The world is too much with me...

Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It’s called having the blues.

Feeling pooky.

Holly Golightly introduced us to a version known as the mean reds.

It's depression. 

And it's a wicked son of a bitch.

Deaths by one's own hand have been in the news very recently. In the past week, two young people of some fame have taken their own lives, without any apparent signs of distress or warning. And earlier this year, a young woman --  a mother, friend, sister – committed suicide here in my community. I did not know her personally, not even enough to call her an acquaintance. But many of my friends did. Knew her well. And they found themselves numb, heartbroken, perplexed. Mourning a sudden loss without a clear understanding of why it happened.

Events such as this often leave more questions than answers, with loved ones and families wondering what they could have done to help, to prevent, to soothe; and wrapped with wracked guilt. My heart hurts for everyone touched by these tragic, confusing situations. They suck, quite frankly.

I cannot even imagine.

Wait. That’s not entirely true.

I’m not pretending to know what happened specifically in any of these heartbreaking circumstances. No one ever will.

However, I do know that in many, many cases those who are compelled to take their own lives out of the seeming blue are trying to cope with some mental health issues. That they may have been able to mask. Handle. Until they just couldn't any more. 

And while I've never felt the hopelessness that I suspect plagues those souls who feel the only answer to their despair is suicide, I do understand that sense of aching darkness that permeates a person straight through to his or her marrow.

I wrestle with depression.  Regularly. Not just the blues. Clinical depression. I take meds. Daily. I see a shrink. Periodically.

Yep. I said it. There is it is, out in the open.

I have clinical depression. A mental disorder.

But there’s no shame in my game (pardon the cliché.) about this.  Although I will admit that I took a deep breath before I wrote that line.  And now I rather feel like I'm about to throw up.  

I hate that I feel this way.  Damn stigma.

This is an example of what the handiwork of depression sounds like in the auditorium of the mind: 

Yeah. It's that horrible.


Here's what I do know to be true (but believe me, I didn't always feel this way):
I am still the same person I was before you read that statement.  About me and my wretched sidekick.

And I hope you don't think differently about me now that you know I have depression. But if you do, that says more about you than it does me. Harsh, but true. 

Please note that I say I have depression, rather than I am depressed. I also have dry skin, great hair, quick wit, overactive sweat glands and brown eyes. 

None of those things alone define me. I am the sum of my parts. And one of those parts is clinical depression.

You have no idea how hard that is. To not simply say it, but believe it. To not just succumb to letting the depression thing define me.

It's one cruel bastard. 

When you have depression, it's more than feeling sad. Intense feelings of sadness and other symptoms, like losing interest in things you enjoy, may last for a while. Depression is a medical illness, not a sign of weakness.
~ Web MD

I have always felt things deeply. I am a creative person and while a stereotype, I think it is true that some of us right brainers are wired to feel and process in great swaths. And I was labeled with being "dramatic" at an early age. Still am. I own that. But only as a character trait. Not as something negative. Sadly, my penchant for the emotional was often treated as a defect. I was told to toughen up. Get over it. Just deal. Stop the tears. Don't be so sensitive.

In high school, I experienced a major disappointment. And that is the first time I remember being overwhelmed by the curtain of sadness. I withdrew. Into myself. It was something more than just adolescent hormones.

Over the years, I was periodically carried away by bouts of intense depression. As an adult living alone, it was easier for me to withdraw. Hide for a few days. Cry until I was exhausted. But keep it all to myself. Was I a freak for feeling like this? Did other people experience such things? I had no idea. I thought it might have just been me.

Fast forward. I reached a point when I figured out yep, I wasn't just wired for situational depression. I was hardwired with the damn thing. And it was time to get some help.

So I did. 

I am the poster girl for better living through chemistry.

Thank goodness I deduced this before Will came along. Won't beleaguer this tale any longer than necessary, but I will say that having a child at 26 weeks gestation can wreck havoc on a mama's psyche, self-esteem, mental and emotional well-being. There were some very dark times for a very long time after he was born. If depression is a bastard, then unmerited guilt is a bitch. 

I am sharing this now because I hate how mental disorders have such a stigma attached to them. They are the dirty movie section in the local video store of life -- you know they're there, back behind a curtain, but no one talks about them in polite company or otherwise. Now, I'm not suggesting that we take up discussing the nuances of porn on a regular basis, but perhaps we don't have to subject things like depression or anxiety to being mentioned in a stage whisper when brought up in conversation. Taking away the stigma can only be helpful. 

No, you are not alone. 

No, you are not a freak.

Yes, it is ok.

Just as physical illnesses sneak in, unprovoked and uninvited, so do mental issues. Doesn't mean those of us who have them are crazy -- just means we've got a health concern that needs tending to. So why are we so afraid to talk about it? Seek help? Make ourselves vulnerable in order to begin to heal? 

Because it's scary. Personal. And sometimes so insidious that we simply cannot.

When you’re in a slump, you’re not much fun
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done
~ Dr. Seuss

I'm sharing this part of me not to garner anything for myself. I'm sharing because I had this wild thought that if perhaps I step out and talk about my war (for it is just that -- a war) with depression, perhaps someone else might not feel so alone as he or she fights his or her fight. That it might help a friend or a friend I haven't met yet in some little way. That maybe I could take a chip out of the weight of the stigma that surrounds mental disorders. Perhaps encourage others who also live better through chemistry -- Guess what? You're not the only one. Promise.

My heart aches for those who had their demons overwhelm them. They were not cowards, no matter what you might read. I think of them as people who simply didn't have the strength to fight anymore. Heartbreaking. Their stories are cautionary tales. And amidst the pain and questions, perhaps some understanding and compassion can grow.

So there you are. My little dissertation about depression. That bastard. Thank you for reading this far. Not the most entertaining of posts. But one that I needed to write. I believe that is is the story of more people than you or I realize. One that will continue to be written. 

Forward ho...


Katie @ AnAuthenticLife said...

You are not a freak. You are not alone. I battle the same demons (serious mental health issues run deep and run ugly on my paternal family tree.)
Hang tough Miss Janey! You move among friends.

Karin said...

It is a war. I could not have described my own depression any better than you have done. Every sentence struck a chord.

You and I are soul sisters in this and I'll fight on the front lines with you until the bitter end. Xo

Madie said...

Inspirational and so, so courageous.

pam said...

Brave, courageous, and soooo wonderfully written and inspiring. Thanks!

Tara R. said...

My son has been diagnosed with several mental illnesses. Just writing that out and not couching it as 'health issues' or 'disorders' makes my chest hurt. I love him deeply, but know that there is that stigma surrounding these illnesses and I want to keep him insulated from that.

I've called our battle with schools, doctors, and the world in general as guerilla warfare. It shouldn't be so overwhelming.

Thank you for shining a light on mental health. The more we talk about it, the less fear there will be. It's no different than if it's cancer, or epilepsy or diabetes. There is no fault and it's not contagious.

No, you are not alone.

citizen janey said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read and to share with a comment. The more we talk about mental illness, the better. Love to you all.

Anonymous said...

We are who we are, you and I. Somehow we found each other as wounded souls. Sincerely kindred spirits, battle scars and all I love you for all that you are, all that you wish to be. We try and hide behind a smile or snarky comment. I have come to realize that I've made myself huge so people can hate me as much as I do. Some get in, you did. You saw my spirit and I yours. Always~Bees