The Truth About Depression: An Honest Moms Speak Out essay

Editor’s note: I’m happy to bring back the Honest Moms Speak Out essay series. Every week, Honest Mom will feature a reader’s story about her mental health battles and triumphs. The goal of these essays is to give women who deal with similar challenges hope, and to help them to feel less alone. If you would like to contribute, read this (you do not have to be a blogger to participate). And you can read other HMSO essays here. Thanks to Marcia for sharing her story with us!

When the country first learned of Robin Williams’ suicide last year, people were scratching their heads, confused over what would have driven America’s favorite funny man to end his life so abruptly. On the surface, Williams he had everything: a unique brand of humor that brought him fame, a loving family and a multitude of adoring fans. How could he have been so unhappy as to take his own life?

Only those who have a personal experience with depression can understand the scope of pain from this form of mental illness. It is a debilitating disease that robs a person of the simplest joys in life. It carves a hole too deep to fill in the hearts of those who wrestle with the inner demons of this acute, medical condition.

Depression is a nondiscriminatory disease that strikes every age, race, gender and class. It manifests itself in the form of physical pain, lack of self-worth, shame, helplessness and hopelessness. It is an invisible wound that is often misdiagnosed and in some cases, difficult to treat.

Those suffering from depression view the world through a warped lens where everything is distorted and emotions are muted. Even when surrounded by a loving family, they feel utterly alone. And while others marvel at the sun’s glorious rays as it rises over the ocean, they can only feel the weight of their emptiness. It’s not as simple as choosing to be happy. Depression traps people under a numbing layer of ice and leaves them gasping for air.

How do I know this? Depression has been a part of my life since childhood. Growing up, I felt out of place, even in my own family, and lonely for reasons I never understood. I woke each day with a sense of foreboding, and at times, became panicky at the thought of leaving my house. It was a struggle for me to find the smile that seemed to come so easily to others. I didn’t know what was wrong with me; I only knew that something inside was broken.

At the age of six, it was impossible for me to explain how I felt, and I was too ashamed to tell anyone for fear they would think I was abnormal. In my family, emotions were not easily expressed, and any show of anxiety or depression was frowned upon. It didn’t help that during that era of my childhood, there was a negative stigma attached to depression. Admissions of feeling isolated or extremely unhappy were viewed as a weakness of character and a lack of courage to overcome a difficult situation.

The shame I felt for having a disease I didn’t understand followed me well into my teens. I went through bouts of binge-eating, self-loathing and cutting. This type of behavior was the only release I had from the unexplainable, inner turmoil that plagued my life.

It took years of battling depression, phobias and suicidal thoughts before I realized I needed help in waging the war against losing my sanity. When I finally confided in my husband about my illness, it was as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Speaking openly about my anxiety and depression validated what I was feeling, and in turn, enabled me to open up to others who were struggling with the same disorders. In time, I found the courage to speak to my doctor, who then prescribed antidepressants after a long evaluation period. For me, it was the turning point that gave me a sense of control in my life, something that had been lacking inside me since I was a child.

There is no quick fix for depression, as each case is unique. It is a dark and frightening disease that cannot be cured with alcohol, drug abuse, or sex. In some cases, intense therapy and even love can’t save a patient from the inner demons that haunt them. Antidepressants work successfully for some, while for others, it functions as a temporary patch over a leaky valve that threatens to burst. Once the seal is broken, a storm of uncontrollable emotions is unleashed, driving many to the brink of desperation.

There are plenty of critics who view depression as a temporary state of “sadness”, and suicide as a selfish act of cowardice that inflicts unimaginable pain on the survivors. This is an unfair assessment of a disease that society still knows so little about. Depression is not a choice. It’s a mental illness associated with an immeasurable depth of despair and hopelessness that leads far too many people down the dark path to suicide.

It took the loss of a comedic genius last year to shed light on our country’s inability to recognize the difference between ordinary sadness and major depression. Society as a whole needs to erase all preconceived notions of depression and the stigmas attached to this debilitating disease.

Our job is not to judge or blame. It’s time we promote awareness and help those suffering from depression find the inner peace they deserve. Compassion and understanding are the gateway to hope and finding the courage to seek help. Only then can the people we love begin to heal.

photo credit: Alejandra thinking II via photopin (license)

The Truth About Depression: An Honest Moms Speak Out essay

To all you moms dealing with anxiety and depression…

To all you moms dealing with anxiety and depression

To all you moms dealing with anxiety and depressionDear mom struggling with depression and anxiety,

I know how you’re feeling and you’re not alone. That’s the first thing I want you to know.

