When I was around 14 years old, I started to have some anxiety before falling asleep.
I would lie in bed with so many thoughts running through my head about everything from the chapters I was supposed to have read for English and what I was going to wear to school the next day to how I should call the family back that had asked me to babysit while wondering how I did on my Geometry test. I was a pretty laid back kid, as teenagers go, but these thoughts wouldn’t leave me alone, and they started to get more troublesome. I remember staring down the hall to my parents’ door and wondering why it looked so far away. I was sure I was seeing things. I remember an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I would cry myself to sleep sometimes. But WHY? What was wrong with me? What was so wrong in my life that I was having these feelings? I had no logical reasons. I grew up in a 2 parent house with enough food, and love, and a dog I adored. I had many teammates and great friends.
Why did I need to talk to a psychiatrist? Wasn’t I a normal kid? Why was my heart so broken?
I never did find the answers in that office, sitting with “Patty” and her clogs and stretchy skirts. I’m sure she meant well, but I’m not sure she helped me. I stopped going to counseling. I didn’t see progress and it just got in the way of my social life and sports. I avoided medications, so that was good, I guess, being so young. I just took a day at a time and slowly my dark clouds would lift for longer periods. I just marched on, the weight on my shoulders a constant, something I had grown to accept. In the next several years, I had stress in my life and sad times due to family tragedies but the darkness was manageable. I didn’t ask for help. I became extremely independent. I took care of myself and I was happy. I like to think I even made those around me happy. I certainly tried.
The funny thing is, I thought I had outfoxed it.
I thought that when I fell in love and then had children I was set. That I had everything it was going to take to keep me happy was right with me. My light, my soul was whole again.
Then I lost a baby.
Not a baby in the sense that I gave birth and held it in my arms and it passed away, (that would be the most unimaginable pain I could ever think of). The baby I lost was 20 weeks along inside of me. I had already listened to its swiftly beating heart, I had seen its fully developed, perfect little self. I went in for my check-up and he or she wasn’t moving. No heartbeat. Nothing. I would have to come back the next day for an operation to have the baby removed. I was too far along for any other option. Still, in my sadness, I was well aware that I had 2 beautiful little girls at home. Many women couldn’t even get pregnant. I didn’t allow myself to be sad on the outside. That would just be selfish. Counting my blessings and hugging my girls, I moved on.I like to think of myself as a strong woman. I’ve never asked for help after I had my kids. My husband and I decided that not only did we want to expand our business, we would be doing it around the time our 4th child was born. The timing wasn’t ideal but the opportunity was there. I now had 4 kids 6 years old and under but that was no big deal. People do it all the time. I couldn’t possibly complain when that was exactly what I’d wanted. So while I was home with my sweet blessings, my husband was hanging drywall until 9 or 10 at night, coming home exhausted and getting right back up the next morning to fix cars all day and work on the new building at night. Sometimes I would order a pizza and load everyone in the car just so he could see the girls and I could get out of the house. I repressed any exhaustion I was experiencing. I was so fortunate to be home with my children. I had a new baby. Nothing could be better.
Until one day my 6-year-old caught me crying. Apparently it wasn’t the first time she had seen my tears either because she said the words I’ll never forget, “Momma, why are you always sad?“
Oh my gosh, did she really just say that? How did she know? I thought I only cried when she wasn’t looking or was fast asleep. I didn’t cry loudly, did I? I didn’t think so. I thought I was hiding my pain but I guess not. Not when a six-year-old can see it loud and clear. That very day I called my doctor, with the encouragement of a nurse friend. She told me it was OK. It was like I needed permission from a medical professional that it was ok to ask for help. I stayed on some form of medication for several months afterwards. I felt better in general. I stopped crying. I left the house more.
These days I go back and forth between taking medicine and not. I still don’t think I’ve found “the one” for me and I’ve come to accept that I may not. While I don’t like the idea of being tied to a chemical to keep me going, when I am in a slump I kind of accept that I should keep trying to figure it out. I see people with severe allergies or chronic pain and I can’t imagine them not taking their medication to get through the day. I still wonder why I fight it. I don’t like asking for help and I think every time I have taken a pill that I feel as if that’s asking for help. I also want to be my authentic self. I’m sensitive, caring, and try to make people happy. I’m not sure I can be all of those things when I’m medicated. When a Hallmark commercial comes on, I cry. That’s just who I am. I don’t want to change who, inherently, I am.
