I Have a Good Life...And I Still Have Depression
Oh, depression. You asshole. I have spent 70% of my life battling you and the other 30% trying to explain you to others. You make my life a living hell and yet many of my abilities are a direct result of dealing with you. I hate you. But I thank you. You are my pet monster, and as of now I don’t anticipate you will ever die.
I have a good life. I have an amazing husband. No joke…he’s the Prince Charming who is handsome, romantic, affectionate and sensitive. He cooks, he cleans, and he’s a phenomenal dad. We have 3 children. Our girls are smart and funny and have friends. Our son is often mistaken for a cherub, even though he can act the opposite. He’s also funny, far too smart for his age, and very loving. We live in a big house in a nice little suburb in a quiet Midwest town. We are not rich by any means, but our income is about twice that of those around us and that makes us blessed. We have nice cars, food on the table, health insurance…everything we Americans dream of. With all of this wonderfulness it’s hard to imagine the dark secret I harbor.
I have depression. I mean real, hardcore, depression. I don’t just get the blues here and there. I don’t feel really sad one week a month and then recover when my hormones recover. It’s there. It’s always there. It’s there when my alarm goes off in the morning and I realize I have to drag my body from my bed and go to work. It’s there when I look in the mirror and realize I’m not twenty anymore. It’s there when I look at a closet full of nice clothes while I pull on the same jeans and sweatshirt I wore yesterday. It’s there on my quiet drive to work while my mind screams things I’m too tired to hear. It’s there while I’m at work. It’s there when I come home. My kids make comments when I laugh or smile because it comes as a surprise to them. For quite a while now, mom has lost her sparkle. Mom is no longer the funny, crafty, crazy birthday planning person she was. They see me going through the motions. They see my blank stare. They know that on some days I am far away. They know of my secret membership to the club no one wants to belong to…The Clinical Depression Club.
Unlike the common misconception, depressed people do not lie around in bed all day (seriously who can afford that?) No, we get our asses up and we go out in the world just like everyone else. We are your best friends, your teachers, your co-workers, your bosses. We are everywhere. And you know nothing of our struggle. Why? Mostly because we don’t tell you. We keep that shit locked in tight. We are very aware of the struggles that happen all around us. This family with a child with cancer, this family who lost a parent, that family whose house burnt down last month. We know the homeless, the desperate, the addicted, and the abandoned. And the guilt we carry for feeling the way we do is so heavy.
I have talked about my depression before. It doesn’t happen often because there is always one of two reactions: the other person relates and spills a lifelong story about them while I sit and silently nod, or, I am met with confusion and disagreement. “But how can you be depressed? Look at your life! You have so much! Just get out of your head and you’ll be fine.” Or there’s my personal favorite…”You know there are people who wake up in impoverished countries every day and they are happy just to have food and water” I hate this one. My silent response is, “Oh really? Are you sure about that? Did you read it somewhere or watch it on a PBS special? Or is it just what you want to believe?” I’m not really sure what the intention of this comment is. Like I said, I’m not ignorant of what happens in the world. I know all too well. I think about it a lot. So to tell me that I should be grateful, not depressed, makes it sound like my depression is a result of being spoiled with privilege. It is beyond insulting. I have never carried on the argument beyond this point. I just agree and stop talking.
But you cannot guilt someone out of being depressed. You may be able to bring light and love into their day but you cannot “cure” them. When you ask someone who is depressed, “What can I do to help?” we will always tell you “nothing”. Because it’s the truth. There is nothing anyone can do to help depression except for the depressed person. We can take medication, we can see a therapist, we can find hobbies, get a different job, move to a new location, get new friends, become closer or distant with family and so on. Sometimes only one of these things will help. Sometimes all of them are needed. It may take a few months or it may take a few years for us to find our way.
But we will find our way. We need love. We need patience. We need understanding. We need someone to sit with us in silence, or listen to our screaming crying rants. We don’t need reminders of what we have; we need reminders of who we are. Tell me what I’ve done for you. Tell me how I’ve impacted your life. Tell me I matter.
To all of my people out there struggling with depression; you can do this. You can live a full, productive life. You can experience happiness. You will need the right combination of support, therapy, diet and possibly medication. If you do not have those things, you will need to work hard to find them. I know it’s not fair that we have to work harder than others just to be happy. I know it’s not fair that we were born this way. There can be beauty in struggling with depression. You will have to accept that the darkness will come, from time to time, like an unwanted visitor crashing at your house. It will overstay its welcome. And eventually it will leave. Reflect on the lessons you learn while it’s staying and know that its very presence has made you a stronger, more insightful, more loving person. It gives you the ability to reach out and help others. It makes your struggle matter. Because you matter.