When I was little, I hated having to stop what I was doing and go take a bath. It would almost move me to tears and I couldn’t understand why it always had to be at the moment I was having the most enjoyable time. I would finally haul myself into the tub, enticed with copious amounts of Mr. Bubble in the pink box, and soak away. Invariably, once I actually began enjoying the sensation of the tub and the warm water and the diamond-like bubbles, I was told to stop what I was doing and get out of the tub. Why did it always have to come at the most enjoyable time? This was my first inclination that I didn’t relish transitions.
Those who only know me as an adult will no doubt be shocked to learn that I wasn’t a particularly chatty child. I kept a lot of thoughts to myself, and had lovely conversations in my head and told myself wonderful stories and kept things pretty tidy in there. When real life tugged, it was always an effort to leave one world and join the other, unless there was some signal that I would particularly enjoy the change: the jangling of the ice-cream truck, for example.
As a woeful adolescent (and who isn’t? Woeful, I mean. Adolescence is a particularly woeful time.) I nurtured all my supposed injustices and hurts and indignities until I was filled with absolute lists of how I had been wronged and how justice should be served. (And inside my head, I was always redeemed and accepted it graciously. Outside my head is another story.) Just like a compulsive personality, I kept checking my list to see if the scales and tipped my way yet and when they hadn’t, I felt even more aggrieved.
I have since come to realize these were all telltale signs. When my girls were about 7 and 5, I visited my doctor. “I think something is wrong with me emotionally,” I began. “I seem to have an inability to let go of my emotions.” He asked a few questions here and there, then said almost casually, “Any history of depression in your family?” Blinking, I said that both my mother and her brother were clinically depressed, but what did that have to do with me? Depression, he told me, wasn’t always manifested as sadness; it could be vast mood swings, a change in personality, a tendency to hang onto intense feelings longer than what was considered healthy….BINGO. He explained I needed medication to even out the messages that were misfiring in my brain. The medication would just smooth things out, and I would always be on it, and I wouldn’t have these outrageous bouts of FEELINGALLTHETIMELIKETHISOHMYGODRIGHTNOWYOUHAVETOFEELWHATIFEEL any longer. Once I got my head wrapped around the fact I had a condition and I should treat it like diabetes or allergies or anything else that needed to be maintained, I felt a lot better.
I felt even more better about six weeks later, when I was talking with a friend about medication. She said she had started it too, but hadn’t really noticed a difference yet. I said I’m not sure if mine had kicked in either, then I looked at my husband. He immediately said “Believe me, it has.” While I laughed at that quick response, I realized that depression wasn’t just about me, but everyone who loved me and didn’t know what tools were needed to deal with me.
I am grateful every day to that doctor. When I had a breakdown that caused me to leave the profession I love, I could only imagine how much worse it would have been had I not been on medication. I am also grateful that I never had the depths of depression that made me want to check out of the only life I have, but I can so very much understand those that teeter on that brink. To me, it’s like looking at the sky, knowing it’s been blue your whole life, but it’s not blue lately and nobody you ask about it can see the same sky you insist is there, so you are alone in your perception and you wonder (as we all do with those singular perceptions) if there’s something wrong with you. When that becomes the daily reality, it is not an easy existence, and you wonder when it will be over so you can stop pretending.
There have been a lot of lectures on the internet saying that suicide is not freedom, don’t glorify it, don’t show hugs and freedom together, don’t call it something it’s not in case you influence a younger person into doing the same thing. All I can say to that is put on the shoes before you walk the path. We’re all processing it differently.
And with that, I leave you with this: