I remember the day that the doctor gave it a name: Depression. Finally. Such relief came with that one word. I now had a name for what was wrong with me. For why I was feeling like I wasn’t normal. For why happiness seemed to elude me even though I had no reason at all not to be happy.
It’s a lonely feeling, depression. It’s hard to describe what it feels like other than feeling empty or unfulfilled. If I had to describe it, I would say it feels like nothing. Hopelessness, joyless, so tired, melancholy. A weight on your heart even though you have so much to be grateful for and happy about. Knowing that you should be grateful and happy, but not being able to do it.
I started asking myself if this is all life is about; if this was it. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to be alone, which is not easy to do with an infant. I had no patience, no tolerance, and to be honest, I was not really feeling much of anything. I wasn’t caring either.
That day was so many years ago. I remember feeling embarrassed that I was depressed. I didn’t deserve the right to be depressed. My son was almost a year old and I was a stay at home mom. It was what I had wanted for so long. My husband had a good job, we had a beautiful home, and there was no reason for me to be anything but happy. But I just wasn’t. I felt guilt for not being happy, and that is what depression does.
For me, depression comes in bouts; it seeps in and takes over so slowly that I don’t realize it’s happening. It’s like a slow leak out of an old tire. I know that sounds weird, but slowly, my energy seeps from me, as does my hope, joy, and optimism.
Even though I am on medication for depression and know the signs, I also know that I will continue to have times when depression slowly seeps back in. I don’t realize what is going on until I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But crawling out of the hole that is depression doesn’t happen overnight. It’s like a reawakening. A welcome invitation to begin to enjoy and be grateful for my life again.
All those years ago, when I finally was given a name for the way I was feeling, I felt alone. I didn’t know anybody else who battled depression, or so I thought. Nobody talked about depression within my family and circle of friends.
I remember sending out an email to my mom, sisters, and close friends. I said that I knew I had been M.I.A. and that I knew something was wrong with me. I explained that I was diagnosed with depression, and that I was starting medication to get me back on track. To my surprise, three of my friends wrote back saying they were also on anti-depressants and understood what I was going through!
Why had they not talked about it before? Why was it a secret? Why–when they are so many people dealing with this–is it still a taboo topic?
I decided to write about my experiences with depression on my blog. I wished that someone had helped me understand about depression and that what I was feeling actually was typical or “normal” for people experiencing depression. I decided I wanted to help others who were going through it, too.
And talking about it did just that. People commented, sent private emails, and messages. They shared my stories with others they knew who were going through it. I also received messages from people who had friends, family, or significant others who battled with depression because they said my words helped them understand what those they cared about were going through.
I’m still not sure why depression is considered so taboo. Because it’s a “mental illness” and that still has a stigma attached to it? What I do know is that talking about depression not only makes me feel better, it also helps me keep in perspective that sharing my words and experiences and feelings brings others a sense of peace and understanding–it helps others.
I share my experience with depression so that someone else who is trying to figure out what they are feeling will stumble across my words and say “hey that’s how I feel.” They then have the power to do something about it.
Those of us dealing with depression didn’t choose this. It’s not about us just “being positive” or focusing on the blessings in our lives so that we can be happy. We do not choose to feel miserable, tired, lonely, and negative. We do not have control over the fact that we were born with a mental illness. We only have the control to do something about it once we understand and come to accept our mental illness.
I choose to not let depression drain me and steal my life. Depression still lurks around and grabs me when I least expect it. I do the best I can.
Having a support system is so important. My husband and sister are usually the ones to ask if I am going through a bout of depression. It’s always a shocking question to me, until I realize that that’s exactly what is going on. Then I can take steps to get my happiness back, because I gain awareness from them bringing it to my attention; it’s a relief.
I am proud to share my experience because I know I’m not alone. I know my words help others and I know that I have nothing to be ashamed of by sharing my experiences with depression. I didn’t choose it, but I do choose to not let it define me.