Since my post about post-partum depression, I have received lots of messages, calls, cards, hugs and great positive support in general, and I am very thankful for that. Though I have always been pretty open about depression and how it has affected my life, not everyone was aware that I have been struggling with it for a time now.
Asking for help is one thing that you read and hear over and over again. Some people were surprised that I never mentioned anything to them, but to be honest, reaching out is one of the hardest things that you have to do. Not only because it takes admitting to having depression, which is something not very understood still, but also because one doesn’t always find the support she needs and that makes you hide behind forced smiles and pretense even more.
I had the “luck” -if one can call it such- of going through my worst period of depression along with a good friend. Her and I had different reasons for not feeling, well, ourselves. Our experiences were very different and our feelings of sadness and helplessness opposite. However, we both experienced some of the difficult parts that opening up to people entail and I wanted to write about that today so that maybe, when we encounter someone dealing with depression, we don’t pretend that, by telling them to brighten up, we are doing them a favor.
Doctors, nurses, parent magazines and your friends will tell you that if you are past the baby blues and still not feeling like yourself, to reach out to people for help. That sounds great when tucked in a paragraph, but actually picking up the phone to call someone is very difficult.
If you call your doctor’s office, a nurse will answer; you will proceed to tell her what you are feeling and that you need help and they immediately will ask: are you having thoughts of suicide or of harming the baby? WHAT? No! That’s not the way I’m experiencing this, is THAT the only way… Am I going to get to that point?
So you kind of freak out and wait anxiously for the nurse to call you back to either schedule an appointment, or if it is not your first time and they know you well, to ask if you want to start another round of that prescription drug they gave you when you were having the same symptoms last time.
They may suggest group therapy, which is hugely intimidating. I went once and instead of helping me feel identified and heard, it made me feel even sadder after hearing the stories of women who were worst off than me.
I have also tried a therapist but that wasn’t great either. I had the bad luck of being placed at random with someone dry and cold who sat across the room from me behind a desk. I felt like I was at the principal’s office and about to get suspended. The cultural gap was abysmal and clearly she had not been trained in cultural competency. I felt like I analyzed her as much as she did me and I just couldn’t go back to that situation. Another challenge with therapy is finding time to go. My husband, like many others, works crazy hours and taking the time to watch the kids every week while I would have been at a session, would not have been feasible.
Then you try calling the friend or acquaintance who told you “call anytime, I’m here for you” to ask for her company on a walk or over coffee and a week passed by without you ever hearing back from her. You don’t feel like burdening her or anyone else with your problems anymore, so you just keep to yourself.
As if things aren’t already challenging in the emotional realm, then people who actually talk to you tell you that “happiness is a mental state” or to “look in the bright side, you have all what other people want”. Or they even get frustrated at how you are not thinking logically and point out that “you are doing this to yourself”. As if one decides: today I’m going to feel miserable, unaccomplished and I’m going to hate myself.
You don’t expect everyone to drop everything to come give you the hug you need or to listen to you talk -yet another time- about your challenges. People have not been hired to care for you nor is everyone a certified therapist.
It wasn’t an expectation of mine to encounter positive reinforcement on everyone. I’m merely trying to illustrate how hard it is to deal with depression while maneuvering your day-to-day interactions and sharing cautiously your feelings not knowing if you are going to end up feeling worse or if someone is actually gonna have something insightful to tell you.
In my case, after I went through the worst of my depression and I had opened up to a lot of people around me, I found an awesome network of support. One friend keeps me motivated to go to the gym; another one knows exactly when I need some TLC; some others just listen and understand; there are also the ones with whom I can cry; and then of course, there are many others that without them even knowing, have served of inspiration or have given me the smiles I needed to make my day better.
Dealing with depression takes a whole community. I’m glad that I was able to find mine and I’m very thankful for their patience and support. I don’t think I could have gotten through the worst of postpartum depression without your love and care. I just hope to one day be able to help someone as much as so many people have helped me.