In my blog I have mentioned many times that I suffer from depression as well. I talk all about how people should come forward with their depression so we can help fight the stigma. However, I believe in a person’s right to privacy and for the whole world not to have to know whether they are depressed or not, but it IS important to let a healthcare professional know so they can get treatment or else it will just get worse and worse.
No one wants to admit to people that they are depressed. Heaven forbid your employer finds out and think that you cannot do well at your job due to this. (Though my previous employer was very understanding). People don’t want to tell people because, to be honest, no one ever looks or thinks about them in the same way anymore. This needs to stop. Oh and heaven forbid a future employer find out about your depression, you may not get a job simply for that reason whether they admit to it or not. This is the stigma of mental illness.
Look at our headlines for many years with the last horrible event of a woman that was going through postpartum psychosis that had stopped her meds going berserk at the capital and being killed due to her dangerous actions. Look at the shootings at the theater and all those killed; look at the shootings of all those little children by the mentally disturbed person. Look at the man that kept those girls hostage for all those years. All of these people suffer mental illness. THAT is why there is such a stigma as people tend to think if people suffer mental illness, that they may be capable of such things. The simple (or not so simple truth) is that these people did in fact suffer mental illness. There is no denying this so it must be known. You cannot erase that fact. However, I think in most, if not all of these cases, the people doing these acts were not treated, were inadequately treated, or they simply stopped their treatment. Mental illness can lead to dangerous things, but that does not mean all mentally ill people pose a threat to society especially those that seek help. But there it is. So with all of these things no wonder no one wants to admit they have a mental illness so they go around hiding it and not seeking treatment and bad things can happen. But usually, it is to their own selves because they are simply so sad they don’t want to live anymore. How do we fight this stigma when we see such horrible headlines of people with mental illness killing people? I have no answer to this. I wish I did.
I want to be an advocate for suicide prevention. I try to be in this blog, but mostly what my blog is is a telling of my horrible grief of my daughter killing herself, who I had no clue was depressed and she never sought treatment. This continues to be a long process for me. I’m so very devastated and hurt and I have no clue how to get through it. I just exist really, in a horrible nightmare.
But I’ve been thinking, that even though I’ve admitted to being depressed, I’ve never really said how being depressed feels to me. I have no idea how Kaitlyn felt when she was depressed as she never told me she was depressed to begin with. She told me she was depressed in her suicide note, but did not explain to me how she felt when she was depressed, so I am left to wonder.
Though Kaitlyn and I were very close, obviously she hid a major part of her life from me, her depression. Also, though we did have similar interests and had wonderful times talking and being together, we were very different people. She had a very different experience in school than I did. She was very motivated, goal oriented and a super achiever. I was anything but that growing up, though I did change later in life. And though I’m not stupid by any means, my intelligence did not touch hers but I loved her mind. I admired and loved her so much. So we had different experiences and I’m sure our depression was different.
Let me tell you how I feel when I am depressed: I can tell when I am becoming depressed because I start getting very disillusioned with the world and most of the people in it. Instead of trying to see the good in things and people, I see all the worst, and start thinking the majority of what goes on in this world is evil. Which if you think about it, that is true, but it becomes intense for me. Normally I see the best in people and I’m enthusiastic about travel, the world, scenery, doing things, etc. When I’m becoming depressed, I, who always loved looking at scenery as I travel because everything looked beautiful to me, start thinking the world is ugly because everything that is actually ugly, is what I focus on. For example, on a motorcycle trip to Key West (a very long trip), we took the back roads and I saw so many dilapidated buildings, and nice places that were simply abandoned and falling apart, and just ugliness. I could tell on that trip that I was descending into depression. Also when I’m depressed, I start seeing the world in black, white, and greyness, no color. I know my eyes see the color, but my mind does not. It’s like perpetual winter and everything looks dead.
Then I start thinking very selfishly like a pity party in my head wondering just what I have given to the world, which I think is not much of anything, (except being a good wife and mother which I have always prided myself on, at least I love them and am good to them though I’m no Betty Crocker). I don’t do anything for people, I don’t go out of my way to help people, I’m selfish and ungiving. I don’t have close friends because I don’t take the time to cultivate friendships, so it’s my fault. I think that when I die there will be no one but my family at my funeral. This thought always runs through my head when I’m depressed which had caused me to tell my children once that when I die, I want no church service, just a few words, cremate me and throw my ashes into the mountains of NC off the Blueridge Parkway somewhere. No visitation because I’m sure not hardly anyone would be there except my family and I didn’t want my family embarrassed by this. These are very selfish and bleak and hopeless feelings I feel when I’m depressed and I’m ashamed of them. But when I’m depressed, this is how I feel. I guess I feel worthless.
