This next story comes from Fanny T. Crispin over at Written Things. It’s a raw and personal story about the struggles of overcoming depression and making it through to better days.
I remember it rained a lot. But the rain was coming from my eyes, not the sky.
I never really believed in depression. I didn’t understand it and thought people were just being dramatic. I suppose I deserved karma’s lesson. I remember feeling so heavy and always in a fog. There were mornings I couldn’t climb out of bed. I watched the clock ticking, reminding me I would be late for work, and I would lie there and cry. I didn’t know what else to do. There’s shame involved with depression. You don’t want anyone to know. That’s why it’s so scary. Depression is the silent killer. There were times…I wanted to die.
‘Mom and Dad are getting a divorce,’ my sister murmured as I crawled into my bed. I laughed–scornful.
‘Yeah, like they haven’t said that before,’ I said.
‘Mom told us today,’ she said.
That stopped me cold. Mom never lied. She never gave empty threats. In the past, Dad had always presented us with the news, but then they would go to counseling and simply stop talking to each other. But Mom…if Mom said it, it was true. That night was when the rain started.
I should have been stronger. I was nineteen years old, after all, but for some reason it hit me really hard. Mom told me I was staying with Dad because I was already going to college in town. I didn’t have a choice. I felt like Mom abandoned me. I knew that was stupid to think, but I couldn’t help it. Dad is a hard man to live with. Mom finally had enough. Why did she think I would be all right there?
It started slowly. I cried a lot. I couldn’t sleep. I became incredibly tired–all the time. The fog became heavy and dense. Some days I couldn’t breathe. My friends knew I was struggling, but they didn’t know how bad. They didn’t know that every time I sat behind the wheel of a car, I imagined crashing into a tree, running off the road, harming myself. They didn’t know I cried myself to sleep and cried when I woke, slapped makeup on and went through my day. It would be three years before I admitted my condition. On retrospect, I laugh at myself, because there was a calender at work with the depression hotline and a list of 12 clues you might have depression. ‘That’s not me,’ I would think. ‘I’m not that bad. I’m just going through a phase.’
Some days I thought God had abandoned me. Most days I felt that. I thought he was ignoring me, or didn’t care, or maybe I had done something wrong, or I wasn’t good enough/didn’t have enough faith. What I didn’t realize was he was working hard to get me out. The calender at work, my friends who always had time to hear me cry, even my boss who recognized the signs and helped me get out of Dad’s house. It was poison living there, but I didn’t know it. It would be a few more years before I was out of the red zone, but God never left me–not really.
It’s a strange thing battling with your mind. There are no visible wounds, no outward scars. But depression and stress rages through your body nonethless. It attacks where you’re weakest–for me, it was my stomach. I felt sick constantly. But it’s a marvelous thing when finally you can face the sunshine again. It didn’t happen right away. One of our clients, a psychiatrist, put it this way, ‘Depression is like being in a car crash. You have broken ribs, internal bleeding, and cuts and scratches. You have to give your body time to heal. Your emotions are no different.’
I am proud to say I don’t suffer from depression. I was scared for a long time because I thought I was weak when I kept slipping back. Now I know it was just taking awhile to heal. I don’t fear depression. I still get down, I still cry, but it’s normal. It’s not life-threatening. I never went to counseling, and I didn’t take medication. I don’t condone the absence of such remedies, because you have to get out of depression any way you can. But I’m fortunate. And I’m grateful. I’ve been able to stand up and talk about my journey. I think–I hope–I was able to help others with my testimony. Once you go through something, you have a greater propensity for empathy, and for that I am grateful.