Heater, Mother of Lance

If this isn’t for you, it’s for someone you know

Since last September I have been serving on the Board of Directors for the Utah division of the nonprofit organization NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It’s the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. They provide support groups for peers, support groups for families, education classes, helplines and mentors while actively advocating for better mental health legislation. These people are dedicated and passionate and work tirelessly to save lives.

Yes. Save lives. In 2009, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24. The third leading cause.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and during our last board meeting we talked about ways to bring awareness to this issue that devastates the lives of so many. All of the board members are either family or friends of someone who suffers from a mental health condition. I happen to be the only member with firsthand experience of what it’s like to struggle with depression and anxiety and the traumatizing sense of hopelessness that turns any obstacle into a reason to stop living.

My story has been told here over the years. It’s scattered throughout my archives and will continue to weave its way into future paragraphs. I’ve written about the continual fight I wage against my condition so that there is a face associated with this disease, so that anyone who is ashamed or made to feel ashamed about the way they feel, about how impossible it is to explain that they don’t want to feel this way, that they have no choice, that they’d like to wake up in the morning and feel something different, something other than I cannot do this anymore, they can see me and know that I understand. I, too, have lived and ached with that hopelessness. I encounter it again from time to time, but I’m here and I’ve lived through it. No, it hasn’t been easy. But here I am.


But my story isn’t just for them. It’s for the father who doesn’t understand why his daughter is so miserable. Why won’t she just snap out of it? Her kids are healthy, she’s got a roof over her head, she’s got friends. What reason does she have for being so sad? She’s being ridiculous.

It’s for the son who gets together with his friends and tells stories about his crazy mother. She’s never happy and sleeps all day. She hasn’t showered in a week. He’s tired of her bullshit. Doesn’t she know how embarrassing she is? Pull it together already.

It’s for the husband who comes home from work and finds his wife curled up on the couch unable to speak, unable to unwind her body from the fetal position. All she has to do is look after the kids all day. It’s not like she has to meet a deadline at the office. If she had to sit through his commute then maybe he could understand. What is it with her?

It’s for those who think we can just get over it. I’ve written about my struggle so that maybe you will understand that your daughter, your mother, your wife… they aren’t being ridiculous. They are suffering. They are in pain. They are struggling with a sense of doom so overwhelming that they cannot see anything beyond it. It is real and it is awful. And they need help.

I’ve already told my story, again and again, and I was hoping maybe you’d like to share yours here to help bring awareness to this, to help those who suffer and those who live with those who suffer. How have you been affected by mental illness? What has helped you?

  • Short and Feisty

    2013/05/06 at 1:40 pm

    Senior year of college–diagnosed with an Anxiety/Panic Disorder. Lost a few ‘friends’, but discovered Dooce and I am still here (and I graduated, thank GOD).

    You rock, lady, and make me feel a lot better about being a little cray cray.

  • The Leash

    2013/05/06 at 1:44 pm

    It’s time…

  • Living with Depression

    2013/05/06 at 1:46 pm

    Depression sufferer and survivor (depending on the week, sometimes the day). Your blog helps me, as has therapy, medication, family support and giving myself a break. Thank you, Dooce.

  • sonia

    2013/05/06 at 1:49 pm

    You wrote a post a few years ago about talking to a friend who wasn’t admitting her depression. You brought up the point that a diabetic isn’t ashamed to take insulin, so why should someone with depression be ashamed of anti-depressants? It was just what I needed to hear. Within a week, I walked out of my doctor’s office with a diagnosis and a prescription. If not for that, I don’t know how I would have gotten through the next few months, which were far harder than everything that had gotten me to that point. Reading today’s post, it’s a reminder that it may come and go, but it’s still something to watch for. I’m never “cured.” And that’s ok! I just need to deal with it, and those around me need to understand it. Simple (and difficult) as that.

    Thank you for being that face, and that voice.

  • Michelle

    2013/05/06 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you…my husband has severe depression and PTSD, and many people think he is just “lazy” or that he doesn’t try hard enough. It helps me not feel so alone to read this, and to remember how real this disorder is.

