The first time I realized that something was wrong was a school morning in the 8th grade where, I literally couldn't get out of bed. Not that my legs didn't work, not that I was tired. I couldn't wrap my head around facing life out of the protective cocoon of my covers. This was before prozac and before anyone acknowledged that depression wasn't just someone being sad. I remember my mom yelling at me to get up out of bed. Yelling not out of frustration I realize or anger, but out of fear. I think I did eventually only to walk around the entire day in a daze as if it was me but I wasn't really there. Like in the movies, when dead people see their own bodies.
I was listening to the news this morning to hear my sister, the news anchor on the radio on WGN and they were intensely talking about depression in reaction to the news that severe depression had caused Robin Williams to take his own life. I immediately sent her a message on what's app saying that it sounds like they were talking about my life.
They spoke about what to do if a loved one or friend seems depressed to you. What was the right thing and the wrong thing to say. I'm not ashamed to say that I have thought about suicide in the past when I was at an intensive low. When I was in graduate school, I thought finally I was ready to do it. In the past, it was just thoughts, but this time I actually wrote a note and even scraped my wrists with scissors. Part of me was ready but there was something still there that made me afraid. My quasi-boyfriend at the time, who would later become my husband, was out of town. So, I called my ex-boyfriend who was getting his MSW. He talked to me, asked me all the social worky questions and moved me beyond, I think, my desire to not be in pain anymore. That is what it was. I didn't really want to die, I think that is the thing that actually kept me alive but I also didn't want to keep going. Life moved by me as if I was walking in water, slowly and out of focus. Sleep was the only thing I wanted to do.
I got help right after that episode and was put on the new drug, Prozac. I also went to therapy for a long time but the drugs, oh the drugs. I suddenly woke up. I once described feeling depressed to being down in a deep hole and looking up at the world around you. I was all alone and in the dark. But the Prozac helped lift that initial fog and allowed me to see my life in its real terms. I have taken medicine for depression every year since then and that was 1991. Except for the times when I was pregnant and nursing, when my body's chemistry was altered, I have depended on it to literally keep me alive. Early on, when my dosage had to be raised, I felt, wow, I'm really crazy. I wasn't and I'm not but I felt the stigma of depression.
I have been lucky, like Robin Williams, to have a loving family and fantastic kids and an incredibly supportive husband. The demons are still there. Almost two years ago, they began creeping back uninvited but nevertheless there. It was as if I was slowly just beginning to drop out of life. Again, I added a new medicine to my repertoire and it has helped me regain my balance. Just as my parents before me, I have passed on this disease to my children and have watched them deal with it as my mother watched me all those years ago. With fear and, at least in my case, some self loathing.
Robin Williams lost his battle with depression and even though pundits are right, that we still have all the joy and comedy he gave us, we know inside he was in pain. We lost also, according to his friends, a very kind and gentle soul. I'm heartened by the outpouring of information about depression in reaction to his death. I hope it will make a difference. In the meantime, I and millions of others will continue to soldier on.