I am scared.
I am nervous.
I am hopeful.
And, I am depressed.
I have been depressed since July. Many people have asked me why I stopped writing so much, why I became some quiet on Facebook, why I didn’t reply to emails. Am I pregnant? Nope, but yes, I am dealing with my first bout of depression ever. I have casually written that I will tell everyone what is going on soon, when the time is right. And then whenever I thought that the time was right to share this deep, uncomfortable truth, I became really nervous. Nervous that sharing about my personal life was perhaps too much, too much for you all to know, too much for me to bare sharing.
And then, if I actually overcame the nerves and focused on the fact that I am desperate to write about my struggle, I became scared. Scared that people will judge me, scared that people will judge my family; scared that people will treat me and look at me differently; scared that people will think less of me, that I am weak and should “just get happy,” and scared that people will think I am too much of a downer and therefore not worth hanging around because I am uninspiring and a real party pooper.
And then on a good day, like today, for a brief moment I stop feeling nervous or scared and I just feel like the “me” that isn’t struggling with depression. I feel passionate about sharing my story and my struggles because I want other people who feel like I do, to not feel so alone. I want to share my story so that the stigma around depression can lessen and people like myself don’t feel scared or nervous to talk about his/her struggles, but instead feel welcomed and encouraged so they can get the help they need, or just feel loved and not so scared and alone.
And then, like today, I become hopeful. Hopeful that maybe, just maybe, that sharing my story will help just one person get help. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know this, writing thus far has already helped me. I feel lighter and a little happier. I have kept this struggle secret since July and it has been eating me up because I feel like I am keeping a really, awful deep dark secret from people I care about and I can’t stand it. Yes, I feel like The Orange Rhino Community is my extended family, seriously. And not telling you about my struggle daily feels like I am not being fully honest and I don’t like that. So here is my story (the short version.)
This has been one of the hardest years of my life, there is no doubt. I have experienced struggles like I couldn’t imagine. From numerous trips to the Emergency Room for one son’s seizures with concerns that he might have epilepsy to my marriage boulder to my foot injury that just won’t go away, and to everything in between (there is a lot in between!), it has been a long, long trying year and the hits just keep on coming, and coming, and coming. Some of the factors grew this July and my stress hit a whole new level. I felt sadness and pain like I have never felt before.
I didn’t want to get out of bed and I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night and yet, as soon as the kids were asleep I just sat on the couch cuddled up flipping through the same websites for hours because I couldn’t find the motivation to actually go to bed. I didn’t want to do things I love like playing with my kids, blogging, participating in The Orange Rhino Community, getting ice cream or sitting outside to enjoy a beer in the summer night. If I ever had a quiet moment alone during the day and a slow song came on I cried my eyes out. I ate everything in sight just to feel better (it didn’t work). I started drinking every night to feel better (that didn’t work either.)
Nothing really worked to make me feel better. Nothing has really worked to make me feel better. Right now I still feel the same sadness and pain, although perhaps deeper. In fact, it was deep enough and worrisome enough to me, because it has lasted so long and is growing, that I decided it was time to do something I have thought about, but vehemently fought since July. It was time to let go of my fear of being judged and do what my family needed me to do.
It was time to get help.
It was time to go to a therapist.
It was time to go on anti-depressants.
This was an incredibly hard decision to make. I wanted to believe I was strong enough to get through this tough patch on my own. I mean, I have hit tough patches before in my life, whoa nelly have I ever! I have felt sad from some of my traumas, but never so badly that just getting out of bed felt like an unbearable chore. I have never been so unmotivated in my life and not cared about not achieving anything as I do now. I have never wanted to run away as much as I do now. I have never felt truly depressed. Until now.
Six weeks ago someone asked me if I was depressed and I said, “no, of course not. Things are just tough.” And then my stomach curled and my feet twitched because I knew I was lying. I knew I was depressed; it was obvious to me because the intensity of my emotions was on a whole new level, but I was scared to admit it. I was scared to share just how bad I felt because I didn’t want to believe the depth of my pain; I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I didn’t want to be taken away from my kids.
But now, now I can say without fear, that I am depressed. And I don’t just feel this new sense of not being scared to share this hard truth that will undoubtedly bring judgment just because the anti-depressants are helping, but rather I feel the need to share it after several emails I have received. Turns out, I am not the only one in pain. Numerous people have emailed me lately and shared that they are struggling and think they might be depressed and might need an anti-depressant but that they don’t want to go that route because they fear what people will say and … because they fear what they will say about themselves.
Because they fear what they will say about themselves.
Oh, oh do I get this. From the onset of my struggles, I haven’t wanted to go on anti-depressants because I feared it meant that I was weak for not being able to mange on my own. I feared it meant that I was screwed up and a bad role model for my kids. I feared it meant that I was different than everyone else. I feared that it meant I had just given up and stopped trying and sought the easy way out.
And, I feared it meant that I was pathetic…because that is what I have heard people say about those who go on anti-depressants; that those who need anti-depressants and can’t get just “get-happy” and “choose to be happy” are pathetic. I feared it meant that I was choosing to be depressed…because that is what I have heard people say about people on anti-depressants. Let me tell you, I am most certainly trying my hardest to not be depressed; it is just really, really hard under my current circumstances. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where I think, “UGH. Come on. I just want to feel better now and forget the pain! Please, help me to feel better!”
So, I write this post now to stand up for all of us who are struggling with depression, whether it be chronically or situational.
I write this post now to say you are NOT alone. We are not alone.
I write this post now to say you, me, we are not weak, pathetic, or screwed up because we need and seek help and choose anti-depressants. No, you, me, we are none of those things.
We might be scared, sad, embarrassed, confused and hurting, but we are also more. We are courageous to admit we need help. We are strong to actually get it.
I write this now with fire in my heart and with conviction to end all convictions, and I hope that I remember this in five minutes when I press “post” and in five hours when I take my new little pill and inevitably think, “shit, I needed a pill because I am in so much pain, why couldn’t I just do it on my own.” And I hope that I remember my conviction that I am courageous and strong when I feel overwhelmed by pain and sadness because I don’t want to go any deeper into this hole.
And, I hope above all else that I keep on fighting to get past this period of depression in my life. I hope that despite what people say about taking an anti-depressant and despite what I feel about taking one, that I do keep on taking my new little pill because the truth is, I need it right now. Right now I need a little extra help. And that is okay. There is no shame in needing help. None. Especially if the little help makes me a little happier which means my kids are a little happier too, for at the end of the day, this is why I am doing all this hard work, so that I can be the best person for me and my family.
Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. I intended to share this post then but got scared. Please share this post so that others out there like me can start to live without fear and can get the support they need.