As long as I can remember I’ve had depression. I remember the oppressive feeling and the inability to focus and the desire to just curl up and cry all the way back to primary school, when as a 7 year old I would sit at the back of the bothán and try to keep myself together.
When I finally went to the doctor he diagnosed me with endogenous depression: a hereditary imbalance of brain chemicals. It made a lot of sense to me. I’ve always know that mum suffered from depression, and that others in my family suffered from it.
My mother died over eleven years ago. She hasn’t been here to help me through the worst of my depression, but knowing that at least she’d dealt with it too was a lot of help, because my mother really did things. She co-authored a book on local history, she was a scout leader, she taught craft classes and joined committees and didn’t let herself become a recluse even though she sometimes commented how easy it would be for her to do that. I’d like to be able to do as much as she did. In my mind, though, I always remembered the mum that went out and beat it, and not the mother who sometimes felt beaten by it.
Recently we came across an old diary of hers, one from over twenty years ago, and suddenly there was a side of her that was everything I’ve been dealing with and feeling shit for thinking. It was more than just a help. It was a huge comfort. I wasn’t alone.
She describes her reactions to the meds: “All I’ve got from it is bad skin and a twitch and a yawn. I can’t really think! I am functioning just as well as I did but still the thoughts come and still I find it hard to go to bed at night.”
She describes her dislike of going to the doctors: “Should I go back to him? I don’t know. […] Mornings don’t suit and I am phobic about going round anyway. What should I do?”
She even has a list of pros and cons of the meds, which are so close to mine that I feel like I’m reading my own posts:
“Improvements: I don’t cry so much… I don’t have bad dreams.
Not improved: I still feel panicky. I still don’t want to go anywhere. My temper hasn’t really improved.”
My sister and boyfriend keep hugging me and asking me if I’m coping okay with this, and maybe it’d make sense for me to be upset by it, but all this tells me is that she was where I am, and she kept going. She raised two awesome kids, did a lot of amazing things, had more friends than could fit in the church for her funeral, and when she did die it was from a brain-haemorrhage, nothing to do with depression. Nothing to do with not being able to cope. And if I can be even the smallest bit like her I’ll be happy with my life.
At the end of the diary entry there is a paragraph that hit me harder than I thought anything could:
“He asked me if I was suicidal? Define it? I’ve chosen my spot but it’s against my religion. Children should not predecease their parents. Am I suicidal?”
This didn’t hit me so hard because my mother felt suicidal, but rather because she didn’t seem to realise that YES, she was suicidal. That it wasn’t just normal to feel this way. That she deserved help and sympathy and not to feel so shit.
So yeah, of all the things that have happened it was this that gave me the push to come back to this blog. Because it’s not fair that some of us feel this way, and it *is* a big deal, with a big influence on our lives, and we deserve to get better; because it’s nice to know I’m not alone; and because I want everyone else out there who suffers from mental illness to understand that too.
We are not alone. We are not weird. We are not failures.
We are strong people, dealing with horrible problems.
We are amazing.