Toddlers have an honest way of pointing out stuff. My two-year-old daughter is no exception. Over the last year while her language skills have developed leaps and bounds, she’s observed and commented on some important differences between mommy and daddy.
“Mommy boobs!” cracked me up. “Daddy face rough. Ouchy!” was funny too. But when Chloe sympathetically patted me on the shoulder with her tiny hand and said, “Daddy plays. Mommy cries. It’s OK, mommy. Feel better mommy.” I knew it was time to face the facts — my depression was back.
After 17 years of lightness and freedom from The Sads, that heavy feeling from 1997 was weighing me down again. Back then my depression was situational — dealing with the emotional bruises from an abusive relationship ain’t easy. I learned a lot about my strength back then.
Today my depression is a lot different, which is probably why it took me over a year to see the shadow creeping. And creep it did. The pressures of parenting, relationships, careers, and hitting midlife all kind of collided at once and left me wondering why normal change had become a crippling constant.
Everyday activities became impossible. Getting out of bed to shower was exhausting. Brushing my teeth required me to squeeze toothpaste onto that thing called a toothbrush — forget it. Making dinner meant I needed groceries, and leaving the house in the pyjamas I’d lived in for the last three weeks seemed uncouth. I hated being uncouth. So I berated myself for my uncouthness.
Sitting on the floor curled up beside the sofa for nearly eight hours was some serious physical punishment I couldn’t feel from the loudness of the negative self-talk paralyzing my brain. I tried to get off the floor to unload the dishwasher that day, but the idea of standing up, walking five steps into the kitchen, and opening the door latch seemed a mountain too high to climb. Depression mocked my mountain of dishes, so I added this failing to my uncouth list. These adventures in depression are pretty common, and commonly unpretty.
It’s true, the inner voice track of depression is a bit of a bitch. It likes to remind the host of their perceived failures, flaws, and imperfections. Repeat. Now repeat again. The truth is depression lies. A depressed person’s perception isn’t always reality and reality isn’t always a mountain. Also, my reality was I really needed a shower. Getting off the floor to remove my depression armour — my PJs of unimaginable uncouthness — took hours.
Standing naked in the shower and not feeling the warm water wash away the caked streaks of salty tears from my face felt like something. It felt like I needed help.
I had fallen deep into The Pit and I was immobilized in the darkness by The Sads. Alone. I’d add clumsy to my list of failings but I didn’t see the hole in the ground when I tripped. Stupid depression. Stupid me for falling. Stupid aloneness.
“Daddy plays. Mommy cries.” were the words that haunted me in my dark chasm. My little girl wanted to dance and jump and play with me. My husband wanted to see me smile. My friends wanted me back — they missed my caring, they missed my humour. Anyone who’s been in my orbit for longer than a minute knows I love to laugh. I’m generally an upbeat and positive person, always ready for a fun challenge. The uncouth floor-sitting sloth who couldn’t rise up to the height of her sofa used to be an Ironman triathlon athlete, an All Star soccer player, and a competitive swimmer who despite being a fish out of water, became a capable cyclist known for racing up mountains across British Columbia. Depression changed that. I desperately wanted to be me again. I also wanted to write.
The mental fog of depression did a wicked job of killing my writing voice. Not being able to open my laptop or compose a simple sentence was incredibly frustrating and painful. After doing time in The Pit with zero outlets, it’s no surprise I had run out of power. I needed to recharge. OK, I needed a brand new battery.
So I looked up from the bottom of The Pit, I told The Sads to suck it, and I raised my hand up. I reached high. I asked for help.
Thinking you’re alone and actually being alone are two very different things. My friends proved this to me. They rallied quickly and lifted my raised hand. My husband’s strength and unwavering belief in me got me to a place where help was possible.
That was then, today is now. I’m feeling better, almost Squawky again, but this sort of thing takes time. My anxiety is gone, the fog is lifting, and my depression is easing. Regular doctor’s visits and a tiny pill I call The Meds are helping to close The Pit and brighten The Sads. I’ve never been one for mental medication, but I’ve never denied treatment for any physical ailment that pained me. There’s no award for suffering. I’ve had enough.
If you’ve emailed, tweeted, or facebooked me looking for a reply, this is why I haven’t responded. I haven’t written a fun post in months, mostly because depression fails on the Fun’O’Meter and I’ve never been good with inauthenticity. I’ve transcribed interviews with amazing authors and I haven’t been able to review their books. I’ve written partial posts only to abandon the story due to crippling self-doubt and anxiety. I’ve tried so hard, but I’m sorry — I had to disappear to get better.
If you’re reading this post from the bottom of your own Pit and can’t remember the last time you’ve smiled, please know you’re not alone. Please do yourself a solid and raise your hand up. Reach high. Ask the people in your orbit for help. Help is available, you just need to be brave enough to ask.
I’m no expert on brain chemistry, pits, sads, or uncouthness, so I’ll list a few depression resources below. I’m also sharing several personal stories written by prominent bloggers. I’m not sure why so many bloggers have experienced depression, but I suspect the illness transcends career paths, and bloggers are just a lot more comfortable with the personal.
Now excuse me while I leave the internet for a bit to enjoy the sunshine outside. There’s a beaming two-year-old girl wishing to hold my hand and jump and play at the park. I think we’ll start our little adventure on the swings, just so we can fly high into the bright blue sky.
- Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half | Adventures in Depression, and Meet candid cartoonist Allie Brosh – an unlikely poster girl for depression.
- Rosalind Robertson, The DIY Couturier | 21 Tips to Keep Your $hit Together When You’re Depressed, printable swear-free version here.
- Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess | Strange and beautiful.
- Wil Wheaton, WIL WHEATON dot NET | Depression Lies.
- Heather B. Armstrong, Dooce | Because I couldn’t say it on the phone, and If this isn’t for you, it’s for someone you know.
- Rob Delaney, Rob Delaney | On Depression & Getting Help.