This post has been a long time coming...and it's one that I've honestly been a bit nervous about. There isn't a person, relationship or marriage that ever wants this word to come up...let alone live through. But in reality, this is something that most of us have either lived or known someone who has lived it. Are you ready to tackle this? Take a deep breath because I'm about to put the REAL in The REAL Housewife of Snohomish County. **breathe**
As I said a few sentences ago...I've been nervous to type this post because it's another one where I reveal things about me that are personal. And in doing so, I am becoming vulnerable to my readers...but that is honestly something that helps me in the long run. So what is this dreaded word? Depression. Bet you were thinking divorce, huh?
Depression is something that is almost "taboo" in our culture. Mental illness in general is something that we don't like to admit to having in our families or struggling with ourselves. Why is this? Why is it that we look down on those with any of these illnesses? I think it's the fear of the unknown that is the root of this problem. We don't truly understand what is happening...if it's something we can control or if its out of our hands. We live in a world where we want things defined and in black and white...but mental illness is such a gray area.
Depression is one thing that I've tussled with for most of my adult life. Looking back on my childhood I like to remember the good things, but it's hard to forget the things that weren't so good. Being a middle child isn't a fun thing, and I know all the oldest and youngest children are screaming at me right now to get over it! LOL. But hear me out. As a middle child, there is a tendency to be lost in the mix. I have an older sister and a younger brother. I wasn't the only girl, nor was I the athletic person either of my siblings were. I know that my father loved me, but we didn't have much in common so it was easier for him to gravitate to the things my brother and sister were involved in. In his defense...he tried, but I was a moody child which made me hard to be around. I'm still moody LOL and most days I don't want to be around myself! LOL
Because of this I learned how to be a very independent person at a young age. This forced me to withdraw from a lot of things and forced me to depend on myself. I feel like this is what started my "I can't really depend on others, so I need to do things for myself so I'm not let down" phase. (which I'm still in today.) This is also the time where I started my self deprecating humor. I wasn't a popular kid in my school, I was the one who was always made fun of, called a "fag" and countless other things. For the most part I tried to fly under the radar and couldn't wait until I moved from my home town. My humor shifted at this point because I found that if I beat others to the punch line that I KNEW was coming...it didn't hurt as much. Here I am 33 years old and I'm still trying to beat people to a punch line that only I see.
When I moved to Moorhead, MN for college everything in my life seemed to come to a head. The biggest thing was my sexuality. I always knew that I was gay, but at this point I hadn't told anyone. I started dating when I moved to Minnesota, and its not easy to live two lives. This threw me into what I now know was a deep depression.
It was the 2nd half of my first year in Minnesota and I moved into a "single" room in my dorms. Looking back, this was a big mistake. During this time I found myself going through the motions of school and life in general. I didn't sleep for days on end, I didn't eat for days on end. If I knew that I needed sleep I would crawl into my bed with all my clothes on and turn on the TV to "trick" myself into falling asleep. The "quiet" is what got to me the most. When it got quiet I would start thinking, and I would get sick to my stomach.
It was during this time that my pickup stopped running, which made for a hard time getting places! LOL. But I think it was the universes way of keeping me there. I know that if I had a working vehicle, I would have gotten in and drove off and never returned.
The thing about this depression is that no one around me knew what I was going through. In my room I was me...but when I opened that door and walked into the hallway, I had a smile on and I forced myself to go about my day. I can remember lying in my bed, staring out the window thinking about how much better it would be if I just wasn't there. I felt as if I were a burden on everyone in my life, and that no matter how hard I tried that I couldn't live up to what they wanted for me. I didn't feel like I had anywhere to turn, or anyone to turn to. I honestly didn't feel as if it was even worth going on. This was the first time in my life I thought about suicide. (Weren't ready for that...were you?) Well...it's the truth.
Looking back I wish that I would have found professional help to get me through this. But, being a typical 20 something year old, I just went about my business. During this time I had a friend come into my life, Matt. Matt is someone who can walk into a room and the room just lights up. His mere presence can lower the tension in a room and everyone just relaxes. It was him who helped me through this period in my life, and he didn't even know it. I truly don't know what would have happened if I hadn't met Matt. It truly is amazing how people come into your life at just the right time. And even though we don't talk much now, we have remained friends over the years, our friendship is one that will never die.
After two years in Minnesota, I realized that in order to fully help myself I needed to make a change. It was during that time that I decided to make my way east, all the way to Boston. And I decided that when I moved there, everyone who met me...would know the REAL me. It was a hard transition, but one that was needed. I learned so much about myself during those four years in Boston, and I wouldn't trade one minute, heartache or situation for anything.
