ED’s good-time companion: Depression

I’m doing better these days, or so T and I agreed. I’m eating, not obsessing over food, and haven’t had a panic attack about food in several weeks, possibly a month. Yes, I still do “inappropriate compensating behaviors,” my socially-acceptable euphamismfor purging, self-harming, and restricting. But not often. Well, not as often. And I still track everything I eat, every move I make, and every pound on my body. Ok, so “better” is clearly a relative term.

I was reading an article on HuffPo that popped on my FB page this morning about depression myths. I don’t recommend it, because I thought it was stupid and useless. But it did get me thinking about my own depression, and how it is entirely different than most people’s preconceptions about depression. Depression is like a piece of clothing – it fits differently on each person, and it can fit differently on you five years from now than it does on you today. But it’s certainly no fun to wear. It chafes and rubs, so your body hurts. My body ached like I had the worst flu when my symptoms were really bad. Advil didn’t touch the pain. I thought it was my fault, something wrong with me, something I had done. But it made wanting to exercise (which I really didn’t want to do anyway) nearly impossible. It made getting out of bed nearly impossible. It made sleeping nearly impossible.

Depression colored everything I saw and felt, like a heavy burqa with a dark veil. I couldn’t see clearly, and I knew that I couldn’t, but it was still frustrating. It was heavy, and hot, and dark. I couldn’t breathe, I could barely move. Even the simplest of decisions were impossible for me – and that’s a piece I’m just starting to get back. Turkey burger or wrap for lunch? I couldn’t decide, so I wouldn’t eat. Or I’d eat a tiny bag of potato chips, and then cut and purge afterward because of the enormous guilt. It’s easy to see where ED and depression go hand-in-hand.

I was in a fugue. Everything was just beyond me, and I couldn’t really feel anything. My kids would hug me and I’d hug them back, and intellectually I knew I loved them, but I didn’t feel the love. I could see it, I knew it, but I couldn’t feel anything. t purged and cut and burned so that I could at least feel SOMETHING. And then I felt so guilty afterward, I was just falling deeper and deeper into a black, thick, heavy hole of nothingness.

The worst part for me – the part I’m still slowly getting back – is the loss of my intellect. I’m a really smart person. I don’t say that to brag, because being smart isn’t always a good thing. Objectively, I am smart. I have a high IQ, I scored absurdly high on every standardized test from SATs to GMATs to state standards. I went to really good schools and I did really well. I knew many people smarter than me, but few were quicker than me, and those were the people I loved to work with. Before depression, I felt like I worked in Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing – rapid fire, crazy hours, lots of ideas, really smart people, crazy fun, making a difference.

But depression stole that from me. I couldn’t function. It was as though someone had poured molasses into my brain. Every thought or idea was slow. I would start a sentence, unable to finish. I had to force my brain to jump from one concept to another. I couldn’t finish a thought or an idea. Just trying to do so exhausted me. It was the cruelest thing. I relied on my intellect my entire life – more so than my physical appearance – to get me whatever I wanted. And at the time I needed it the most – not just to objectively see the depression, but to help cure it – it was… gone. 

I still don’t really understand how ED and depression go together – for me they are disparate forces that I am fighting, but I get intellectually that they are related. I’ve read articles and they make sense but to me they don’t feel like they are from the same place. I feel like I brought both on myself, that it’s my fault I have these, that it’s a failure I did, a punishment I deserve.



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