I received such wonderful comments on my blog and Facebook about yesterday’s post on my depression. Thank you so much for letting me be myself here! I really appreciate everyone’s encouragement and perspective, and just wanted to clarify one thing before I move on from the subject.
I didn’t mean to imply that being a mother, and experiencing all the stresses that come with it, has caused my depression. I struggled with what I think now were symptoms of depression and anxiety even as a teen. I was practically an insomniac through my adolescence, having a terrible time achieving the mental peace required to sleep. I was paralyzed by (and still struggle with) a phobia of driving, writing long journal passages about how I was sure I was going to hurt someone someday by a mistake I might make in a car. For a while I saw the high school psychologist on campus to deal with my emotions over a friend who suffered from her own disease.
I think I’ve always had to work on keeping my perspective in check; I feel like I’ve always been prone to creating great spiderwebs of personal suffering out of one feeling of sadness or worry. Whether it’s physiological or whether it’s just personality – I feel like my mental filter doesn’t quite work like most people’s do. Everything gets clogged, builds up, and I’m left mucking about in a huge mess.
Motherhood figures into it by just providing more opportunities to trip over myself. When you talk to a doctor about depression, they ask you if you’ve had feelings of guilt, unworthiness, sadness, hopelessness, etc. Motherhood is RIFE with struggles in which you feel one or all of those things, even if you’ve never been depressed a day in your life. But inject them into a brain that is already working overtime to see the rays on a sunny day, and, well, you get someone like me. For every child I’ve had, for every layer of love and labor, for all the life experiences I’ve enjoyed and endured, it adds up, builds up, and I come to points where I need some help.
I just didn’t want anyone to think that (a) motherhood will inevitably make you crazy (though I might say otherwise on the days my 2yo won’t nap!) or (b) you can’t struggle if you don’t have a hundred responsibilities. Everyone is different, everyone has their different degrees or breaking points in terms of depression (and even with one person, those degrees and breaking points fluctuate).
I once had a therapist – not a very good therapist – tell me she couldn’t believe I was depressed because I didn’t look like the kind of person who sat in the corner and cried all day. Once I got past the urge to smack her (I just thought it was incredibly dense of her to say that!), I thought to myself, “No, I’m not the kind of person to sit in a corner and cry all day. But I’m also not the kind of person who can’t admit when I need help.” One kid, five kids, no kids – mother, married, single, whatever – there’s no “picture” of depression. But I do appreciate being able to share my one snapshot of it.