I am writing this post for all of those that I have known that are no longer with us. My “East coast sister,” Tricia, is walking this Sunday in honor of her brother David whom she and her amazing family lost 15 years ago, to depression and its consequences.
Tricia is participating in Philadelphia’s Out of the Darkness suicide prevention walk. She will be walking for Dave and a few other people we know and loved/love. One person in particular, my son Kenny knew and went to school with. We lost her recently, and Tricia offered to walk in her name as well.
This post has been a hard one to write, because I am going to share something with you that I am very open about, but haven’t shared on-line. It’s not a pretty side of me, but none the less, it is something I struggle with almost daily.
I have depression.
There I said it. Look, the world is still on its axis and the sky isn’t falling. I know, I know many of us do. Right? We don’t talk about it all the time and we don’t share those ugly little secrets with everyone, but I think it is high time we do. Let’s talk about “IT”. Okay?
Me at 12 years of age.
This isn’t a dirty little secret, it is a health issue and it’s real. It has been scientifically proven that “IT” is a chemical imbalance. Just like high blood pressure and diabetes, medicines and therapies are prescribed. Sometimes depression can be brought on from a significant event or trauma in your life… Sometimes, (and I think this one is the hardest), you can’t put your finger on it, you don’t know why you feel crappy. You just do, and it hurts. It is impossible to get out of bed, to eat, to read, to watch television to think about anything in the future, or even to think how the hell am I going to get myself out of this hell? It is HELL, HELL on earth – everything is dark, ugly, scary, things feel bad, even a hug from someone you love feels empty. You know you will never feel happy again. The only way out (you think at the that very time) is the direction that too many people have taken.
This is where, I have been. Yes, I have been there, where I have tried to “off” myself. When I was in college, I took a whole bottle of Bayer aspirin. It was an easy decision for me at the time, I was young, I didn’t have kids or a husband to look after me and live for. I felt as though I was a burden, not pulling the grades I should be and doing my parents a huge disservice spending their hard-earned money on a loser like me. When my roommate found out I did this, I begged her not to call anybody. It worked out okay, because I paid the price, vomiting my guts out. I learned my lesson, sort-of.
“Burden” seems to be a big word with us that feel very low and depressed. In fact if you are around someone who uses this word as a description of themselves, I would watch them carefully and see if they may need to talk to someone. Don’t be polite about it either, be forceful, because if you are dealing with a depressed person, a decision is something that can’t be made by them.
As a depressed person you feel like “an extra load of unhappy garbage” to your friends and family. You just want to disappear and you want people to just forget about you, because in your sick mind they will be waaaayyyyyy better off without you.
For those of you out there who haven’t experienced depression, and I hope there are many of you that haven’t, I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy.
I have been in and out of depression for as long as I can remember. I know I had it when I was in college and I am pretty sure I had it as a youngster. I can remember as a kid crying and feeling sad, for no apparent reason.
Depression runs in my family and is hereditary.
My mom lost her brother (Tim) to suicide. I was around 10 when this happened. I remember it was June 20th, the day before my sister’s birthday. The story I was told was that my uncle didn’t want to go through another divorce. Traggic, If only he would have stopped and thought about his kids and my mom (his sister) AND the scars he would leave them with.
My dad painted the above painting. It depicts a man with his head in his hands and crazy birds flying around him inside of a house. My Uncle Tim saw this painting before he left us and said that the painting depicted exactly how he felt. He just wanted to put his head in his hands and make it all stop.
One of the last photo’s taken of me and my dog Pebble’s before moving to California
Depression reared its very ugly head, when I moved from Michigan to California. It was an exciting time. I had met the man of my dreams and I was moving to be with him. It was a huge change for me though. I left the safety and comfort of my parents arms to the arms of my future husband. To me, it felt like I was leaving my childhood behind and hopping right over into adulthood.
I left my parents….
Things were different in Northern California. I went from a very conservative household to a very liberal area. The leaves on trees didn’t change much and there wasn’t any snow. The people were different, things seemed “showy”. As great as this all seems, when it isn’t something you are accustomed to, it makes you feel different as if you don’t belong. Like you aren’t settled, you are only visiting and you have nowhere to call home. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, let alone my new surroundings. Also, while this was all going on I was getting acquainted with Jim’s very large gregarious family. It made me want to withdraw more, because they were all so happy and warm, and I just didn’t feel like that at the time. I became more introverted.
The above picture was taken, when I was just about diagnosed with double depression. Jim put that crazy Rodney Reindeer on my head, hoping that would make me laugh. You can see it had no effect.
I have been in therapy now, with the same wonderful doctor for… 23 years? Something like that anyway. I have taken medication now, for just about as long (cutting the meds during pregnancies and breast-feeding).
My husband and boys have saved my life, more times than I can even count. When I am in one of my “episodes” of depression, Jim is always there to tell me “you are going to feel better, you just got to hang in there”. All I need to do is picture the devastation, that I have seen first hand, way too many times to stop me from thinking of a wrong way out. Families that you left behind, because as a depressed person, you felt you were “burdening” them, are now tormented by thoughts of “why didn’t I know?”, “why did she/he do this?”, “what could I have done differently?” and many, many other thoughts. The fact of the matter is that now you, trying to unburden your family by doing the unthinkable, ARE NOW REALLY A BURDEN. For the rest of their living lives, they will be missing you and in pain.
This picture was taken at Jim’s brother’s wedding in Sonoma. I remember feeling really bad. My therapy had started at this point.
Even after you get well and you find happiness, depression still can sneak into your life.
Jim and I were married in 1992 in Tiburon, Ca. We had a reception following that my family attended, but my mom and dad wanted to have another reception at a later date in Michigan for us also, so that other family members could celebrate with us.
A few days after our Michigan reception, there was an incident of sorts, that I thought I could talk through with my sister and parents. It didn’t regard me, but I was just trying to make peace in our household. The situation escalated and no one was listening to me, (people not listening to me, I thought was always a problem) so I guess to get their attention I pounded on the nearest surface and that just happened to be a glass storm door. I was shouting “can everybody just stop yelling!” and hammered both my forearms through that glass severing 7 tendons and a nerve.
Here I am a few days later in Michigan after surgery. I look happy right? My dad promised that things would change around the household. It wasn’t his fault. My sister and I have never been close, she and I are like oil and water, we just don’t mix. So to keep the peace we don’t talk or see each other when I visit my folks in Michigan.
Today, I am obviously still here. I struggle with depression as I said before on an almost daily basis. There are a few things that help me get through. Plenty of sleep, exercise, psychotherapy, medicine, prayer and surrounding myself with positive people. If one of these lacks, I know what I need to do to fix it. Those tools and steps are my sword and they empower me against this unwanted monster.
I hope my little tale, can help those of you out there that need help and those of you out there that just don’t understand depression and want your friend or loved one to “just snap out of it.” Now you know that it is not as easy as that.
Asking for help is easy, just do it. Someone will listen.
1(800) 273-TALK (8255),
Take care of yourselves and think happy thoughts for Tricia- she and her family are so special to us here on the West coast. Tomorrow, is another day she will do without her very missed brother David.
Here’s to Tricia and David:
This post is dedicated to my husband Jim, my “Superman“, who’s gotten me through some of my hardest days, has totally seen the bad and the ugly parts of me, but still manages to love me despite it all. I love you.