Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Depression, Bluntly

The other day a relative who I love and adore and respect gave me a big long lecture about how I could cure my depression by eating every three hours instead of taking those evil, awful, anti-depressants.

The sad thing is that she's not the only person out there who feels this way. They think if you're on medication, you're somehow weak, or less-than you could be, and if you just tried this one thing, it would fix all of it, right now.

Yes, the side-effects of meds are wonky and screw things up. And yeah, getting the dosage right is a bit of a trial and error thing. But I'll tell you what: NOT having the meds is waaaay worse.

Some background:

* My mother and grandmother believe anything and everything can be fixed with a positive attitude and the right diet. If something is wrong with you, there's an herb, a food, a vitamin, or something that you can take that will fix it.  I was raised with this, so I believe this, too.

* I am certified in Foot Zoning, I've read everything about essential oils, and only take my kids to the doctor if they specifically request it or I feel it's necessary. I took nutrition and anatomy classes in college alongside my illustration and graphic design classes so I wouldn't have to rely on others for the health and well-being of my family.

* I'm religious, too. I do believe God can fix anything, but I also believe sometimes we have to go through what we go through for a reason. One day I plan on confronting Him about some things and asking for an explanation or two. I'm sure he'll grin at me and show me, but for now, I try not to feel too put out. (What that translates to is that I feel I have a good relationship with God, even though I don't always understand things.)

So here's the thing: I struggle with Depression.

Some days it wins and I can't get out of bed. Some days I win, and I can get up and be productive. It doesn't ever go away, but some days it's less intrusive than others.

This means that in spite of all the essential oils, foods, vitamins, and any other hoo-doo I can think of, my brain is broken. There is a chemical imbalance that I cannot fix, and some days it wins. I have a doctor and a therapist and a circle of friends and family that are working to help me through this.

A lot of the women in my family struggle with depression and the answer for each of us has been very different. We don't even react to the same drugs the same way. I am still trying to find my answers.

Bluntly: This means that yes, there are times I feel that ending things would be an immense relief and that everyone would be better off without me.

Bluntly: Depression lies. But it lies so well, it's hard to see the truth.

I have kids and I love them, and I refuse to abandon them to this scary, scary world. So I'm not giving up, but that doesn't mean the thought doesn't cross my mind. It just means I have to find ways of not thinking about it.

Depression doesn't LOOK like an illness, and people who have never had it have zero clue how it feels. I know, I was one of them for many years. 

  • Depression looks like a messy house because cleaning it feels overwhelming and you don't even have the energy to care that it's messy.
  • Depression looks like a clean house because you can't stand being judged, or because you can't stand the mess one more day.
  • Depression looks like a happy face, excited and enjoying the moment.
  • Depression looks like a tired body incapable of getting out of bed because just breathing is hard.
  • Depression looks like a fun-loving, caring neighbor who helps do laundry and clean houses.
  • Depression looks like someone incapable of basic hygiene.
  • Depression doesn't feel anything, because feeling something is beyond its capabilities
  • Depression feels everything
  • Depression loves deeply
  • Depression points out every single inadequacy and says 'why bother trying'
  • Depression hides
  • Depression walks amongst you, camoflaged as a normal person being brave enough to venture out of the house.
Telling me to pray more is not going to fix it.
Telling me to read my scriptures more is not going to fix it.
Telling me to change my attitude and think positive is not going to fix it.
Telling me to stop and smell the roses and just appreciate what I have is good advice, but it's not going to FIX the CHEMICAL IMBALANCE in my brain.
Those things right there? That is more ammunition on the 'guilt' pile of all the 'shoulds' that tend to make the bad days worse.

Yes, writing down things I'm grateful for IS therapeutic and good for me. I'm well aware that a positive attitude can conquer many obstacles. Yes, it helps me remember the truth, and see the little blessings that are in my life, so I can remember that Depression LIES. But it doesn't FIX the depression.

Yes, praying and reading scriptures ARE good (for me). And yes, they are exercises in feeling the spirit, and yes, that extra hug and knowledge that I'm not fighting this alone is good for me, too. But, again, so far God hasn't seen fit to fix me. So telling me I'm not doing ENOUGH of that isn't helpful, it's harmful.

Depression compounds everything that goes wrong and makes me think it's all my fault and if I were only a better mother, my kids would be angels and perfect and never fight.

So, here it is, bluntly:

I am fighting to be happy. I am fighting to stay sane and not drown in the sorrows and overwhelming 'shoulds' of the the world and its expectations. I try so very hard to find the happy, the silver linings, the positive. And for the most part, people I know are awesome cheerleaders.

I am fighting to remember how to create. How to write. How to string words together into sentences that make sense. How to draw, how to paint, how to be creative and fun. I struggle with just being able to breathe in and out some days, as that in itself is the act of creation as my cells multiply, divide, and reproduce to keep this body living.

To quote a metaphor I used on facebook:  Those of us battling depression are in the WWI trenches of No Man's Land. Behind us: the land we're defending is home, life, happy, that stuff we're trying to get back to. In front of us, attacking, is the storm trying to beat us down and take over. Some days we spend all day battling the storm. Other days we get a break and can retreat to the happy. Doesn't mean the storm is gone, the battle is still going on, but we get to go on leave once in a while. So some days I don't feel like I'm down in the trenches and covered with mud. But I can feel the battle there, it's not going away.

Depression is not fun. It's not an excuse. It's real. It's a never-ending battle.

One person's answer, one person's med, oil, vitamin, sunshine regimen, or whatever is not going to work for everyone. I'm willing to try things to see if they help, but please remember, folks: this life is not One Size Fits All.

I'm very lucky to have good friends who have been there to catch me on days when I'm falling. I have an awesome safety net of people who remind me of the fun, the silly, and laugh-worthy, and the greatness that is life.


  1. Never forget that your friends are here for you. And just say piss off to all those who try and make you feel guilty for whatever you do that helps you fight the depression. If it helps- do it. Guilt is a wasted emotion that too often cripples. Someone once said the only purpose of guilt is to let us recognize if we did something wrong. If we did- try not to do it again. If however, guilt has been wrongly given or wrongly assigned, step on it and toss it away like you would a dead bug - don't carry it around as it doesn't do you any good. Toss away the preconceived notions of who or what you are supposed to be, believe,or do and just do what makes you feel better as a person. That's the true measure of good or bad. And always remember we love you.


    1. Thanks for the reminders about guilt, Shar :) You are awesome!

  2. Fantastic post Chris. I had mild depression a few years ago. I can't imagine dealing with chronic, severe depression. Best of luck.

    1. Thank you :) I am lucky to have a good team of doctors and awesome friends to help me. I count my blessings every day. :)