I posted this on Facebook in June of 2015. Thought I’d share it again here just to tell a bit of my story…
This is going to be a departure from my usual (infrequent) posts: dogs, kids, reposts, etc. It’s a bit long, so if you’re the type who has a short atten—–SQUIRREL!!!! —– —– —— wait, what? Oh yea, if that’s you, feel free to keep scrolling and maybe even go accept that Candy Crush invitation you’ve been eyeing.
**WARNING: This post was manufactured in a facility which contains peanuts, dairy, gluten, and the occasional bit of adult language.**
(If the warning above renders you short of breath, nervous, or completely befuddled, feel free…scroll…Candy Crush.) For those of you who are still with me, this month is Mental Health Awareness Month (Didn’t know that was a thing), and this is me, coming out. No, not out of that closet, more out of the looney bin. 14 years ago an illness and a series of traumatic circumstances, all while suffering my 3rd case of post partum depression, caused my brain chemistry to change. This, along with a genetic predisposition, led me to develop severe clinical depression. I’ve been rockin’ it ever since.
What is clinical depression? The frustrating truth is that even in this day and age, neither medical professionals nor mental health professionals fully understand it. It looks different for everyone, and varies symptomatically and in severity, some dealing with it for a time and then fully recovering, others suffering for life. It’s confusing, invisible, and devastating. I’ve had many periods of “normalcy”: happy, engaged, vivacious; I’ve had others when I’ve been huddled in the corner of my closet, my hands holding my head tightly to keep it from flying apart, literally able to see and feel my sanity fracturing; and at yet other times, I’ve literally been unable to get out of bed for days, the depression causing the physical symptoms of influenza or mono. A more recent and fun development is the General Anxiety Disorder which has seen fit to grace me with its presence. Some locals, transplants from Oregon I think, and ardent Big Foot Believers I’m sure, have started a website so people can post sitings. If you’re one of the lucky few who catches a glimpse of me at the grocery store or such, go to ww.holyshitkimhsinhasleftherhouse.c om to share your discovery. (If you are now entering that address and wondering why your browser won’t pull it up, again…Candy Crush.)
Why am I sharing all this in such a public forum? Several reasons. I abandoned attempts at counseling about ten years ago, after several years of miserable experiences, but have recently started working with The World’s Best Psychotherapist. (Seriously, I googled it. Elizabeth’s name came up and she’s brilliant. What’s that you say? ….. Sigh….Candy Crush…) We’ve been looking at sort of a pyramid of mental health, working through some of these attributes, one of which is taking risks. So this is me…
My main impetus, however, is a growing frustration with how little depression is understood, believed, or even talked about. Our society uses the same word to describe the mindset of a small child after her favorite new toy is broken the day after Christmas, as to describe that of a man the moment before he commits suicide. Chatting with others who have depression, I’ve discovered that we’ve all had many experiences where we’ve tried to explain our illness, or even just mention it, only to watch our listeners’ eyes glaze over as they begin to fidget, or to be told “but you have such a good life; but you’re so pretty, successful, blessed, etc.; you just need to get out and exercise more; …..” It would be more socially acceptable to stand up and announce “I have suffered from acutely contagious fungal hemorrhoids for the last 14 years and am having surgery to correct the problem,” than to stand up and say “I have depression and have been on Prozac for years, and many days the thought of putting away the breakfast dishes is completely, utterly, paralyzingly overwhelming.” The first scenario would be awkward for everyone concerned, but at least it is seen as an actual confirmed, real, diagnosed medical condition with a valid treatment protocol. The second? Alien with two heads. I have recently become aware that dear friends of mine who have cried with me and prayed with me and laughed with me through my struggles over the years, have basically no clue what is wrong with me. Not their fault. Think about it: My brain, chemistry, synapses, whatever, do not work properly (I used to feel smart: Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude, blahblahblah…now much of the time I can’t string two coherent thoughts together), and yet I’m relying on that brain to try to explain what’s wrong with that brain, even though I don’t understand it myself. One of the many ridiculous aspect of this disease. Two weeks ago it dawned on me that not once in 14 years have my husband and I sat our four kids down and explained my illness. Not once. Would this have been the case if I had cancer? Or MS? Or had lost a limb? Of course not, the thought is ludicrous. Yet they’ve had to grow up with a mommy who was often absent, in bed, or inexplicably angry. They’ve started asking my husband questions like: “Why is mom always in bed? Is she just lazy?” Yea. We are just as guilty.
I’ve noticed a pattern in recent months. Whenever I post an article or a quotation about depression, the same people crop up over and over on the list of “likes”. People who surprised me. People whom I wouldn’t have suspected. See? I’m guilty of it too. One dear childhood friend private messaged me asking if I was OK and sharing some of her struggles. It touched me deeply, but also helped me come to the place where I want to talk openly about my shit. Maybe, just maybe someone else out there won’t feel quite so alone. You are not less of a mother/son/friend/spouse. You are not less of a Christian (for some reason, deep within the Christian psyche, there’s a bias against believing that depression is a real illness for which many people need to seek treatment.). You are not less of a person. You are beautiful, worthy, loved.