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A mile in her shoes

What if I was so depressed, so profoundly sad, so completely out of my right mind, I took a gun to my head and ended my life? Would you judge me? Would you wonder why I didn’t get help? Wonder why didn’t I get some anti-depressants? Why didn’t anyone see the signs?

Now imagine knowing someone who is on anti-depressants. Or imagine knowing someone who checked themselves into a crisis center or psych ward. Someone who told their spouse they needed help. Would you judge them? Would you say they are weak for relying on drugs or therapy to help them get through their day? Would you say they shouldn’t have had children in the first place?

Harsh, huh?

All these things HAVE been said though. Not to me maybe. But maybe to you. Or your friend. Or maybe you have said those things once or twice.

Depression is like any other medical condition that needs help. It is not a bad mood to snap out of. It is not a blue time that’s easy to pass. It’s a serious disease. Like heart disease. Diabetes. Arthritis. Addiction.

If someone needs a medication for them to live with a disease then let them. Support them.

Would you tell the woman who’s ready to take her husband’s hand gun out of the safe, to just snap out of it? To just exercise more, take a few vitamins?

I didn’t think so.

I wish I didn’t know of 8 children that don’t have a parent because that parent took their own life. 2 moms and even a dad. You hardly hear about the men. But my cousin jumped off a building when his boys were just of preschool age. I didn’t know him very well to even begin to understand how someone could do that.

My childhood friend took her husband’s service revolver and shot herself in bed on Memorial day. Her family thought she was getting ready for work. They were at a relative’s for a barbecue. She had been unhappy. On pain medication. Withdrawn. Was there anything anybody could do? I don’t know. The what-ifs are a mile long. Does everyone now wish they could’ve done something? Yes. The pain is so raw, so great. Not just to those little girls that are left without a mother each of their birthdays and Christmases. But the mother of this woman, who still misses her little girl. Her sisters who miss weekends at the lake and summer days by the pool. Her husband that wants his wife there for his girls.

Then there’s my neighbor. 5 years ago she was home with her four little girls. She had been hospitalized for depression once before.  She had battled personal demons that we only knew about until after she was gone. She home-schooled her girls and always looked so cheerful. So happy. Her husband liked golf. He would leave her in the afternoons to go play and she would hang out with the kids. Get dinner ready. Set up for a dinner party with a few friends.  On the outside, I thought she was happy. We were wrong. Inside she was battling darkness. Darkness she hid from almost everyone. Especially her neighbors and friends who saw her every day. Why didn’t she say something?

One summer afternoon, right as she was getting ready for dinner; she put down the meat she was marinating, the salad greens she was putting in a bowl and she went upstairs to the master bathroom and shot herself. Her four little girls, ages 1 year to 8 years old, were home. No one heard anything. But when a neighbor discovered her after the eldest went next door to say she didn’t know where mommy was; the horror began for this cul-de-sac. You never, ever want to see a coroner’s van on your street.

Is this post about suicide or depression? Well, both I guess.

I’m trying to get people to understand that depressed folks do in fact, take their own lives. And I don’t understand how anyone can judge someone who needs help.

My own depression started after Emma was born. She was 3 months old and I could feel myself slipping into what I guessed was post-partum depression. James was helpful. My mom was helpful. I got myself through it. But a year and a half after that a friend passed away from breast cancer. I couldn’t snap out of my grief. I was melancholy, crying and having a hard time just getting through the day.

My doctor prescribed an anti-depressant. A very low dose of Prozac. It was just enough to help me. I admit, I’ve tried quitting cold turkey a couple of times. Thinking that I feel good enough not to take it and then go a couple weeks without. Boy is THAT a BAD IDEA. Even the low dose needs a doctor to help you wean off of it. But not only that, without it, the chemicals in my brain are such that, I would be sad, crying, bitter, helpless. I don’t need to be those things. I am not those things the chemicals, or lack of, make me.

I’m proud to take 20 mg of something that helps keep me in check for my kids’ sake. My husband’s sake and my mom’s. Thankfully, I’ve never contemplated suicide.

I know a friend that did though and she got help. She is the bravest person I know to have checked herself into the psych unit at a local hospital when she realized that harming herself would be okay. I’m so grateful she took that step. She got help and we supported her for it.

Please don’t tell someone all the things they should be doing differently, or that maybe they shouldn’t have had children in the first place if motherhood is such a burden. Is motherhood harder than expected? Yes. Would I trade it for anything? No. Do I need my sanity for it? You betcha!

Nobody’s life is perfect. Nobody can understand what it is like to live as anyone else. You haven’t walked a mile in their shoes, nor could you.

I’ve disclosed to several friends, happily even, that I got help, got some meds and feel so much better.

They too have told me that they got help themselves. That they weren’t sure they should take any pills. That they were embarrassed to tell their spouse about it or tell their doctor they need help. But that after talking to me, they took that next step to talk to their doctor. And they are glad they did.

Wake up people. If a man has no problem telling his doctor he needs erectile dysfunction drugs, then we shouldn’t make a woman feel bad that she needs drugs to keep her mental health in order.

