sobbing in her office. She said, “Dorian, you’re not enjoying this pregnancy, and that’s not good.” She reminded me in so many words that my being absolutely miserable for the next 28 weeks was not going to be healthy for me or the baby, and that though there is risk in taking anti-depressants while pregnant the risks of them affecting the baby after the first trimester decrease dramatically.* She gave me a huge hug at the end of our chat and begged me to call my psychiatrist.
24 hours later, after endless recounts to Hubs of every article I’d already read about taking or not taking anti-depressants during pregnancy, I was on my psychiatrist’s couch. I left her office with a Zoloft prescription that was for such a low dosage the pharmacist at my local Walgreens said, “You do realize this is almost like taking nothing, right?” I told him yes, I did, but I was just starting my second trimester and had been dry (drug-free) for almost two months. “Oh,” he said, “then this should be perfect!” With the first pill I took, I made a pact with myself that no matter how the baby turned out, I would not beat myself up for it because being a happy mommy enjoying her pregnancy and the future who was the tiniest bit medicated was better than a mommy who was so sad she couldn’t face the day. Five years later, I’m still thankful for my OB’s frank chat, my courage to do something many consider a huge no-no, and my husband backing me up in my decision.
If I had a dime for every time I heard the phrase “they should just run around the block” uttered to me by someone not knowing that I am a part of the club, I would be writing this post from the Adirondack chair on the back porch of my vacation home on my private island. If it was that easy, I’d already be cured with the many miles I’ve already run around countless blocks–I’m a runner, remember? This disease is a daily struggle. I repeat: this disease is a daily struggle. Some days are greyer than others, some are sunnier, but it is my every day. I don’t get to choose my good and bad days, I have to deal with them as they come to me and use the counting, breathing, and imagery techniques I’ve adapted over the years to fit in with all the shiny, happy people. On my worst days I feel like I’m having an out-of-body experience, as if I’m looking down on myself pretending to be normal when all I want to do is either crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head for a week or go to a shooting range for target practice screaming “die, motherfucker, die!” until I feel better. Whenever I hear about someone committing suicide, I grieve for them as if they were my own family because, to me, we’re a part of the same club that no one wants to admit to being a part of and definitely no one wants an invitation to join.
So no more depression skeletons in my closet. I’m out, people, and I ain’t going back. If this post has helped you feel better, made you laugh, made you feel a little less less-than, or made you angry in a good way, then my mission is accomplished. If you are currently having an episode and you think there is no way out, please call or chat with someone you love and trust or someone you don’t know but who will still listen to you here. As always, I’m also here to listen to whatever you have to say, especially if you’re ready to come out of whatever closet you want to come out of and need a little encouraging (do it, do it–unmute yourself!). Pride may goeth before a fall but we can keep getting back up again. Until next time, keep fighting the good fight.
P.S. Founded in 2013, Project Semicolon was created to help empower those who suffer from mental health issues. It’s based on the semicolon, a punctuation mark used in literature when the author is not yet ready to end a sentence. This post features an image of an elaborate semicolon tattoo. I see in this picture a prominent musical image (the bass clef helping to make the semicolon) surrounded by stormy clouds of many different colors. It’s ugly and beautiful at the same time which is how I see my depression coming through in my life; it is ugly when it comes but it’s still beautiful to get through it to the other side, and it still makes up part of the beauty that is my whole life.
*This is my own experience from that conversation with my obstetrician and what I remember reading. Please always consult your own licensed medical physician for any medical inquiries you may have.