I oftentimes have to force myself to interact with people when I am in a place of sadness and unease. I feel completely anti-social and hope my friends don’t call to ask me to go out. I avoid phone calls. I leave voice mails unanswered. I don’t have anything to share. I wear hooded sweatshirts out when I go to pick up my kids. I’m hiding and I hope nobody approaches me to ask how I’m doing. That’s when the forced smile will get planted and the “I’m well…” comes out of my mouth like a prerecorded message.
It is in these times when the brain in my head screams “YOU FOOL! This is your FRIEND! You are basically pushing them away when you act like this! Get a grip! You love your friends!” My brain doesn’t listen to my heart. It never has. That’s what is so frustrating. I am a happy person, even humorous to those who know me well. My outlook and my attitude are in opposition with the bruises on my soul. Sometimes my husband will ask me what’s wrong in these times of uncertainty. I don’t even have a good answer. I usually end up saying, “I don’t even know.”
Depression can be all consuming. It can feel overwhelming.
Sometimes for me it even feels as if I’ve lost myself. Who is this negative Nelly living inside me and when can I evict her? It is not the end of the world though. Living every day is a blessing and as much as my brain frustrates me to no end, I do know that much is true. I often feel that my burden is not that I no longer want to live, but that I want to live eternally, and that is what scares me. I know that is not possible. That is where having faith can come in handy. Knowing that our time on earth is short but it is a miracle to bask in. My kids are my joy, as is the man who faithfully sticks by my side, giving me a hand when I need one, and a hug when I don’t know what I need.
I want to be a source of inspiration (yes, a lofty goal) for other Moms, other women, other men…fighting the fight. Seeing the light through the darkness. It is for this reason that I have “come out of the closet” of depression. Being alone in this struggle is the worst kind of feeling. If I can be a beacon of hope in someone else’s dark path, it is worth sharing this piece of myself. This part that can feel shameful. This bit of me that strips me of my joy, of my meaning. It is for the single purpose of letting someone else know that they need not be ashamed and that there are reasons to keep getting up and choosing to participate in the gift bestowed to all of us. The gift of life.
Beautifully honest and raw, Thank you for that. I am a mother of 5 and always wanted to do it all. I have lost 3 babies at different points and you never forget that. It brought my Husband and I closer, our children are getting older now and life is easier. I thank God everyday for my big family. You have lots of joy to come and many milestones. What a strong lady you are to put these feelings in writing. Lots of people will feel comfort in reading your blogs as I have 🙂
I am a few years younger than you (we were at Mt. Abe together) and I remember looking up to you as one of the older girls at school, at field hockey and thinking you were perfect. It is amazing what we hide from others while crying inside. I too suffer from severe depression and anxiety and have been on and off meds for years all while feeling guilty for taking the antidepressants when I too have nice house, loving husband and wonderful son.
Thank you for writing this and showing others that they are not alone in the battle against inner demons that haunt us.
Kate, I’m sorry. I have struggled with depression since I was 12 or 13 and have been medicated for 14 years. I get it. Don’t beat yourself up for needing a little help, whether it’s pharmaceutical or therapeutic, and never apologize for who you are. I have always thought you are just great, as a kid, a caretaker, a mom.
Wow.. So many will read this and know they are not alone. Thank you for your candor and bravery.
Thank you for sharing Kate, I lost a son at 19 weeks gestation a little over three years ago. His due date was 9/23/11, he would have been three tomorrow. Everyone thought I was insane to go through L&D, but I desperately wanted to hold him. After a 12 hour induction, I finally did get to hold my son, Jason Russell. He is now buried in a beautiful pasture on our family farm, though his soul dwells in heaven. I also suffer from depression and anxiety. It is a crippling veil which clouds our minds, steals our peace and joy.
((PS-We just met at the Duct Tape Parenting Talk, hugs!!!))