The stigma related to anti-depressants is still out there. Maybe some of you reading this post are shaking your heads at me wondering why I would go such a route. Well, because it works for me. It helps me.

I don’t want to be that mom who contemplates what a gun would feel like. How long my car’s fumes would take. I will NOT be that person.

I will be here for my children. I will make sure that I am in control. That I can see things clearly.

If you need help. Please get some. If you can’t figure out what is making you feel sad and the sad doesn’t go away. Talk to your doctor. If your spouse will understand, tell them. It’s okay.

If you need to tell just me, I will listen too.

I want to thank Honest Mom for her candid and honest discussion you can read here, and The Bearded Iris for her bravery, and The Bloggess for inspiring me to write this post. For giving those with depression a voice and for keeping the conversation going. Thank you. Take care my friends. And be understanding to one another.

 

Medicated and proud of it

I’m not going to give you any bull shit here.  I am not my natural happy self all the time. In fact, I can be a real bitch. (no comment James) My favorite question from the husband, ‘why are you so crabby, did you forget to take your pill?’  Back off asshole! I’m crabby because you load the dishwasher like a drunk monkey that is blind and you can’t seem to remember that your clothes go in your closet and not on our bathroom floor!

As I was saying…

I take prozac. Just a small dosage. It’s called Sarafem. It’s for PMDD. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder. (I know guys, I lost you at premenstrual…)

I seriously don’t know how I would function without it. And I want to tell you my story so you don’t feel bad about yourself, or guilty, or inadequate or whatever fucked up guilt trip you can place that most of us moms/women do to ourselves.

About 10 years ago my good friend Julie died of breast cancer. She was 41. It was in the gloomy post holiday month of January and I couldn’t seem to get a grip on life. Emma was not quite 2 years old and I stayed home with her, like I have done since the day she was born and still do for my kids. I had never lost anyone close to me. Not a peer anyway. Every day felt like PMS. Every day felt gloomy and lonely, especially home with a toddler where I had no interaction with adults accept for reruns of the Golden Girls and Oprah.  My doctor put me on Sarafem which is for PMDD. Like PMS, but different. (Sort of a personality disorder, personality being- you are a bitch no matter what and you can’t blame PMS for it)

Thankfully the little dose of seratonin each day helps keep my chemicals in a happy balance. I am primarily a positive person. I stay cheerful for my children, my spouse and my friends. I don’t like to wallow. But there’s days, maybe weeks, I feel sorry for myself. And then I feel sorry for myself for being so lousy about feeling sorry for myself! I know there’s other people who have it worse, who live with cancer, who lost their job, who have addiction, whose spouse is overseas serving our country,  or whatever else that burdens them. But my bad days are MY bad days. So I let myself have one or two, then slap myself across the face (sort of) and say pull yourself together. And go buy a new handbag. Just kidding James. Sort of. Not really. Usually lipstick. Or shoes. Mostly lipstick…

My point is, I think we need to be honest about our bad days. What are we ashamed of? Who are we fooling?

Do whatever you can to help yourself. Seriously.

A woman in my neighborhood 3 years ago, shot and killed herself while home with her 4 little children. She was manically depressed. I always thought she was happy, managing her household of little kids. I was wrong.  Every now and then, if she had said to anyone in the neighborhood, “please excuse me if you hear me yelling at my kids, they are pissing me off…or, sorry if I haven’t changed my clothes in 2 days, I am so exhausted that I can’t see straight”, then maybe she still would be with us and her children. Maybe she would’ve had that release of, ‘I’m flawed, and that’s okay.’ Although I think she had more mental baggage than just that. But I still think of all of us women in that boat of ‘how did the day go by and I haven’t brushed my teeth yet or organized the pantry shelves’, kind of day.

Another story comes from my cousin who found her best friend hanging from a rope. Another suicide, another depression. My childhood friend shot herself last spring. Depression, suicide.

Folks. When a woman talks about her depression or her medications for it, don’t tell her she’s weak for relying on something to make her ‘normal’. Don’t say that you would ‘never’ take something that alters yourself to be a functioning person. Those statements are so nauseatingly inaccurate, it makes my head spin. Depression is the evil beast that alters you. Not the medicine.

Of course there’s the argument of when people stop their meds, change their meds or certain side effects of meds that do alter their thinking. That is another discussion for another day.

All I can think of is the 8 children I already know without a mother. Will you tell them it’s a weakness to take a prescription for their mental health?

Do you tell diabetics they are pathetic for taking insulin? They should just change their diet, is that it?

If you haven’t figured out already, I’m pleading to us all to be more understanding, to not judge, to not say you’d ‘never’ do something when you haven’t walked a mile in someone’s shoes.

 

 

So I just wanted you to know, nobody is perfect,especially me. Maybe when we peel back the layers, take down the walls, we can accept each other and ourselves with whole hearts. Why do we punish ourselves, –there’s a whole lot of therapy in that answer. But start with loving yourself, and just go from there. Easier said than done, I know. But it will spread like pond ripples I am sure.