There's Always A Reason, But It May Not Be What You Think - Erin's Inside Job

There’s Always A Reason, But It May Not Be What You Think

"Everything happens for a reason" is something I learned in recovery. I've found this to be true - there's always a reason - and it took me years to realize that my reason was depression. #mentalhealth #mentalillness #depression

I wrote a post a couple weeks ago about how I was going through a tough time. I appreciate everyone who commented and made me feel like I had a safe space to talk about what was going on with me.

Once I entered recovery, I heard the phrase “everything happens for a reason” so many times that it soon became a part of my own vernacular. It wasn’t because I had been conditioned to parrot the expression, but because I had experienced it as truth in my own personal life. It was one of the most important tools in allowing me to stop an overreaction to a negative situation and look for the positives or what lessons I could take away.

Looking back, I realized that for even the most negative situations, there was always a reason, even though at the time I may not have been able to understand them. Being incarcerated for nine months gave me the time I needed to take responsibility for the actions that had put me there and forced me to a crossroads where I had the decision to turn my life around or continue down the same path. Without any of that happening, I wouldn’t have this blog, I wouldn’t have my marriage, and I wouldn’t have the life I lead today. Funny how things work out.

One area where this phrase got me into trouble was in the realm of mental health.

I was a happy child, although I have been told that my favorite color was black and my earlier writings, while good, prompted a phone call or two home from a slightly concerned teacher due to some heavy subject matter. As I got older, some of my best writings came from being able to tap into a place that felt much deeper and more real to me than what I felt was a “superficially” happy existence.

A poem from my 11-year old brain after the Susan Smith tragedy

I felt safe in sadness. It felt warm and inviting, more tangible to me than periods of time when I would live happily and above the curtain of anxiety that also tended to drop in on me from time to time. In grad school when the control started to slip away from my abuse of prescription medications into harder and heavier options, it only made sense that the depression I felt would increase.

The difference between these feelings and those I had as a teenager and college student were that sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My sadness was crushing and I often felt hopeless about what lay ahead. What started as most likely a way to self-medicate had spiraled out of control. As my addiction progressed, the depression got worse, yet I was still able to show up for classes for a time. I was a remote student, which meant that I only had to go to campus for labs and exams. I completely isolated myself, but didn’t seek help because I had lived with sad and survived. Plus, I assumed

The reason for my depression is my addiction. 

Once I got help for my addiction and decided to live a different way of life, I felt substantially better. I got a new job, I got a new relationship, I got a new life. I was content and fluctuated somewhere in the middle of happiness and debilitating sadness. Fast forward to this past spring and summer when Neil and I ended up on the verge of separation. We had both begun deeper journeys of self-exploration and what we were discovering was that the life story we planned together may not have the ending we anticipated.

I had trouble functioning. I showed up for my job(s), but with a little less heart in them than before. I felt like I was on a precipice and I wasn’t sure which way I would fall. Some days it took everything I had to pull myself out of bed. There were tears, there were fights, and there were times when I felt absolutely nothing at all. We started couples therapy and came thisclose to separating.

Obviously I was sad since my relationship seemed to be crumbling around me, so this time

The reason for my depression is my marriage.

At one point during all of this, I had a fleeting thought that everything would be much easier if I could simply take an eraser and erase my existence. At no point during my hormone-ridden adolescence or the lowest points of my addiction had I ever thought that the world would be a better place without me. If those thoughts had ever come up, I always immediately came back with an extensive list of reasons why that was a horrible idea.

This time the thought of non-existence seemed like a totally coherent idea, which immediately alarmed me. I told Neil and I told my therapist, both quickly and in passing like this was a normal thought that everyone has from time to time. “How was my day? Oh, the usual: worked out, took some pictures of food, wrote about my musings on life, thought about erasing myself, returned some emails…”

My therapist told me that she thought I was clinically depressed and that she wanted me to try medication. I immediately felt a sense of relief that there may actually be a biological reason for my behavior and my feelings. It took me almost two months to finally take some action, but I did and started on an antidepressant near the beginning of October.

I wrote this post about a week into the medication and it was a horrible time. While I was acclimating, I felt scared that the medication wouldn’t work and I would have to start the process of trying a new one all over again. What scared me even more was that the medication would work and that I may lose my ability to write since I always connected with the darker parts of me to do so.

It has been a little less than a month since I started medication and after the initial hurdles, I feel so much better. It’s not that I am always manically happy, but I am able to do so many more things without the voice in my head that for so long told me I couldn’t. I care less what people think about me, I can fully wake up at 5:30 am to train someone, and I’ve gotten some of the best feedback from teaching my classes than I have since I’ve started. My anxiety has significantly decreased, and I simply feel like a cloud has lifted. Also, as you can see, I’m still capable of writing you a novel.