I know the lies depression and anxiety tell you. That you’re a failure because you didn’t get to everything that you should have gotten done today. That your kids deserve a better mother than you. That no one really cares and no one would miss you if you were gone.

I know that tight feeling you have in your chest that prevents even the best-practiced yoga breathing from relieving your anxiety. I know the teary breakdowns from overwhelming tidal waves of emotion. And I know that racing-mind feeling that won’t let you fall asleep at night.

You probably deal with a seemingly endless cycle of ups and downs. A medication works for a while, you feel like yourself again, and you dare to dream you’ve found the answer. Then a few months later, the symptoms return. You try to increase the medication, but the side effects are too rough. So you begin the process of switching meds, hoping the next one will work. Or you add another to what you’re taking. Or you try alternative therapies to manage mental health. Something works for a while, then it doesn’t.

Up. Down. Up. Down.

Such is the challenge of dealing with a chronic illness, physical or mental. I know people with Parkinson’s who deal with the same ups and downs with medications. It sucks.

I get it.

But listen. Even though things seem really bad right now, I want you to hear this: It’s worth it to keep fighting.

It’s sometimes hard to believe, but it’s true. I think it’s especially hard to believe when you’re someone like me who has been dealing with depression and anxiety for over six years — ever since I was diagnosed with postpartum depression — and you’re really, really tired. You’re down, you’re beaten, and you’ve had enough.

When you’re in a low point, it’s really easy to forget how it feels to feel good. Normal. It seems like you’ll never find normal again. But you will.  I did, and I’m relishing that normal right now because I know it likely won’t last for longer than a few months. But I’ve come to peace with the crappy ups and downs of depression and anxiety. I enjoy the good times and fight my way out of the bad times. This is my challenge in life, my mountain to climb, my burden to bear. Everyone has something, and this is my something.

But let me tell you this: I know that I can tell you to keep fighting and that things will get better because I’m in a good place right now. When I am down and feeling depressed and anxious, though, I sometimes wonder if my kids would be better off without me. I worry I am negatively affecting them and ruining their lives, and anguish that maybe if they had a different mom, they’d be better off.

I can’t feel the love in their hugs. I can’t see the adoration in their eyes. I can’t understand that if I wasn’t here, they would be inconsolable.

That is how depression lies to me.

Yet now, because I’m feeling like me, my kids get off the bus in the afternoon and nothing feels better than their happy hugs. I revel in hearing their stories about their days. I see their love for me in their faces, I feel it in their skinny little arms wrapped around my waist, and in their sticky smooches on my cheeks.

So I want you to reach back into your memory and find these kinds of happy times with your friends, family, and loved ones — times you had fun and laughed and enjoyed life. You might not remember how great those happy feelings felt. But I’m telling you, you felt them. And you will again.

It’s worth it to keep fighting, because the happy times, the normal times, those are things that are worth existing for. You’ll feel them again. You will. Just keep going and you’ll get there.

xoxo,
JD, aka Honest Mom

PS: I really, really want to encourage all moms dealing with depression and/or anxiety to reach out to a doctor if you haven’t yet. Call your primary care doc and ask for an appointment right away. If you don’t have health insurance, I have a list of free and low-cost resources for therapists and prescriptions in this blog post. And of course, in an emergency dial 9-1-1 or the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They have trained professionals available to help you 24/7. There is no shame in asking for help. Ever. We are moms. Being a mom means doing hard things. And sometimes the hardest thing is asking for the help you need.

PPS: I have a private Facebook group for Honest Mom fans, and you’re welcome to join it. We talk about parenting challenges and mental health, and share both the tough stuff and the fun stuff. If you’re interested in joining it, friend me on Facebook and then send me a message. Ask me to add you to my private Facebook group for Honest Mom fans. Since it is private, no one can see that it exists, see what you post, or know that you are in it. I hope to see you there!

[Tweet “This post is for all you who are struggling with anxiety or depression. Keep fighting.”]

photo credit: sad via photopin (license)

I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone, and I bet you do, too.

I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone featuring JD Bailey of Honest Mom is on sale now!What do you do when your original anthology becomes both a #1 best seller and a New York Times best seller?

