I started getting depressed when I was 8 years old and the shadow of this illness has held me in its firm embrace for as long as I can remember and it all started with death. When I was a little girl, my mother tried her hardest to keep me hidden from the terrors of the world. She wrapped us in a cocoon of magic and tried to keep us little and unaware, but sometimes you can't fight all the monsters for your children and before you know it, they are faced with a battle they just don't understand. That battle came in the form of a broken heart. All my life, all I wanted was a daddy. My friends had daddies and while I didn't totally comprehend what that was, I held on to this magical, mystical character, that I would dream of him at night. I remember a book once describing this Father as a strong man, with large hands, who smelled of the earth and whiskey. With a soft rumbling voice, and a kind disposition. He was always tired, because he worked so hard to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. This fantasy man, was amazing and he always told the best stories and when I was four years old I got a magical man of my own. He wasn't really my own though, he didn't belong to me, I had a dad, who showed up when he wanted too and never stayed long enough to take away the longing only a daddy could, but this new man, this hero, who made my mommy laugh and her skin glow, was what that story once told me, so I believed. He would be my daddy too. And he was, he smelled of the earth and pipe tobacco. He wore a cowboy hat and large sunglasses. He was always warm like the sun and tired from working all day. His voice was gentle and soft and he told the greatest stories. And then one day, he went to work and never came home. The fairy tale had ended and there was no more Happily Ever After and the next year I grew up and I melted into the shadow of the darkest depression I had ever experienced, because it refused to let me go. It claimed me for itself, depression is selfish that way. Every time I would start feeling better, every time I would smile or laugh, depression would take hold of me and smother my joy. I was told I had to talk about it, yet every time I did I would cry and the pain in my chest would swell and I couldn't breath. I was lost to the darkness and I was drowning and other then just being sad and lost, I couldn't tell anyone why I felt the way I did.
As the years went by, depression clung to my back like a spirit, it would wrap itself around me, reminding me that it was always with me, no matter what I did, I couldn't shake it. It only got worse as I matured and while I would have amazing high days filled with sunshine, there were more moments of darkness that the sun could just not heal. I started small, trying to make myself feel better by self-destructing in a more "positive" way. I wanted to be loved, because in my mind, love healed all wounds. As a teenager I would get what I needed, it was a passing thing, and the depression would take over and swallow me up. I need to feel something anything, and that is when the self harm came in. I felt pain taken away from the draining depression was a win in my corner, but reality was, it didn't help, all it did was make visible scars on the outside that matched the ones that I could keep hidden. I wanted everyone to stop asking me what was wrong, to stop questioning my inner secrets and my outer scars. Just Go Away! I would scream and no one would listen, and all they did was demand, tell me to reach out and then pull away from my grasping hands, my swollen face, my tears. They judged me, for the person depression had created and I couldn't be anyone else. So I let it swallow me up and pull me down into the abyss of its quiet, heavy darkness. I was convinced I belonged there- and perhaps I did, because it would really never go away.
Then I grew up; not fully grown because I was making mistakes still, I was making decisions that I hoped would send lances of light through the dreaded darkness. All it did was mask it for a while. I felt the depression clawing at me for ownership and I fought it until I couldn't fight no more. There was no reason to fight, I was nothing, I was nobody, I was disgusting and fat and unattractive and unworthy of the life I had been given. That time it wasn't depression saying those things, but the person I had been searching for, hoping he would save me. And just like depression he made me dependent. He took over my mind, my body, my heart. He held on tight, then let me drown, bring me back only to drop me again. At this point all I wanted to do was stay afloat, so I dreamed up this picture in my mind that told me this was all okay, this was love, wasn't it? I had children and I had to survive for them, didn't I? I questioned myself daily and when he walked out the door, claiming he couldn't take me anymore, I fell, I fell so hard that it took me months to swim back to the surface and gasp for breath. I was like a robot moving through time and if I didn't have two little ones depending on me, I probably would have taken myself out of this world back then. As it was I almost did a time or two. Wouldn't they both be better with a more stable human being in their corner, someone who could pull themselves out of the trenches rather then leave them behind? It took more strength and willpower then I thought I had in me, to do just that, to look into those beautiful faces and fight with my last breath!
When I look back I think about how close I came- I was ready, willing and able to end it all. I wanted that release, I couldn't take it. Not because I am unselfish, not because I am brave, not because I love my children more with more strength then the depression. Oh no, because at that moment I was scared, I was a coward, I wasn't strong enough. I was selfish, because that small little part of me didn't want to die as bad as the depression was trying to convince me that I did. That faint little voice was telling me that "he" was not worth my tears, my blood, my pain. That I had to fight, and because I was afraid, I was able to fight.
I am glad every day that I did, because sometimes you won't see what is laying on the path before you, until you struggle and fight your way through the mud and the muck to keep on moving. Not everyone can do that, and I sink deep inside black holes everyday. Regardless of the fact that I have four children to live for, besides this amazing man who fits the magical, mythical creature of my childhood dream world. Oh, yes, I feel it claiming me and I cannot always fight it. Sometimes it takes hold and I can't explain what I am feeling, because there is a void where emotion should be, there is a darkness where thoughts should reside. It makes me question my decisions, my feelings. I feel it constantly, still sitting on my shoulders, weighing me down and now and again, the depression wins. On top of it all, I have other chronic problems, that join together with the depression and make a crippling battle over my entire body. I get mean, I get hurtful and hateful and no amount of love or support can bring me back from the edge.
Depression is serious. It is not something to bash, it is not something made up or to be push aside as something that a simple anti-depressant can fix. Oh, and it is never truly cured.
As for suicide; I am the last person anyone should joke to about suicide. I am also the last person who will allow you to call a person a coward who uses it as a means to an end. Sometimes, it is the only escape there is. It is sad, it hurts the other people in their lives, but sometimes, there is no more living. There is no justice in the world for people who never got a chance to live, because their mental illness claimed their entire life. It is not just depression that causes someone to take, what so many are calling the easy way out, because I had a step-brother who never had it easy. And just like depression he had a disease that claimed him, body, mind and soul, and what was left of him after schizophrenia had its way, was not the man he had hoped to be when he grew up. So never, let me hear you say that suicide is the cowards way out, because there is nothing cowardly about making that decision, it isn't easy.
So the next time, you hear someone ask someone else, "What do you have to be depressed about?" remember that depression doesn't have a what or a why, it doesn't decide only the poor can be affected or the abused. There is no age range or gender type, there is no race to depression. It claims who it claims and it never lets go. Never. I have been battling this disease for far too long and while I have found ways to tear myself away, to give myself some peace from its grasping, cloying, overpowering will, I can fall right back into the black hole it sucks me into and not be able to get myself out. I always have one hand reaching out, while the other one is shackled inside.
That is how depression works. That is how it lives and breaths and takes over. Do not question it, do not put it down.
** I don't think that it is easy for a person to talk to someone else about what is going on inside them. Most of the time people are barely mentally aware of what is causing their pain, they just know they are lost to it. So if someone opens up to you, be brave enough to listen without judgement. Be brave enough to pass a tissue, to hold their hand and be a warm embrace in a very dark and cold world. Do not cringe, do not offer advice, do not ever tell someone to get over it when they are lost to it, because they honestly can't, just be there. If you really mean it, just be there. **