Depression. Long before the sad news of Robin Williams’ suicide, I was thinking of writing a post about this very issue. Partly because recently a few people in my life have opened up about their own battle with depression. People who I would never have guessed could ever struggle in such a way. I can relate to the things they tell me, the feelings they express and the sadness I hear in their voices. I understand it so well, because I too have lived it.
I’m a very open person. I don’t shy away from conversations about uncomfortable or “taboo” topics. However, depression and mental health issues are still somewhat mum for me. I don’t go into much detail about my own experiences because I still feel as if I will be judged. In fact, I know I will be. I’ve felt the sting of gossip surrounding the issue, and because of that I have spent a great deal of time trying to disassociate myself with any and all labels that come with this socially stigmatized disease. But all the denial aside, I can never ever escape the reality that is my own personal struggle with anxiety and depression.
The first time I was treated for depression I was in my early twenties. I remember being told that lots of people battle with the same issues, and with treatment, the symptoms pass like a storm cloud, leaving things “normal” again. That was partly true, but mostly complete nonsense. That was not a good description of depression at all. If I could describe my own depression, I would compare it to the tides of the ocean. It comes in and it goes out. When it’s gone I wait for it to return again. Even though it has been quite some time since I felt the firm grip of depression’s utter despair, I still worry about the day it rears its ugly face again. I often worry that one morning I’ll wake up, and the world will be as it was in my darkest days. This is the terrifying reality of living with depression.
I know all too well what happens when the tide rolls back in. When the depression symptoms return. I have lived through complete hell, hiding everything as best I could. I’ve self medicated, distracted myself, obsessed over and ignored the issue. I know what it feels like to be bounced from medication to medication, therapist to therapist, with no relief. I know what it feels like to struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I know the voice that tells you that there is no reason to live. I’ve been to the bottom, and I fear going back every single day.
My worst bouts of depression happened in the fog of the 4 years I spent either being pregnant, or caring for a newborn. But the truth is, I’ve always dealt with depression regardless of whether or not my body was making or recovering from making a human. Sometimes it’s bad. Most of the time, it’s not. I’d like to say that it was purely postpartum. That all of those bad times are behind me. But considering the fact that I’ve dealt with some form of depression for as long as I can remember, I’d say that this is something that I’ll undoubtedly deal with for the rest of my life. This realization is new to me. In fact, I spent at least 10 years of my life denying there was a problem. I always had an excuse. It was always just big changes in my life, hormones, the weather… anything but the chemical imbalance in my brain. I didn’t want to associate myself with an affliction that is seen as a flaw in character. But not anymore.
What I’ve learned is that there are so many people out there suffering. They carry an illness that no one can see, but one that is as real as any cancer diagnosis. They don’t tell their friends, family or neighbours that they are sick. Partly because they are told that it isn’t a real illness at all. They feel ashamed that they feel the way they do. They feel like they need to just suck it up and put a smile on. They sit silently waiting for it to go away, often in vain. Thinking of these people walking around, struggling to hide their invisible wounds makes me cry. It reminds me of where I was, and where I could very well find myself again.
While I’m sure many would argue that writing about my “dirty laundry” is only asking for trouble, I don’t see it that way at all. I’m not ashamed to admit that I have suffered too. There is nothing wrong with me as a person because of it either. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mother, wife or friend. It doesn’t mean I’m some sort of liability or risk to society. It doesn’t mean I’m crazy, or stupid or unreliable. I’m definitely not weak. I’m not any of those things. What I am is a normal 30-something year old woman. I have a family and a very full and for the most part, happy life. I have good days, and bad days just like everyone else. In the past I’ve been very sick. I will probably face it again. Hopefully not as badly.
Depression has many faces. Mine is one of them. I’m not be afraid to say that anymore.