How Depression Is Like A Drunk Friend Who Crashes Your Party, Then Refuses To Leave

Image credit: pixabay.com
Image credit: pixabay.com

Depression has been a part of my life for the better part of 25 years. I started noticing changes in my mood and behaviour around the age of 15, but I didn’t understand what was happening, so I just shrugged it off as something weird about myself that I shouldn’t tell anyone about. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that someone finally pointed out to me that the “weirdness” that I was struggling with was actually depression, and that I should probably do something about it. But of course I didn’t, because I had the kind of obnoxious self confidence that people in their 20’s often have, and I preferred to boast to anyone who would listen that I was FINE rather than admit that I was actually a crumbling, disastrous mess. That was around the time that depression decided to crash right through that delusional wall like a drunk friend showing up late to the party, make-up smeared, slurring her words, and throwing insults at anyone who dared to get too close.

This was one of the times in my life when my depression was at its worst. I had been in denial about my feelings for so long that they finally had had enough of being suppressed and ignored, and they decided to do something about it. Hence, depression sashaying and stumbling onto the scene, demanding all of my attention. But did I do the responsible thing and take care of my erratic, dysfunctional friend? No. Did I sit with her, hold her hand and tell her that we would get through it together? Also no. Instead, I shoved her in a corner, threw a blanket over her head and told her to sleep it off. She didn’t like that. Depression doesn’t like to be ignored, so rather than sobering up and heading on her way, depression decided that it was time for shit to get real. My depression turned into a huge drama queen and started spilling her sob story to anyone who would listen. She whimpered and wailed, and had a complete breakdown in front of everyone. That was the point during the party when everyone left.

It’s not easy being alone with depression. In fact, it’s scary and exhausting, and it’s not something that anyone should face on their own. I didn’t ask for any help to deal with my depression. Once I realized that she was there to stay, I decided that the best thing to do was to leave. Depression and I packed up and moved, then we moved again, and then we signed up to work on a cruise ship together for the better part of a year. My plan was to throw depression overboard or maybe leave her on an island somewhere, then head home without her. Turns out she’s incredibly stubborn, highly resilient, and annoyingly clingy. Yes, depression is a bit of an asshole.

Over the years I learned to live with my depression, and I just sort of accepted that there was nothing I could do to get rid of her. Sometimes she walked behind me, out of sight but still close enough that I could feel her breath on the back of my neck. Other times she walked in front of me, blocking my view of the world and stopping me from finding my way. Most times though, she walked beside me waiting for me to talk to her, to acknowledge that she was there. (Spoiler alert: I didn’t).

Around the time I turned 30 I experienced a trauma that left me completely unable to cope with life anymore. Depression was no longer just a pesky, bothersome joke. She had completely taken over my life. She was me, and I was her; I had completely lost myself. I went for counselling. Week after week for just over a year I sat in a small, cramped office with mildly cheerful, buttercup coloured walls. There was one small, narrow window off to the side that offered absolutely no view whatsoever. But I wasn’t there for the view, was I? I was there to get the help I needed; to talk through all the issues and problems that had ultimately landed me in that office in the first place. But more importantly, I was there to finally give my depression a voice, and to give her the chance to be heard. She had been waiting all those years for someone to listen and to help her make sense of the world.

So that’s what we did. It wasn’t easy, and there were many times when I tried to give up, but in the end I stuck with it and I learned how to sit with my feelings and to recognize that they were there for a reason. I learned that when depression shows up, she usually has something important to say, and she really just wants someone to put their arm around her and let her know that she’s not alone. She wants to be recognized and validated, but more importantly she wants to be understood. Because depression is more than just a difficult nuisance. Depression is a valuable tool that lets us know that something is wrong, and that we need to pay attention and address it.

Today, depression still shows up from time to time, but it is a lot less often. Sometimes she just stands outside the window and stares at me; I know she’s there, it’s kind of creepy, but I can still carry on with my life. Other times she bursts through the front door and demands that everyone stop and pay attention to her. Those are the times when, rather than shove her into a closet, I take her hand and we sit quietly together. I listen to what she has to say, try to figure out why she’s here, and together we work towards finding whatever it is that she needs to feel at peace again.

So if you ever find yourself embarrassed or appalled that depression has shown up uninvited to your party, please take the time to acknowledge that your slightly eccentric party guest is likely there for a reason. Listen to what they have to say, and if it doesn’t make sense to you, or you don’t know how to deal with it, ask for help or find a professional who has the experience to start the kind of conversations that your depression is hoping you will have. Trust me, life is way more enjoyable without having to deal with a sloppy, drunk friend lying face first on your living room floor shouting obscenities at anyone who dares to get too close.

