An Open Letter To Those I’ve Hurt While Depressed

I’m sorry.

I know those two words seem so small, and they are. They are nothing more than nine simple, basic characters, but I don’t know where else to start so I’m sorry; I’m so, so sorry to all of you I’ve hurt while depressed.

There are things I’m not sorry for, things I can’t be sorry for. I’m not sorry for my illness. It is something beyond my control; it is a physical disorder as much as it is a mental one. But I am sorry for the years I’ve wasted feeling sorry for myself. I am sorry for the years I have tried to hide it, to keep it a secret.

You see, that secrecy has been our undoing. I have pushed you away, though you never knew why. You may not have even realized I was doing it, but there were cancelled plans, birthday parties I failed to attend and social gatherings I forced myself to go to, resentfully and begrudgingly. It wasn’t your fault. I was too broken to hold myself together, but because I was also too scared to tell you the truth I would just sit there, forcing an awkward smile and some stale conversation about the weather or work. I would excuse myself from games and other events and, while I wouldn’t leave, I would withdraw to a corner and watch while you laughed and played.

You thought I was a buzzkill (and I was) but what hurts me the most — what I am most sorry for — is that you also thought I was too good for you, too good for “child-like” games. That was never the case.  The truth is I want to be happy. I want nothing more than to laugh beside you and enjoy myself the way you do, but there is disconnect somewhere and I can’t. Sure, there are moments of happiness and joy in my life, but most of my life is about just getting by, so instead of pretending I pulled away, from you and from life.

I focused on little things, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. It seems strange to even mention these “accomplishments” but when you do not want to get out of bed, when you have lost the will to live, the simplest of things can be the greatest of struggles. It’s not that these things are difficult, it is because they are banal and routine. It is because they are mundane. That is all your life is in the midst of depression: the banal, the routine, and the mundane.

I’m sorry for not being present, for not celebrating in your successes and joys. Please know I wanted to but sometimes the pain held me back — the pain of seeing everything I wanted but would never have, could never have. It is selfish, I know, but I didn’t know how to handle it.

I’m sorry for the times my temper has been short, and you’ve been the recipient of my rage. Anger has been the most unexpected symptom of my sickness. When I was a teenager, and even well into my 20s, my depression was marked by melancholy, but as the years passed the symptoms shifted. While sadness still permeates most days it is the anger I cannot ignore. It is the anger that scares me. My volatile words cut you and my blind and unforgiving rage injures you, and I am sorry. So, so sorry. (There was no reason to snap at you when you pointed out I was burning a few strips of bacon or scream and shake — literally shake — when you turned the air off.) I have destroyed us; I have destroyed you as much as depression has destroyed me.

I am sorry.

And I’m sorry for scaring you. I know I have. While you didn’t know I swallowed 20 Tylenol and 4 Advil with a 20-ounce bottle of Coca Cola, you may have known about the cutting. You may have seen me hold a knife to my wrist or heard me talk about suicide. You were probably terrified to know that I had lost the will to live, and felt helpless, yet you also carried the burden of reminding me there was something worth fighting for, I was worth fighting for. Please know I never meant to place that weight on your shoulders. I couldn’t stop the pain and I couldn’t bear to come to terms with the idea that this could be the rest of my life. The cutting was a way to remind myself I was alive — each mark became a physical marker of an invisible pain, a pain that was eating me from the inside out — and the suicidal attempt was a desperate, last ditch effort.

It is embarrassing and scary to admit you need you need help, to admit you are not okay. You know once you let your secret out you will have no choice but to follow through with therapy. You will have to talk to friends and family about your illness, even when you don’t want to. You know you can’t close the curtains and hide anymore, and that thought is terrifying.

Sometimes we “find the light” and make it out. I have before; in fact, I am currently on an upswing, but that doesn’t mean I am better. In fact, I know better than to believe I am better. Depression is a lifelong disease, and my depression will return. There is nothing I can do to stop it. The only thing I can control is how I handle it when it does. And, for me, handling it means not hiding from it; handling it means drawing back the shades and letting everyone in.

So to everyone entangled in this mess with me: I am sorry. So, so sorry.

I never wanted to upset you or hurt you. I never wanted to drag you through this two decade long nightmare, but I also love you for standing by me. I hope you still can. Just know that whatever you choose, I love you. I will always love you, and I am sorry.

I will always be sorry.

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14 thoughts on “An Open Letter To Those I’ve Hurt While Depressed

  • May 15, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Thank you.