  • Jennifer Range

    2013/05/06 at 1:51 pm

    This post has come at a great time and is a great reminder to me that there are resources out there that can help me, my family and others I know. I have struggled with depression since I was in high school, and got suicidal my senior year. I went to counseling and got better. A year after my first daughter was born, I was diagnosed with PPD. I got on a low dose of medicine and sought counseling and got better. A cousin committed suicide last summer. My brother committed suicide last December on 12/12/12. My aunt died of cancer last month. And I didn’t realize it until today, but I’m depressed again. And I’m scared for me and for my family. My brother had a severe brain injury from a car accident and was bipolar. My cousin was bipolar. Other relatives have either been diagnosed as bipolor or they show the signs and symptoms for it. My husband’s mom is bipolar. His brother was bipolar and committed suicide 15 years ago. And we think his sister is bipolar.

    I’m surrounded by mental illness and it makes me scared for myself and it makes me scared for my kids. So I know I need to take my head out of the sand and get help for myself and also teach my kids how to cope when things get hard, as odds are high that one or more of them will be bipolar.

    So thank you for sharing and reminding me that it’s ok to admit that I’m overwhelmed and exhausted, but that there is hope and help out there.

  • Meg

    2013/05/06 at 1:53 pm

    I feel blessed to have lived most of my life without mental health problems. However, I did experience two different bouts of anxiety- one during the first semester of college and the other during my first semester of law school. I had a few panic attacks and lived a month or so each time feeling like I was right on the edge of, for lack of a better term, “losing it.” The first time I didn’t know what to do so I just tried to live with it, and it went away. The second time, I started going to a great counselor, and he helped me so much. Just knowing that if I ever feel like that again, I know where to go and who to talk to, is enough.

    Thank you Dooce, and everyone else, for talking about this. I am grateful for my mental health and hope those who aren’t as lucky can find some solace in knowing that they’re not alone.

  • eyeamink

    2013/05/06 at 1:54 pm

    I can say nothing more than thank you for helping people see that they are not alone. I suffered from severe depression and anxiety after my mother’s death…to the point of brutal night terrors. I found your blog through a friend that same year. Thank you for helping keep me a little more together.

  • Melissa

    2013/05/06 at 1:55 pm

    Anxiety… even i don’t understand my brain, how I can be anxious on days when literally I cannot think of one thing I need to feel anxious about. It started at 16 (when I, too, had to be the valedictorian of ALL THE THINGS) and I went to the doctor because I could-not-breathe. She told me I was anxious and I laughed because who had time to be anxious and pass 5 AP tests and get into college? I didn’t believe her. But here I am, 10 years later, and I can see now finally that all that anxiety wasn’t normal, that I was actually always an anxious kid, and that I’m not crazy. But it’s hard to explain to my husband, and he’s really the only one I tell, about how my body can be feeling such an intense fight or flight reaction but my mind is totally calm and happy. And actually, I finally talked to my sister about it (a crazy thing of itself, because my family doesn’t discuss feelings) and she has anxiety too. And I’m so glad there are people like you to put a face on the struggle.

  • Tessa

    2013/05/06 at 1:55 pm

    I was diagnosed with depression at age 11, and then bipolar disorder at 20. I spent a month in a mental hospital when I was 21 to get my meds under control. After several years of lithium and several other pharmaceuticals, I stopped taking birth control. This made all the difference in the world for me. I was eventually able to stop taking all meds, even lithium, and take a natural hormone balancing supplement. I’m way less crazy now.

    However, I’m still a little crazy. Depression is pretty familiar territory, though it’s not unmanageable. I’ve changed my diet so that it’s very well-balanced and includes tons of vegetables and lots of whole foods. I exercise regularly. I make sure to spend at LEAST half an hour every day doing something nice for myself, be it reading a book or knitting or watching cartoons. These things help keep it in check.

    When I feel myself slipping into a depression, it’s often because there’s tons of stuff on my to-do list and it feels overwhelming. The biggest coping mechanism here is to step back and assess how bad the situation really is, and then make a point of taking care of at least one thing per day.

    When I was in the hospital, my group therapist would always ask us to list one thing we *have* to do that day, and then asked us to plan one thing for pleasure to do after the aforementioned necessary task. Having a goal in mind and something to look forward to has really been a big help for me over the years. I hope this helps someone else, too.

  • misscaron

    2013/05/06 at 1:55 pm

    Wonderfully written, as always. Thank you for sharing your story. I’ve shared a bit of mine as well and I truly hope the more people become aware of the reality that surrounds depression and/or anxiety the more they will want to make a difference. I explained to a friend once that I literally have to talk myself into my day. Like, when I wake up I have to talk to myself about why I should get out of bed and why I should take a shower and why I should leave my house. I’m happily married and have a loving network of family and friends and people just don’t understand. “How can you be so happy and yet not happy at the same time?” That, my friends, is precisely my point. My brain doesn’t work like “normal” people. Thank you again, Heather, for raising awareness… for sharing your story… for being open and honest and up front with us, always.

