MH – My adjustment disorder, or situational depression

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When I went blind two years ago, my life was over. I could no longer work, I could no longer drive, I could no longer use a computer, I could no longer crochet, I could no longer see my friends, I could no longer see my face. It was over. At 29, my life was over. I used humor to cope at first. When a friend came over the day I got home from the hospital, I said he looked great with purple hair. Eventually the humor faded.

At first it was all about going to doctors. Surely it couldn’t be the MS. B took a week and a half off from work to help me adjust and go to the docs and the labs. At the urging of the attending physician and B when I was leaving the hospital, I had began a low dose of Lexapro to help me “get over the hump” of such an event. I was also tapering off steroids. B had to count out my pills the night before and put them in a little box so I could take them in the morning. I remember not really wanting to take the Lexapro. I mean come on, I’d just gone blind. I was going to feel things. I didn’t want to be numbed out. The doctor assured me it wouldn’t do that. But it did; that’s just how pills work on me. I ended up depressed and not caring. Not feeling the feelings of the depression, it was there, but I didn’t care and not in a good way, if that makes sense.

Over the next few months, all I did was sit around all day listening to audio books that a friend brought me from the school library. That was literally all I did. Sure, I figured out I could make the bed and even do some cleaning, but for the most part, I sat around listening to books, taking my steroids, eating Pringles and gaining weight. I went to meetings when people could take me.

B had to find my shows on tv for a bit until I figured out the remotes. I’d end up getting in bet at 2pm to watch General Hospital, Ellen, Who wants to be a Millionare and Jeopardy, then finally the news. B would get home and I’d struggle to eat. Then I’d go back to bed. On weekends I went to bed even earlier, sometimes as soon as B got up because I wanted to listen to my stuff.

On the 4th of July I cried all day. I couldn’t see the fireworks. B brought me the Duffy cd and when ‘Distant Dreamer’ came on, I sobbed. I was no longer a dreamer. I no longer had a life.

I had gone blind in April and in August, I finally had enough. I went to B one day and said I needed help. I couldn’t do this anymore. I couldn’t accept this. The steps weren’t working. He called a friend who hooked me up with a therapist and I began seeing her once a week on Saturdays. B had to get up earlier than he liked to take me, and I hated myself for that. I was such a burden. I was so worthless.

I went to therapy to work on grieving my loss of sight. But it turned into so much more. We ended up really working on me, about how yeah, I was mourning my vision, but I had decided I was so incredibly worthless and that was what was killing me. She helped me start seeing my strengths, she helped me learn how to talk to B and tell him what I needed. Like more touch, because I could no longer see it in his eyes that he loved me. So now whenever we pass each other, he touches my back or my arm.

She helped me realize that I wasn’t a burden when I asked for help. She helped me see that I was still me and I was pretty fun to be around, especially when I had my humor.

Eventually I got better. Eventually I started to slowly accept what my situation was. My life wasn’t over, it was just, different. I started seeing her every two weeks, then every three, then once a month, then she finally graduated me last year in September, moving to a per diem basis.

I continue to use the tools she gave me. I continue to tell myself I’m not worthless, even when I have those days. I find things that hold me accountable, working out, writing these posts, doing that workshop, making blankets.

I never knew what my diagnosis was until I applied for my guide dog and my therapist had to fill out a thing. I asked her what my diagnosis was, and she said she was calling it an adjustment disorder. Huh? But what if the school things I can’t adjust to my dog? It was explained that for me, it only applied to traumatic events. I was like, ok, but doesn’t everyone have a hard time adjusting to trauma? Yes, exactly. Alrighty then.

So I don’t know if my experience was typical. I still rather call it situational depression, but maybe it is an adjustment disorder. I do have a hard time when anything changes and just recently I was going to run back to my therapist until I found out she’s moving to Florida. So I sat back and just remembered what she taught me. I react. And how old am I when I react? About three. So snap out of it. Oh! It’s gotten easier, that’s for sure, and I don’t think I need to spend a fortune getting to know another therapist, as long as I can remember the tools.

I haven’t been back on meds since the Lexapro. Let me say, that I believe in meds. I believe in meds. Ok? Ok. I just didn’t believe I needed meds for what I was going through. I felt like it was normal to be depressed after something like that. For me, that worked. It wouldn’t work with everyone, like those with a chemical imbalance or those who suffer something even worse. So I am absolutely NOT bashing meds. Let me just make that clear.

My therapist did threaten me with them though. At one point my PMSing was getting so bad that she told me I really had to watch it when I started being a bitch, or else I’d be going on meds. Ok! She knew how to get me haha! I learned to feel when I was ramping up. I learned to accept the blue days and take a mental health day when they occured. I wanted to feel it, because for me, when I feel it, I can move passed it. Because of my alcoholism, I am quite leary of anything that makes me “check out”.

I should also mention that this wasn’t my first struggle with depression. I had it in my drinking, but it was caused by the drinking. Situational. I’ve had it ever since my mom died because I didn’t deal with her death until I got into therapy because of my blindness. Situational.

But it took going blind to see my depression for what it was. Situational. I haven’t had that paralyzing depression for quite some time now. I just have my blue days, like everyone else. That was my experience.

Now for the clinical:

“Adjustment disorder is an abnormal and excessive reaction to a life stress, such as starting school, getting divorced, or experiencing grief.”

Alrighty then. That was the first time I’d looked up adjustment disorder. I don’t think I agree with my therapist. I don’t think I dealt with things abnormally, but maybe I did haha!

If you’re so inclined, you can read more here.


Filed under awareness month, gratitude, humor as coping skill, mental health, mom, therapy

5 Responses to MH – My adjustment disorder, or situational depression

  1. Bravo Ro! You nailed so many of my own thoughts right on the head. I agree whole heartedly on the meds thing. While I totally believe in them (and have to take them myself,) they are never a cure all. In certain cases they definitely may do more harm than good. I’m actually going to be writing about that soon, specifically in reference to the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Next To Normal. It’s is pretty much an exegesis on letting people feel instead of numbing them out.
    But yes, bravo bravo bravo! Loved reading your thoughts on this.

  2. I sure as shit don’t think you dealt with things abnormally. Not many just pick up where they left off after losing a sense they rely on. And you continue to kick ass and take names, so whatever you did to get you through, it worked.

  3. To me … I don’t like the term adjustment ‘disorder’ even though that is the term used in our lovely DSM book. I describe it as having NORMAL reactions for an ABNORMAL situation/trauma/ adjustment in life. I love what you are doing … I think you are incredible 😀 and I will write more.

  4. Normal reactions to abnormal situations, that sounds like it would be about right. I can’t say I’ve ever had to deal with anything quite so heavy, but I imagine that’s how most people would react. It’s all a matter of degree and how you eventually straighten it out. Disorder seems so…wrong. How can it be a disorder if your life has just been flipped arse over tea kettle? If you react the way you did to the blindness every time anything no matter how big or small happened then yeah, maybe that’s a disorder. but a complete life change? Give me a break!

  5. Ro

    Yeah, even my therapist seemed hesitent to use that diagnosis, but for the paperowrk, she had to write something. I guess adjustment disorder fits nicely into the box, better than, she started therapy because she suddenly went blind and all her other problems came to the front like stopping a van full of junk suddenly and having all the junk come flying forward.

    I hate the word “disorder” too though. Ah well, guess I’m branded with it now.

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