The Great Depression.
I know it from the moment I open my eyes.
A thick fog that has descended on my face and chest while I was sleeping.
It wraps its wispy tendrils around my heart and gently squeezes.
And I exhale slowly…
and laboriously remove myself from bed
and face familiar.
And greet her cooly.
This is how my depression announces herself.
Sometimes she’s triggered.
Sometimes she appears for seemingly no reason at all.
She never really leaves…
like a friend who has so many items at your house that they have closet space.
It used to be that I got depressed for being depressed, which is “Inception” type levels of depressing.
I don’t see it that way.
When I’m suffering from (what I call) a bout of depression I start listening.
Because depression is (to me) just the messenger, and its common decency NOT to shoot the messenger.
The things that come up for me when I’m depressed, are REAL things that I should have handled, but I was so busy NOT being depressed I let it slide or I overlooked it.
I say things when I’m depressed that I would never say when I’m not even though they are true.
I also say “no” to things I really want to say “no” to when I’m NOT depressed but don’t.
And she’s changed, my depression.
Before, these bouts would leave me suicidal, popping pills, and downing Jack Daniels, skipping practice, curled in a ball questioning my purpose in life.
Now it’s like, I need down time, leave me alone for a few hours, I’m going to take a social media break, I’m going to eat a handful of sour patch kids, I’m going to go train but don’t annoy me, I want a good meal, I need a glass of wine, I wish I was divorced already. Why aren’t we divorced already? Where’s my meet schedule. WTF is my agent doing? I wish I had more financial support, I wish I had more money, I hope I run fast, God I need to run fast.
And we all have thoughts like this…except that for me during this time these thoughts are on a loop that runs incessantly until the fog lifts.
My depression is caused by my hormones and the way they cycle ahead of my cycle (sorry if that’s TMI for you).
It’s called PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder).
And it f**king sucks.
Because the only real management for this requires taking hormones (and I’m 100% against that) or taking SSRIs or Anti-Depressants.
So I tried the latter in 2016 during the indoor season. And I couldn’t find the desire or will to compete, would hear the gun go off and not move until I felt like it, almost always a step later than everyone else. It was the first time I didn’t make an indoor team I wanted to make.
All because I had to make a choice between suicidal thoughts, depression, or hormone therapy.
Several months later, off the SSRIs and I’m leaving the Olympics with two gold medals.
But let me tell you the real reason I’m against hormone therapy.
I test my hormone levels every year. I believe in holistic health, and I want/need to know what I’m working with and where my deficiencies are- for sure.
That’s how I know that my progesterone levels are low.
So low that sleep is a problem.
So low that I’m more susceptible to depression.
So low that I’m migraine prone.
So low that I couldn’t get pregnant if I wanted to without intervention.
My doctor (at that time) and I decided to increase my progesterone levels with a cream.
Worked like a charm.
I was sleeping like a baby.
I was pleasant.
I was no longer getting my bi-monthly migraines.
I was also no longer me.
I would go to practice and not feel that killer instinct I nurture and welcome before lining up in the blocks for competitive starts.
And I knew then after only a week that there was no way I could tinker with my progesterone levels and compete the way I wanted to at the same time.
And I knew it was awful that I was essentially choosing to suffer in order to compete the way I wanted to.
But it was my choice to make.
So I made it.
And it took me two years figuring out how to get from that suicidal depressed girl, to the slightly bitchy depressed girl I become now.
Which let me tell you is a real victory for all of us. Especially those close to me.
And the solution for me was simple:
Give yourself permission to feel what you feel.
Listen to what your thoughts are telling you.
Spend EXTRA time doing you, or taking care of yourself.
Address only what’s real or true.
Write the rest off.
Understand it will pass.
Ride it out.
Like they say in buddhism (one of the Four Noble Truths) “everything is impermanent” that low you’re experiencing, and yes, also that high you’re on.
It’s all temporary.
So what do you do?
The only thing you can do.
Be where you are.
Blogger's Note: This isn't a commentary on IAAF's latest ruling on Athletes with Differences of Sexual Development and Female Classification. It does however point out that there's more to the hormonal landscape than the categories: performance enhancing or non performance enhancing and about the little choices we make daily choosing between performance and health. This includes but is not limited to decided to use birth control pills, IUDs, etc. The use of medication to treat mental health issues. In any case, it's not an easy landscape to navigate.