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You Are Worth Fighting For

(This blog is made up of a variety of funny, quirky and sometimes serious and heavy posts, because that is what makes up who I am.  I can’t be one without the other.  The following post was written over a year ago, but I am re-posting it now, because these are the kinds of conversations that need to be had, and they need to be had often. )

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Depression isn’t always an easy topic to discuss.  It is confusing, overwhelming, and often misunderstood.  One of the most frustrating things about being depressed is having people tell you that it’s all in your head, that happiness is a choice, or that if you really put your mind to it, you can overcome anything.  You can’t just shake off depression any more than you can shake off a cold.  It is inside of you, it consumes you, it becomes everything about you.  It grabs hold of you with its dark, heavy arms, and pulls you down into a jumbled pile of devastating nothingness.

Depression is sometimes described as a battle that needs to be fought, but to me, that’s only part of it.  Living with depression is more than just a struggle.  It is finding yourself buried beneath the weight of your own worst emotions, and knowing that your only hope of survival is stay small and hope you make it.

When you are in the true grips of depression, endurance is sometimes the only thing that you’ve got left.  Sometimes there is no fight, no kicking or screaming.  Sometimes there is only the terrifying sense of drowning in the tears of your own despair.  And so you wait.  You wait for the storm to pass, and the waters to recede, and you watch for that tiny shimmer of light that means maybe, some day, you will be able to breathe again without it hurting.

I have been there.  I have survived the storm, and I came out the other side of it gasping, reaching, and trying desperately to hold onto my freedom like my life depended on it, because it did.  That is when your fight truly begins.  That is when you battle hard against depression, to hold it back and beat it down.  It takes courage, strength, and the kind of blind determination that will keep you going even when you stumble, because you will.  It takes faith, and a belief that you are worth fighting for, because you are.

Too often, people with depression struggle alone in silence.  There is a certain amount of shame attached to feeling this way, and a worry that other people won’t understand or accept what is happening.  It’s hard enough trying to navigate through life during the best of times; it’s almost unimaginable trying to do it when you are depressed.  Yet, as scary as it is, we need to reach out and talk to each other, share our stories, and ask for help (even if we think we don’t need it).  We need to hold on to one another, and also to hold each other up.  We need each other to survive.  No one should ever be expected to survive this on their own.  We are stronger together, so if you know someone who is struggling with depression, or if you yourself are, reach out, hold on, and don’t let go!

 

 

My Perfect Life Isn’t So Perfect Afterall

This morning as I sat at the kitchen table, exhausted and searching for freshly brewed strength in the bottom of my coffee cup, I could hear my two oldest children upstairs laughing and running from room to room.  Suddenly, their laughter was cut short and replaced by angry yells and stomps.  I paused, mid sip, waiting for the house to explode.

“MUUUUUM!” my 5 year old son bellowed.  “Isaac PEED on me!!”

I sighed and gave up all hope of enjoying the rest of my coffee while it was still hot.  As I steeled myself to take on what was likely turning into an all-out brawl, my daughter suddenly spilled her milk all over the kitchen floor.  A sob bubbled up from inside her and burst forth with such devastating sorrow that my own heart began to ache.   My calm, tranquil morning had been shattered by pee, tears and spilled milk.  Such is life now with young children.  Quiet moments that I claim as my own are often snatched away like wisps of a dream as we are pulled from sleep.

I signed up for this, I remind myself.  My children, my husband; this family that I helped create.  Yet, some days I find myself admitting that this life that gives me such immeasurable happiness, is also the very thing that sometimes drags me under.  If you were to see my pictures and posts on social media, I’m sure my life would appear perfect, but I feel so far from perfect it’s almost laughable.  It’s not that I am trying to fool anyone, I just prefer to highlight and celebrate my family’s successes rather than focus too much on the uncomfortable heaviness I sometimes feel.   Parenting is a confusing blend of unexpected difficulty, and astonishingly sweet joy.  I often wonder if I have what it takes to balance it all, and to be the mother that my children need me to be.

I remind myself though in times like this that I am stronger than I believe, and I ask myself to not second guess that strength, because I have managed to create a family so heartbreakingly beautiful it sometimes hurts.  I have built a safe and loving world in which our family shines and thrives.  There have been bumps and bruises, mistakes and regrets, but they are ours, and we are stronger for it.

And so, this morning, as my children yelled, fought and cried, I slowly pushed back my chair from the table, took one last fortifying sip of coffee, then sloshed my way through pee, tears and spilled milk to begin the process of healing the hurts of the ones I love.  I have come to realize now that I draw strength from life’s challenges, and take comfort in the life I now live because of them.

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