By Lauri Walker of Mama Needs A Nap
I’ve always found it interesting how isolating mental illness is. It is something that impacts countless people, yet those of us who struggle don’t want to talk about it because we’re ashamed. We feel alone and afraid. We don’t want to be judged so instead of reaching out for help, we remain quiet in our pain.
We remain silent, but enough already. I’m silent no more.
There are many factors that contribute to my depression and anxiety. Some were inherited while others came to me through events in my life. I never spoke about it because I didn’t want people to look at me differently, to think I was incapable of doing my job or being a good mother. I didn’t want anyone to pity me or see me as less than a whole person.
However, what truly prevented me from speaking out about my depression was its origin. I never wanted to talk about “where it all began,” but after twenty nine years I realized I didn’t have to talk about the cause in order to help myself and others. I just have to talk about what I’m doing to take back my life. That is what this is really about.
So what was my turning point?
Will it help any of us to talk about it?
I don’t know, but it is worth the effort. It is worth trying.
When I was fifteen I didn’t know how to handle the things that were pushing me into the dark hole of depression. I didn’t know that my family has a history of mental illness, and I didn’t have any idea how to talk about the events in my life that led me to that place. So, I was as self-destructive as I could be, all the while staying under the radar of my parents, teachers, and friends. I finally looked for an out in a bottle of pain pills left over from a bad toothache. I took them all, wrote a painfully inadequate note to my mother, and tried to sleep forever.
My suicide attempt was an epic failure that ended with a trip to the ER, some Ipecac, and a mandatory series of counseling sessions that left me feeling more lost and hurt than before.
Instead of reaching out for additional help, I simply learned how to fake it. The expectation was that I was fine now, so I was fine. I stayed involved with my school and friends. I grew up. I moved out and had a career of sorts and a life. I got married and divorced and married again. I had kids. I masked everything so as to appear “normal,” but I never had the one thing I really wanted.
As I look back I see the bad decisions that peppered my life and I know they are a result of how I felt about myself. I didn’t love myself. I could love and take care of others, but I had no clue how to do so for myself. I had “faked it” so long that I thought I’d healed.
I was wrong.
It wasn’t until a family member was diagnosed with mental illness that I began to recognize the war waging within myself. I learned about heredity. I started to pay attention, but instead of having a conversation with someone — with anyone —about it I just hoped it would get better.
Here’s the thing about hope: it is a wonderful feeling. It is the first step, but hope is like praying without any focus. I was hoping to get better, but I was still afraid to be specific. I wasn’t willing to identify the problem to anyone else because I didn’t want the stigma of the label. Without talking to anyone about how I was feeling I just kept drowning, right out there in the open with a smile on my face.
Until it all blew up. Until I was forced to call it by name.
I have struggled with migraines my whole adult life. I finally got on a daily medication to help with them, but I didn’t read the side effects. One of the main ones was that it could intensify depression and anxiety in those who already suffer from it. I quickly found myself slipping. I felt sad all of the time. Then I just felt buried and separated. As though I could watch the world and all of the happiness I should be involved in, but there was none for me.
I was flat and empty.
It wasn’t so much that I felt everyone would be better off without me, but that there was just a sense of nothing.
I was buoyed by my children when I was with them, but when I wasn’t, I would fall again.
The scariest thing about this part of depression is when you just aren’t scared anymore. When there is more fear in climbing up than in sinking deeper – that’s when you’re in trouble.
I felt like no one would notice if I was gone. I started to look at telephone poles on the side of the road and wonder how fast I’d have to be going so that when I hit it I wouldn’t feel anything. I wasn’t making a plan, just wondering. I kept sliding, barely holding on. Then one night, while I was waiting alone in the car outside an appointment for my son, I remembered train tracks nearby. I considered parking on the tracks because I knew the train came through every so often.
I knew it would be quick.
Just as fast, an image of my teenage son came to mind — an image of the look of pain that would be on his face when he came out of his appointment and saw me…there — and that was enough to bring me front and center.
That was my turning point.
I knew I couldn’t self-manage anymore and I went to my doctor. Such a simple act, but so scary. So, so scary. I felt like an utter failure. I cried through the whole appointment.
I’m strong. Why can’t I help myself? I don’t want to zone out on meds! I want to be present for my children, not bouncing up and down figuring out the right dosage and prescriptions!
My doctor asked me two simple questions: what result did I want and what would my husband say he wanted, if he were there? The answers were exactly the same. We both wanted me back, but in order get there I had to try. I went on the Zoloft and kept my migraine meds.
I was very lucky and the dosage we started with was good. It took some time, of course, but I soon felt better and I really did get my life back. I found “me.” Oh, it isn’t perfect. I still have down days. I still fight my anxiety, and some days I don’t want to leave the house, but I talk about it now. Because what I once saw as a weakness, I now view as strength.
I fight for my “normal.”
I’m not the same as I was before. That is impossible. What I am is sure I can be happy and help others. I can face the world without thinking whether or not it would be better off without me. I don’t see the telephone poles as anything other than just that — telephone poles — and when I hear the trains go by I am reminded of my turning point.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lauri Walker is wife to Brandon and Mama to four kids who’ve managed genius status despite being raised on chicken nuggets and take out. Her profession is Daycare Diva and she is a confessed over volunteer-er. In her spare time, Lauri tries to write a little. She has appeared on BLUNTmom, Mom Babble, Mamalode, Good Mother Project, and Sassy Lassie and has her own blog at Mama Needs A Nap. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MamaNeedsaNap , on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Mama_Lauri and she’s still trying to figure out Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/