"Wait, blood count? That means--anemia?"
I love how she just kept going on her merry way like I have any idea WTF MCHC thingits are. I took biology, chemistry and anatomy in high school and then tapped the fuck out of science, my friend. Science is a wonderful and necessary thing and all the kids should take it because the children are our future but I know a lost cause when I see one, and that lost cause was named French/Spanish Double Major With A Concentration In Writing, y'all. ¿Qué significa? L'anémie?
"A mild anemia, yes."
She couldn't understand why I started laughing.
@cleolinda: Soooooo apparently I'm somewhat anemic. This explains a lot.
@westonian: So, wait. You're saying you need blood? OMG VAMPIRE
@cleolinda: Or... have I been *visited* by one? Should I check the corner of my bedroom? Should I buy a rocking chair?
@queenanthai: EDWARD DOLLEN WHAT HAVE YOU DONE
I think it says a lot about the emotional baggage of depression itself that my third reaction (after being startled, then laughing my ass off) was, YAY ANEMIA! WOOOOOOO! I had been dragging around for months talking about how tired I was, assuming it was just depression (this can be a major symptom), but there's not a whole lot you can do about that. I mean, I have a pretty thorough regimen (antidepressants, vitamins, full spectrum lamp--I inevitably list these over and over to save people the trouble of trying to be helpfully redundant), but it's an ongoing treatment, you know? Whereas a mild, simple anemia is just, "Get more iron." (And I suspect it's as a result of appetite loss from the depression--I just can't eat most of the day. I'm not trying to do a quasi-bulimic starve-binge kind of thing, the way I did on purpose as a teenager; it just happens when I'm too depressed to feel hungry, but then at night I'm starving and overeat. For months. Thus, the multivitamin wasn't solving the problem.) Because even when you grasp the idea that depression is an ailment and not a personal failing... it still feels like a personal failing. You know you're clinically depressed, but you feel like you're just lazy, lonely, hopeless, pathetic. Or sometimes you don't realize you're ill, because those feelings of anxiety and shame and helplessness sneak up on you and feel legitimate, and that's why you don't realize you need help. I mean, I've been on medication and under quarterly medical supervision for fourteen years now and my own mood cycles still sneak up on me, over and over. It's hard to teach yourself to say, "You are an awesome person, and your awesomeness is a default, and so if you feel less than awesome, you need to get your awesome tuned up." Because your sadness and fatigue and anxiety feel mild at first, and they seem like rational responses to things going on in your life, and then you end up missing some deadline or not completing some goal or not living up to your own expectations because you're already sad and tired, and then the negativity does seem justified: "I'm not depressed; I'm a loser."
And it's so hard to learn and re-learn this, over and over and over again. I'm getting better at recognizing it, but... I still hate myself for being dragged down by it, for not fighting it harder, for not conquering it fast enough. Depression makes you feel bad and then it makes you feel bad for feeling bad. Meanwhile, I had gotten to a point, through this October and November particularly, where getting up every morning, being downstairs by 7 am, wearing real proper clothes, and sitting down at the kitchen table with my laptop every day was a fucking accomplishment. And it only happened because Sam is little and aging and blind and incontinent, and needs a seeing-eye human to whisk him outside six and seven times a day at a moment's leg-hike. But that need provides structure. It's also the reason I'm afraid to live on my own (which is the answer I never actually give to people who ask about my living situation). I need people and pets around me on a daily basis to put on that mask of functionality, which I think most depression sufferers do automatically--people can tell you're at least somewhat depressed, but you converse and joke and talk about what everyone did at work and what movies you want to see and what dumbass thing some politician said today. You don't want people to see you like this, so you automatically try to act functional. I've hidden severe depression for months this way, even living with my family; I've tried to be a lot more honest on a daily basis about feeling really, really shitty, just so someone knows. I sat down at that table and booted up Lizzie every single day and whether productivity then happened or not, I was being there, goddammit. And Being There was more than I could manage that last semester of college where I nearly failed out of everything because I was left to my own wan devices and hid in bed crying, not actually oversleeping, just watching the clock to know that my most difficult, early-morning Spanish literature class was over and I could stop begging myself to get up and go, because it was, at last, too late, and I could have the blessed awful relief of no longer being able to do something about it and failing to anyway.
But by God, you have anemia, and suddenly everyone understands. Even though that anemia was caused by the depression.
I write about mental health experiences so often because depression itself feels like shame, and is easy to mistake for disappointment in yourself, but I'm not actually ashamed of saying that I'm bipolar, struggling with episodes of chronic depression, and dealing with it using as many resources as I can find. I'm ashamed of some of the circumstances resulting from it, from what I feel is my failure to cope--not living on my own, not finishing projects, not accomplishing things--or perhaps, sometimes, what depression tricks me into thinking is my failure to cope. But I'm not ashamed of it as a medical condition. And I don't think anyone else should be, either; I feel like talking about depression in casual, matter-of-fact ways normalizes it, shows that it's an illness, that it's not just deserved sadness and self-loathing, and that helps others. I mean, judging by the emails I get, it seems to.
So I almost feel like it's a betrayal of my own principles to be glad I have a "real" medical condition, even a slight one, even just for a few months, because if you told me the same story about yourself, I would say, "But depression is a real medical condition." All I can really do is point out what that says about depression itself, the way it feels, and the way we view it. Otherwise, I'm going to feel bad about it, and then feel bad about feeling bad, and we just climbed out of that rabbit hole.