My Spark of Madness

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.

8 thoughts on “My Spark of Madness

  1. I’m really sorry to hear you’ve gone through that Kathryn! I’ve been there myself, since my early teen years and I agree totally with your description of depression.

    One of the hardest things I’ve found about it is not only having to deal with the depression itself, but also having to go through the extreme extra effort of trying to keep up appearances to the outside world. It makes the ‘disease’ all that more exhausting.

    I think you’re right though, being open about it would probably be so much easier than spending all the time and energy trying to hide it from the world.

    As a side note, if you haven’t seen it, check out this cartoon about depression. It’s eerily accurate!

    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

    • I’m so sorry that you’ve dealt with this too. It’s horrible. I know. I have nothing nice to say about depression. It’s a soul-sucking, super bitch.

      I do dream of the day when people feel free to express that they are depressed. I remember many days where I put a smile on. It was tough. Eventually I just gave up. I became quite creative with my excuses for PJs in the afternoon, absences at social events and general unwillingness to leave my bed. I get it.

      You’re right. That cartoon was eerily accurate. Sad, but true. Thanks for sharing.

      Take care of yourself, friend. You’re not alone and never have been. 🙂

  2. To my dear friend and quite possibly the bravest person I know, thank you. Without your honesty and help, I wouldn’t be sitting here feeling more hopeful than I have in over a year. You helped me find a way to make it better. Thank you, from the bottom of my not-so-broken heart.

    • So glad you’re finding your way. I never doubted you for one second. You’re one of the most beautiful humans I’ve ever met. Your love and support means so much to me. I will be forever grateful. Onwards and upwards my friend! Can’t wait to see you soar! XO

  3. Kath,

    My heart and mind feel totally full after reading your post. I too blogged about my depression, even before I knew that’s what it was. Eventually, I found myself spiralling so low and my posts becoming so, well, depressing, that I quit that blog altogether. Writing about it the way I was, not knowing what was happening to me, was making me worse. Now that I know, though, I think writing about it, the way you have, even though so many now are speaking out about it, is helpful. There will also be just as many or more people who’ve not read posts like this, who will, like Ann, feel hope when they read that someone understands them, and that it is possible to come out of depression, like remission, at least.

    My issue was severe anxiety more than depression, but I had both. Being mediated helps me tremendously in terms of the panic attacks and being able to do things I couldn’t before, but the depression still hits, and I still struggle with reminding myself that it’s not about being tough and changing my thinking. It’s also about stuff that will power or mental exercise can’t help. I have trouble accepting this, even still. Even if there were something I could do to set my chemicals in balance, whatever it takes to do that doesn’t seem to be in me.

    In any case, what we can do is seek support and encouragement and understanding and love from each other. We can make each other laugh and feel dear. We can continue to hold onto hope so that when we are feeling good, we don’t lose it for fear of going back down. My cousin killed himself when he was feeling great because he was afraid of the bad times happening again. He was manic-depressive. This is why we have to be open and know that it’s not about toughing it out and going it alone. Posts like this help.

    Thanks, babe. I love you, though it all. I’m here.

    • Steph,

      I totally thought this was a cliche blog to write, especially considering the fact that everyone everywhere is posting their thoughts and cute little depression memes with fuzzy cats. But whatever. I wrote it because I just wanted to say it, and that’s enough of a reason for me. Yesterday I received a few private messages from people who still keep their struggles secret from their family and friends. People who told me that they know they would be judged and that they cannot reach out for help. It made me so sad. For that reason alone, I’m glad I posted this yesterday. I find it weird when I read my stats, and see the numbers and think….WAIT A SECOND! I don’t even KNOW that many people! It blows my mind.

      I know the struggles you’ve had and I can tell you, there are times when I was so worried about you that I couldn’t sleep. It broke my heart watching you go through that. Truthfully, it also scared the shit out of me. Even as someone who deals with issues myself, I couldn’t wrap my mind around some of the feelings you were expressing then. I’m so glad you’ve gotten better. I know that you still struggle. I’d be a total liar if I said I didn’t still too. It happens. It’s a bad day, a bad week, a bad month even. It goes away, but never completely. I also understand where you’re coming from in regards to not being tough enough to fix it yourself. That was my main argument for a long time. Remember? I was sure that if I went to the naturopath and followed all of her food rules (no chickpeas because of my blood type or whatever it was),took a shit-pile of supplements, exercised and just kept moving I’d beat the shit out of whatever it was that was haunting me. I couldn’t ever admit that no, actually, I needed a medication, not a spinach salad to fix the severe chemical imbalance in my brain. I remember sitting there on the bathroom floor freaking out. Why the HELL was I still feeling like this? I was healthy! I did everything right! I followed the plan to be the healthiest I could possibly be! Why the fuck was my head still messed up? It’s still hard for me, and always will be. The acceptance is the worst thing ever. I cried and cried when I actually had to admit that no, maybe I will always have to take medication. Maybe I will always be a person who deals with this.

      I am always here for you, Steph. Always. You’ve been such a great friend to me. I love you to the moon and back! Wait, that’s cheesy. Whatever.

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