So, that’s how I think mental health should be discussed. Expect, of course, when I’m talking about me.
I posted once about my PPD, and in that post I mentioned that I’d been diagnosed with dysthymia. And I don’t think I’ve mentioned it since, except maybe in passing once or twice. But, the fact is, I deal with dysthymia all. the. time.
I discovered after I was diagnosed with it that most people haven’t heard of it. A list of symptoms generally looks something like this:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Too little or too much sleep
- Low energy or fatigue
- Low self-esteem
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Poor concentration
A normal person has highs and lows. When a normal person has a low they get sad, but not necessarily depressed.
My therapist said that most people live their lives in this area:
If you suffer from chronic depression of any kind your range is more like this:
Normal people generally don’t get anywhere near it. Any given normal person may have experienced depression at one time or another, so they’d know the difference. When the average person says, “I’m so depressed.” they mostly mean that they feel pretty sad.
In relation to all of that, this is what dysthymia looks like:
I think sometimes I do reach really happy highs. But it takes extenuating circumstances:
For most people, these incredible moments would look like this:
And you see from the way a person with dysthymia's mood fluctuates, that the same thing that would make a normal person feel pretty sad, make me feel honest to goodness depressed:
(mostly just kidding about the Santorum thing. mostly.)
And things that would make a normal person feel depressed—a miscarriage, a death in the family, etc.—I don’t think there is, like, an uber depression level that I sink to. Perhaps I’ll go more the the bottom of the range of depression, but I think rock bottom just doesn’t sink lower than what it is.
So, anyway, that’s what dysthymia is. I don’t think it keeps me from living life for the most part. Even at my lowest points I wake up in the morning and get things done and take care of my Things. At my higher points I can get more done. Is there always more I wish I could bring myself to do? Yes. Do I beat myself up over that a lot? Yes. I’ve been dealing with it on and off since college—although I realized that in hindsight, because I’d never heard the term until I started seeing a therapist for post partum depression after Thing 1 was born. Learning about it sure made things make sense, if you know what I mean.
There is no real consensus on what causes dysthymia, just like with depression. My guess is that most of the time it’s a body chemistry thing. Some people deal with it for several years, some people deal with it always. Because pinpointing what causes it is a problem, treating is also a problem. Some people respond well to anti-depressants (SSRIs, SNRIs, and the like). I took Prozac when we realized I was having postpartum depression (which began for me during pregnancy-yeah, that can happen) and I responded well to it… as far as being super depressed went. It didn’t make me normal. And, about a year after Thing 2 was born I went off of it. I didn’t need it for PPD anymore, and it’s not effective otherwise.
So, I’m in the midst of exploring other options. We’ll see how it goes. I sure am sick of feeling bummed all the time.
That is all.