I've thought about writing this post for over a year. Probably about two years, in fact.
But I never did. I wasn't sure how to start.
What could I say that hasn't already been said? Isn't there enough people out there who've said it already, and said it better?
But then Heather got it out of me.
I'm referring to Heather Armstrong, of Dooce fame. If you've never read Dooce then you have no idea what I'm talking about. But, in a nutshell, she is probably one of the most famous "mommy bloggers" and has written a best selling book about her battles with postpartum depression.
I've been reading Heather's blog since 2005, and when my children's book was published in 2007, I sent her a copy. Her daughter was just the right age for it at that time. And even though Heather probably gets hundreds of things sent to her everyday, within a week I received a handwritten thank you card.
The thing I appreciated most was how open and candid she was on her website, talking about her kids and her day-to-day life and her mental health struggles, which honestly, is something I could relate to. Even though we've never met, I felt like I knew her and her family.
So when she announced last week she and her husband were separating, my stomach dropped. And when she spoke of her suicidal thoughts, my heart did. But at the same time I was grateful for her honesty, and it only made me take a harder look at myself and all the things we think we assume about another person and their life.
As a kid I was called moody. That is an understatement. I don't know what to call it exactly, but for many of us out there, we seem to have been born with a layer of skin missing. I was, and am, an extraordinarily emotional person. But most people probably couldn't tell because I would overcompensate by going in the exact opposite direction. And that direction was: Show NO Weakness. Why? I had no damn clue. Only that for some reason I was embarrassed and ashamed to have such intense feelings and I did my best to hide them.
It didn't always work very well.
When I had a child of my own and went through my own depression, I really appreciated all the things Heather wrote about. I might even go so far as to say that reading about someone else's intimate experience and surviving may have saved my own life.
I didn't even want to write that. But it's true.
I wrote a very vague post about my postpartum depression, and quite frankly, that was the best I could do at the time. The weird thing is how when I think back on that time, it is really foggy in my mind. It's like my brain doesn't want to remember it. Like my brain is trying to protect me.
But I do remember some things.
I remember lying and sobbing on the floor of the shower until the water was ice cold and I could barely even feel it.
I remember finding myself sitting in our car in the garage on a bitterly cold December night. I was wearing a T-shirt, pajama pants and socks. Because our garage is not attached to our house, it meant I had walked fifty feet in the snow to get there. But I don't remember feeling the snow and ice on my feet.
I do remember a soft dark voice in my head saying, "You can make this all go away. Just turn the key."
And I sat in a car and cried and said, "Who will take care of her if I'm gone?"
No one answered.
Because I read about Heather's experience I knew that I didn't have to turn the key to make it stop.
About twenty minutes later Matt came out and found me. Thankfully all he said was, "I think you need to go to the doctor."
And I did. I had to go to my 8-week checkup and the hardest thing I did was checking the box that asked:
Have you had suicidal thoughts?
I didn't want to. My hand hovered there, but I knew this thing was bigger than me. And that was painful. I wasn't strong enough. All my life I tried to fight what I thought was a horrible weakness, the weakness of not being able to rise above my emotions. I convinced myself I was so much tougher than that. I thought all I needed was more will-power.
There was a part of me that thought I failed. The unlogical part of me.
Well, it turns out will-power don't mean shit.
I checked the box.
So when people wonder why you can't just "snap out" of it, I guess I can only come up with one example.
Most people at one point or another have been intoxicated. And there is a point where you know you are.
Usually you say something like, "Christ! I'm drunk."
But knowing this doesn't change it.
You can't use your brain or your will-power to become sober.
It doesn't work that way.
I guess that's depression. You can't change it just by knowing it.
When people say, "It's all in your head." I agree.
It is. It's in your head. It's in your brain. It's in your blood. It's your intoxication, your chemicals. But like being drunk you can't just snap out of it.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that you just can't tell by looking at someone. You can think their life is easy because their wealthy or have a nice house or a dream job, but you can't really know. You just see the outside. You can't know what they're going through. The whole experience has made me kinder. More understanding of other people's frailties. It was humbling. It was horrible. And I'm grateful I got through it.
Many people don't.