It’s really no wonder we have always had a strong connection. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your comment & words of encouragement. I’m only sorry that I didn’t know you had similar struggles before now! This is exactly why I chose to write about depression (it’s hard to even type that word!) and why I shared part of my story. To think that you can be the best of buddies with someone, have so much fun with them & share so many laughs but not feel like you could share this huge part of you is just amazing to me. One of my friends told me that she feels badly that she never knew this about me, to what extent I felt this way. That’s the thing about this disease. You can’t see it. You can’t look at someone and know what they are battling when it is a demon they can’t even define themselves. I don’t know many people going around telling people they’re “Debbie Downer”. I mean, who wants to admit that? I know I wouldn’t have any friends if I had just come right out and introduced myself that way, had put it right out there. “Hi my name is Kate & you’ll have to work really hard to be my friend. I’m no fun to be around sometimes and I won’t ever call you.” That is the reason it’s kept from friends. So, thank you for helping ME realize how the people close to me must feel when they finally know this about me. I look forward to seeing you and strategizing for ways to make you smile more! I want to be there for you. You are my friend and you are a sister in this with me.
Love you, sweet girl. The world is so lucky to have you, as am I to know you.
My sweet friend Kate,
You and I have been friends since childhood. You have always made me laugh uncontrollably and we always had so much fun together. Even to this day when I see you we can pick up right where we left off. As if time never missed a beat. Reading your message made me cry uncontrollably. Your words rang through my head the same way I hear myself saying them from time to time. I too have everything in the world to keep me happy. A wonderful husband who provides endlessly for me and our family. Three beautiful kids that I get to be with everyday, I too have nothing to complain about my life is wonderful. But the way I feel inside sometimes is not so wonderful. I too battle with severe depression at times. I am scared to be medicated by a perscription drug that I need to take for the rest of my life. So I choose to go without. I know that I am not alone however I do know I need to do something about it. Thank you for the awareness that I am not alone. That I have a friend so close by that I adore, that is going through the same thing I am. I too cry when no one is looking and sometimes I cry when they are looking. Depression is a horrible feeling that can overtake your body and soul. Please know that you are not alone, people you care about close by may be going through the same thing you are. Keep talking, because I am listening.
I love you Kate!
I never knew…..
PJ, I got really good at hiding. I didn’t want people to know. I was ashamed & I didn’t want to be treated differently. I just want to feel normal. I’m working on it. Thanks for reading.
Thank you for this,I have no friends left due to depression and anxiety.I couldn’t socialize at all with them…I had too much anxiety.
Maureen, that makes me sad for you. I’m sorry your friends didn’t stick around for you. I find that the best people in my life know that I may not contact them for weeks, sometimes months, but that I still care about them and value our friendship. I think sometimes people are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or knowing when to reach out. The friends with whom I’ve confided in have accepted my social mystery and continue to try to connect. I’m hoping the same for you. I know it can be difficult to share this part of yourself but maybe if those around you knew just how much of a struggle it is for you to socialize with them, but how much you care, they will be able to understand where you are at and include you when you feel able. One of the many difficult parts of this for me has been wanting so badly to connect with my friends at times when they have extended an invitation, and then not being able to have that time with them due to the overwhelming fatigue both mentally and physically. I have always been a social butterfly, friends with everyone I meet. It is sad when I can’t fully live that out. Please know that you are so valued. You are loved and needed. I’m sorry that there has to be a wall between friends and yourself right now. Maybe by opening up, you can help bring down the wall, one brick at a time. Your real friends will help you take it down. I’m sending much love and positive energy your way.
Shawna, your words mean so much. I am so incredibly lucky to have the support of friends like you and to know that I can be my authentic self and I am loved and understood. I’m thankful for the incredible women I can look to for inspiration, including you. Thank you.
Kate, I know how hard it is to open up and be vulnerable but this piece is exactly how many of us have felt through our lives. Just know you have support and camaraderie everywhere you go. Everyone has a battle they are fighting, thank you for sharing yours. You are not flawed or broken, you are human and an amazing one at that!
Oh, Kate. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, respect and love for you and this post. This kind of courage not only helps connect people living in the shadows of Depression, it can save lives. I think you know I’m a mental health professional, and I have a deep understanding of the beast this disease is as I have walked along side so many people, professionally AND personally, who are in the throws of it. THANK YOU.
Shauna, wow, what can I possibly say to express how much your words mean?! Thank you for reaffirming what the meaning behind my post is. If my words and experience have brought even a bit of comfort to one person, it has been worth it for me to share myself. Much love right back.