I was in my late teens (1986 or 1987) and had already tried to commit suicide at least twice when I saw Patty Duke come on Oprah and talk about her Big Black Hole. She was the first adult I had ever heard speak about the things that I tried to keep secret from the world. I remember that my father was home from work that day and we had watched it together. I remember breaking down in tears right in front of him and I don’t know if he understood completely why. I was very sorry to hear about what she had been through, but it was such a gift to have someone put words to all the horribleness (yes, I’m making up that word) that had been in my heart and my thoughts for so many years. It was such a gift to know that I wasn’t alone in feeling the way I did. I was so moved by her bravery.
Years later, in my late 20’s – I finally broke. All that I had carried with me since I was 9 came flooding out and I had — a nervous breakdown. (There. I said it.)
As I repaired myself, one of the things I did was journal online about the process. I preached that depression was just like any other physical ailment and there was nothing to be ashamed of and at that time it was true for me. Eventually, I got to a certain level and moved on to different activities. I didn’t have that driving need to advocate any longer. I accepted who I was and learned to live my life.
Fast forward to after giving birth and somehow having children changed things for me. I was more cautious in my self-depreciating humor and as I got involved with playgroups and the like, I became filled with fear that they would figure me out and not want their kids playing with mine. After all, there are days when I cry – a lot, when I hate myself to the core and when I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t go to crowded places. I don’t deal well with loud noises. And did I mention the crying?
Then Facebook came into my life. The kids were a little older and I was going through a rough yet interesting time in my life. I became rebellious against my fears and was open on FB about going to therapy and I would make jokes about meds. I became silent again after certain extended family members came to me explaining that they felt I was being inappropriate and that these were things I should never talk about. Being told that sent me into another tailspin … I became wrapped up in the thought that I needed to be ashamed of who I was. It didn’t matter what I had been through that put me at that point, but the message was that I should be embarrassed about bringing such private matters out into the open.
It’s been another few years since then and I’m finally ready to say: Fuck That.
There is no shame in having depression. There is no shame in whatever illness you have to deal with that people don’t understand or can’t see like diabetes or lupus or being bipolar or having anxiety or PTSD or ADHD. As long as you’re taking charge of your illness and you are striving to do your best to improve most of the time, then there is no shame.
I’ll say it again: THERE IS NO SHAME IN HAVING DEPRESSION.
I might have depression and all the rest of the labels, but that is not all of who I am. I’m a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend. I’m a classroom mom and do a lot of volunteer work trying to make the world a better place. I am loving and curious and open and a score of other positive things. I still make a contribution to those around me and my community.
And so do you in your own way. You are needed and you are a whole person who just happens to deal with this one thing that may make you a little different, but also allows you to see the world from a unique perspective.
Own all of the little bits and pieces that make up who you are and don’t ever give someone else the power to make you feel badly about yourself. You are here for a reason, even if you haven’t figured that out yet.
xoxo ~ Melissa