I’m going to pat myself on the back for a minute and say that I am a strong person. Where that has been a liability is in not realizing a problem sooner. It was always much easier to attribute my feelings to situations I was going through and since I had made it through all of them, I convinced myself that feeling depressed was simply a byproduct. What I came to realize after years of forcing myself through the motions is that

The reason for my depression is depression.

For the record, it’s completely normal to be sad if you are stuck in the depths of addiction. It’s normal to be sad that your life explodes in your face. It’s normal to be sad when your marriage is on the rocks. What’s not normal is not being able to come out of that sadness. Going from sadness to feeling nothing at all is not normal. Wanting to erase your existence is definitely not normal.

My only suggestion to anyone who may find themselves grappling with similar feelings is to stop and take a look at what’s going on. As I mentioned, feelings of sadness are a completely normal response to warranting situations, but if you find yourself having trouble functioning or start thinking the world would be a better place without you, ask for help. My email is always open (literally, and compulsively checked), so feel free to drop me a line if you need someone to talk to.

31 comments on “There’s Always A Reason, But It May Not Be What You Think

  1. Such a thoughtful post. Though I’ve never struggled with depression (or maybe I have?), anxiety is the monkey on my back and I’m always hunting for the reason and solution to it. I just came across an interesting dude the other day, Dr. Gabor Mate, who wrote a great book on addiction, depression and other psychological problems called In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts that I’d like to read. Have you read it?
    Bri recently posted…Self-knowledge, the problem with self-help books and how to truly change your habitsMy Profile

    1. I haven’t but I’ll add it to my list. Now that I have a whole new bookcase in the bedroom, I need to fill it up!

  2. Thank you for sharing so transparently. Depression and anxiety are a huge part of my lifestyle, my spouse has PTSD and TBI from the war in Iraq. I am his VA caregiver, because he has been medically retired from the Army. I think people often forget that anyone is susceptible to depression and sometimes for no reason, not just veterans, or people with hurtful lives . I love how you talk about the reasons to be sad and how they are normal, until at some point when they take over and always feeling that way becomes mentally unsafe.
    There have been times where I feel his depression creeping into myself. Because it is hard to be positive and happy when others around you are suffering, sometimes I feel like the happy and good things that happen to me are unfair to him. Does that make sense? I use prayer and fitness to keep me on track if I start feeling like life is weighing a little too hard.

    It is nice to see someone can see change for the positive with their depression because their medicine is working. I think once you find the right ONE it does make a huge difference. I watched my husband go for years trying to find the right one and dose. So never be afraid to tell your doc “this isn’t working” if you start to have side effects or new symptoms. I had to take over going to my hubs appts. because he had a doc that liked to throw many and try lots of idea he had about what meds would work. We got him on a good medicine now that is helping him so much!
    Thank you so much for this post, I am glad I popped over to read it. I will stay following your journey, because I love the way you write and share with such passion about letting people know the truth. Seriously, thank you. A lot of food for thought.
    Carleeh M. recently posted…Tasty Tuesday: Dessert Edition PSL TiramisuMy Profile

    1. Thank you so much for being so open about this subject. I’m sure it is difficult to be there as he struggles with this, but it sounds like he has found the right partner for sure 🙂

  3. Erin, thank you for this beautifully-written, HONEST post. I’m pretty new to your blog, but I’ve read your backstory and admire your perseverance and commitment to overcoming your past. Although I’ve never struggled with addiction, I relate to this post on many levels.
    My childhood seems eerily similar: “deeper” and darker in my thoughts/writings, despite having a damn-near perfect life.
    I’ve always blamed my feelings on situations rather than taken a look within myself. Depression runs in my family, and I’m beginning to think it affects me. I’ve always bend anxious, quick to become irritable, prone to obsessive worry, but lately, at one year postpartum, I feel even more overwhelmed. It’s really affecting my concentration. My husband is a therapist, and even he’s noticed.
    I’m glad that you’ve had a breakthrough and I hope you continue to find your medication to be effective. There’s NO shame in it; mental illness, as you know, shouldn’t be stigmatized. Thanks again & all the best to you.
    Catherine @ foodiecology recently posted…Mom Lies I Tell MyselfMy Profile

    1. Those sound a lot like things I’ve struggled with as well throughout the years. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to talk to someone about what’s going on. If it hadn’t been for that therapist, I don’t think I would have even recognized it as a serious problem!

