If You Haven’t Met My Depression You Haven’t Met Me

Ever since I decided to start a blog I’ve struggled with what my message should be and who my audience is. My interests are pretty varied and I have a healthy curiosity about the world, but there are several issues that really hold my attention and feel important to me. Politics. Women’s issues. Photography. Writing. I read a great deal about these subjects and feel passionately about them. It seems, though, that a subject has chosen me: depression.

You never want depression to choose you. It’s not like in middle school gym class when the captain picks you for her volleyball team, sparing you the embarrassment of being left alone against the cinderblock wall when the teams are complete. Depression isn’t a team sport. It’s a solitary and somber marathon that you have to run alone. There are points along the route where you’re dying of thirst or you have soiled your pants or your knees are buckling and people try to come to your aid, but their assistance, while appreciated, feels puny in comparison to what you have ahead of you. You plod along, feet encased in lead, toward a finish line that is constantly being moved further ahead. It feels like that. People are telling you that you have to keep going and you tell yourself you have to keep going but all you want to do is sit on the grass and let everyone pass you by.

In writing about something as intensely personal as my own mental health I always battle myself over how much to say, how descriptive to get, and to what end. I am always cognizant that I have children and that admitting to my darkest thoughts means that I am turning the parent/child dynamic on its head. I become the one who needs to be looked after and that is a profoundly painful, humiliating situation to find myself in, especially when my role as a mother is the most important aspect of my life. On the other hand I believe that writing the truth about my depression is the only way that I can allow people to see me without the mask of silliness or sarcasm and self-deprecation that I habitually wear. If you don’t meet my depression you haven’t really met me.

Depression is my oldest friend and my worst enemy. Depression has stuck with me through all the stages of my life and after awhile I had to admit that I have a weird relationship with it. I blame it for so many of my failures, but part of me loves the continuity of it and the way it never lets me down. Depression is a shape-shifter, adjusting itself to thwart me regardless of how my circumstances change.  When I was a young wife and mother it was lethargy and impatience, anxiety, isolation and self-doubt. Now that my children are gone and I am alone and struggling to support myself, it is indecision, self-loathing, weariness, shame, and tears. So, so many tears. Without the sense of purpose that caring for children provided, my thoughts are in many ways the darkest they’ve ever been. My deceitful brain convinces me I’m useless and pathetic and people would be better off without me.  It tells me that the best parts of my life are behind me and there is really no reason to stick around. My old companion has never really told me that before, so this is new. Oh, depression. I thought I knew everything about you and there you go surprising me.

And here we come full circle because writing that sounds a lot scarier to the reader than it does to me. “Me” knows that I will indeed stick around. I’m too curious to see how things work out to ever intentionally take myself out of the picture.  So writing about it feels self-indulgent, but at the same time I feel like I owe it to everyone else who suffers from depression to do my best to describe it. Depression is not a team sport, but having a tribe definitely helps.





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20 responses to “If You Haven’t Met My Depression You Haven’t Met Me”

  1. RW Klarin says :

    well-said and brave of you to write this piece. I too have suffered depression periodically throughout my life. At times it seems situation, I can point to something that caused it, but often it is like the wind that blows in. I’ve learned that in those times of depression great insights of what is really important to me arise. So, these days I don’t resist. I say, “OK, come on in. Let’s hang out for a bit and talk.”


  2. belendakay says :

    My lifelong companion as well. I was an only child and from a very early age I can remember thinking that maybe the world would be better off if I had never been born. At the age of 12 I started carrying a razor blade with me, praying for the courage to end it all. I never used that blade, somehow I always pulled back before going that far but at age 20 I found a much less painful method. I swallowed every pill I could get my hands on, lethal, toxic doses that could have, should have done me in. Probably at what was a ticking clock to doom I drove myself to the hospital, wrecked my car on the way and was told by the doctor afterwards that if I had hesitated much longer there would have been no rescue.

    I don’t bring this subject up a lot but about 5 years ago I read about the Semi-Colon Project and I knew I had found part of “my tribe.” The attempt at 20 wasn’t my last attempt at suicide but it was the worst attempt. Two years later I had my daughter and I finally felt I truly had a reason to go on. This little baby gave me my life back. She is almost 34 now and more than a daughter to me, my best friend and closest confident. I don’t think about ending it these days but I still feel the pull of the darkness. It can and does fall at times like a suffocating shroud, out of the nether regions of my brain threatening to overtake all reason and sanity.

    For the moment it is a calm period but there are times when the smallest inconsequential incident can upset the balance of my logic. One of the reasons why I decided to put a semi-colon tattoo on my wrist where I could always see it. It is a talisman, a reminder that whatever I may be feeling in this very moment it will pass, breathe in and out, count, do whatever I need to do for me to get through this. Truly my story is not over and I will tell anyone who asks about the semi-colon why I have it and what it means to me.

    I understand now that what is happening is a chemical imbalance that I will always struggle with but what I have learned is that I matter, I am important and I am needed here until I draw my last breath.

    You are needed, you are important and you most definitely matter; you are a very integral part of the universe!


