The Darkness that is Depression

Depression is not a sign of weakness…

It means you have been strong for far too long.

Yesterday, I found out that a comedian, Stevie Ryan, had taken her life. Which goes to show that darkness can hide behind even the most seemingly happy of people. And it hit a little close to home as just a few nights ago, I was having a conversation with a friend who was feeling like a failure and a burden because things are not going the way they had expected it. This is not the first time I have had this conversation with this friend. If I am being completely honest, it was late and I was exhausted and I was really in no mood to play therapist… again this week.

But I know what it’s like to be in a dark place, alone, and I know how much of a difference just talking to someone can make. Even for a few hours. So I stayed up, snuggled next to a snoring toddler, and tried to comfort this friend. Now, I am obviously no doctor. So I can only give the advice I would want a friend to tell me, and I don’t mean of the sugary bullshit type.

I started with saying that everyone feels less than great at one point or another, but how you handle it makes all the difference. I’m not saying I buy into that whole ‘think positive and constantly pray’ nonsense, because as I’ve mentioned before that doesn’t work. But just ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. I should add that drinking or other toxic behaviors don’t make them go away either, not permanently anyway. I then suggested actually seeing a therapist. Even despite my poor experience with my own, the first few sessions were helpful and eye-opening. So even if you weren’t to stick with it, it could help a little. But I finished with,

Perhaps you should look into an antidepressant?

The reaction is always the same when I finally get to the point where I bring up antidepressants. THOSE ARE FOR THE WEAK. IT’S A COP OUT. And it takes all of me to yell “So am I too weak and a cop out?” But I know that there is a heavy stigma around depression and other mental illnesses that make people think that. You’re told you are weak for not being able to handle it, or that it’s all in your head. Think positive and pray more. Eat healthier. That taking any kind of drug that will give you some type of control is a cop out… 

FOR THE RECORD… IT IS NOT.

I battle my own fight against darkness. I don’t just mean I have a few sad days. I was medically diagnosed as having moderate to severe depression in my early 20s. And I say battle in the present tense, because despite being on antidepressants, it is still a daily struggle. There is always darkness lurking in the shadows, waiting for you to have a moment of weakness so it can lure you back into its depths. Because of relationship issues with my parents, and other various teenage issues in high school I wrote in my journal very frequently how much better life would be if I was just gone.

No one believed that I was depressed. Despite the written evidence that I wanted to take my life. In fact, when my mother found said journal, she grounded me. And then left me home alone… She did check on me when she returned but the fact that she grounded me said more than she ever needed to. 

My teen years morphed into young adulthood and the darkness only grew. But at this point, I was so well at hiding it, I didn’t even believe it myself anymore. I didn’t think my violent outbursts were cause for concern. I didn’t question when my drinking became the only source of fun for me. Nor did my enablers question, this underage girl who was constantly asking for someone to purchase her liquid poison for her. Add unresolved relationship issues of abandonment to the mix and I was the poster child for bad decision making. Seeing my friends succeed killed me inside. I looked for validation in all the wrong places. From all the wrong people. I spent many a nights wandering around the abandoned streets of downtown, usually drunk, wondering what I was doing with my life. And the worse part is, no one seemed to care that I did this either. 

One night, after a particularly bad argument with an ex, who looking back did more harm to me than good, and a violent outburst of bunching the brick wall outside his house; I took a handful of pain medicine and chased it with a bottle of wine. I suspected I wouldn’t die, although it wouldn’t have been all that bad in my eyes if I had, I just hoped for some sort of escape. And escape I got. I started to black in and out. I felt like I was suffocating and kept saying ‘please don’t take me to the hospital, I don’t want to get in trouble.’ Imagine my surprise that he listened, and told me that sex would make me feel better… I blacked out completely afterwards. The next day he called my mother and told her my destructive ways were becoming an issue and that he thought I needed help. After forcing me into therapy, he broke up with me a week after I scheduled my first appointment.

My therapist diagnosed me with moderate to severe depression, and alcoholism… all before the age of 21. She suggested I quit drinking cold turkey because that seemed to be a root of a lot of problems, and she couldn’t help me if I was steadily drinking. I hated her. I hated my friends for not supporting me. I hated my ex for leaving me. I hated my mother for not believing I had a problem. But I found a bit of light in the darkness, he would later gift me with my daughter and a short-lived marriage. But at the time, he gave me light and I got through the darkness…

Yet, that darkness returned in the midst of my pregnancy. I had been laid off from what I had thought would have been a good job. I felt worthless. Like I wasn’t contributing anything. I have a love/hate relationship with being taken care of. I felt like I had ruined our lives, even though it took two to tango. R kept reassuring me that this was just the way things were supposed to happen, and it would all be okay. What remained as just gray skies during pregnancy, ended as a major storm in the first few months post-partum. It had been expected given my history. I was still out of work, but worse I was stuck at home the majority of the time. Newborn + living in the middle of nowhere + breastfeeding. I was the sole provider for this tiny human. And I hated it.

Now, I never once considered harming my daughter. I did however consider abandoning her and R. In the middle of the night, just packing up and leaving. I considered driving off the road when I did venture out for a few minutes by myself. I wanted to be a mother, but I wanted out at the same time. I had a strong feeling it would only get worse if I didn’t do something, and I had promised to be a better mom than I had. So for the first time in a few years, I accepted that I needed help. And it came to me in the form of a tiny blue pill.

That was 2014, and now three years later, I am still on it. The dose has fluctuated, but I have noticed a major difference when I try to wean completely off of it. There are days that I hate that I have to rely on this pill for some sort of balance. But then I look at Emma, and I remember why I got them to begin with. For her. She is the only thing I have keeping me fighting. There are days when I get lured into the darkness and I just want out. I feel overwhelmed. I feel worthless, like a failure, a burden– just like my friend. Because that little blue pill is NOT a cure all, but a simple temporary chemical imbalance fix. It allows me to function, much like my Lupus medicine…

As I said, I don’t enjoy having to rely on an antidepressant, but I know the alternative is far worse. Especially as a mother now. And despite my friend feeling strongly about them as well, they did decide to go back on theirs. After talking to me even for that short amount of time. Trust me, it’s not easy to be vulnerable about things like this. You’re constantly worried how others will see you and whether or not they’ll start to treat you different. And from my experience, its hard to relate to something unless you’ve been through it, I can admit that. I never knew how to relate to someone with a chronic illness until I was diagnosed myself. I never knew how to relate to someone going through a divorce, until my own process started.

HOWEVER, how hard is it really for us to simply be kind human beings? Especially when someone does come to you in their moment of vulnerability? Like I said, I didn’t exactly want to play the role of therapist that night. But I saw a friend in need, no different than a drunken one needing help getting home. And even though it was for a short amount of time, I gave them a listening ear. And to someone in the dark, that can sometimes make all the difference. Knowing that even just one person cares enough.

I feel like I may have gotten a bit long winded here, but the point I want to make is that- we all deal with shit. And no one’s problems are more important than someone else’s. But when we act like they are, or that it’s all in their head, or whatever, it creates a divide. And it makes it harder for people to open up, and sometimes by the time they are able to open up, they are so far gone that nothing helps.

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