This is a post that I’ve been wanting to write for a few weeks now, ever since an acquaintance’s teenage son killed himself. Now Robin William’s suicide has kicked me into gear. I do realise that this isn’t what anyone is looking for when they visit a sewing blog, but the topic is something that no one should ignore.
First, I’d like to tell you about my own history with depression. For most people who know me, this will be the first I’ve talked about it. Depression is thought of as a shameful thing. It’s something people tell you that you can just get over. Cheer up. Smile. It’ll get better.
I have dealt with depression for my entire adult life. I can’t remember when I first started crying in my room for no reason, or wanting to scream and throw things just to feel better. I was probably 14. I can remember staring out of my second floor bedroom window, wondering if a jump would kill me or just make things worse. I remember sawing at my wrists with a dull pocket knife, not wanting to actually kill myself, but wishing I could leave a mark bad enough to get noticed. I never had an actual cry for help attempt. I was too ashamed to even admit my pain in that way.
Even so, my parents knew something was wrong. My mom would tell me that suicide was “a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” But the thing is, depression was the problem. It wasn’t a boy, or school, or my friends. It was an actual illness. Something about my brain that just didn’t work right. I wanted to see a doctor. But I never did. My parents tried to get me to talk to a church elder, but I felt insulted by that suggestion. I felt that they didn’t care enough to send me to a professional. I remember one day, when they arranged to have someone from church come over, I locked myself in the bathroom and refused to come out til he left.
Time passed, and I found myself married, with two kids. That’s when I finally got help. I don’t know if it was post partum depression, the depression I had always struggled with, or a combination of the two. But I could not function anymore. I was a stay-at-home mom, unable to stop crying to feed my kids. My daughter would find me on the kitchen, bawling because I was unable to keep up with the demands my children placed on me. I don’t know whose idea it was, mine, my husband’s, or my wonderful community of internet moms, but I finally made the call and saw my doctor. I knew I wouldn’t be able to speak, once the questions started, so I wrote down all of my symptoms. My doctor assured me that my problem was common, and nothing to be ashamed of. We discussed my options and I was started on Zoloft, with some Xanax for good measure. I started the meds that day, worried that somehow people would know by my behaviour that I was on drugs for a mental illness. I thought I’d act loopy or uncharacteristically happy.
I didn’t turn into a candy coated laugh machine, of course. But I got better. My bad days were fewer, and further apart. I still had them, of course, and I had my medicine upped a few times, and switched once (THAT was a fiasco). I’m lucky that I found a simple treatment. I still have my bad days, but everyone does. There’s usually a reason now.
My story is so common. So many people that you think have great lives and no reason to be sad share my story. But you never hear them say anything. There is still such a stigma around mental illness. I still have days where I hate taking my medicine because I feel like I’m hiding a part of me. But I realize that that part could have killed me. I wish I hadn’t waited so long.
If you are suffering, please, please, get help. Ask a friend to help you make an appointment with your doctor. Be accountable to someone. I had to tell people to make me call, then make sure I went to the appointment. Write down how you’re feeling for your doctor or therapist. Talk to someone. If you don’t think you have anyone, talk to me. I’ll help you.
If you think someone you know is suffering offer help. Ask them what they need. Don’t tell them to cheer up, it’ll get better, you have so much to be thankful for. They’ve already told themselves. Don’t tell them God has a plan. Help them.
If you have kids, please talk to them before you need to. The depression talk should be as prevalent as the sex and drugs talks. Talk to them and let them know you are there for them and you will help them without judgement. This is what I want you to take away from this post the most. Talk to your kids about depression. Let them know it’s not their fault and you will help them, no matter what.
The stigma needs to end. I’d like to encourage you to share your stories as well.
My name is Melissa, and I have chronic depression.