Dysthymia and I: a match made in imbalances

Recently I was in New York City with my best friend, exploring the various things the city has to offer. I live about 3.5 hours from Manhattan, so it’s a super easy day trip, even if it is a little expensive.

I had taken all of my meds the night before like usual. I had gotten a good night’s sleep, drank plenty of water, ate well and made sure to wear comfortable clothing. I brought everything I needed to keep myself happy. Yet, there it was. Anxiety from the swarms of people around me and a depression of sorts because I can’t handle the city. I was getting mad that he kept wanting to do more while I wanted to go home. While in The MET, I spent the time willing myself to get through the next hour. Museums shouldn’t be that crowded. Or, in my mind, they shouldn’t be. But not everyone is like me.

Dysthymia feels like a cliff. I stand on the edge of this metaphorical cliff. If I walk backward, toward safety, I’m taking the easy route. The problem is, the easy route for me is hiding in my bedroom and sleeping. It’s skipping work and ignoring family and friends, choosing a life of isolation and boredom.

I choose to jump off the cliff, even if I’m barely holding on. By jumping, I’m putting myself out there. I’m going to places I don’t normally like, I’m experiencing things (like reiki) that I used to snarl at. I’m spending time taking care of ME, even if it’s hard to take care of myself. Depression does that to you — sometimes something as simple as a skincare routine is an unwelcome chore. But, here I am, washing my face twice a day and flossing my teeth.

I’ve always had these issues. My parents divorced when I was little, which undoubtedly colored my view on things. I’ve been bullied, excluded, ostracized and plain rejected. To be honest, I didn’t understand the appeal of friendship until I was in college. To this day, with the friends that I treasure so much, I still find it hard to socialize. They know I struggle and will sometimes force me out, even if I can’t comprehend it.

Dysthymia is basically the “Eeyore disorder.” While you function doing everyday things, you’re always walking around with a cloud over you. My moods flip around more times than I can count and I can go from high to low in seconds. Dysthymia is on the bipolar scale, however, it’s the lesser of the three (dysthymia, cyclothymia, bipolar). While everyone is me, I’m not everyone, if that makes sense. My moods are not drastic enough to be considered cyclothymic or have bipolar. Dysthymia is basically a chemical imbalance; I was born with it. However, it didn’t really show until I was in my late teens, and then I didn’t get a full diagnosis until now, at 24 years old.

I’ve been misdiagnosed with ADHD. I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life; at one point, I was throwing up three or four times a morning before school because I was terrified of my high school. Chances are, I had Asperger’s as a kid; my social skills are still really unrefined and rough. Luckily, I work at a job where social interaction is a HUGE aspect. I’m now pretty “normal” seeming, even though on my insides I’m screaming as loud as possible. People scare the living shit out of me. Truly.

For me, dysthymia is treated holistically. I am currently weaning off of the five daily meds I take, which have been acting like a band-aid for symptoms instead of targeting the root of my problem. Holistically means I medicate with marijuana, do yoga and alter my diet so I only eat foods that work well with my body. I can’t have corn, soy, dairy or sugar; while I do eat cheese and ice cream, I am looking into dairy-free options for both. Since making these changes, I feel a ton better already. I’ve also switched to a once-a-month injection to combat my incessant migraines, which should help wean me off of more pills. It’s a matter of time before I’m doing this all naturally, with the exception of the injection.

What I really struggle with is the unknown. When am I going to have another episode of not wanting to be alive? Although I’ve never self-harmed and do not intend to, the fact that my thoughts sometimes go there is terrifying. I can’t anticipate when things are coming. My moods swing faster than they don’t. All I know is I have to do as much as possible before the next swing hits me.