    When I felt shame, I felt sorry. When I realize that I have no reason for shame or that someone else is responsible, I started feeling angry. Unfortunately, in the past, and, sometimes, today, that anger went inward.

    Being depressed is tough. We learn to share our stories. By doing that, we listen to others. And that, something happens. There is catharsis. Reason why I write. Perhaps, that is the case with you. There is no reason to feel alone. But, saying that does not make it better. I truly think that labels are wrong. That we all have issues and those that think do not become an issue. Humanity is about suffering. It is about the compassion of the other. By sharing, we help the other. While we do that for ourselves, we are also doing for the other.

    God bless you.

    • June 2, 2015 at 10:05 am

      You are so very welcome.

      Writing is very cathartic to me as well, as it reading and responding to each of your comments — because if further strengthens my own resolve that I am not alone, even when I feel like I am.

      Thank you for your kind words and support, and stay strong. Empathy and compassion for each other, regardless of labels or the cause of our suffering, can go a long way.

  • May 15, 2015 at 11:48 am

    My biggest symptom of depression used to be a deep and pervasive sadness. But since my second was born almost 2 years ago, the anger and rage has taken over. It’s scary and like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It’s directed mainly at my oldest, who is not quite 4 years old. I feel so much guilt and shame, worrying how it’s affected him. Things are much better now, but it was pretty rough for about a year.

    As for letting the secret out, YES. So scary. This is where I am right now. I’m hoping that by finally letting people know about my depression, I can be held accountable for getting help and also hopefully those closest to me will understand better when I might be withdrawn. Also, I hope that, like you’re doing, by writing and talking about it, I can help others who might be struggling.

    Thank you for having the strength to write about depression!

    • June 2, 2015 at 10:02 am

      The rage is so very scary. (My husband and daughter, nearly two, have been the biggest recipients.) In my case the anger has gotten better, but you are right: the guilt that comes from the anger and rage is IMMENSE, which causes the cloud of depression to thicken. It can be a vicious and unending cycle!

      I’m glad you are getting better and asking for support. It can be so hard to ask but people often surprise you, at least they have in my case.

      Stay strong!

  • May 15, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    As a parent of a child with depression I really thank you for this post. Im sure it took a lot of courage to write, and I really appreciate that!

    • June 2, 2015 at 9:58 am

      You are so very welcome, PlaguedParent. My thoughts are with you and your family as well.

  • May 15, 2015 at 9:34 pm

    I understand what you’re saying about the anger. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression my whole life, and it always presented as sadness. Until this most recent time, when it presented as rage. Absolute rage. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me because it was so different from previous times. I, too, have apologized to the people I’ve hurt, and I’ve thanked them for loving me even when I felt unloveable.

    • June 2, 2015 at 9:56 am

      The rage is so terrifying, isn’t it? I mean, depression (in and of itself) is scary but the rage caught me completely off guard. Stay strong!

  • May 18, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    This is so powerful. So incredibly open and raw. Thank you for sharing. So very much.

    • June 2, 2015 at 9:55 am

      You are very welcome, ace1028.

  • May 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Breathlessly familiar, heart-achingly similar, and tragically identical to the destruction depression has caused my own marriage. Thank you for the bravery it took to put these thoughts out there in the name of awareness. Our stories are a light of hope for those who haven’t made it as far as have have and knowledge for those who haven’t a clue so maybe they can learn to understand. To accept. To erase the stigma of our illness. Sharing this on my page!

    • June 2, 2015 at 9:55 am

      I am sorry to hear this is so painfully familiar to you but thank you for your support!

  • June 3, 2015 at 12:53 am

    Kimberly, As someone who has been Secretary and then President of a local NAMi, I encourage you to not think of yourself as mentally ill. Your brain may not produce enough serotonin, etc. You talk about how you are feeling. To me that makes you mentally with it and in tune. I encourage you to continue writing, to forgive yourself for when you think you screwed up, learn resiliency, and remember the amazing people who accomplished much despite depression: Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Patty Duke, etal.

    • June 3, 2015 at 8:51 am

      Thanks for your note, happy working mom.

      It is important for me to identify depression as a mental illness because it highlights that it is an illness, regardless of the cause. I don’t think of it as a handicap, but I do recognize it is a part of who I am and, with therapy, that awareness has allowed me to be in tune with my feelings. I also feel strongly in using the term mental illness, as shying away from it allows the stigma to persist (if that makes sense). But thanks for your support and for the reminder that those with depression can accomplish amazing things!

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