I have always been very vocal about how I lost my Mother to suicide four years ago. I have been vocal about her struggle with mental illness, more specifically depression and anxiety. I saw the depression transform my Mother into someone who raised me, loved me and held me into someone I no longer recognized. Something I haven’t been as vocal on my blog about is my own struggle with depression and anxiety. A few days ago I was wondering why I hadn’t brought it up. Was I ashamed? Was I scared? Would I feel judged? Honestly, I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned it. It is something that I deal with every single day of my life. I take medication on a daily basis, I’ve been in therapy, I meditate, and yet I still have it. You see, when you have depression it is something that never goes away. Ever.
It all started when I was in high school and my Mother and Father sat me down. I was pretty defiant in high school (as is normal with most teenagers) and my Mother and Father told me they were concerned. “We think you might have depression, it runs in the family and we think you should been evaluated by a psychiatrist.” Absolutely not! I did not have this thing called “depression,” I was absolutely fine. I was just a teenager experiencing all the up and down emotions that teenagers feel. Right? After really thinking things over I started to realize that my parents might be correct in assuming I was suffering from depression. You see, for a long time I had harbored feelings of low self-worth as far back as I could remember. I always knew from a young age that my Mother struggled with loving herself. I still remember walking into her bedroom as a young girl and watching her look in the mirror with a disgusted look on her face, “I am fat and ugly,” she would say. As I child my heart would ache for her, I didn’t know then that it was her depression speaking, but I do now.
I lost my mother and became more vocal about depression
After losing my sweet Mother to suicide I have made it a point to be more vocal about depression. It’s a real disease and one I struggle with controlling every day. I have seen my husband’s eyes brimmed with tears as I negatively pick apart my body in front of him. “Who could love a person like me?” I ask him. “Just look at me…look at all my imperfections…” When we were married my husband was aware I struggled with depression and he and I made a pact that I would NEVER speak negatively about myself in front of our children. It has been difficult but I have kept that agreement.
My kids know I have depression, they know their Nana (my Mother) had depression. They know that it is a disease and it makes you sad and want to cry and never get out of bed. My daughter was old enough to remember my Mother at the end of her life. “Why did Nana cry all the time? Didn’t she know we loved her…?” my daughter asks me. “She couldn’t feel the love, and that is the worst thing about having depression,” I tell her. Today as I watch my daughter blossoming into a young woman, I look into her eyes and see the confusion and pain whenever suicide or depression is mentioned. Depression is painful, depression isolates people because so many don’t understand the disease.
Behind the facade
People with depression hide behind a facade. Many people who knew my Mom couldn’t believe she could be sad enough to end her own life. “Your Mom was always laughing and smiling…I don’t get it,” a friend said to me. They couldn’t understand because they weren’t with her when everyone was gone and the depression took over. For example, just look at Robin Williams, a man who loved to make everyone smile and laugh. The whole world was shocked when he took his own life, no one would have guessed that this man was struggling. I honestly believe that often the people who try so hard to keep everyone happy and laughing on the outside are often the most lonely people on the the inside.
When I read the quote…
“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
(Wendy Mass, The Candymakers) – I can’t help but think it is SO true. You never, ever know who is struggling on the inside. I am one of those people that is constantly struggling to look in the mirror and say, “I love who I am.” I am not sure I will ever get to that point but every single day I try. I look at my children who are beautiful and wonderful—and it kills me to think they would ever think such negative thoughts about themselves. So every day I get up and I live. I choose to live. I choose to be there for my husband and my kids. When you have depression you have to make the choice to live, you always have to be hyper-aware of making that choice.
There is only ONE you, YOU MATTER—so keep trying, keep your head up and keep choosing to live… because YOU ARE LOVED.
This post originally appeared on Cherry Blossoms the Blog. Reprinted with permission.