Many people don’t understand there are other consequences of depression and other mental health disorders and diseases, other than the ultimate ones – suicide and homelessness. What about someone like me? I live in a nice home, I have nice things, I have access to healthcare. What consequences do I face?
One of those consequences…
WEEKS AT A TIME
Lots of people know the signs of depression, even if they ignore them or are in denial. One of those signs is hypersomnia – sleeping too much, or insomnia – the inability to sleep. Sometimes, it’s isolation – staying in bed regardless of whether you’re sleeping, to escape and shut out the rest of the world.
I usually cycle between these – I can sleep 12+ hours a night and then nap frequently throughout the day or not be able to sleep at all. Usually when I can’t sleep at night, I can fall asleep easily once my husband is up and getting ready for work. I think it’s a safety issue. I’m being hypervigilant, but can never pinpoint why exactly. Once he’s awake, I feel safe enough to fall asleep. This doesn’t make sense to me because I’m not afraid of the dark, but more on that another time. One day after a long episode of this, my therapist extraordinaire, simply said, “It’s ok. You’re safe.”
That’s all it took. I was able to sleep again.
Whether I’m experiencing insomnia, hypersomnia or I’m simply isolating, although there’s nothing quite simple about it, it’s not unusual for me to be in bed for days and even weeks at a time. Yes, weeks. This is a flag that I’m entering a depressive episode. I recognize it. I don’t always do something about it right away though. My husband is very supportive, although he’s somewhat enabling at times. He does it with the best intentions, because…food.
If I’m in bed for days or even weeks at a time, that means I’m not getting out of my pajamas, changing my underwear, showering, or brushing my teeth.
I cancel appointments or have phone appointments instead of face-to-face. Yes, I’ll say it again. Weeks. That means, I stink.
Besides, food, my saint-of-a-husband makes sure I’m taking my meds, and will encourage me to get out of bed, but he’s never pushy. He knows that won’t work because he’s gone that route before earlier in our marriage.
There are consequences to the primary effects, symptoms, and behaviors of depression and anxiety. I’m overweight, but in reality, I’m probably also malnourished.
Why? Because I don't eat right. I go days without eating at all and then when I do eat I simply don’t eat the right things, and if I'm in bed for weeks, exercise is non-existent.
Often Scott asks me, “Are you eating today?”
It’s kind of sad actually that he even asks that question. Don’t you think?
Over the last few 19 years, with my bouts of depressive episodes being sporadic and lasting weeks or months at a time, I’ve dealt with fungal infections and yeast infections because of poor hygiene. Again, Scott should enter sainthood just for his ability to lie beside me at night when we have several guest rooms he could easily retreat to, because I smelled more like a dead body than a rose. I can usually take care of the infections with over-the-counter medications that Scott buys at the store.
At that point, I shower, wash my hair and put on clean underwear and pajamas. Scott changes the bedding and if I feel up to it maybe I’ll spend some time with him in the living room before retreating to the bedroom again, but these turns of events are usually what I need to push me out of isolation. However, by then the damage is already done.
One of the things I’ve been surprisingly good about, is visiting the dentist regularly. You know when the dentist or the hygienist pokes around at your teeth and gives each one a number…? Mine are usually around 3-4. Yippee! Right? Wrong!
I always thought I was doing well on a scale of 10. I don’t know why I thought this. I shouldn’t have thought this; my gums were always bleeding with each cleaning. I’d always get a gentle warning, and yet it never would quite sink in.
This poking is called periodontal probing and it determines the health of your gums and teeth – the periodontium. Healthy equates to numbers in the range of 1mm- 3mm. So, my 4mm numbers were already a sign that things were headed in the wrong direction. Another clue was that my dentist had me scheduled for cleanings every four months instead of every six. But, well….depression.
I mean, I made it to the cleanings, but depression lies to you. And, it causes cognitive distortion. In other words, 2+2 was not equaling 4 anymore. And, even with more frequent dental cleanings, my home care was nearly non-existent. I brushed my teeth only when I needed to be somewhere, meaning, only when I got out of bed. The fact that I don’t have any decay is a true miracle!
Here I am, in the dentist’s chair for the fourth time in a six-week period. My periodontal probing numbers at my most recent regular exam were 5mm’s and 6mm’s, with swollen gums and an indication of some bone loss, confirmed by x-rays. Meaning serious intervention was needed. Thankfully, no loose teeth. Yet.
I FINALLY GET IT
I need scaling and root cleaning which will clean out the bacteria that has collected in the pockets between my teeth and gums and allow my gums to adhere to my teeth once again. It needs to be done in three visits. One visit took care of my upper teeth, and then two separate visits for my lower teeth – so that my entire tongue wasn’t numb. Thanks Mona!
The procedures themselves were rather painless and uneventful, in spite of that big, scary looking needle. Mona did a great job of numbing the outside of my gums first with benzocaine so that I didn’t feel the shot of mepizicaineplain.
The worst part of the three appointments was that I kept biting the inside of my cheeks when my upper teeth were done.
I’ve become a lot more mindful about my home dental care – brushing twice a day even when I don’t want to get out of bed or out of my pajamas. I don’t floss, but I do use Soft-Picks by G*U*M. I find them easier to use and more convenient. I keep them in my purse, in my nightstand, in the bathroom, and in the car. I’m also scheduled for a recheck in 6 weeks to see how my teeth and gums look – which really means it’s a check up on whether I’m doing my ‘homework.’
I. Get. It. I really do. But depression keeps me from being able to follow through all the time.
It gives me a different perspective, though, when I see people who don’t have all their teeth. I think I used to judge, even though I would have told you that I didn’t…I did.
But, I don’t judge anymore. I often catch a glimpse of a toothless smile and just wonder, “Did she have a hard time getting out of bed today?”
Maybe you can ask yourself the same question next time you see a toothless grin.