I sometimes suffer from depression. I have my whole life.
If you have ever met me, there is a good chance you would have no idea. I’ve learned over the years to hide it in plain sight. I also have learned over time that people aren’t always nice when they learn that occasionally you have a shadow over your very own soul.
I’m not talking about having the “blues” but more of when I become temporarily emotionally paralyzed and undeniably don’t want to leave my house and everything is pitch black. And it is. I don’t know how to describe it but I’ll try. It physically feels, for me at least, like having the flu. My family has helped me through the times when it got out of control but I tend to cut them off when it becomes crippling. I have it much easier than other people, believe me, but when it hits it dominates my every thought and action.
What you feel is alone, very alone.
Eventually the sun comes back out and I’m free and clear for awhile. Sometimes it won’t come back for a couple of years, other times just a matter of months. Yes, I have taken medication when it was necessary which isn’t always.
And campers, I’m telling you. I could be sitting right in front of you and the only thing you would see is me being a bit quiet or occasionally shaky hands, which tends to happen for reasons I cannot explain but I’m aware that it does occur when I’m down. I’ve been asked more than once if I’ve ever gone to a doctor about Parkinsons. Nope, it’s just one of my symptoms.
Twice in the last month I’ve had two people say to me that I was one of the happiest people they’ve ever met. I smiled but what I wanted to say was “That’s what I want you to see.” I didn’t, but that’s what people who have periodic depression have learned how to do. No one, and I mean NO ONE wants to know the truth. Believe me, I’ve learned this. I’m nearly 50 years old and I’ve hidden this for so long that it’s just part of me.
Over the weekend, as the tragedy in Newtown dominated the news and social media platforms I saw and read people not validating other’s reactions. I truly believe that everyone is different and we all wear different shoes. I find it extremely sad when people are belittled for the sake of being belittled. Some people were angry, which is completely understandable. Other people expressed grief. Other folks hid behind humor and the list goes on. I had to walk away from the computer because it was just too much. Yet it got me thinking about everyone’s different truths.
Several years ago, I wrote about being a formerly battered woman and I heard from some folks that my story helped them. That’s was hard to write and it is still very difficult for me to revisit and read.
And yes, I’m telling the truth today and my voice is shaking and I keep wondering if I should or shouldn’t hit publish. I think that I should though even though it scares me.
I am very aware that in the coming months that the word “mental health” is going to be dissected and bastardized. There are different kinds of mental illness and I hope that is taken into consideration. I hope there is a real conversation about the varying degrees of mental illness and that the stigma of having depression, bipolar and unipolar disorder, schizophrenia and speak truth to power about developmental disorders as well. There are dozens and dozens of diagnosis and each stand on their own.
Every one of these things is different in each person and I just hope that broad strokes are not used about something that is very painful and very real, not only to the person that suffers but to their families.
I hope that the voices aren’t dismissed and instead are heard. I hope that we as a nation can be humane and comforting. I hope that we can … I do because hiding in the shadows from the fog is hard enough without the noise of judgement.