At the age of 42, I now realize that I have suffered many episodes of depression over the years. However, I have only now learned that depression is what I had. Those times were confusing. There were moments when, I wanted to end my life. I made major life changes in an attempt to find happiness. I blamed things, events, and people around me for the feelings inside me, instead of understanding the real cause. I didn’t know what was happening. I hadn’t been taught what to look out for.
As much as I’d like to blame this all on a lack of education, a failure of society to prepare me for the possibility of mental illness, there’s another factor at play too. It’s acceptance. Even once I was told by someone else that I might be depressed, I couldn’t accept it. “That’s not something that could happen to me. I’m just sad, and there are reasons for it.” Little did I know that the reasons were likely to do with activity and chemicals in my brain rather than just things going on in the world around me.
“That’s not something that could happen to me. I’m just sad, and there are reasons for it.”
I was around 27 or 28. Just days earlier, I had ended a pretty significant relationship (8 years or so… most of it common law). Depression was crippling me. I had returned to our house to collect some belongings. There was a note waiting for me. The note was not from my (ex) girlfriend, but from her mother – Anne. I’d had a good relationship with Anne. She was (is) a very caring and genuine person. She had always been kind to me and I trusted her opinion on just about everything.
I opened the letter. As I read it, I felt every word with the vividness that I’ve only ever experienced during depression. It’s like all of your nerve endings are exposed and your regular feelings (well, just the sad ones actually) are magnified to the point of being unbearable. I cried openly as I read it. Sobbing and wiping tears from my eyes to read each word. Towards the end of the letter she suggested that I might be depressed. It was there in ink… “depressed”. I don’t know if the statement literally took my legs out from under me, but I do remember sitting on the floor by the end of the letter, crying so hard that I couldn’t find my feet until the crying passed.
“Towards the end of the letter she suggested that I might be depressed. It was there in ink… depressed”.
I honestly believe that part of me knew that she was right, but the rest of me couldn’t accept it. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t understand what depression was. I simply couldn’t accept that it was something that might happen to me. I marched on relentlessly. I went through hell, and found happiness again. But eventually, depression came back.
I’ve learned that I do suffer from episodes of depression. I hope that I have learned enough to navigate my future around it. I’ve learned what medications help to make me well again and I’ve learned what life choices help to keep it at bay. I think that the letter from Anne marked an important point in my life. In many medical and therapeutic appointments, I’ve talked about reading that letter. I’ve talked about how I look back and know that Anne was right. She played an important part in getting me to where I am today. She sowed a seed. It was the seed of acceptance – the seed that guided me, at least in part, to where I am now. I accept that I sometimes get ill and that the illness is depression.
“I accept that I sometimes get ill and that the illness is depression.”
I thank many people for helping me to be the person I am today. I am well right now. I was able to get the help I needed, but to get it, acceptance was a key factor. I think that for many people, we cannot accept that we have depression when we first hear it. Maybe it’s because we still lack a definitive test that tells us we are depressed. Whatever the reason, I believe that once that seed is sown, acceptance is in our future. Thank you Anne for sowing that seed.
To others out there, don’t be afraid to use the word depression to a friend who you think might be ill with it. Perhaps you will be that person who sows the seed, that leads to acceptance, that then leads to the cure… and in the cure lies happiness.
Happiness is everything.