Depression: it's one of those words that conveys so many different meanings and evokes such a wide range of feelings that most of us don't know how to handle it. Do we ignore it and hope it goes away? Should we talk about it and risk others seeing us as weak, flawed?
It manifests in so many different ways that it's impossible to tell when someone is experiencing it. Some people lock themselves up, away from society, clinging to their loneliness as if it is their only salvation. Others mask it behind humor, believing if we make other people laugh, we will drive it out of ourselves.
Still, others hide it behind a false sense of happiness. This is what I did. I smiled and laughed a lot, pointed out the bright side in other people's problems, became the friend everyone came to for cheering up; but, behind closed doors, I was being strangled by sadness.
I remember some days, driving home from work after hours of painted happiness, crying so hard I couldn't even see the road. I would have to pull over, crying convulsively on the side of the highway. Sometimes, I even wondered what it would feel like to drive my truck into a tree. But, the cowardly side of me, or maybe it was bravery that emerged for a brief moment, considered what if it didn't kill me and I lay there suffering?
Then, I would think of my niece and my nephews. I could never put them through the pain of me having committed suicide. There! I said it: suicide. Those struggling with depression rarely say this word aloud, as if saying it would permanently mark them with a big scarlet letter, but it's always there, lurking in depression's shadow.
I also couldn't leave my dogs because no one would be able to take care of them the way I could. I would think of them, at home waiting for me; what if I never showed up? The pain of that thought was more powerful than the depression, and at that one crazy moment, sitting on the side of the road, considering how I could kill myself, I suddenly had a reprieve. Feeling the warm rays of sunshine as they broke through the fog, revealing brilliant blue skies, I realized that's what my depression was doing; it was hiding my happiness, masking my joy.
I decided, right then and there, that I couldn't do this alone. I had tried so hard, for so long, and I just didn't have the energy! It came down to two choices: either I ended things or I sought help. Thankfully, I chose the latter.
It's hard to understand unless you've been there, teetering on the edge. I'm not even sure what it was that pulled me from the edge, whether it was thoughts of my family or my dogs or the fog lifting at that exact moment, but I am eternally grateful that it happened, because life is worth living!
Now that I am a mother, I have discovered a new will to live. I no longer wonder what it would be like to overdose on pills or drive off of a cliff, because now I want to live. Even on these mornings that I wake up and feel my old friend cradling me, ever so gently, I know I want to shake free from its grip and live!
I want to see the sunshine on my son's face, I want to hear his laughter and help him work through his sadness. I want to be there for all of his firsts: his first dance, his first girlfriend, his first day of college. I want to live to a ripe old age, even if it means waking up feeling a little blue some days!
Depression still exists inside of me, but I have learned how to dance with it, so that it no longer controls me!
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