As women and moms we take on a lot in our everyday lives. Between raising kids, working full-time jobs, playing maid, taxi driver, nurse, therapist, referee….among others it seems we always put ourselves on the back burner. So, what happens when you plop a big ole’ platter full of depression and self-loathing on top of that? Well, you turn into a person who forces themselves to get up out of bed every day and robotically functions until it is time to fall back into bed. It gets to the point where you just go through the motions but you are actually numb to everything.
I was diagnosed with depression when I was 15 years old. It was brought on by the death of my brother. I had no idea how to express my emotions and my poor parents were living in their own hell unable to see that I was falling apart. While my dad spent days at the cemetery and my mom sat in her bedroom with the door shut, I found outlets to vent my anger and frustration. These outlets were not really good ones. I longed for the comfort and love of my brother and I felt like I was getting in through the attention of the opposite sex. One night I just decided that I couldn’t handle life without him and I planned my suicide. As I sobbed, I picked up the phone and called the suicide hotline number. I talked to that sweet voice on the other end for hours and eventually, as much as it hurt, I knew I couldn’t do that to my parents.
I started drinking alcohol and partying which numbed my pain but only temporarily. I felt unloved at home due to the absence of my parents. I wondered if it had been me to die if they would have shut my brother out. I made some really big messes out of my life over the next few years and at age 18 I became pregnant by an abusive male who dominated me and my life. He abused me to the point that I nearly lost my baby at only four months along. Only after he broke into my home one night drunk and raped me did I decide that I deserved better. I never reported the rape to the cops because who gets raped by the father of their child? Right? Yes, I was so embarrassed I couldn’t even tell my parent but I did report the abuse and he was charged and I was granted a restraining order.
That part of my life only complicated my depression and by the time I hit my 20’s I began having severe panic attacks which landed me in the emergency room several times a month. You know the thing I will never forget is the looks from the nurses and the whispers. In my paranoid state maybe I was a bit over the top thinking the way I did but those looks. You just know you are being judged. Mental illness is still such a shameful thing and the stigma you carry with you is astounding. I wanted to scream “I’m not fucking contagious”. I mean you can’t catch crazy!!!!
Over the years I fluctuated with my moods and anxiety. I could go all summer long and not have one attack and then left winter hit and I bottomed out. The doctor told my I had generalized anxiety but that I also suffered from SAD (seasonal affective disorder). He said although I had depression the symptoms worsened during the times of the years when I was not receiving as much vitamin D. “Get a lamp”, he said. Oh, okay, a lamp will cure my thoughts and desires to just crawl under a fucking rock and never come back out. Needless to say the lamp thing didn’t work too much.
Being a young mom fighting depression and anxiety is a tough job. I can remember the toddler screaming and the baby crying and me just sitting there wanting to poke my eyes out with a fork. I loved them more than life but some days were just too much for me to handle. I thank goodness that my parents finally shook off some of their depression and pain once I had my children because had it not been for them I would have never survived. I was so young and entirely ignorant to the reality of life. I didn’t listen to my parents and I was a self-absorbed little shit.
Eventually I had to learn to manage my moods and depression. I had been on meds since I was 15 and sometimes they just didn’t do what they needed to but in my worst moments I would look to my babies for my strength. I was a pretty shitty person but I was a good mom. I loved my kids more than life and I would wage war over them….many times I did just that (but that is an entirely different post).
I think I did fairly well for years however the depression would win on occasion and I would do something stupid to try and curb my emotions. Instead of eating ice cream I needed a man’s love. Why the hell was I so empty inside? I mean I had the love of a wonderful brother who worshiped me. He was my rock. I had an awesome dad who had been my main caregiver. He was a stay at home dad after he suffered a back injury so I got all the attention. I was loved by the two men in my life so why did I feel so incomplete? I guess those answers will never come. All I know is that the loss of my brother killed part of who I was. I missed him so badly that I feel I was trying to replace him. I never knew grief could be so bad and cause a person to make so many bad decisions.
In 2009 I lost my daddy and I lost a part of who I was. I don’t think there is a way to explain the pain that comes when you lose a parent. I know all death is a terrible experience for those left behind but, wow, was this crushing. I couldn’t even function for days, for weeks, and even months. I cried every single day and I didn’t know how to stop it. I picked up the phone to call him before I even realized what I was doing. When I went to see mom I would automatically ask “Where’s Dad”? You have this person in your life for 30+ years and then all of a sudden they are not there anymore. Once again the depression crashed down on me. People would ask me what was wrong or tell me to smile and I just wanted to punch them in the gut and then ask them if they felt like smiling. I had a person ask me how I was one day about a year later and I just broke down. I cried and cried and then she had the nerve to ask me how I could still be that upset when he had been gone for so long. Really? Who puts a time limit on grief? There is none. Some people just need to learn when to keep their mouths closed.
Being a mom, a wife, an employee, a friend, etc you are expected to perform certain duties and act certain ways but when depression takes a grasp on you it’s nearly impossible. It’s hard when your child wants you to read to them or go outside and play and all you can do is lie there and tell them you are too tired. They see you cry and they try to make it better. They see you angry and wonder if they have done something. They watch as you slowly fall apart and sometimes they even blame themselves.
You put your husband on the back burner, you start missing days at work and even when you are there you really aren’t. You start to put your friends off when they call to do something and before you know it you are just completely alone in a mere shell of the person you used to be.
I want you to know, if you suffer from depression or anxiety, you are not alone. You can’t let it rule you though. You have got to learn to fight back. Now, let me also tell you that it’s okay to be sad. You are going to have bad days and you are going to feel like you can’t take one more second of the sadness and pain but you can’t let it get the best of you. You’ve got to summon that warrior princess inside and you’ve got to throw on your boxing gloves. Let me tell you, women are amazing creatures. We are armed in beauty and strength. WE don’t let life defeat us. WE GIVE LIFE. How amazing is that?
Just learn to take life day by day. Try to find the beauty even in the small things. Start a journal and write down your emotions…good and bad. Find a hobby or an outlet such as meditation or yoga. Confide in a girlfriend and share your fears and dreams. Don’t be afraid to let it all out. You can do this. I know you can!!!