She’s the girl that has a huge smile on her face. She’s the one that laughs loudly – sometimes too loudly – at your jokes. She’s the person you go to when you have a bad day because, hey, she’s always in a great mood. She must have all the answers, right?
What you don’t realize is that, you don’t truly know this girl. If you did, you’d see that her smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes. Her laugh is forced. She radiates optimism because she desperately wants others to have it, even if she doesn’t.
What you don’t realize is that she’s dying inside.
It sounds dramatic, maybe even too much so. But depression is a tricky thing, you see. Some people don’t even realize how depressed they are until it’s too late. I was almost one of those people.
A little over two years ago, I had a perfectly healthy, happy, bouncing baby boy. I had an amazing husband that worked his butt off to support our family. Everything in my life was perfect, except for me.
Postpartum depression hit me like a ton of bricks. The problem was that, I didn’t know what it was at the time. I was told I was experiencing “baby blues,” and that my issues were completely normal. I walked out of the doctor’s office baffled. It was normal to cry at the drop of a hat? It was normal to think that my baby hated me? It was normal to think that he and my husband would be better off without me?
So, I continued on with the daily routine. I kept a smile on my face, and when asked if I was okay, I’d respond with an automatic, “Just fine.” Let me tell you, keeping up an appearance when you’re slowly deteriorating inside is exhausting. I saved my tears for the shower. For when my husband went to work and the baby slept. I never let anyone see me cry, because I didn’t want to be more of a burden.
I lost weight. I’ve always been on the thin side, but at my lowest, I was under 100 pounds. It wasn’t that I was intentionally starving myself – I just had no desire to eat at all. I withdrew from my husband, and had little-to-no bonding with my son. There were times when things were looking up, of course. Those moments, while few and far between, were what kept me going. Looking back, those were the moments that kept me alive.
I was good at existing. Living? Not really.
I did this for two years, y’all. A few months ago, I was going through a “bright” phase. And then, one night, it was like a flip switched, and my world came crashing down. I curled up in bed and cried for hours after my son went to sleep. My heart ached – literally ached. My brain was swirling with thoughts I hadn’t had in a while, thoughts of how much better off my husband and son would be without me. Thoughts that told me to “just do it. Just put an end to the misery.” People often view suicide victims (yes, victims) as “selfish.” But what those people don’t realize is that the victim usually isn’t even thinking of his/herself in that moment. So, what did I do?
I went into the other room, where my husband was watching tv and oblivious to the torture taking place inside my head. He looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “Are you okay?” And for the first time, I said, “No. I’m not okay.”
And that’s where my recovery began. Because in order to claw your way out from that dark hole, you need to admit that no, you’re not okay, and that you need help. And Lord knows, I needed help more than ever.
I saw my doctor the next day. I started an anti-depressant the day after that. I began therapy the next week. And every day, I thank God that I was able to admit that I needed help. Because I wouldn’t be here, writing this, if I hadn’t. My son would be without a mother. My husband wouldn’t have a wife. My parents would have lost their daughter.
I’ve gained ten pounds in the past month. I’m exercising daily. I’m HAPPY, you guys. For the first time in years, I’m able to say, with confidence, that I’m okay.
I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now. I know there are others who have suffered far worse than I have. But I want to drive one final point home.
I’ve seen people say that depression is “all in a person’s head” and that person needs to “get over it.” I say that’s the biggest crock of BS I’ve ever heard. And I kind of want to punch people for saying crap like that. You can’t possibly know just how badly depression can grip a person’s very soul. I lost myself for a long time, guys. I didn’t do that to myself on purpose. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
If you know someone who’s depressed, love them. Hug them. Tell them how much they’re loved and cherished. They may not believe you at the time, but those words? They’ll linger in that person’s thoughts forever.
There is no magic cure for mental illness. This is, and likely always will be, a daily challenge for me. But for now, I’m better. That’s a start, right?