My heart is broken. I can feel all of the little pieces of it in the pit of my stomach. I can feel it in the effort it takes to breath. I can feel it and I want to stop feeling it now. I’ve felt it so many times, and it never gets any easier.
I have suffered with depression for as long as I can remember. I have struggled with fitting in, finding my place, and finding people who will care and stay for just as many years. I have fought to keep people in my life and caring about me, perhaps too hard.
I know depression was with me in junior high and high school when I tried to find who would accept me and include me and I never quite felt welcome. Never quite felt invited to join their lives. It let me know that I was not quite good enough. I didn’t look the part. I didn’t get the joke. Depression just rolls its eyes at you and says, “Really? You thought you could do that?”
I carried it with me to college. It sat there with me in the dorm, in class, and went everywhere with me, my constant companion. That’s when I first tried shaking it by writing (kinda what I’m still doing). That helps now and then because it lets me bleed and cry on paper until my rational brain comes back to me. The one thing I didn’t do was talk about it. If someone cared, I was sure she would have noticed. I was sure he would have asked. I kept busy and I slept.
Depression graduated from college with me, moved back home, and helped me to think about what I couldn’t do with my life because I just didn’t have the talent or the brains or the gumption. It reared its ugly head on my wedding day – the one day you would think it would have had the courtesy to stay home. It grabbed hold of me hard while I was pregnant, squeezing my heart and my lungs and telling me that I was crazy to be saddling a baby with me as a mother. I had a mother-in-law who reinforced that idea. “I wouldn’t bring a child into this crazy world today” and anger were her reactions to the news of the pregnancy. She didn’t speak to me through the last four or five months of it. (Just as a side note in fairness to her, she later changed her mind about me and especially about that baby. Those two loved each other unconditionally!)
Long story made short, depression has been my constant companion throughout my life. I’ve tried to break up with it. I’ve tried ignoring it, medicating it, counseling it out of my life. I’ve tried, but it is the one thing that has stayed true blue – accompanying me everywhere and never truly leaving me alone. Sometimes it takes a vacation, but it always comes back.
Just in the last year I was confident that I had finally found the way to keep it at arm’s length. I had a counselor who had worked with me. He had given me tools to reframe things. And I really thought those tools would allow me to think clearly, reason, and help me to move through it (along with the meds I’ve taken forever). I was wrong.
I try to appear to be a strong person who knows her own mind and confidently makes decisions and handles her day-to-day life. Ha! There were people who said I didn’t have the chops to make it as an actress. But I’m doing it. I’m reminded of a part of Harry Chapin’s song “Taxi”
You see, she was gonna be an actress
And I was gonna learn to fly
She took off to find the footlight
I took off for the sky
And here, she’s acting happy
Inside her handsome home
And me, I’m flying in my taxi
Taking tips, and getting stoned
One of the hardest parts about depression it that it constantly tells you that you are not worthy of love, respect, achievement, or anything else that would be positive in your life. It puts a filter on everything you see and it erodes whatever self-confidence you had. In my case, when you combine that with being raised to worry about what others think, it is devastating. I feel rejection easily and very very deeply. I feel it when I’m not included when friends make plans. I feel it when I try to plan something or do
something special for someone only to be brushed aside because something better came along, when they were too busy to put me on the calendar so they didn’t remember, when they don’t respond to an invitation, or when they back out at the last minute. I feel it when I’m asked not be there for something or at some time, regardless of the reasons given. I feel it when someone isn’t talking and seems to have shut me out. My brain knows that there could be good reasons for some of these things. My counselor talked me through looking at alternative reasons for things – ones that don’t involve me being rejected. But depression rules and says, “na-na, na-na, na-na – you’re just not good enough.”
One of the pure joys in my life has been when a child’s eyes light up at seeing me and they run open-armed to me. Chapin did it for awhile. Lydan did it longer. Alyanna did it too. Lily would light up, yell “Grammy!” and come flying to me. There is nothing better than that in the world to make you feel loved and accepted and wanted. But godsons grow up and become teenagers, children get older and are too busy looking at their phones and tablets, and little girls tell you to “just stay home.” I’m feeling empty armed and broken-hearted today. I know. I know. It is probably just the normal progression of things. Every kid grows up. But does it also have to be grows away? Is it just me? Feels like it today.