Saying things out loud can make them feel very real and I am uncomfortable with how real this already feels some days. Depression sucks. Even on good days it can be felt looming in the corner, waiting for the chance to take advantage of a weak moment or a slip in composure. Sometimes the effort of holding it all together can make a girl feel like flying apart. Recent blog posts by The Bloggess and Living My Social Work started me thinking about why I was reluctant to voice my experiences. Sure, we can give words power when we say them out loud, but we also give them power by not voicing them. Depression needs to be talked about, we need to light those dark corners, we need to recognize that this is a frighteningly common experience for so many of us. There is no shame in mental illness. It is okay to feel weak, and it is okay to ask for help.
I've been dealing with this since my teens, but was only diagnosed after seeking help following the birth of Boy#2. The combination of leaving work to become a stay-at-home parent and losing my social network after the birth of Boy#1, and the stress and fatigue resulting from worry over Boy#2's medical issues sent me into a rapid downward spiral. Suddenly I was at the bottom of this pit I couldn't get myself out of and asking for help felt impossible. The harder I tried to maintain a facade of normalcy, the more I could feel things slipping away like sand through my fingers. Happiness become an unattainable state of being, and the "fake it 'til you make it" approach wasn't working for me anymore.
I was bitter and angry, sad and hopeless. I remember spending a lot of time crying, and I remember becoming violently angry about really stupid things. I was often irrational. I remember the night I felt my kids would be better off without me, and how easy it would be to just speed up the car and drive into that lamppost, and I remember being angry that I couldn't because they were asleep in the back seat of my car. I would never do anything to hurt them and I really think that was the only thing that stopped me.
By the time I got home that night, that dark moment had passed and I was so tired and felt so empty. I was emotionally drained. I felt done, so very done. But somewhere in that yawning maw of darkness something spoke to me. I knew this couldn't be normal. Everyone couldn't feel this way. I needed help.
I started some meds. Some helped, some didn't. The ones that helped with my anxiety and depression caused skin issues, bloating and weird nerve reactions. Some just made me numb and forgetful. I've been on and off them in cycles over the past number of years -- weaning off when I feel better and going back on when I stop slipping and start sliding back into that scary place.
In recent years, I have tried much harder to keep my mind in a better place and stop the negative thinking when it starts to take over. I try to be alert to my triggers and avoid them or confront them head-on. I'm still not good about asking for help, but my husband is better at recognizing when I can't keep it together on my own. I'm not kidding myself, I don't think this will work forever, but it works for now and I'm happier not medicating my depression at this time.
This December was hard, though. Our business was taking off like gangbusters and some weeks, between the business and my other job, I was working a 50hr+ work week which, paired with a teething toddler, arthritis issues and sleepless nights, left me fatigued, drained and stressed. It was hard to muster enthusiasm for Christmas and to keep a smiling face on for people outside of my family.
I didn't pretend I was fine, but I also didn't talk about not being fine. I just kept plodding on, putting one foot in front of the other, waiting for things to calm down. My Christmas tree got put up on the 24th. It got decorated on the 27th. Boxing Day dinner had only a fraction of the side dishes I would normally prepare. I didn't make all the cookies, cakes and sweets that I generally insist upon. I couldn't summon the energy to care about it either.
After a quieter week with less running around and a normal schedule, I'm feeling a lot better and much more myself. Stress is a huge trigger for me and I was unprepared for how busy December would become. I will prepare myself better next year so I am not taken by surprise. My family stepped up when I needed them to, and I appreciate that. The hardest thing for me is accepting that depression doesn't just affect me, it affects my whole family.
I hope that most of you will never have to experience what depression feels like. I hope that you will never have to brace yourself for conversational bombs like "take a pill", "you're crazy", "just get over it", or "you just need to think positive thoughts". It's hard to think positive thoughts when you are existing in a vacuum of negativity. Being told to "just get over" something that feels insurmountable isn't helpful. Our inner voices are very good at telling us how crazy we are, we don't need that kind of help either. Think before you speak, you don't know what that fragile smile could be hiding or why those eyes look so tired.
Words have power.