I have had suicidal ideations many times in my life. I started having depression when I was 39 (1999) and I took medication for a while, it got better and depression left me alone for 10 years and then when I got a very stressful job, I went through menopause, and I had an empty nest, in 2009 it came back and has never left. I have struggled horribly since 2009 and going through personal things that made it even worse. I have admitted myself into mental hospitals a few times voluntarily due to suicidal ideations. The reason I would have myself admitted is because I did not want to hurt the people that loved me. That made the difference, but the two I thought about most of all, was my two children. I could not leave them with the legacy of a mother that killed herself following them around the rest of their lives. I saw Kaitlyn probably having to put her medical school on hold due to being so devastated and forever wondering whether this would wind up happening to her. I saw my daughter Stephanie being devastated and it hurting her future and causing her to be depressed. So when I saw myself at the edge, I would go get help. Not everyone can do that, the pain is so horrible, but for some reason, I was able to reach out.
All during this time believe it or not, we had a stable home. Never any drinking, drugs, smoking or anything in our home. I worked regularly except when I was in the hospital and then once stabilized I would go back to work, functioning quite well. My children never had a disrupted, dysfunctional home. The only thing was is that I was depressed, and the worst of it happened after they had all moved away to their own lives. They always knew what was going on with me, but I never really told them how horrible it was the things that I went through in trying to get the right medications to treat my depression. I had to go through a million it seemed like before I got something that worked. I went through many mental health care professionals for various reasons; either I was not pleased with them, or they were too far away, etc.
So, the last time I saw Kaitlyn the week before she took her life, she asked me how I was doing with my depression and I told her I had been doing very well for a year and that I had finally found one medication that kept my depression at bay. We talked about the medication, which she knew very well because she had already studied all of this in medical school. She said she was so glad. Then we started talking about other things and she never even hinted at her depression. One week later she had taken her own life and I was left devastated and clueless.
So I have this horrible guilt. Though I know it was not my fault, she inherited her depression from me. It’s just that I always thought severe depression was noticeable. If I had thought it could be hidden so well, I would have worried about the possibility of her having it. But she was SO far away from being a person that I would think depressed, that I never had a clue.
So here is my story of my experience with depression and how I feel when I’m going through it. I am of no danger to anyone but myself when I’m like this. Depression is horrible. You feel hopeless, helpless, and the world is grey. I know when it’s happening to me, I know when it’s coming on, and I know when I’ve reached the edge. But I never went around talking about it. As a matter of fact in 1999, I kept it as much of a secret as I could. Since 2009, I talked about it with some of my family and co-workers, but I never got up and announced it to the world because it is simply something you don’t want to do because you think people will treat you and look at you differently and many times they do. This must change. Depression is an illness, a disease that should be treated and not be stigmatized.
I remember the last time I admitted myself into a mental health hospital for a few days. This was the worst experience of depression I had in my life because it was also accompanied by panic attacks caused from a side effect from a medicine that made my thyroid barely function. It was horrible. I came back to work and talked to someone I confided in a lot and I was just saying that this was the worst experience I had so far. I wasn’t going to talk about it much, because I never did, but she stopped me short and said, “You know, talking about it usually makes it worse.” I got the hint, shut my mouth, and never mentioned my depression to her ever again. These are the things you go through with depression. No wonder people do not admit to it. But just remember, treatment is so worth it, everyone does not have to know. It would be much preferable than being where my youngest daughter is now, 3 miles down the road in her grave.
I also risk writing this. I’m not working because I quit my job when Kaitlyn took her life. I would like to work again one day. Who is to say that by reading this I will ever be considered employable again? I still think I have a lot to offer once I get to where I am functional again. I am a very sane person. Just because one is depressed, does not mean you are insane. You are depressed. But everyone does not think this way and it must stop.
So this is why I’ve told my story. I will not be a hypocrite and tell everyone they should tell about their depression when I’m not willing to do so myself. However, you don’t have to tell the world the way I am doing, that is not needed, just tell a healthcare professional. But for me, this is something I wanted to do.
If you made it this far in my writing, thank you so much