Normally I write drivel for what I believe is your amusement. Today, I’m writing for myself, to accept a part of me that I’ve hidden (unsuccessfully) for years; my battle with depression.
Throughout my life, I have struggled with depression. I attempted to kill myself @ 10 years old. I stopped eating for a spell in high school when a teacher said I had an “above average weight” (ironically enough, the student she called “fatty” is the one that helped me through it). I let my self esteem deteriorate after two abusive relationships, one in which I was raped & beaten, the marriage where I was told I was fat, ugly & worthless & my only value was to be degraded sexually. I developed PPD after the births of my children. I miscarried three different times and each time I lost my mind. The last two years have been a roller coaster of events, all of which have affected my coping skills. My marriage ended & for the first time in my life, I was on my own & I had never even gone grocery shopping without my ex-husband! I went back to school, jumping into a career path I didn’t think through. I met someone and I fell in love. But with great power comes great responsibilty. I had never had to make choices for myself and I was afraid of messing them up. I was uneasy w/ my academic choice. I had never formed close connections with people before. So, I let my boyfriend walk all over me because I loved him and wanted him to feel safe and understood. I wanted to make him happy, so I kept putting my wants below anything he wanted. I let my friends walk all over me, because I was afraid I’d lose my support system. While I was doing this, I was making myself second best. My friends & my former boyfriend were wonderful and never made me feel unloved or not special, but when they would do something that annoyed me, I would clam up, because I was afraid they would cut me out. I would have trusted these people with my life, but not to remain a part of it and my former boyfriend always wanted to know why I would get overly upset about small things or randomly get super clingy, then flip. He wanted to understand, but the truth was, I didn’t know why. I explained certain things that contributed, but the underlying fear, I honestly couldn’t explain and I was afraid “I don’t know” wouldn’t be enough.
As the months went on, I grew more anxious. I sucked in school. My journalism career was going nowhere. My eldest daughter needed counselling, I bounced a bunch of bill payments and I felt like I was failing. I didn’t have a steady income and I was buried under debt. The final straw? My relationship ended and I broke under the pressure. I moped, because the real problems kept piling up and I felt like I was drowning under a sea of bad choices. I just kept thinking; Why law? Why didn’t you think this through? Why does she have to be on a waiting list, help my kid! Why can’t I help my kid? Why can’t I find a job? Why do I have no motivation to keep my house in order? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?! I had never had to face crisis situations alone, I always had a partner who took control & now it was all on me & I felt like I was doing it all wrong. I was afraid of being judged, labelled crazy or viewed as a liability to the people in my life. I lived in this fishbowl, and I wanted so badly to be the Superwoman persona I made for myself. Superwoman isn’t depressed.
Things improved; my relationship resumed and I was so happy and yet so terrified, because I saw how easily he could leave. I was offered a position @ a new magazine that would allow me to do what I loved full time & I finally felt like I had made it as a writer. But, I was still flailing. I had to do everything I didn’t do when I was busy being miserable & situations were escalating & tense. I didn’t talk about the huge problems because I wanted to do it alone so badly, so I focused on the smallest problem, because I thought if I could fix something little, I could finally feel like I could tackle the growing mountain of laundry and debt (which my counsellor told me is very normal for those who suffer with anxiety). Because I was so skittish in my relationship, I would make mistakes, and I again let him walk all over me. I didn’t say the thing I needed to say, which was that I was scared he’d walk out again any second & please work with me on this so we’re both comfortable. I couldn’t because I thought he’d feel like I was punishing him and he’d leave, which he did. Then I had the guilt of my youngest daughter asking for her best friend, my eldest daughter’s anger at me for making him go away, my middle daughter crying because she loved him & wanted him to be with us…and it was my fault. I hated myself because they were so hurt & when I tried to fix it, I displaced aggression (some justified, some not) and made it worse, strained all of my friendships & I felt like nothing.
