So today is a big confession time. So today I’m facing a big fear…the dentist.
It’s been about five years since I’ve been to a dentist. A lot of that was losing my dental insurance and not being able to afford it. But a lot was just my fear. Because I hate the dentist.
I’ve never had good teeth. I’ve had braces twice. I’ve had tons of fillings and a crown and not really sure how much of my teeth are even real anymore. I know, kind of gross. And it wasn’t that I didn’t take care of myself. I did brush my teeth. I did floss. But sometimes…
Sometimes I wouldn’t for long stretches of time. Not because I didn’t know I should be. But because I didn’t think it mattered.
Because that’s the funny thing about depression. When you don’t think you’re worth anything, you can’t really be bothered to take care of yourself.
It really shocks people when I tell them that I suffer from depression because they can’t see it on me. I function really well. I laugh, I smile, I tell funny stories. I pay my bills and take showers and wear clean clothes and on all accounts I appear ‘normal’. And I am. Especially right now, I’m doing really well.
But just because I function and can control my depression doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Doesn’t mean it’s always waiting. Whispering to me. Telling me I’m worthless. Telling me I’m tired. Telling me that it’s just not worth the effort to care about myself.
A lot of my fear of facing the dentist is shame. Of admitting that I haven’t taken care of my teeth. Of admitting that I haven’t always taken care of myself. Because I didn’t think I was worth it.
It’s hard for me to admit it to my boyfriend, even though he supports me through it. It’s hard for me to deal with the consequences of it. And dealing with all of it makes it that much harder to not fall down into it. Allowing it an opening to swallow me up and back down into the dark whirlpool of my mind.
Some people think of depression as a whiner’s disease. “You could get better if you wanted to.” “Why don’t you just try to act happy?” “You just like being sad.”
Yes. I’ve had all these things said to me.
Some people might read this and think I’m making up a bunch of excuses. And sometimes, I feel like that. I feel shame. Because why can’t I take care of myself? The rational part of my mind knows. But it’s too overwhelmed by the darkness to care.
Depression isn’t an excuse. It’s not whining. It’s a trap. A trap your mind falls into. You’r’e sitting at the bottom of a whirlpool staring up at a circle of light, wishing with all of your strength you could swim to the top but being thrown back down every time you try. It’s being bombarded by voices telling you how worthless you are and how hopeless your life is. Over and over and over until you don’t know what to believe anymore. It sucks out all of your energy, so that even the effort of taking care of yourself grows to be too much. It gets so hard to battle your own mind, that you just come to a day where you can’t fight anymore. You don’t have the strength. You give up.
I’m afraid to go to the dentist, to hear what they’re going to tell me. That my teeth are all rotted, that I’m a horrible person, that I should be ashamed of myself. These are all the things my brain is telling me. Over and over and over again. No matter what the dentist actually says. No matter how kind they are. No matter how healthy my teeth might actually be.
Because that’s what my depression is to me. Shame. Shame for the hold it has over me. Shame that I have to admit how it affects me. Shame that I have to fight it everyday, even when my life is going really well.
But today I am doing what I always do. Facing my shame. Facing my depression. Battling it and winning. Taking a deep breath and walking forward, even though my fear and shame are paralyzing me. Taking a deep breath and dealing with the consequences of this disease. Taking a deep breath and admitting to myself, to those that I love, that I struggle with this monster.
I’m fortunate in that I have family who supports me. I have an amazing boyfriend who battles this monster alongside of me. Who doesn’t make me feel ashamed, who gives me hope. Who gives me the strength to fight on the days that I just can’t anymore.
It’s hard to describe just how much of a battle it is for me to walk into the dentist’s office. Knowing I’m going to have to own up to my past habits. To explain that I’ve not done the things that I know I’m supposed to do. To admit that I’ve struggled against my depression and lost, and my teeth are the result.
But I know I can do it. I can walk in. I can do battle. And I can deal with the result. Because that’s what life is with my depression. And I know that no matter what happens, I can walk out of there with hope. Because I know that I’m worth something now. I’m worth fighting for.