  4. I love how you are opening up about this. It must be hard, yet therapeutic. I can somewhat relate with the hell I’ve been through with my medical battles these last two years and fighting to get well and get answers. There was a time last year when I was in so much pain. I knew something was wrong with my ankle and no doctor would listen. One, in particular, told me it was in my head. I limped from his office barely able to walk and went home balling. I looked at a bottle of pills and thought I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be in all this pain and no doctor will help. Finally, I went to Mayo Clinic emergency room. The first time they did a test for blood clots then sent me home. A few hours later, I turned around and went right back there. I demanded an x-ray. Of course, they saw nothing on the x-ray. Then a few hours later they called, said they compared my x-ray to previous ones and discovered a stress fracture. I’m so glad I fought back for myself.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…3 Ways To Make Your Food Photography Stand Out: Part 3My Profile

    1. That has to be so frustrating. It’s so important to be an advocate for yourself and I’m glad you’ve been able to do that!

  5. The world needs more people like you. Thank you for sharing your story, even when its not rainbows and sunshine. The hard stuff often helps others the most.

  6. Hugs friend! Thank you for sharing this with everyone – such a wonderful message. I’m so glad you are starting to feel better. I have a very close friend that quickly spiraled to the “I don’t need to exist anymore” and it was a very difficult road for him coming back from the depths of hell. Sending love and support!!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Pumpkin Spice Protein Puppy ChowMy Profile

    1. Thanks Sam! So far so good, but you know I will make sure to tell the world about it if anything happens in the opposite direction haha 🙂

  7. What a beautiful post, Erin. Yes, the reason for your depression is your depression. There needs to be no other reason or object to blame than that, and external things can just exacerbate it. I’m glad you are feeling the cloud lifting a bit, and hope you continue to feel like that extra burden of depression is lightening from you. Take care.

  8. I love how open and honest you are about your struggles, Erin. Way too many people suffer in silence, and reading about the experiences of others who are going through the same thing can be such an important part of the healing process. I’m glad that you’re starting to feel better and that you’re able to put a positive twist on a negative situation and use your experience to help others. Sending lots of love your way <3
    Amanda @ .running with spoons. recently posted…. thinking out loud #154 .My Profile

    1. Thanks Amanda! And thank YOU for always inspiring me to write things for Thursdays even if I’m not feeling it 🙂

  9. As always, you captured me with every single word of this post. I have so much respect for you, that you’re able to be honest and raw with what you write here. I’m glad you’re feeling better!
    It’s hard for me to fully understand what it’s like to be clinically depressed – my dad is on anti anxiety/anti depression meds, and I try to get a grasp for what he goes through…but how, if I can’t completely relate to the levels of anxiety that he feels?
    P.S. did I tell you already that I’m loving the theme/layout of your site?
    Jess @hellotofit recently posted…Thai inspired cauliflower riceMy Profile

    1. I remember you mentioning about your dad. I hope he is doing well. Just let him know you are there and that you care about him. At least for me, knowing that I wasn’t alone helped a lot.

  10. Erin-

    Wow, it must have been difficult for you to open up and admit this with your readers. Thank you, thank you. I’m SO glad to hear that your medication is working better and that you have faith for the future. I do too! And it is just the best feeling for me, and I imagine you too and anyone reading, to know that we are not alone and that we matter.

  11. Your post today, October 6th about Mental Health Awareness Week brought me to this link. In reading your blog above, it touches my soul. My daughter, who is 30, completely left her life, family, job and friends last year in September and disappeared for 9 days. She had a successful managerial position at Costco and was highly valued. She has an 11 year old son. She did not tell us that she cut her own hours back to part time 6 months prior and stepped down from her management position. One day, she just left while her son was in school. At just before 6, when the school daycare would close, she called her son’s dad and just said, “Get Zack” and hung up. That was the last we heard from her for 9 days. A missing person report was filed two days later when she didn’t show up for work and her managers called us. That was completely out of the norm for her and her son meant everything to her. Since that time, we have seen her maybe 3 times. My mother’s funeral, (her grandmother), two weeks after her disappearance last September, in late January where she stopped by to pick up her Christmas gifts, and the night before my birthday this past May, when she brought a card to me where she had written that she knew this past year was “rough, broken, and confusing.” She also wrote that this next year would be much more family centered. We haven’t seen her since. She has not seen her son since February. No one knows what is going on, there is no closure or explanation. She insists she is not using, and in sightings from people who have reached out to us, they have said she never appears under the influence. We don’t know if she could be bi-polar, or if her diagnosis of lupus 2 years ago is contributing. She is not taking prescribed medication and is now homeless. None of it makes sense. Her son was the world to her. To just walk away is unfathomable. She had no signs of any problems, other than joint pain and loss ofher hair. Now I truly believe that she is using street drugs to manage her pain, since she’s been arrested this year for possession. I can only hope that she can rise above it before something happens to her. She has no communication with anyone who meant anything to her. Congratulations, Erin, for your determination and strength to make a better life for yourself. You are inspiring.

    1. Oh Diane I’m so sorry. That situation is heartbreaking and i can only imagine how hard it is for you. Make sure to take care of yourself and I’m hoping that she can find her way out :/

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