Depression … you old friend, you.
In some ways, I’ve spent years getting to this point. In others, I spent years avoiding this moment. In writing this I hope to let you guys in on a little secret.
None of us are infallible. Sometimes we crack. Sometimes we break. And sometimes we give up.
When the weight of the world feels like it is on top of you, every day, it can cause you to be human. When you’re depressed, these normal human emotions and feelings can overwhelm us to the point of inaction (or sometimes of horrible action).
Depression and being a Fangirl – Moments of Clarity
I am a bit of a fangirl over lots of great shows. But let’s go back to the classics for a little bit of clarity. If you’re a fan of the Buffy television show, you might remember a moment late in the 5th season when Buffy admits she gave up.
To recap: Willow has done a spell that allows her to be inside Buffy’s mind, because Buffy became almost catatonic after her sister, Dawn, was kidnapped by the big bad of the season, Glory. Willow wanders through several significant moments in Buffy’s life and comes to a paradox – which is the memory of Buffy placing a book on the shelf in the Magic Box.
Confused, Willow asks why this scene is important and Buffy breaks from the memory to talk to Willow. She explains that this is ‘the moment’ – the exact moment that, in her heart, she gave up hope of defeating Glory. She admits that she gave up and she thinks that’s why Glory was able to get to her sister and why her sister will die.
The dialogue reminds me of what many of us going through depression must feel like:
BUFFY: I felt it. Glory will beat me.
And in that second of knowing it, Will…
I wanted it to happen.
BUFFY: I wanted it over. This is … all of this … it’s too much for me.
I just wanted it over.
WILLOW: You’ve carried the weight of the world on your shoulders since high school … And so, you wanted out for one second. So what?
Dialogue From Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Season 5, Episode 21
Dramatic stuff, right? Dramatic, because we feel that moment so acutely. We’ve all felt like giving up, haven’t we? And if you’ve ever experienced depression, you can also understand that fleeting thought that the world would be fine without you, that you don’t matter, that no one cares.
While not in the world-saving business, I’ve found myself in that headspace. I’ve given up. Oh, I can’t trace it back to a specific moment, but I can trace it back through years of lying. Lying to myself and to others. To you.
I’ve spoken of my struggle with depression before, but I’m afraid I haven’t been nearly as honest about it as I should have been. To you or to myself.
I have struggled with depression for years. I’ve always fought the good fight, tried to stay positive, tried to support others. Until I couldn’t.
I couldn’t write. I couldn’t encourage others. I couldn’t even think straight, it seemed.
I gave up. And rather than face those demons, I flirted instead with the idea of just never writing again. Because I didn’t want you to see the real me.
Rather than tell you about the very real struggle I’ve been facing, and rather than admit that I’d given up on ever feeling okay again – I locked myself away. In doing so, I have up the larger fight as well – because in fighting depression I didn’t just fight to be positive for a moment here and there – I fought to hold onto dreams, passions – my very life.
I gave up. I didn’t tell any of you about it. Because … well, I’m not sure. Maybe it was easier? Maybe I just didn’t have enough energy to try and be honest? Or maybe, because I didn’t want to associate my own personal demons with the very real pressure of being a mom. Or to the very real, and sometimes overwhelming, call to do things perfectly.
So here I am. It’s been over a year since I last wrote anything for the Cafe. Probably a couple years since I wrote meaningfully.
Well, guess what. This is me. I’m real. And sometimes real people have issues. They deal with things in unhealthy ways. They make choices they shouldn’t. They withdraw from the good things in life because everything feels too overwhelming. Real people deal with depression.
An Important Cavaet
I want to address the elephant in the room.
I am depressed and I am a wife and mom to some guys with awesomeness, and while those facts are undoubtedly related, I am NOT depressed because of what our family has been through.
Depression is a mental illness – and while it reacts to the awesome and the horrible things in our lives, it doesn’t depend on those things to assert itself. I am not depressed because I was blessed with these amazing guys to raise or because my husband has health issues, or even because I didn’t get enough hugs as a child (I threw that in, it’s totally not true). I’m depressed because that’s the nature of the beast.
Sometimes people get depressed. It sucks. You do what you can to deal with it, to cope with it, and to move forward from there (notice I didn’t say move on).
I gave up. Not in one moment, but over many moments, years’ worth of them. Depression won out for a while. And when I could finally fight again, I still didn’t have enough in me to write about it.
I’m still depressed. Not as badly as before. But it’s still a part of who I am. It always will be.
But I am done giving up. And I’m done hiding. From now on, what you see is what you get.
I can’t guarantee it’s always gonna be pretty. But it’s 100% me.
I encourage you to take a deep breath and consider whether you’re sharing the real you. 100% real. It’s far too easy to try and present the positive all the time when we live so much of our lives online.
But folks, that’s just not the truth. It’s not real.
In coming posts, I will talk more frankly about my earlier struggles with depression – it’s not pretty – because I think it’s beyond important that other mothers, other caregivers, understand that we don’t have to be perfect. We’ll never be able to measure up to that standard. But we don’t have to give up on living.
One Last Thing – Having Faith and Depression
I’ve written about my faith many times. When I was younger, I used to think I was a horrible Christian because I dealt with depression. Sometimes purposely, sometimes without even knowing, our friends and family can use our faith against us.
When we’re already hurting, hearing that if our faith in God was just a little stronger doesn’t help me come closer to Him. When we’re in crisis, it’s very hard to get down on our knees and pray for the help we so desperately need.
I encourage you to hold to your faith, even if you find it difficult. It’s through the storms of life we realize we need Him the most, sometimes. You CAN be a Christian and still be depressed.
Repeat that if you need to. I’ve dealt with the gamut of supportive to unsupportive folks in my Christian family when I admitted feeling depressed.
Maybe we touch on that again later. Just know that if you’re a Christian and have struggled with depression – you aren’t alone. I’m right there with you.
I don’t think it makes me a failure of a Christian or even that it shows that I am unfaithful.
Instead I think it shows I am human. And so are you.
I know that not all the Cafe readers are believers, and that’s okay, but I wanted to put that out there. As sad as it is, I’ve heard it far too often to ignore.
A few notes – on Reaching Out
If you or someone you love is depressed, I urge you to find help. In the real world, depression isn’t something you can magic away, and generally speaking the underlying problems associated with why you are depressed can’t be solved in an hour of witty conversation and angsty tears.
It’s an ongoing battle. There are a LOT of places you can get help, though. From reaching out here (seriously) to finding a safe place to chat with a counselor online or by phone, you can take steps to feel better. There are campaigns out there in lots of different corners to help support those who are depressed as well as their families. Google is your friend. But here’s a few resources to get you started:
The Crisisline, online and they have phone numbers listed. http://www.suicidepreventionandcrisisservice.org/spv_crisisline.html
The NIMH (National Institute for Mental Health) – what’s depression and when to seek help: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression/index.shtml?rf=3247
I can’t overstate enough that if you are in crisis and think you could hurt yourself or someone else, seek help now. 9-1-1 is always a valid option in a crisis.
So … this was a bit of emotional craziness in an already crazy world, right? Well, I have been working on this post for weeks, writing and re-writing this section or that section because I wanted to be honest – but wasn’t sure I should be ‘that’ honest.
And I’m done. This is me. Honest. Real. What you see is what you get.