I have depression. I have had it for nearly 25 years. Depression is not just a feeling of worthlessness or hopelessness. It’s about completely losing your identity to an illness that wants to destroy every last piece of you. It overtakes you. It is enveloping, engulfing, smothering, suffocating, and destructive. I can physically feel a thick gloomy feeling that washes over me from head to toe. Almost as if something invisible attaches itself to me. It eats away every positive thought, every happy feeling. Then it wraps itself around my lungs and begins to squeeze. I begin to feel stressed, anxious, and claustrophobic. I feel as though someone is holding a heavy wet blanket over my face so that I can’t breathe. And sometimes I don’t even want to breathe.
I was 11 years old when the depression started. I felt an inexplicable sadness, a hollowness, and a longing for something that I couldn’t put my finger on. I didn’t know what it was and I never talked to anyone about it. In high school the internal stuff got heavier. I was either paralyzed by an overwhelming sadness or entirely ramped up with uncontrollable vigor. I was constantly fighting some great internal battle. In my inner world I felt too emotional to handle: unpredictable, wild, untamable, and out of control. When I looked in the mirror it’s almost as if I could visibly see my reflection split. I felt like there was another person living in my body, as if I had some sort of dark side that was trying to surface. I felt like if I opened my mouth wide enough and screamed loud enough that I’d cough her right up and she’d be standing right next to me physical and tangible and dark and twisted. I felt like no one could possibly understand me. I started having panic attacks. Part of me thought that I was just making it up to get attention, so I never told anyone. I suppose I should’ve asked for help way back then. Now I regret that I didn’t.
I was 15 the first time I felt a strong urge to end my life. I had been privately ridiculed by a “well-meaning” classmate in a very public place. Later that day I was peering over a railing and staring down into a deep manmade pond. I couldn’t quite see my reflection in the water. I could see everything surrounding me, but not myself. It seemed almost metaphorical. I was often the center of attention in a group due to my love affair with making people laugh, yet no one could see my internal struggle and my pain and my sadness. Even when all eyes were on me I felt completely invisible. Now I was staring into a pond that was reflecting all of the things around me…but not me. I was removed from the world. I thought about what my classmate had said about me not even an hour earlier. In that moment I had felt so small and disgusting and humiliated and ashamed. Combined with the persistent feelings of loneliness, sadness, unhappiness, and discontentment that I’d been experiencing for years it was overwhelming and unbearable. I began to push up on my toes to get a better look at the pond and I thought, “What if I keep pushing? What if I push myself right over the edge? What if I put my physical body where it’s missing in that reflection? What if…I drown myself?” Something in my peripheral caught my eye. It was a dear friend who had come to stand silently next to me. I wasn’t invisible anymore. At least not in that moment. I guess I won’t drown myself today.
After graduating high school I consumed myself with work in an attempt to avoid connecting with my depressive feelings. It kind of worked for awhile. Working nearly 50 hours a week, I was constantly tired and lacking energy. I could barely notice the sadness amidst the exhaustion. Two years post-graduation an unexpected life change sent me into an emotional breakdown. I was pacing between the bedroom and bathroom while screaming and crying so much that I couldn’t breathe. During one of those trips through the bathroom a little voice said, “See what’s in the medicine cabinet and take it all. Whatever’s in there swallow it all.” I went to the medicine cabinet and I saw my reflection in the mirror. I saw my face covered in tears. I didn’t look like myself. My face was swollen and distorted in anguish, my eyes were red and puffy and devoid of light. I thought about opening up that cabinet. I thought about swallowing it all. I thought about how unhappy and discontent I was even though I was so blessed. I felt exhausted by the very thought of having to live another day. I felt incredible guilt and shame over my sadness. Suddenly I started screaming, “NO! NONONONONONONONONO! I WON’T I WON’T!” And I sat down in a ball and I wailed. The most horrible sound I’ve ever heard in my life came ripping out of me, stinging my throat. It was terrifying. And still I told no one.
After getting married my depression was focused 100% on my struggle with unexplained infertility. I was certain once I had a baby I would be happy…even joyful. When I finally did get pregnant 5 years later it looked as though I might be right. I was the happiest I had ever been. I smiled as I vomited through the first half of the pregnancy. I was thrilled with every full, round curve of my new body. I delighted in every tiny baby wiggle. I indeed, glowed. When my daughter was born two months before my 30th birthday and they placed her in my arms I felt…nothing. No joy. No elation. No bond. In fact I felt incredibly sad. And tired. And burdened. And inadequate. By the third week the post partum depression was full force and I would swing from staring blankly at the wall to screaming at the top of my lungs and throwing things. Two and half years later I would experience the same thing after giving birth to my son. Though I bonded to him instantly the post-partum depression came anyway and I found myself often having to lay him in his crib screaming while I hid at the other side of the house and cried for fear I may harm him. I never tried to get professional help.
I’m now 35 and the depression persists. It’s worse now than ever. Every single day of parenting has been a challenge and a struggle. Navigating my emotions is overwhelming. I’m often in no condition to take care of myself. I have to rely heavily on others which makes me feel guilty and ashamed. I struggle with anxiety. I struggle with anger. I struggle with fear. I struggle with regret. I struggle with guilt. I constantly feel like I’m failing my children, or worse yet, completely screwing them up. Every day suicide weighs heavily on my mind. Every day. And it’s time. It’s time to tell someone. It’s time to get help.
Jenn Rian is a bored and sarcastic stay-at-home-mom of two who blogs and vlogs because the voices in her head tell her to. She blogs about as often as she showers, which isn’t very often. You can find her blogging at JennRian.com where she’s mildly amusing and Coolest Family on the Block where she pretends to be a Pinterest mom.