    • denn1214 says :

      I’m sorry for all you have gone through and I’m glad you are still here. What you said about it coming back again really resonates with me. I know that I am always going to be vulnerable to a recurrence and yet it always sneaks up on me even thought I thought I was being vigilant. It’s a sneaky SOB.

      Liked by 1 person

    • denn1214 says :

      I love the semicolon project. Several years ago I tattooed the word “breathe” onto my wrist for the same reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Kristen says :

    Yes. Thank you. It always sounds scarier to the hearer than the water. And yet saying it aloud takes so much of the power from it, personally.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Stephani Itibrout says :

    Do you read Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess? She deals with depression, and she writes about it in Furiously Happy. I do not have depression, but I am grateful for the way she describes it (much the same way you do) because it confirms to me that the sadness and lack of confidence I often feel are not depression. . .because I can pretty much “snap out of it.” I know those who suffer from depression can’t do that. Jenny Lawson posts to her blog followers whenever she is suffering from a bout, and she reminds all of us that “Depression lies.” I can tell that you already know this. Hugs to you.


    • rockandrollmama says :

      I was going to suggest Jenny Lawson as well. My best friend deals with major anxiety disorder just like Jenny’s and it has really helped me to be a more understanding and compassionate friend, I hope, since I can better understand what she is going through.

      Thanks for sharing your words.


  5. Susan Young says :

    Such powerful words. I’m lucky in that I’ve never experienced depression, albeit I’ve muddled thru anxiety issues ( but not nearly as difficult). It is tood to read, however, to better understand others and know that there’s not much I can do but just be there as an understanding friend.


  6. martydlaska says :

    As a counselor who also struggles with depression, I am constantly grateful for my calling. The wounded warrior child in me hears every word I say. There have been times when I am barely aware of the day going by because I am so focused on waiting for the moment when my words, my energy for the person across from me – clicks in me and I feel hope again. I am intensely grateful I have not felt the need to stop living for many years. I hold each of you in my heart. I always say ” We belong to a club no one wants to join” But here we are.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Robin Peeples says :

    Thank you for writing this. I could have written every word. Depression has been with me since I can remember.


  8. Kathleen Rosen says :

    As a lifelong sufferer with depression, also alone, also with adult childen that I want desperately not to burden, I hear you. I have been searching for a long time for peace and self-acceptance that stays.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Elizabeth says :

    Thank you so much for this. Depression has also been my lifelong companion though on more of a sub-acute level rather than “I can’t get out of bed” type. I take meds and do a lot of exercise. That seems to help so much. I also recommend The Bloggess – she is wonderful. Always feel free to reach out if you need to.


  10. rid3theriv3r says :

    Thanks. Don’t seem to know how to communicate the muck.

    Am now “retired”. My children are adults, but still much of my purpose, without the desperate intensity of being a single mom raising independent rug rats. Much of my time is alone, and it seems appropriate.

    Not as sure as you are about the “sticking around” bit. Mostly I keep in front of me the devastation of my grandfather’s suicide at age 13, and the devastation it wrought. I love my kids more than anything, and can not indulge in scenarios. I keep their faces before me. That is how I get through each day.


  11. Laua says :

    Depression needs to come out of the shadows and be talked about…it is NOT shameful it is NOT a defect of your character and true depression CAN NOT be “snapped out of “. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain. You did not cause it. The brain controls everything our bodies do… Why do we think IT can never be out of whack? We aren’t ashamed of any other illness of the body…depression isn’t shameful. I finally had a counselor suggest medication for me…I was blaming myself for not being able to deal with my life, crying when I knew my life was good, doubting and loathing myself. Thank god I took her advice!! Medication changed everything. It takes some time to find what works for your particular brain chemistry but it is worth the effort. Don’t give up on it. You don’t have to suffer everyday. It takes courage to seek help and stick with it. Give yourself the courage and shine the light in the shadows. I am so grateful I did.


  12. Helen Taylor says :

    Man, I could have written this – right down to our shared passions! But I have to say that one line made me sob like a child – “It tells me that the best parts of my life are behind me and there is really no reason to stick around.” How to STOP believing that……that’s the million dollar question. Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing xxx


  13. suisie says :

    Met depression as an adult, bad job, family responsibilities. My closest family told me to get over it. Clinically diagnosed, but chose not to take the prescribed path. Still regret it today, 30 years later.


    • denn1214 says :

      We’re conditioned to think that taking medication is taking the easy way out and that we’re somehow more virtuous if we “get over it” on our own. It’s bull. If meds help, then take meds.


  14. Carrie Wingate says :

    Yes. I struggle every day. My daughter is grown and cares for her father already; I’m supposed to be the strong one and would go to great lengths to avoid being a burden. Or even having her worry. I’ve recently retired, and the struggle has become more difficult. Not a day goes by that I don’t think several times about dying. I know I won’t ever take my own life, but the vision is there.


    • denn1214 says :

      It’s okay to not want to burden your daughter, as long as you have others that you can talk to. I hope you do. And I think it’s natural to think about dying when life is really hard. It seems like an easy way to stop all of the pain. But then the healthy part of your brain takes over and you know you would never do it. Just having the idea isn’t in itself dangerous. IMO.


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