What Depression Means To Me:
I'm not a professional. I don't know the latest treatments or therapies. Heck, I can't even tell you IF you have a problem, let alone what it is or what you should do about it. All I can do is share who I am and what I live with. Maybe that will be enough to offer you hope.
I don't know you, but then, for a long time, I didn't know me either. I didn't really know who I was, what I wanted, what I needed, or what I couldn't live without. I didn't understand my desires, my passions, or my pain. I didn't know what made me feel, what moved me to tears, or what brought me joy. I was lost inside myself, trapped in an empty world of my own creation. I was depressed.
Depression was never what I thought it was. It took me a long time to admit that I was depressed. I didn't truly understand it, so I couldn't see it. I wasn't sad all the time. I didn't burst into tears for no reason. I wasn't angry, or suicidal. I was no more irritable than any other new mother. I could laugh, have fun, make friends. I had my family around me, great friends, a lovely home and a part time job to get me out of the house when I needed it. And I had a beautiful, sweet baby girl who loved to cuddle (still does, in fact). I had a good life, and no reason to be depressed.
But it wasn't enough. It wasn't about what I had. I couldn't sleep. I had little desire to eat. My motivation to do anything was nonexistent. I couldn't keep up with basic, daily tasks. I was always overwhelmed. I often felt like I couldn't cope with simply things, like making dinner. I was lost, trapped behind a wall of unfolded laundry and dirty dishes. I felt empty, as if someone had reached inside me and scooped out everything that made me, ME. They'd left behind this empty shell. The real me was gone, lost. I felt numb and exhausted.
I spoke to a doctor who tried to help. She told me it was postpartum depression. And or a time, I believed her. I wanted to. Postpartum depression, she told me, was actually fairly common. So common that they screen a mother for it with every child born. It's nothing to be ashamed of, she told me. Most everyone accepts it, and there's very little stigma attached. There was treatment. Medication, counseling. But Postpartum depression was not my problem then. It's not my problem now.
My problem, plain and simple, is depression. Not postpartum. Just depression. The kind that hits you as a child and never really goes away. Looking back, I can see signs of this from the time I was as young as ten. It's been there for at least two thirds of my life. It's not always strong enough to affect me. Sometimes I don't even realize it's around, but it always is. Depression doesn't leave because I don't hear it. It's like a voice that no one else can hear. Sometimes, when days are good, it's drowned out by my laughter, or the laughter of my daughters. But eventually silence falls, and it's still there. That soft, seductive, insidious voice is still there, hovering on the edge of my vision, waiting to be heard.
That voice tells me so many things. It tells me I'm alone, that no one really loves me. How could they? They have no idea who I really am. And for so long, there was no way they could. I didn't know me. But I do now. I have worked long and hard to learn who I am, to see what I need, what I crave, what I can't live without and what I don't want to live without. I've learned about my strengths, gifts I didn't realize I really had. I'm slowly learning to accept my weaknesses, those things I can't do as well or as easily as I would like. It's hard. And becoming myself has cost me a few friends, some I loved very dearly, and I still miss the relationship we shared. Some simply drifted away as our interests and passions diverged. Some are still here, but we're not as close as we once were. I miss them most of all. A few, a precious few, have walked with me. They have watched me become who I have always been, and loved me all the more. And I have found new friends, friends who see me as I am, friends who can know and love the real me because I now know the real me. I have found friends who share my passions, passions I didn't realize I had. I have found friends who support dreams I didn't dare to dream. So now, when that voice tells me I am alone, I reach out. I let those who see me remind me that I am loved, and I am never truly alone anymore.
That voice tells me I am a screw up, a failure, completely unworthy. Sometimes I do screw up. Everyone makes mistakes. I do fail sometimes. Everybody does. No one is perfect. But, despite my imperfection, I am worthy. Always. I am valued. I am loved. And no matter how much a person fails, there is at least one area of your life where you succeed. You breathe. Your heart beats. Your pulse pounds and your blood flows. You think. You feel, even if all you feel is numb. The fact that you are reading this post means you are succeeding at surviving. That tells me you are not a failure. If you can succeed at survival, then you can succeed at living. I know you can. Because as you are, you are enough.
That voice I hear? It has a tendency to whisper the worst. And sometimes, I seek it out. It sounds insane, I know, to seek out depression. But sometimes it's easier. It's safer. When I focus on that voice and it gets loud enough, it drowns out everything else, and I feel numb. I don't feel joy or bliss. I don't feel the thrill of success or the triumph of completion. But I also don't feel grief. I don't feel pain, or agony, or rage, or sorrow. All I feel is empty, and sometimes, that seems like the better, safer choice. After all, who wouldn't avoid pain if they had the choice?
And for some, it may truly be the better choice. You retreat until the worst of the pain is over. You give yourself the time you need to become strong enough to face the grief, the sorrow, or the rage. But for me, and for so many like me, that moment of safety is an illusion. It's a trap that we routinely walk into, and can never easily walk out of. I get lost in that sweet, seductive voice. It's whispers have a way of taking over everything. I've lived in the world that voice creates for so long, that sometimes, it feels like home. When I first started finding my way out, things would happen and I would hurt. I would wonder what was so wrong with me that it hurt. I was so used to feeling nothing, so used to being empty, that I didn't understand why things would hurt like that.
Depression is like the scab covering an infected cut. It may stop the wound from hurting, it may stop you from bleeding out, but it also traps the damage inside. The infection will spread, burning deeper inside. I need to feel, to rip off the scab and bleed, even though it's terrifying, or I will never heal.
I'm not a professional. I don't know all the latest treatments or therapies. I can't even tell you IF you have a problem, let alone what it is or how to treat it. But I can tell you that I have a problem. It's called depression. It's a lifelong battle, one I may never stop fighting. It's also a battle I am winning. I know I'm winning because my heart still beats. I'm still breathing. My pulse pounds, and my blood flows. I am still alive, and I feel. The hurt, the pain, the joy. It's all here. It's all mine.
I'm winning because I know who I am now. I know what my passions are. I own them. I know what I need, what I can't live without. I know what I crave, what I long for. I see myself, as I am, and I know that I am loved. I am learning to love myself, to own who I am. And who I am, is valued. I am worthy. As I am now, as I truly am, I am enough.
And so are you.