Depression is being colorblind and constantly being told how colorful the world is (Atticus).
People think depression is sadness.
They think it is crying all the time. They think it is visible. It’s not always. The reality of depression is that it’s insidious and hides and whispers horrible things in your ear. A lot of times, it makes you numb. Sometimes it’s waking up as tired as when you went to sleep and trudging through the day just to get back in bed. Or it makes you angry enough to hit the fridge with a broom hard enough to leave a dent, or hide in the bathroom and scream. Rage that boils up too fast to manage.
Depression has a lot of faces.
I’ve been posting a lot about the topic on Facebook this past week and I had some lovely messages from friends checking in on me. I’m okay right now. But depression is always there, lurking. I have good days and bad days.
We need to talk about it more as a culture so I’m talking about it more now.
Be the change you want to see.
I have always had “mood swings”, which I think were actually bouts of depression that went undiagnosed because so many people think it’s circumstantial. Life gets hard, you get sad–when life gets better, you’ll be happy. It wasn’t until I had my first son at 25 that I realized that is absolutely untrue for so many of us.
I waited my whole life to be a mom. As a kid, I was the one playing dress up as “bride” and “mommy” and I always had at least two or three babies who needed me. As I got older, I babysat and dreamed about one day having a family.
And then I had my son. I felt like there was supposed to be this huge rush of love for him but when I looked at him, I felt nothing except exhaustion. I had a difficult recovery from delivery and used it as an excuse to not deal with the fact that I just had a baby. We switched to formula feeding early and my husband took over night feedings. I would struggle through the day with my son and call my husband around 3pm begging him to come home and help. I never wanted to hurt the baby or me, but I wanted to do nothing at all and that can be just as dangerous. I wanted to not exist. If I could have wished myself away, I would have.
Depression was like a glass wall between my life and me.
I could see everything out there but I was strangely insulated and alone and felt numb.
Everyone could see me struggling but they assured me it would get easier as the baby got older. It would be easier if I switched to formula. It would be easier when I went back to work.
It was not. And it took an online community of moms to tell me that it was not going to get easier until I got help. It was such an odd revelation–this is NOT something you should be able to handle alone. This is NOT something that makes you weak. You are NOT a terrible mother.
Depression is an illness.
You can’t fix it without help. It rarely “just goes away.” I fight it still, but now I have friends who help me see when it rears its head again. I learned coping mechanisms from a year in therapy. I spent six months on Lexapro when therapy was not enough. Professional help gave me the tools to manage my illness. I still had bad days–you can do everything right and still depression gains an inch. But getting actual help can reduce those days.
Someone mentioned this week that no one should feel like they failed a loved one who lost their battle with depression. That is absolutely true. Suicide is never your fault. It is the illness winning the fight.
I do want to challenge you to question your responses when someone reaches out to you. Do you tell them “this will pass?” Do you suggest getting outside for fresh air or doing more self care? Are you really listening when someone tells you they’re sad? Because what sounds like a lovely sentiment to most can sound dismissive to someone struggling. I stopped telling my friends and family because I felt like they were impatient with my depression. They wanted me to get back to “normal” and I wanted that so badly, too, but had no road map to get there.
It took an online forum of Internet strangers reaching back to send me to find a therapist.
It’s really hard to hit publish on this and be this vulnerable out there in the world.
But I think if more people felt like they could share their stories and receive support and help with no judgment, we would have fewer Kate Spades and Anthony Bourdains.
If you need to share your story, I will always listen. My group has been a haven for me this past year and I know they could be that for you, too. But the best advice I can give you is to reach out for professional help. Because you wouldn’t try to cure your own cancer and you shouldn’t fight this alone, either.