You release a follow-up!

Last year I contributed an essay to a book called I Just Want to Pee Alone. I knew it would do well because of the amazing ladies who contributed to it, and because of Jen Mann, the powerhouse editor behind it. But holy crap, I never expected it to be on a NY Times best seller list! Thank you so much to everyone who bought it. All the authors are eternally grateful and we hope we made you laugh!

Now I’m thrilled to announce that the follow-up book, I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone, is officially on sale today, and you can even get a signed copy from me!

But what’s the book all about? Oh, I’m so glad you asked.

I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone is a collection of hilarious and heartwarming essays from 40 of the most kick-ass mom bloggers on the web. Jen Mann hand picked each blogger in this book and you won’t be disappointed (some, like me, are in the original “Pee Alone.”) You will laugh, you will cry, and you will want to share this book with every mom who is in the trenches with you. Parenting is hard. Isn’t it nice to know you’re not alone?

Read awesome essays like:

It’s Not Pee. It’s You.
Open Letter to My Daughter: My Mother was Right and You Should Think I Am, Too.
And Then God Laughed
Flames, Knives, and Fear: A Family Dinner
Let’s Piss Off the Babies
Sometimes Drugs Are What You Need to Get Through Motherhood. And That’s Totally Okay. (that’s mine!)

My essay is (perhaps unsurprisingly) one of the heartwarming ones. It’s about postpartum depression and how I recovered from it. I’m so excited to reach a new group of moms out there through this book, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

So how do you get your copy of I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone?

Buy a signed copy from me: I’ll send you a signed copy for $12.99, which covers the cost of the book, shipping, and my oh-so-valuable signature. Just email me at jd@honestmom.com and tell me exactly who to dedicate the book to and where to send it, and we’ll take it from there. (All payments must be sent via PayPal.)

Buy your copy online: You can get the book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle, on iTunes, or on Barnes & Noble.

[Tweet “A follow-up to the NY Times best seller is out: I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone! #stillpeealone”]

Thank you, thank you, thank you for being an Honest Mom reader, and I hope you enjoy I STILL Just Want to Pee Alone!

PS: I’m serious when I say I still want to pee alone. My kids are 9 and 6, and yet I rarely get to pee in peace. Will this ever change? WILL IT?

PPS: Check out the book’s contributors!

Jen Mann of People I Want to Punch in the Throat
Bethany Kriger Thies of Bad Parenting Moments
Kim Bongiorno of Let Me Start By Saying
Alyson Herzig of The Shitastrophy
JD Bailey of Honest Mom
Kathryn Leehane of Foxy Wine Pocket
Suzanne Fleet of Toulouse and Tonic
Nicole Leigh Shaw of Nicole Leigh Shaw, Tyop Aretist
Meredith Spidel of The Mom of the Year
Rebecca Gallagher of Frugalista Blog
Rita Templeton of Fighting off Frumpy
Darcy Perdu of So Then Stories
Christine Burke of Keeper of The Fruit Loops
Amy Flory of Funny Is Family
Robyn Welling of Hollow Tree Ventures
Sarah del Rio of est. 1975
Amanda Mushro of Questionable Choices in Parenting
Jennifer Hicks of Real Life Parenting
Courtney Fitzgerald of Our Small Moments
Lola Lolita of Sammiches and Psych Meds
Victoria Fedden of Wide Lawns and Narrow Minds
Keesha Beckford of Mom’s New Stage
Stacia Ellermeier of Dried-on Milk
Ashley Allen of Big Top Family
Meredith Bland of Pile of Babies
Harmony Hobbs of Modern Mommy Madness
Janel Mills of 649.133: Girls, the Care and Maintenance Of
Kim Forde of The Fordeville Diaries
Stacey Gill of One Funny Motha
Beth Caldwell of The Cult of Perfect Motherhood
Sarah Cottrell of Housewife Plus
Michelle Back of Mommy Back Talk
Tracy Sano of Tracy on the Rocks
Linda Roy of elleroy was here
Michelle Poston Combs of Rubber Shoes In Hell
Susan Lee Maccarelli of Pecked To Death By Chickens
Vicki Lesage of Life, Love, and Sarcasm in Paris
Kris Amels of Why, Mommy?
Mackenzie Cheeseman of Is there cheese in it?
Tracy DeBlois of Orange & Silver