I love how well-meaning people are. Truly, the sincerity of heart that certain people have, and the care that they demonstrate for your well-being is sometimes a very overwhelming and touching thing…
And sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it’s just naive.
Like when someone tries to tell me how to deal with my issues…
As someone who has struggled with moderate to severe depression for about twelve years now, honestly the last thing I want or need from anyone is to be pointed in the direction of resources telling me how to deal with my depression…
I’ll reiterate: twelve years.
This isn’t my first rodeo.
I probably struggled with depression for significantly longer than that, but it wasn’t until that day in my doctor’s office when I was forced to admit (and rightfully so) that I had been starving myself, that anyone put a name to what I was feeling, let alone help me begin to figure out how to deal with it.
I can vividly remember the days and months that followed: blankly staring into the beverage case at the grocery store, unable to make a decision about something as seemingly simple as what I wanted to drink, because my thoughts were spinning so fast that I couldn’t hold even a small thought.
I remember sitting in my therapist’s office, and for the first time having someone just listen to what I had to say, and being patient with me when, once again, my mind wouldn’t let me find the answers to the questions she had.
I remember taking antidepressants and how they slowed my racing thoughts, letting me find the clarity I had been seeking for a long time. I could think again. I could enjoy the feelings I had enjoyed so long ago.
I remember going to college, and suddenly the responsibility of taking my medication was mine alone. I remember deciding I was going to find another way to cope. And I remember doing just that.
Somewhere along the line, I began subscribing heavily to the “internal locus” train of thought, we’ll call it. I realized that the only person who ultimately had control over me and my body was...well...me. I learned to objectify and externalize the despair I once felt, recognizing that it was not the result of real actions or beliefs, but merely a chemical imbalance in my brain. And just like that, I would whisk it away.
It was awesome and it was powerful.
On a bit of a tangent, I actually did the exact same thing to cope with childbirth. I closed my eyes, envisioned the pain of my contractions as a ball, or a separate entity, that was hurting. And I’d figuratively wrap my arms around it, offering up a hug of comfort and consolation, and I’d breath a sigh of relief until it was over...yea, I’m incredibly weird, whatever.
My point is that this coping mechanism was HUGE in aiding me to confront my struggles with depression head on. To recognize them for what they were and then, with a most singular determination, choose not to give those feelings any power in my life.
I was actually a really chill person there for a New York minute.
Post-partum depression was not an issue for me, as I feared it would be. Or I guess the most accurate thing to say is that it wasn’t an issue right away...I’ll get to that in a minute. It was a pretty big concern of mine because I knew that I was more or less already predisposed to feelings of depression and I also knew absolutely crumbled beneath the blow that post-partum depression had dealt. And I didn’t want to be that person. Not for my children. Not for my husband. Not for myself.
But here’s the reality. After giving birth to my daughter, while I don’t struggle with depression as often, I can tell you that when I do, it is a whole new monster, and one that has forced me to seek new coping mechanisms. Because honestly, the old method of externalizing it just isn’t cutting it anymore.
Last week, I found myself in greater physical, mental, and emotional agony than I have ever experienced. To clarify the “physcial” part, for those of you who haven’t felt depressed, understand this: it is not just an emotional hurt. It is a deep ache of the entire body like nothing you have ever felt before. It is a heightened sensitivity to pain, simultaneous to an overarching numbness to all things joy.
For the first time ever last week, I actually cried out to God, asking Him why he would ever put somebody through that. Why he would allow that kind of pain and desperation to seep into my heart. And I can’t say I found my answer. But I can say that it passed.
But not because I was able to externalize it. Nope, that was not even an option.
When it happened, my mind knew that it was a chemical thing, but my heart was hurting. My heart was believing the lies that I was hurling at myself:
“You’re not worth anyone’s time or effort.”
“It wouldn’t really make a difference to anyone whether you were around or not.”
“You’re the only person who cares about your precious to-do list, so why do you even bother?”
“You’re not beautiful. You’re not a good mother. The people you love deserve better.”
And every time I tried to cast the lies away, it only drew my heart closer to them.
So, for probably the first time in our relationship, I got really real with my husband. I told him exactly what lies I was hearing. And he held me until it was over.
And I realized something. That whatever is happening now, this weird mutation of depression that I now find to be a periodic part of my life, I cannot handle it on my own anymore. It is outside of my power to choose to ignore it. But it is inside of my power to seek support. Not from doctors, not from therapists, but rather by making myself vulnerable to the people who actually do care about me and interact with me on a daily basis.
Just talking about my feelings and being able to share those thoughts without judgment or a search for answers, is wildly freeing in and of itself.
I realize that some of the things I have shared here are dark, and they are ugly, and they may make you a little uncomfortable (heck, they make me a little uncomfortable…), but that’s kind of the point.
I don’t want to not talk about this anymore. I don’t want to do it on my own. We all have so much on our plates, and it is completely okay to share that burden with someone else. Because we are in this together, you guys. And sometimes we deserve better than what we have to offer ourselves.
My sister and I will never know what it is like to live without depression. But thank God we will also never know what it is to live without people who are willing to love us anyway.