The depression resulting from rape and domestic abuse first overwhelmed me when I was 26, six years into my marriage. I believe I succumbed to the symptoms of depression simultaneously with giving up control over my Self to my husband. The fear I felt at the thought of “going against” my abuser caused me to look inside myself for a solution to our relationship problems. I finally believed him – I was the cause of all of our issues.
One day, during my child’s routine medical appointment, I broke down in the doctor’s office. He told me that I was Depressed, and he said there were medications that could help ease the symptoms and get me back to feeling “normal”.
Domestic Abuse & Depression Symptoms
I believe the diagnosis of Depression was both a God-send and a curse because the diagnosis of Depression hid what was really going on at my home, even from me.
The symptoms for both Depression and domestic abuse are eerily similar. WebMD gives several symptoms of Depression (D); following the symptoms are my understanding of symptoms of domestic abuse.
- difficulty concentrating (D) coincides with the abuser’s use of repeated interruptions during arguments and when the victim tries to do something for anyone other than the controller.
- difficulty remembering details (D) coincides with the abuser’s continual remaking of history and insistence that their memories are correct and the victim’s are wrong.
- difficulty making decisions (D) coincides with the abuse victim’s knowledge that nothing they do will be “right” so decision-making becomes tough and anxiety provoking.
- fatigue and decreased energy (D) coincides with the unending stress caused by living with an abusive person.
- feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness (D) are also ideas a controlling person want their victim to feel so control is easier to maintain.
- feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism (D) are the resulting feelings an abuse victim undergoes due to the abuser’s control of them.
- insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping (D) are also signs of stress abuse victims experience.
- irritability, restlessness (D) can evolve after sleep disruption, anxiety, and other symptoms of domestic abuse.
- loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex (D) are usually present in abuse victims because the controller limits their pleasurable activities and sex with an abusive person is not “fun”.
- overeating or appetite loss (D) along with substance abuse can become coping mechanisms used by victims.
- persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease with treatment (D) are also side-effects of stress caused by abusive relationships.
- persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings (D) are hallmark signs that a victim feels “with no reason” since the abusive partner denies those feelings should exist in the victim because they “have it so good.”
- thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts (D) also plague many victims of domestic abuse who are ever-increasingly hopeless as to find a solution to their relationship problems and may hear their abuser say “We’d be better off without you. You’re a terrible mother!” or similar statements.
I believe the abuse I suffered at home triggered my Depression. The abuse came first in 1991, and I was diagnosed with Depression in 1998. I probably would have been diagnosed earlier if I didn’t go along with my husband’s idea that the only thing wrong with me was that I was a spoiled brat.
Treating My Depression
Over the past 14 years I’ve been on and off anti-depressants always thinking that I didn’t need the medication to be “normal” – I felt that having this mental disorder was something to hide – a shameful secret that I could overcome if I were stronger, smarter, or a better person (feelings reinforced my my husband who hated my “happy pills”).
Now I realize that Depression and its symptoms are not my fault. Depression is my brain’s misguided chemical reaction to stress within the unique confines of my genetics and environment. Try as I might, I can’t control what my brain chemicals do (or neglect to do), but I can work with my brain to ease the pain of Depression.
The best thing I did for myself was leaving my abusive relationship. When I lived with someone who exhibited disordered behaviors, I was destined to fall into his unreal world defined by control and confusion.
Although I’ve been on my own for two years, I continue to struggle with Depression. I don’t know if my brain re-wired itself within the 18 years I was married to accept the depressive state as “normal” or if the depression is a genetic trait triggered by abuse. At this point I don’t much care what “caused” it as I care about finding a solution for it.
With medication and by taking care of my body, I can control my Depression. For now, getting back on my feet is priority one. Neither the symptoms of Depression nor the symptoms of abuse are enough to keep me down.
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