I was ten years old, I think when I experience my first serious bout of depression. I missed forty-five days of school that year.
In 1984, they didn't diagnose children with mental health issues. If you were hyperactive, you were just in need of discipline. If you were a nail-biter, you were just high-strung and nervous. If you threw a tantrum out of anger, you were a spoiled brat. If you were sad, you just needed fresh air. If your attention span was short, you were just considered flighty.
My childhood tantrums were blamed on my parents' unwillingness to tell me no. My nail-biting was because my mother bit her nails, too and I didn't know better. In my teen years, grief was to blame for my sadness. That is what we did back then. Kids didn't take medication for issues like that. We certainly didn't go to counseling - that was for problem children.
Twenty-eight years is a long time to live with anxiety and depression. I thought I'd overcome it, actually. I gave up my Lexapro over six years ago, as a matter of fact. Turned to chiropractic care and herbal supplements as a path to better health - both physical and mental. Up until this last year, it was working wonderfully.
I'd love to be able to say it was this moment that led to this rocky slope. It was that moment. But the truth of the matter is, I can't pinpoint any specific thing. My sister was murdered. I had a falling out with my nephew and his wife. I lost a close friend without an explanation as to why. Doctors found a tumor the size of an orange on my ovary. I had a second surgery three months later to remove my uterus altogether. I've pushed people away. I've started fights. I've ended them. I've cried. I've ranted. I've thrown things. I've screamed. I've been silent.
The fact is this is the ugliest, meanest, most hideous battle I've ever fought and it's not over yet.
The fact is I don't sleep at night. And when I do, my slumber is riddled with nightmares.
The fact is I have every reason to be happy and, on the outside-looking-in, I am.
But it's all bullshit.
If you've ever dealt with anxiety or depression, you know how this feels. You know the weight I carry right now, but there are many of you who don't.
This is for you - and I hope you're listening - don't judge me. Don't tell me I need to cheer up. Or that I need to exercise. Or eat better. Or sleep more. Or pray. Or take medication. Or get out more. Or stay home more. Or surround myself with family. Or be grateful that I don't have something terminal. Or read self-help books. Or...or...or...
This is not a pretty disease, but just as you wouldn't tell someone with cancer to shake it off, please don't dismiss me so easily either. It hurts. More than you know.