“Perhaps the next time half a million people gather for a protest march on the White House green it will not be for abortion rights or gay liberation, but because we’re all so bummed out.” Elizabeth Wurtzel
Reactive depression, as its name indicates, is a mental disorder in reaction to an event, a change, the loss of someone or something valuable.
I was diagnosed with reactive depression after I lost my job.
The way my disorder manifested was a total sense of powerlessness, recurrent headaches, sadness, incapacity to do simple chores at home, memory loss, difficulty to concentrate, a constant pessimism to name a few symptoms.
My depression was triggered by a constant stressor, in the person of my boss. This does not mean that my boss was bullying me.
However, the mixture of:
– my losing my job and
. her persistent denial of what she did to me (firing me) as her continuing on as if nothing had happened, and
– her permanent high expectations of commitment and sacrifice of time and energy,
had an impact on my well-being and created for me an impossibility to adjust to the new situation and a loss of faith in what the future held for me.
The doctor’s decision was to “remove the stressor” from my environment. As a result, I was “removed” from work. The medical center treated my situation very seriously and took no chances. They interviewed me three times during the first week I was away from work, asking me about my routines, my feelings, wondering if I had suicidal ideas, etc. They spoke to me with compassion and respect, which really helped me at the time, since their attitude was so different from the one my boss displayed towards me.
After I was removed from my stressful working environment, force was to realize that the stressor was still present. For about two weeks after that, I was harassed on a daily basis: phone calls, SMS, emails, all communication was aimed at getting me back to work.
As a result, I recoiled. This unmanageable situation brought back old “demons” from my past. I was unable to react to the aggression and became afraid of any kind of communication, started to not answer the phone, not open the letterbox, etc.
In today’s society, believe it or not, this attitude actually makes things go worse. I remember living in countries where there was no post, where no one wrote to me, or if they did, other people would take care of it. My “here and now” is quite different!
When I forced myself to open the letterbox, when the fear of not opening it became stronger than the fear of opening it, I found outdated bills and letters regarding situation that needed attendance. I was unable to take care of my business, but at least, I had opened the box. A known devil is better than an unknown one, because imagination can play tricks and usually makes things worse in anticipation.So, instead of having unrealistic anxiety, I had real fear staring me in the face. Better? Well, yes, much better because they were concrete battles that I would engage… eventually.
By the time I saw the doctor again, I had started a therapy, in the hope of untangling my brain and my memories. I was given no say as to what was to happen, and I felt relieved. I wanted to stay at home because I could not imagine going back to work, facing my stressor again. I was not strong enough to be detached and not let it drag me down to hell again.
My boss had announced my return to everyone and when she was informed of the extended leave, the aggression picked up again. I was called in for a meeting and, despite the doctors’ disapproval, I decided to face the stressor rather than succumbing to fear again.
It took two minutes to realize the doctors were right and this was definitely a bad idea. The week that followed was disastrous for me. All my symptoms came rushing back and I went down the pits again.
Since then, it has been up and down, with an alternating balance between feeling up-beat and cheerful (sometimes too much) and being depressed and powerless and loosing track of reality.
In about one week, I will see the doctor again. I wish to stay at home, but cannot survive with the salary cut this illness has brought along. So, my close future is uncertain. I am worried that facing the stressor again, and having it in my vital space on a constant basis, will have a negative influence on me.
I am seeking a life where other people do not have such an importance, where what they want and what they wish is simply a part of the scenery and not a pattern of my life.
I don’t think I am ready for this detachment, though.