My law career continued to flounder; I kept getting the run around at my job. For every major victory (helping my eldest child, finalizing my divorce and removing government prescence from my life), there was a setback someplace else. Suddenly, I felt like all of those insults my ex-husband hurled @ me were validated in my mind. Look, MH couldn’t keep it together! She lost her direction, her boyfriend, her friends and she’s no role model for her daughters. I grew so dependent on everyone to try and help make it okay while pretending I was okay, which of course was a façade that all of my closest friends saw through and grew to resent me, and I grew passive aggressive because I had spent so long feeling like I gave more than I got that I couldn’t see that they were trying to help me. Suddenly, I was the person that I despised. So, I made phone calls, my best friends told me off (which I thank them for, sometimes we need a good kick in the ass to help us realize how far we’ve let ourselves sink. No one ever thinks of how much we’re hurting the people we love most when we’re consumed with sadness, and sometimes it takes them to throw it in your face to help you see that you’re impacting their lives too) and I had a good cry. I realized I had become that thing I used to be; weak, sad, and unable to focus and sometimes even hurtful to people I love. I talked to my doctor and we took an assessment and I suffer from clinical depression and anxiety disorder. I wanted so badly to be in control of my life for the first time ever, that I would have panic attacks when things went wrong. But I wasn’t getting help to get them under control, so the attacks would get worse and last longer until I was living in this constant string of anxiety and fear. My counsellor said I was likely subconsciously pushing everyone away because I hated who I was becoming and I wanted all of these people that I loved so much to leave me alone so they wouldn’t have to put up with me anymore. I was self-sabotaging, because I thought they deserved better than me, so I would subconsciously do things to make them cut me out…only when they left, I felt more broken, because I missed them. Now, I’ve got a plan. Between anti-anxiety medication, exercise, working with a dietician & individual and group counselling, I’m going to finally be the person I’m supposed to be.
Why am I writing this? Because it’s a part of me and I need to accept it. The reason my life is such a mess is because I refused to just admit I needed help, take responsibility and be open. I put up walls so people would think I was invincible. I didn’t trust the people I loved that I felt so overwhelmed with my life that sometimes it felt like I was smothering because everyone said they admired the facade & every time they said they admired me, I wanted to scream “WHY?! I’M THE LAST PERSON YOU SHOULD LOOK UP TO EVER LOOK @ WHAT I’VE DONE TO MY LIFE!” I alienated everyone because I couldn’t just say:
“I’m scared that I can’t do this. I’m scared I’m going to ruin everything and mess up my girls and go broke and never make the effort to be a good housekeeper. I’m scared that I’m not a good friend or partner or parent & a drain on you & that I’m putting too much pressure on all of you & I’ll end up pushing you away. I’ve never been on my own and I want to make the right choices but it scares me to make them. Every time I have to I get scared that I’m doing the wrong thing and the things I’m sure about I keep mucking up. I don’t know why I’m so unhappy, please don’t think I’m insane & please still love me while I make myself better.”
As a writer, I say there should be no stigma, but for over a year (& most of my life), I’ve been so ashamed of knowing I would go through months of sadness & pick an arbitrary reason because the honest truth is, I couldn’t even tell you why I get this way. Part of me hopes maybe I won’t feel like I’m alone, that maybe by finally saying the words I’ve held in, I’ll be able to value myself like I do the people I love…and I’ll finally be a role model for my girls. This is why I often write about the idea that no one is too broken to be loved by someone; it’s my greatest wish…for myself.
Maybe I just martyred myself, or gave people fodder to laugh and for once, I don’t care. I NEED to make myself accountable to follow through with treatment. So, my name is Mary-Helen and I’m a journalist who works in a law office and I also struggle with mental illness. I won’t be magically cured by a pill, but it’s going to help. I’m sometimes going to struggle, sometimes I’m going to cry about nothing and self-sabotage and get lost in meloncholy. But I’m going to also work every day for the rest of my life to make that stop and while I’m not okay right now, I will be.