I'll be honest, I'm not okay. But I am working on it. (TW/CW: suicide)

I'm current in crisis due to depression and want to keep you all updated. Fair warning though, this gets a bit dark.

Sunny landscape seen through a blurry glass window and metal fence
Sometimes, this is what depression feels like

This is going to be a long post, and it gets a bit dark, hence the trigger/content warning. I'm posting this largely to update the friends and family who have expressed concern, so I won't be offended if you want to skip this one.

It's pretty strange to realize that you've been really fucking lucky when it comes to mental illness.

For as long as I can remember, I've had occasional very low moods and moments of suicidal ideation. If I got super anxious about something, faced a difficult memory, or had an unusually bad day, my anxiety could spiral quickly into a very dark depression, leaving me numb and very tired.

Over time, I just accepted them as a holdover from a difficult childhood —a dramatic over-reaction to stressful situations. To counter them, I learned how to read my moods and self-manage so I didn't end up on the floor in another crying jag trying not to self-harm.

Why I didn't get more help sooner? That's a good question.

First of all, I'd been in therapy for years and had learned to manage these short episodes (4-5 times a year) pretty well. They lasted minutes, maybe hours, with perhaps a day or two of low moods. Second, I assumed that treatment was for people who were depressed all the time, because come on, how do you actually treat occasional depression outside of therapy?

To me, it was simply a result of trauma that couldn't be "fixed", it was just a part of me. Turns out, as I said, I'd been really fucking lucky.

2022: The year my depression deteriorated

In late 2021, my partner and I headed out on a new adventure as digital nomads. I'd been doing pretty well, mental health-wise, and figured I could manage on my own. We had our issues like any other couple, but I was super excited for this next chapter in my life.

During our 9 months away from our hometown of Chicago, I experienced a lot of highs (amazing scenery, travel, meeting family and friends), but also some unprecedented lows. I began noticing a significant change in my depression.

The few days of really low moods and fatigue stretched to weeks. And instead of intense suicidal ideation, I felt numb, hopeless, and so tired. I began having trouble sleeping, sometimes at the same time as the low moods, but other times in between them.

By the end of the year, my depressive episode had stretched from weeks to months. On top of that, I was burning out very quickly, struggling with low moods pretty constantly, and couldn't seem to shake my fatigue.

2023: A year of change and diagnosis

Last year, it took 11 months, 6 moves, thousands of dollars, and several jobs to see us finally settled in one place again. And while I missed (and still miss) being a digital nomad, I realize now that we fought that decision for too long. Because this was the year things really took a toll.

My health continued to get worse, with more frequent stretches of bad depression, daily fatigue and low moods, and weeks of insomnia at a time.

I realized I needed to be back in therapy and tried to find a professional who worked with digital nomads. No luck there. Finally, my former therapist took me back and I started hoping things would go back to "normal". They didn't.

We finally settled in an apartment in mid-November after some hair-raising issues with finding housing. I'd just come out of a solid 6 weeks of intense depression and insomnia and started my first-ever full-time job.

But I also finally had a name for my condition: dysthymia, a form of persistent depression with major depressive episodes, also known as "double depression".

I really wish my story had ended there, with a new job, new home, new diagnosis, and a plan to de-stress and settle down. Unfortunately not.

It's 2024 and I'm in crisis

So we're now, what, 10 weeks into 2024? Just 10 weeks and I'm officially dealing with a mental health crisis. I'm now sitting at 3 months of daily insomnia (4-5 hours of sleep a night), brain fog, fatigue, mood swings, and memory loss. Most concerning of all, the suicidal ideation is back with a vengeance.

As I mentioned before, wanting to put a permanent end to stress is nothing new. I also have a (limited) history of self-harm. But nothing prepared me for this combination. Turns out, being suicidal is much, much worse after a bad night. Or 90 of them.

In the last month, I've had to talk myself out of several suicide attempts, one being throwing myself out of my car at 55 miles an hour. My husband has found at least one knife hidden under our bed. And instead of a slow buildup of stress, I go from anxious to suicidal in seconds.

I can't ignore these urges and have had to accept that this situation is officially out of my control. I need help.

Well, fuck. So what now?

This week, I told my husband that my health was officially priority number one. I want to go back to fighting about communication issues and when dishes get done. But for now, I have bigger concerns, like living long enough for that to happen.

It was a difficult conversation, but a necessary one, and we decided to reduce some of my stressors (finances, household chores, etc.) so I could concentrate on staying alive.

At the moment, my therapist and I are working together to find me a good psychiatrist. My first appointment is next week, but I know this will likely be a months' or year-long process of finding the right person, the right treatment, etc.

It's bizarre being actively suicidal and also fully conscious and fairly functional (or rather, low support). Sort of swinging between feeling everything and nothing. In fact, these last few months have been a bit of a waking dream.

My days are pretty full right now. I have intake calls with potential psychiatric clinics, which are draining and take forever, appointments with my therapist, and all my regular work, including freelance projects. I'm also doing my best to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which means daily exercise, eating regular meals, drinking water, being marginally social, and just trying not to withdraw from life completely.

It's a lot and I'm exhausted.

But I'm still here, so it's working, I guess.

Why the long, TMI update

And that brings me to why I'm writing this very long post in the first place.

As you can imagine, this situation has thrown a bit of a wrench in my plans for The Chronic Worker. For now, I will be using this platform to share health and treatment updates with my community.

I've decided to do this for three reasons:

  1. I've told a lot of people what's been happening recently, but it's hard for me to keep up with everyone or even remember to.
  2. Writing things out helps me process them better and could even be helpful for my care team.
  3. I don't want to step fully away from this project, even if it kind of sucks to write about sometimes.

There will be one more change, however. Because upcoming blogs will be quite personal, I won't be posting the full update on LinkedIn as a newsletter. Instead, I'll share a shorter summary as a newsletter with a link to the longer update which will live on my website.

Hopefully, I can still move forward with my plans in a few months. But until then, please feel free to stay in touch by subscribing to my newsletter, or for longer updates, going directly to my blog.

To anyone who has read this far, thank you. I appreciate your support.

Til next time. Hopefully.