By Carolyn Flaherty, author of Wicked Sexy Smart
Depression is in exact opposition with the person I desire to be and also with the image of myself I portray. In public, regardless of whether I am in the midst of a depressive episode, I am the smiling, helpful, sometimes dancing in the garage mother of four. My smile is genuine as is my happiness. Unfortunately, I also battle depression. I’m openly honest about this. Yet, you’ll never see it. Because I do not like the “me” I am when I’m down. So I hardly, if at all, leave the house on those days.
Depression has been a fact of my life since my teens. Worse than experiencing depression is the awareness that not only have I passed on blue eyes to my children, I have also passed down anxiety and depression. My children are beautiful, amazing individuals. I expect that they will make a wonderful contribution to this world. Perhaps they will even make a significant impact. Or maybe, they will simply be ordinary people, extraordinary in their individuality. No matter, I know that several of them will suffer from anxiety and/or depression. I know this because I’ve already seen evidence of it.
When I see my children suffering, the guilt is overwhelming; overwhelming because I can empathize. I know how incredibly awful they feel and I would not wish the emotion on the worst of my enemies.
Adding to my guilt is the fact that my parents were teenagers when I arrived into this world. They were judged and criticized. They sacrificed their young adulthood. They sacrificed so that I could exist. As such, I feel immeasurable guilt for not putting a higher priority on my life. I feel I have marginalized the sacrifices my parents made by attempting to take my life. I also know that my attempts are against God and hurtful to him as my creator.
Depression has made me feel weak. I feel like a disappointment and a burden; like a worry to those that love me. Why can’t I just, “pull myself up by the boot straps?” How can I wallow in a place of self pity? How can I allow myself to be so incredibly illogical when I was raised to be just the opposite? Here enters shame. Shame has deposited itself in my life like an unwelcome guest and it always outstays its welcome.
Moreover, there is the unquestionable fact that I am truly living a blessed life. I have two amazing parents that are not only healthy, but love each other. All my grandparents are still alive and are examples of good marriage and overall integrity. I even got to know and love some of my great grandparents! I have four children who are healthy, intelligent and able-bodied. I have a faithful husband who is supportive, loving and patient with me. I have a beautiful home, enough food on the table and opportunities to vacation and provide adventures for my family. Seriously, what do I have to be depressed about? The answer: NOTHING. This knowledge has only exacerbated my feelings of guilt and shame.
Many people suffering depression are inherently selfish. When I am depressed, I have to concentrate extremely hard at self preservation. All my energy is devoted to overcoming the negative emotions. I loathe selfishness. And here enters more illogical circular thinking. I hate myself for being weak and selfish and the hatred makes me sink even lower into a depressive state. Guilt, depression and shame, are the “mean girls” in my life.
For many years I incorrectly assumed that depression is something I can overcome if only I put my mind to it. If I exercise hard. If I don’t drink. If I eat right. If I volunteer more. If I acquiesces to medication. If I just am smarter, stronger and more creative! I’ve tried everything. Unfortunately, depression is my stalker. Ever present. A constant threat. Lurking behind each twist and obstacle in my life. Threatening to invade. Threatening my safety. Depression is like the rapist who makes you ashamed for being a victim; makes you feel that you provoked the assault. Depression makes you feel like you have something to hide.
I am only now, at forty years of age, starting to understand that very likely the plethora of alcoholics in my familial upline were self medicating their own depression. That I, like my children, probably inherited the propensity for depression. Somehow, that knowledge makes it easier to dissuade the guilt and shame. I will be in the constant pursuit of improving myself physically, mentally & spiritually until the day God takes me. Yet, I am starting to accept myself. I realize that I am flawed but still worthy and valuable. I am also strong. There is strength in my acceptance. There is strength in my perseverance. Most importantly, there is tremendous strength in my ability to share openly and honestly.
God is not ready for me. Neither you, nor I can discern when we have fulfilled our purpose. To anyone that struggles with depression or contemplates suicide; you can not see it now, but I promise you, it will get better and you will again be glad to be alive.
Another blog that has taken so much courage to write. Thank you, Carolyn. We encourage our readers to submit comments below. If you would like to leave an anonymous comment, simply leave the boxes for “name” and “email” blank and only fill in the security code and comment section.