Stigma Fighters: Aubrey O.

Nine months after my third son was born, I was faced with a choice: end my life to end my suffering, or admit myself to a hospital and fight like hell to get my sanity back.

I nearly made the wrong choice and left my three boys motherless.

I knew my marriage was basically over, and admitting myself to the hospital meant giving my soon-to-be-ex husband something to use against me in a potential custody battle. I knew that kind of thing would be on my permanent record somewhere, to haunt me or my children someday. What if one of them wants to be the president of the United States one day, and his election is ruined because it comes out that his mom went to the nut house? I should have known then that I wasn’t truly crazy, because a legitimately crazy person wouldn’t think about the future like that.

All I knew was that I couldn’t rock a screaming baby to sleep even one more night. I couldn’t face myself in the mirror even one more time. I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t take it anymore.

Depression does strange things to your mind. There are lies it tells, and the lies come in the sound of your own inner voice, making them difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.

I am broken beyond repair.

No one else has these problems; Why can’t I snap out of it and act right?

It will always be this way. I will never be normal. There is no way out of this.

If I just try hard enough, I can hide my illness until it goes away.

If people knew what thoughts really went through my head, they wouldn’t understand. They would call me crazy and take my kids away.

I’ll never be a joyful person. I came out of the womb following a forty-eight-hour labor, by force, protesting life from the very beginning. From early childhood I have memories of panic attacks, and by age eleven I was diagnosed with moderate depression. At age seventeen I attempted suicide. My hospital stay was not my first bout of hopelessness.

There have always been days when I’m down for no reason. Days when there seems not enough air to go around, when it feels impossible to take a deep breath. There are days when the intrusive thoughts flood my mind, and the slightest responsibility seems too heavy to bear.

There are people out there who don’t wake up feeling like they can’t possibly face the day, I know there are. People tell me, “Yeah, I get sad, but I’ve never felt like that.”

Each time I hear someone’s ignorant, judgmental statement about how “selfish” suicide is, I have to remind myself: there are people out there who have NEVER felt compelled to give up, who can’t even imagine it.

Millions of us are walking around battling depression and anxiety disorders every day. MILLIONS. According to those statistics, there should be absolutely no reason for us to be afraid of talking about it. No reason to fear admitting and treating our illness. If I had a terminal cancer, I wouldn’t be afraid to tell the world what I was dealing with. Even if I admitted the darkest, scariest parts of my cancer, I wouldn’t be blamed for bringing it on myself. I wouldn’t be called lazy or judged harshly for not working a full-time job. No one would question my love for my children or say I was just trying to live off the government’s dime.

The people who – thank God – have never faced a crowded grocery store with crippling fear, who think we are just “making excuses,” are the ones we fear when we lie and say we’re “fine”. Our keeping quiet is doing nothing but leaving us vulnerable to this kind of misinterpretation of our difficulties. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, these things don’t need to be our identity. We don’t need to tattoo our condition on our foreheads and expect special treatment for it, but I promise if we were to speak about our rough days more often, and more honestly, we would find a hell of a lot more in common with those around us. We would feel just a little less alone.

Maybe we would even find we saved a life or two.

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My name is Aubrey, but I’m known to good friends as Aubrey Anne, my family calls me Aubs, and my three kids call me Mom.

I’m a recently-single mom of three boys. I have dreams too big for my own good, I’m three times the personality I should be, frequently considered too dramatic, and at times I wonder if I’ve lost my mind completely.

A big part of my story involves battling depression, learning to live with anxiety, and figuring out how to cope with Adult A.D.D. I talk a lot about Postpartum Depression (PPD), mental illness, and the way we all can triumph over the stigma and symptoms of these issues. We no longer live in the age of secret endurance. We can speak up and live, laugh, and cry together. Blog: http://toomuchaubrey.blogspot.com/p/who-am-i.html  Twitter: @toomuchaubrey