My battle with depression and breast cancer began with depression:
I can remember it vividly; it was just before Christmas 2015. My husband was stressed at work and we were planning to go to our cottage for New Years. We had just completed a renovation up north and I was not sure what food staples were there from our last visit in August. Trying to organize Christmas, the packing and planning of all our cottage meals, I too, started to feel overwhelmed. Worrying, is not ‘new’ to me, and unfortunately, when I start to worry, I have trouble falling and staying asleep. At first, I was able to fall asleep. But then I started waking up at 4 a.m., then 3 a.m. then 2 a.m. You get the idea. It did not take long before I was not able to fall asleep at all.
I went for a month with limited sleep and many sleepless nights—which would affect anyone in their daily activities. At first, I continued to Instruct at Goodlife, consult as a Career Coach, drive my sons to hockey practices and games, etc. Life continued, just the ability of sleeping stopped! I can remember talking to my mom and her being concerned about me driving because I was always so tired. This continued until the second week in February, when things quickly took a turn for the worse.
I was feeling overwhelmed about everything, from learning my fitness routines, what I would cook for dinner, to what to pack the kids for lunches.
Things that normally would not phase me became big ordeals. Everything that I used to enjoy, working out, trying new recipes, planning gatherings, and baking, became a chore. I could not make easy decisions or focus while reading or watching TV. Suspense and drama programs and books (which I love) became too violent to enjoy. I could not sit still and didn’t want to be left alone, yet I felt ‘out of place’ when around anyone other than my family.
Fortunately, another mom from the neighborhood saw me dropping my sons off at school one day and recognized right away that I was not myself. Having grown up with a mom who suffered from anxiety and depression, she knew very quickly that I needed to see my doctor. So, I made an appointment for that afternoon. I told my doctor what I was going through and was hoping she would have given me something to help me sleep.
Unfortunately, my doctor saw things very differently. She was not willing to prescribe a sleeping pill and instead wanted me to go on an anxiety/depression prescription. I did not believe that was the problem. How could I be depressed? I only worked part time, have a beautiful family, live in Oakville, and have two healthy boys. What could I be depressed about?
I filled the prescription but fought the idea
And with it not improving my sleep right away, I was convinced it was something else. I just needed a good night’s sleep, not anxiety pills. Unfortunately, my sleepless nights and overwhelming feelings of anxiety continued to the point that I had to take time off from consulting and fitness Instructing. I remember going into my walk-in closet and not being able to decide what to wear. It sounds ridiculous if you have never experienced anxiety or depression, but it was my new “normal”, and it was horrible. I simply could not comprehend why I would be stressed or depressed. I should have been so happy with the life I had.
Fortunately, my sister in law was extremely supportive and helped me realize that I had a lot on my plate. I had two part-time jobs, volunteered at my sons’ school, both boys started rep hockey the fall of 2015, I made all our meals from scratch and took care of two homes (including our cottage).
Eventually, I started accepting the fact that I needed more than just help sleeping.
However, I still resisted going on medication. (I don’t like taking Tylenol for a headache never mind needing a pill to make me feel like myself.)
It took some time…, but after a few months, my interest in eating, working out, and making meals started to come back again
By the spring, I was sleeping much better, thankfully. Not understanding anxiety/depression medications and wanting to get off my prescription as fast as possible, I stopped taking my prescription in late spring of 2017. Everything was back to normal and cottage season was upon us, my happy place! We had a great summer, entertaining friends and family on cottage weekends, vacationing for two weeks up north and instructing.
Labour Day came fast, my boys were back in school and our busy rep hockey season was in full swing. I returned to Career Consulting, after the slow season in the summer, and my husband and I were ‘divide and conquer’ between both boys’ activities and school events. I continued to feel good, enjoyed hockey tournament weekends, Thanksgiving, birthday parties, etc. Life was good!
A turn for the worse: depression comes back
Then one day in late November, I was on a Consulting assignment. I had not slept well the night before and just felt ‘off.’ I tried making an appointment for that same day with my doctor, but unfortunately, she had moved her office to another city. I spent the next few weeks trying to find a local doctor that was taking new patients. My restless sleeps continued, and I was starting to feel overwhelmed at little things again.
My confidence and decision-making ability decreased drastically. I finally found a doctor and explained my experience last winter and that I had not been able to sleep. She prescribed a new prescription and this time; I was happy to try it. I could not imagine going through the low moods that I had experienced eight months earlier. Fortunately, the pill seemed to work right away, and I got through Christmas, hockey playoffs, school functions, work assignments, and friends and family gatherings with my usual enjoyment and enthusiasm. But, once again in late winter, I mistakenly, weaned myself off my prescription… I was feeling better, after all.
Sadly, I hit a new low.
I quickly got in to see my doctor and she put me back on the same prescription and explained that anxiety and depression drugs require you to be on them for a minimum of six months before you can even entertain coming off them completely. Unfortunately, after weeks of being on it, I still was not sleeping or feeling any better. I was not looking forward to going to the cottage, and I found packing and planning cottage weekends stressful. This was so unlike me!
I did not want to socialize with our neighbors or do any of the fun things, which was so unusual because I always enjoyed going up north. I drifted from all my friends and although my boys were not toddlers anymore, they still needed me and did not understand why “mommy” was acting completely opposite to her usual personality. My doctor ended up doubling my doze and still after six weeks, I was feeling worse than ever. I could not help my boys with homework and practically followed my husband around the house. Needless to say, my entire family, including my parents and brother’s family, were affected and very concerned about my moods.
I had no idea I would battle depression before breast cancer.
This is the first part of Jenn’s, “My Battle with Depression and Breast Cancer” essay. Click here for part II. “My Battle with Depression and Breast Cancer” originally appeared on RedLilyLife. Like this story so far? Let Jenn know on her HBM profile.