On the outside I look like any other mom. I look like I am happy. I look like I am enjoying life. I smile. I laugh. I get out of bed. I take care of my children. I take care of my home. I take of myself. I have a business. I go on vacations. I am participating in life. But on the inside I am empty. I am drowning. I am dying. I can’t breathe. I can’t sleep. I can’t move. I suffer from depression. I suffer from anxiety. I am like many other women out there who suffer from this disease.
I think I have always suffered from depression and anxiety. But it wasn’t until my husband’s death that it all came to the surface. It wasn’t until then that it took over my life. I can clearly remember when I knew I was no longer able to control the disease. It was a few weeks following Ryan’s death, my entire body ached. Every time I moved, the pain was so intense. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I actually lost 12lbs in 10 days. I remember functioning but yet not really being all there. But I thought it would pass. The intense pain both physically and mentally would go away. I just needed time.
Summer came. We had made plans to go camping with my best friend and her family. They made me promise not to back out. So I packed us all up and we hopped into their RV and drove over 2 hours. I remember making small talk. I remember laughing. I remember forcing myself to smile and try to have fun. Then while we were camping I remember this feeling coming over me. It was a feeling I had felt before many times. But for some reason since Ryan’s death it intensified. My heart was racing. I couldn’t breathe. I remember standing there watching my kids play and thinking what is happening and why can’t I control it and make it stop. I was having an anxiety attack. My best friend made me promise to call the doctor as soon as I got home.
I had my yearly with my OBGYN and I decided to just talk to him. He sat there and cried with me. I sobbed as I told him how I physically hurt. I sobbed when I told him I just wanted to fall asleep and not have to wake up for a few days. He grabbed my hands and looked me in the eyes and said you are suffering from depression. Me? No…not me. He said it again and this time I just lost it. I couldn’t stop sobbing. I remember saying I have no time to be weak. I have to be strong for my kids. He asked me if I ever thought about ending my life. I assured him I didn’t and that I never would harm myself. I would never do that to my children. But I told him I just don’t want to function anymore. I just want to sleep. I just want to close my eyes and not think for a while. That was the truth. If I could just temporarily “check out” for a while it would be OK. I didn’t want to permanently check out. But by saying those words I knew and he knew I needed help.
Together with my OBGYN and later with a therapist the decision was made that I needed to be on medication. It took some time to get the right medication that would work for me. I remember over the course of 8 months playing around with medication. At first, it seemed to work. But then as life continued, we had a lot of adjusting to do. I remember taking a medication that worked but it caused me to gain 25lbs within 3 months! That certainly didn’t help me feel good about myself or my life. But thankfully I was able to find the correct medication and dosage that has worked thus far. Once the old medication was out of my system, the weight melted away. For me medication and therapy has helped me tremendously. Do I feel I have my depression under control? Not completely. But I know, for me, this is what I need to do.
It is hard for some people to understand just how much depression affects your every day life. I don’t hide this from anyone. But I don’t go around telling people either. I feel very fortunate that when I go into what I refer to “my funk”, I don’t ever get to the point where I want to end my life permanently. But when I am in “my funk” it is extremely hard to function. I not only hurt mentally but physically. I just want to check out for a little or go into a sleep where I am not having to deal with anything and then slowly come out of it. It consumes every ounce of you.
Some people think this is a sign of weakness or an excuse. I have been told I just need to suck it up and deal with it because being sad is not going to change anything. This isn’t something I want to feel. I want to be able to handle the bad times like everyone else does. I want to be happy~truly happy. But I can’t. I do the best I can. I know I put on a brave front for more than just my children. I know I shouldn’t have to and have actually begun not to. I am open with my children. They see me take my medication. They know I take it to help me so I am not sad all the time. They know what they can handle. If I hide it, I am letting them think it is something to be ashamed of and it isn’t at all.
Suffering from any type of mental illness is not something to be ashamed of or ignore. It is important to find the help you need and to start the long and sometimes painful process of trying to find ways to help you learn to live with it. Not everyone will understand it and that is OK. What works for one person may not work for you. There is no quick fix. It isn’t a once and done thing either. Accepting this and focusing on what YOU need is so important.
I have begun to let people in my life know when I am struggling. I no longer hide it. And the people who are the closest to me sometimes know before I do that I am heading into “my funk”. I just took a major step in this area. The holidays are my favorite time of the year. But they are so hard anymore. I really had a hard time this past holiday season. I just wanted to escape. But I felt I needed to be strong and deal with it for others. Well this holiday seasoning I am doing something I have said I wanted to do since losing Ryan. I am escaping. We are going away over Thanksgiving. We will not miss any of the holiday season. But it will be a little escape before it all begins. I need this. We need this. So we are doing it. I know there will be people who think escaping isn’t the answer and that is OK. But I know there are people who understand the need to escape from reality even if it is just for a little bit.