Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Dialogue That Needs to Change

*Disclaimer* These are my thoughts based on my own personal train ride. Yours will, and probably are, different. But that doesn't invalidate mine. This is going to be pretty raw, so if you've a weak stomach, you may want to skip this post.

I am not a victim of depression. I refuse to be labeled with the term victim--because, to me, it means that I am helpless to control my circumstances or my reactions to them. That is simply not true. I was a victim of an armed robbery--to a point. I am not a victim of depression.

I was diagnosed with depression at age 16. Growing up was kind of rough and it affected me deeply, profoundly, in ways that I could not control. My doctors put me on medication and I balanced out a bit. The medication came after the suicide note, the realization that I could not make myself better, and the asking for help.

I was lucky--and I don't deny it. Too many kids don't ask for the help they need because of the negative way depression is characterized in our nation. They either don't recognize what they're going through for what it is, or they are too afraid to voice it aloud because of what people will think of them. Or they fall into the trap of believing that they can just "get better" on their own.

I'm here to tell you that it doesn't happen that way. I've struggled with depression for 23 years. There have been good bouts, long stretches where I'm doing pretty good, and other moments where I have considered blowing my brains out. I'm not exaggerating--rather, I wish I was. In dark moments I imagine the sweet relief that would come from ending it all. In dark moments I think that my loved ones would be better off without me dragging them down. That they don't need me, or that they would be far better off without me.

But I can't talk to anybody about those moments because they're scary. I tried once, to open up to my husband about how those thoughts do creep into my mind. It freaked him out, rightly so, but it confirmed my harbored suspicions that this was not a 'safe' topic that we could discuss. We can talk about our kids, the right and wrong choices we've made, we can over-analyze to death everything else in our lives.

I cannot talk about the Darkness. Darkness is off limits.

And while I understand why, because it *is* frightening to hear someone you love occasionally entertains thoughts of suicide--even for a fleeting instant. We all know that no action comes without first being a thought.

Before you freak out too, let me clarify. My life is beautiful. I love my life. But for me, and I suspect millions like me, Darkness will ALWAYS be there. When things get super challenging, or we face yet another huge life upheaval, Darkness is there, whispering, taunting, urging. It was there when I lost my baby. It was there when I got my first publishing contract--on the heels of foreclosure. It was there for that year and a half we crammed our family of 7 into half of a duplex and I felt like a colossal failure as a wife, mother, and provider. It's there now, looking at my two beat up cars and a future of part time jobs and schooling, near adult children, and not knowing when I can provide better transportation--or if the cars we have will last long enough for me to save the money.

Darkness is there. In all of us, really. It's just got a louder voice in some than in others. Here's the dialogue that needs to change.

People, individuals, those you love, need to know that they have a safe place where they can express even their darkest thoughts without judgment. Without condemnation. Sometimes we just need to get them out. Darkness is less scary when exposed to light.

We need someone to talk to. We need coping skills for when the Darkness speaks. When I'm having a good day, it's easy for me to tell the Darkness to shut up and go away. When I'm having a bad day, the Darkness's whisperings are comforting and difficult to pull away from. It would be great to have a therapist, or a psychologist, to meet with once a week or so and talk it out. But not everyone can afford that, and many insurances don't cover it, or enough of it.

We need to talk about depression. We need to be open about the fact that we can't control the Darkness--it's there, inside of us. All we can control is how we react to the Darkness, and, sometimes, we can't even control that.

I don't talk about my depression much. I don't admit to people that I'm on medication for it. I'm a private person, and I don't feel it's anyone's business. But, again, that's part of the problem. If we always keep it a secret then we risk missing opportunities to help one another.

Denying the Darkness, trying to pretend it doesn't exist, is exhausting. Eventually we just can't run anymore, so people choose to turn and embrace it instead. So many of us are afraid that if we share the deepest parts of ourselves, those we love will turn away. They will leave us. They will prove our darkest fears true.

We aren't freaks. We aren't losers. We can't just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and soldier on. We are wives, mothers, fathers, husbands, parents, children, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists. We are neighbors, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles, siblings. We are worthy. We have value.

Sometimes we struggle to get out of bed. At all. Sometimes we struggle to go to work. Sometimes we struggle to have a conversation. But we are intrinsically tied to your human experience. We are family. We are part of you. We are you. We.


Nichole Giles said...

My dear sweet friend. Sending you love and support. You are so very very brave.

Sara Burr said...

Thank you for bravely erasing a bit of stigma. You are not alone.

W. L. Elliott said...

I'm there with you. Thank you for having the bravery to post this. I know it is not easy.

Kathy said...

Thank you for sharing. I don't totally understand the darkness of depression but I do know it is real. Another darkness has had a hold on us for 30 years those it took us 25 to figure it out. Pornography is another darkness that is difficult to talk to others about. The shame and silence are heavy weights to carry. We are hoping to help bring more light to this disease so others can find hope.

Kathy said...
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