Recently I was talking to a friend who is suffering from severe depression related to an illness, and encouraging her to go to a doctor, mentioning that meds and talking have really helped me in the past. Her response was, "You were depressed? What do you have to be depressed about?"
I was surprised for a minute, that I must seem a lot more put together than I feel. I could have said things like, "well, my mom was given 6 months to live last year and I got an injury that ended my running and working out, which crushed my spirit and caused me to gain a lot of weight. And having kids, even when you love every breath they take, is not only exhausting and gives you tons of stress and worry that wasn't there before, but also causes massive changes in your hormones. We've had traumatic injuries, surgeries, illnesses, and there's always something going on at school. When I stayed home with my kids, I was lonely, the “job” never ended, and I felt over-touched and over-needed. I longed for adult interaction without kids, and I missed my career. Now that I work at a job I love, I feel guilty that my kids go to camp during summers and spring break, that they don’t get home until 5:30 every day, that I’m often exhausted and overwhelmed and can’t give them as much of myself. And that marriage isn't always easy, and money isn't always falling from trees, and that your family doesn’t always appreciate you, and that house cleaning never ends."
I could have said those things, but none of them matter, and none of them are the point. The point is that I've been depressed during some of the best times in my life, and not depressed during the hardest. And while hard times often trigger depression, hard times and being sad or stressed or overworked or underappreciated are not depression.
Oftentimes we hear about how someone has died by suicide, and we feel sad that they weren’t able to overcome their illness. Other times, we are shocked, because we never knew they were suffering. This was the case for a lot of people after the death of Kate Spade, the fashion icon who left behind a husband and a 13-year-old daughter. We think “how could this have happened? Didn’t someone notice? How could she leave behind her little girl?”
Depression steals your ability to take care of your children, to work on your marriage, to "pull yourself out of it." Depression is an illness, like cancer, like having the flu, that can't be washed away by taking a vacation, or being told, "look at all the good in your life." Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.
After having Allie I went to a movie with my husband, and we walked into the theater and all of the seats were taken, and I burst out crying hysterically and couldn't stop. And the whole time I was thinking "Why am I crying? This is no big deal, what's wrong with me?" But knowing those things didn't change the way I felt.
Being a mom is hard. Having friends who will listen helps. The Moms Group has given me women to trust, women to talk to, and women who “get it.” But sometimes even that isn’t enough. My friend is going to lose her son, her life, to foster care. Not because she doesn’t love him, but because depression has stolen her ability to fight for him.
If you feel like you can't pull yourself out of a funk, or like the weight of things is too heavy, talk to someone and get help. Turning things around may be a lot easier if you find a friend or a counselor you can confide in. Because you are not alone, you are all of us.
- Crystal Rothhaar
A Note from a Mom