This past weekend, a fellow Mom I follow on Twitter, KeepItRealMom started a hashtag thread in response to someone saying that Depression is the result of overthinking. She tweeted about what it’s really like to experience depression. As someone who has personally experienced depression, and having watched my loved ones go through it as well, her tweets resonated deep within me. I made my own tweets about what Depression was really like for me most of the time, and while it didn’t receive any huge interactions, it did get a couple other people involved who also wrote about #WhatDepressionReallyFeelsLike. My hope was to reach out to others and bring a little more awareness, but it got me thinking about something else, very near and dear to my heart…
He’s so happy, all the time, and he always has been. He is the happiest, sweetest little guy and it’s always the first thing I hear from new people. When he was younger and going through behavioral changes, I always worried and prepared for the worst! I was afraid that while he was sick or when I started working more that he would became angry or sad and lose that beautiful bright light of happiness he always had. I always worried that when he was going through changes or constantly sick that his behavioral changes would be permanent. There are very few times when he is sad or mad or inconsolable, and that’s when he is sick, hurt or when there is something very, seriously wrong!
It is absolutely heart-breaking and utterly gut-wrenching for me to think about my baby boy battling depression. I feel like the breath has been taken from my lungs. I can’t even explain to you how bad the thought makes my heart hurt; a little piece of my soul breaks to think of him hurting in such a way. For me to have to stand idly by and know that nothing I can do will help him other than offering a listening ear and consoling him to the best of my ability. Which will be nothing, when compared to the world of hurt, emotional uncertainty and ultimate pain he is experiencing.
And I know this is a very real possibility, if not ultimately certain. I know at some point in my son’s life, he will be down in the dumps and blue or upset about something, but I’m talking about full-blown, crippling depression.
If you would’ve asked me three to four years ago if I was going to have kids, I would’ve told you flat-out, “No!” I would’ve adamantly told you that I would never bring another person into this world that would almost inevitably have to go through what I did, let alone my own child.
When I was younger, depression was a daily battle for me. It was too hard to get out of bed most days. It was too easy to wake up and dwell on every single thing that was wrong, instead of all the things that were right, because everything seemed to be going wrong. I had resigned myself to never having kids because I didn’t want to bring a child into this world who was going to go through what I was. In the middle of a breakdown, I would cry, and cry, and I would swear and promise myself that I would never have a child who would go through this unbearable mess.
Depression ran very strong on my father’s side of my family, and I was no exception. During the worst times, my mom was completely distraught; she had no idea how to help me or what to say or do to make me feel better. And honestly, there was nothing anyone could do. It was all me. I needed to make the change for myself. I needed to make the decision to be happy and healthy, for myself. Not because everyone else wanted me to.
But from my mid-teens to nearly 20 years old, I was just a mess, and I couldn’t pull myself out of it every single day. There were days that were so terrible, I slept all day and never got out of bed. There were days where I went from the bed to the couch and binge watched episode after episode of Grey’s Anatomy or Friends just to distract myself from all of the terrible thoughts in my head. The days weren’t always bad, but the nights were the worst. During the months and months I took medication for depression, there were nights where I was afraid to be alone. I would think about how easy it would be to just take an entire bottle of medication and just end it all. I was suicidal, depressed and angry with the world and I didn’t want to be in it anymore, but I didn’t want to want to die, either.
It’s one of the oddest things, to want to die, to not want to live, but also not want to die at the same time. I would tell my mom that I just didn’t want to be here anymore. And it was scary; I scared myself, I scared the people around me. I felt like I didn’t belong around anyone anymore because I just couldn’t pull myself through this and I was tired of feeling like I needed to fake my way through the day. It was just so easy to end it all. No one was watching me or hovering over me because everyone thought I was just fine. It would’ve been too easy to just swallow an entire bottle of pills, and that terrified me. It terrified me that I was thinking these things and realizing how easy it would be to just not exist anymore. It terrified me that I had sunk so low.
And I told myself I would never have a child. I would never bring another human being into this world that would almost inevitably go through this unimaginable pain, this constant emotional turmoil that never made sense. I always wailed, desperate to know why such a terrible thing would be genetic.
I quit my job; I couldn’t bare it anymore. I couldn’t bare to call in sick anymore. I quit school; I couldn’t bare to miss another class because I just couldn’t pull it together enough to focus my brain and energy on anything else. I completely closed myself off from my friends and family, and everyone thought I was just fine. I couldn’t bare to hear anyone ask me one more time what was wrong. So I put on a brave face, painted on a smile and pretended everything was fine. I couldn’t bring myself to explain out loud anymore what I was feeling because I couldn’t even make sense of it myself. How was I going to make anyone else understand what I was feeling? How could anyone else help me to feel better when I couldn’t even figure it out to help myself? How was anyone else going to help me through this when I couldn’t even pull myself through it?
I spent a year taking medication, medications that weren’t helping me feel better or managing my symptoms. I had tried 3 different medications, all for 3 or more months at a time and still, nothing changed. I spent some time in the hospital and while I was there, I was started on a fourth medication. After a while, with still no change, I was fed up. I had had enough! I was tired of feeling the way I was feeling. I was tired of taking medication and hearing how I wasn’t myself. I didn’t want to hear how much of a ghost of my former self I was. I was tired of waking up every day and feeling so miserable. And it was finally the breakthrough I needed. I stopped taking medications. I changed the way I looked at everything completely and I made the decision for myself.
And of course it wasn’t miraculous or instantaneous; nothing ever is. It took weeks and months and years even. And there are still days where I struggle with feeling down, and there are weeks where I feel completely lost and depressed and angry with the world. And it’s okay. It’s okay to breakdown and have a meltdown and be depressed, but every day I make the decision to wake up and not dwell on every single thing that’s going wrong. It’s too easy to depress yourself. I could do it every single day if I wanted to. I could put myself right back where I was 4 or 5 years ago, and it would be so easy. But I don’t. I make the decision every day to not let that side of me win. It starts with you. I wake up and I want to enjoy my life. I want to be happy and have a good day.
I don’t dwell on the things I can’t control. I don’t waste my energy being mad at people who will never apologize to me. I’m not saying I’m perfect or that I am free of depression, because I’m not. I have had many, many setbacks, and every day for the rest of my life there will always be that little voice in the back of my mind that speaks to that side of me and I’m sure there will be more setbacks. And I know that if anything terrible were to happen, I will have one hell of a fight to stay out of that deep, dark hole.
But I wouldn’t change a thing. I have had the happiest life and I make the decision everyday to be happy, because I have an amazing little boy to love. And I just hope that if anything happens, I can rationalize it for myself like I can now, and did back then. And I hope that my son can get to where I am, and be happy with life and himself, and that I can help him to the best of my ability. Because if we didn’t have the lows in life, would we even know how great it was to feel like we were on top of the world? If there weren’t moments where we were sad, we wouldn’t ever truly know what real happiness is.
As always, thank you for reading and sharing. Keep on loving those little ones like only you know how, and hold them a little closer this week, because we have no idea what the future will hold.