Fast forward a few years...and I'm here in Seattle. Seattle is a funny place, and by funny I mean hard to navigate...people wise. The people here are very friendly on the outside, but they are just being socially appropriate. This was hard for me to adjust to, and being new here and trying to make friends...it honestly sucked. I felt the same choking feeling that I felt when I was in school in Minnesota. I kept busy, trying to stave off the inevitable. But as well all know...no matter how hard you try, you can't stave things off forever.
After Michael and I met, my life became what some would say "Picture Perfect!" But we all know that behind every smiling face is hurt and pain. It might be buried deep...but it's there. I think the thing I struggled with the most was that here I have this amazing husband who loves me, I now live in this wonderful home with an amazing kitchen, I have two dogs and *three* chickens ;-), so why in the hell am I feeling this way?! And being in this place, physically and mentally, you can't talk to people about it because they are always quick to remind you of how good you have it. And while that may all be true, there is still something missing...or not right.
Michael tried to do whatever he could to help me during this time, but even he didn't really understand what I was going through. I've never shied away from telling people that I go to therapy...and honestly it's one of the best things I can do for myself! I remember telling my therapist that most days the only reason I get out of bed is because I have to take care of the dogs and the chickens. Why?! Why am I feeling like this? What is holding me down? Going through all of the things in my life I couldn't pin point what it was. So now it was time to go see my doctor.
Bless her, she is an amazing primary care doctor...she tried many things to help me out. The human body is an amazing thing, it truly is. And when things are off inside...everything goes haywire. So she tried giving me meds to help my thyroid, upping my Vitamin D (Lord knows that everyone in Seattle needs more Vitamin D), and other things. But after months of no change I finally said that this isn't working and I need to get this under control. It was at this point that she gave me the meds that would get things under control. I affectionately refer to these as "happy pills." I don't tell people about them, because everyone gets the same look on their face that says, "Oh...you take 'meds.'" And that isn't something that you really want to pile on top of everything else that is already weighing you down.
For the first time in years I finally felt things in my life level off. I didn't feel exhausted, I didn't feel like I wanted to stay in bed all day, or that I was just going through the motions of life. I felt like "me" again. So why if I feel this good am I afraid to tell people what is helping me? It's that stigma that is attached to any mental illness. The fear of that unknown. Knowing that you don't have control. If I had a nickel for every time someone said, "You have this, that, this and that...you need to just be happy!" I would be a millionaire! But it's not as simple as getting up in the morning and saying, I'm going to be happy!
I slowly started to tell close friends and I was amazed at the friends who told me that they take them as well. Depression isn't something that affects only a few people...but it is something that only a few people talk about.
I think about the women who slip into postpartum depression after they have a child. This isn't something they can control, yet some will look down on them. I think about the people who have lost friends or loved ones and are trying their hardest to just make it through the minute let alone the day, and people want them to just hurry up and move on. I think about the young and older people who are gay and haven't come out yet. The fact that they are hiding who they are because they fear people will hate or ostracize them. Depression isn't something that we should be ashamed of, it's something that we can get help for.
I have this weird feeling in my stomach right now as I'm typing this...and I'm still not 100% sure that I want to post this. Why? Am I afraid of being judged? Yes. I have family and friends who read my blog, and many don't know about this side of me. So I do have that nagging voice in the back of my mind that is asking what they are going to think or how they will act around me the next time they see me. But I think that it's important for people who have suffered or are suffering from depression to be vocal about it because it shouldn't be something that is so taboo.
So what can the people around me do? Don't judge, look at the people around you and really look at them. Some people just need to be heard, and are screaming to be understood. When you talk to people, listen to them...really listen to them. Don't tell people that they have such a good life and shouldn't feel that way. Be there for them. Love them. Just like any other illness, depression isn't something that you can get through on your own.
We are in the thick of the holiday season, and a few weeks ago I volunteered at the "Grief and the Holidays" workshop. During this time of year grief has a way of overtaking a person, and stopping them in their tracks. Grief has a way of throwing people into a depression, and when people are depressed, they may not be truly telling people what's going on. That's why I say to really listen, and really be there for people. Look for signs, and let people know you truly care.
Okay...now that my stomach is in a complete knot I think it's time to end this post. How did this post make you feel? Do you look at me differently? Did you read this and think about yourself or others in your life? Let me know.
Until next time...Keep Cooking!