For the first two years my psychiatrist was treating me, she was treating primarily for depression, with anxiety as the secondary thing that she was trying to treat. I kept telling her that I was depressed because I was feeling anxious (and physically terrible) and she kept insisting that I was really depressed and that the depression was causing the anxiety. This was before my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was diagnosed, and desperate for some relief, I went along with her treatment recommendations.
In retrospect, now that I know about the CFS, I believe that my treatment-resistant depression can be largely attributed to that. I mean…if you were so exhausted that you could barely move most of the time, wouldn’t you be depressed too? Wouldn’t you feel anxious about life? I know I have an anxiety disorder, and I know I have depression, but my CFS diagnosis has completely changed how I look at and approach everything.
Having a chronic illness changes your entire life. It can make doing even the simplest of things, things that you took for granted “before”, impossible. Something as simple as brushing your teeth can suddenly seem insurmountable. Putting food in the microwave to heat it up seems like too much effort, even though your brain tells you it’s not that bad. Everything seems like a challenge, and the entire time, your brain tells you that you need to just push through and do it. For some, pushing through works…unfortunately, for a lot of people with CFS and similar conditions, pushing through is not an option and can result in an exacerbation of symptoms.
If you have been diagnosed with mental health issues and chronic illness(es), stop for a moment and think about this. Is it the same for you? Based on my experience, this seems like something that is probably more prevalent than people think it is. It took the CFS diagnosis for my psychiatrist to change her view on my treatment, and things are starting to look up in terms of my mood. Now, if I just had the energy to do the things I want to do, I’d be good to go!
As someone who is currently taking a hiatus from working, something I get asked often is, “What do you do all day?” I know there are many others like me who are in a similar situation, and this is a great opportunity for us to talk about it.
The day usually starts off around 5am, when I wake up for the first time. I try and go back to sleep…sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes not.
Eventually, between 7 and 8, my dog wakes up fully, and it’s time to take her outside. I can barely muster the energy to throw on some clothes, but she has to go, and I have to take care of her. After I drag us outside, we usually go back to bed for a bit, or crash on the couch. Sometimes, I fall asleep on the couch for another hour or two, and then the phone rings – my dad, checking in to make sure everything is alright.
My dog is usually still asleep at this time (after having eaten her breakfast), and I attempt to drag myself to the kitchen to eat something. My appetite is sparse most of the time, but I know my body needs food, and force myself to eat something. Most of the time, I grab whatever requires the least amount of effort, and then crawl back onto the couch.
I lie there for a while, sometimes watching tv or fiddling with my phone, sometimes drifting in and out of sleep. This continues until my dog wakes me up because she needs to go out, and then we make a quick trip outside. After that, we just kind of rinse and repeat for the rest of the day. Sometimes there’s lunch in there, sometimes not.
At dinner time, I usually drag myself to the kitchen and grab something…anything, whatever is fast and not going to make a mess. I feed my dog her dinner, and then back to the couch.
We go outside a couple of times, and then eventually, we go to bed.
There are days where the routine changes a bit…maybe I have a medical appointment, or something else going on. Maybe the laundry has piled up to the point where I have nothing left to wear. Maybe I realize I haven’t had a shower for almost two weeks.
Unless people have experienced being depressed like this, they cannot understand what it is like. It may look “lazy” on the outside, but if they knew what was going on inside, they might be more understanding. Having major depression is not something I would wish on anyone…and yet, sometimes it would be nice if people had experienced it, so they could understand.