  • pixelpica

    2013/05/06 at 1:55 pm

    I’ve struggled with clinical depression since I was a teenager (am now in my 30s) and watched my mom struggle for my entire life. She admitted herself into the hospital once; I almost did, but instead took three weeks off work and moved in with her. Because of her (and my dad’s) understanding of it, I got through. Having someone who understands and doesn’t judge is so wonderful and I try to pay that forward whenever I can, if I find out someone is going through the shit as well.

    I also think that it helped me, personally, to stop subscribing to a worldview (Mormonism) that didn’t fit with my own. I’m not saying that’s what will help everyone, but I believe it helped me.

    Also, Dooce, your blog helped me in more ways than I can describe. It has been wonderful to know that someone else has survived … and is brave enough to publicly talk about it (since I am not).

  • Jennifer Wagner

    2013/05/06 at 1:56 pm

    I’ve had anxiety/depression since I was a teenager and I didn’t get help until I was 28 years old. I thought I was just bitchy and then I had my son and to add post-partum to that, I went off the deep end.

    Let’s put it this way, I’m shocked my husband is still married to me. For 15 years I struggled with not being able to handle anything, all the while realizing that something is wrong but I HAD NO CONTROL over it…that scared the shit out of me and made things worse.
    After I had my son in 2009, things got progressively worse, more instances of meltdowns and craziness. He was almost two until I went to my doctor and she prescribed biofeedback. That didn’t help at all, and I quit that after a couple months. I went back with my husband and a list of depression symptoms – most of them highlighted. She didn’t even think twice and put me on antidepressants. My doctor suspects i have low levels of seratonin, so when any stress enters my life, my brain has nothing to pull from to handle it.
    Going on medication was the Best.Thing.That.Ever.Happened.To.Me. It has made my life livable, I’m not anxious, scared, stressed every second, I can HAVE FUN without having a freak out. I have a life and one that I can enjoy. Life stressed me out before. Most importantly – I can set a better example for my kids.
    It took me so long to get help because I was embarrassed and thought I was weak. I was weak NOT getting help. I was fortunate that I had an incredibly supportive husband and a great physician that listened and didn’t dismiss me. Now I am SUPER open about being on medication and even joke about. My family and friends have noticed a difference in me and so have I.

    We had our second baby in September and it is because of YOUR blog I was brave enough to do it. With how hard and awful things were after the first, it was my biggest reservation.
    Thank you and I am so glad you are on the board!!

  • cojo

    2013/05/06 at 1:57 pm

    I recently lost my live-in boyfriend because of my depression. He couldn’t handle seeing me in my PJs all day on my off days, or sometimes needing to sleep 12+ hours, certainly not the fact that he felt the need to take care of me to keep me from suicide (and his belief that I should be taking care of HIM). In writing this I can sort of realize that I’m better off without a man who couldn’t love all of me but it hurts like a burning thing in my chest. Not just him either, my mom has literally told me to just snap out of it or pray my way out of it. I’ve been on just about every single antidepressant known to man and combinations thereof. Next stop is ECT but I think I’d rather be dead than risk brain damage.

  • Kristin

    2013/05/06 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks again for all you do to bring attention to this. I was diagnosed with PTSD when I was 12 after I was held at gunpoint. It has literally been an inch-by-inch climb back to what other people call normal. And anxiety and depression still rear their heads occasionally. But I’m forever grateful to the people who taught me how to cope with and fight against those feelings. Now that I have my own child, I’m thankful that I am aware of the signs/possibilities to help her through if necessary.

  • Laura

    2013/05/06 at 2:00 pm

    I have bipolar disorder 2, heavy on the depression and anxiety. If not for my husband and parents and a few good friends, a great therapist and some medications, I wouldn’t be here. I’m lucky to be employed and alive. Sometimes when I start to tell my story, I am met with, “Well, everyone’s a little crazy, what makes you so special?” But each one of us is special. Each life that is saved from suicide is important. I blog about it at http://blaugra.typepad.com. Thank you Heather!

  • J.

    2013/05/06 at 2:01 pm

    They’ll never understand, you have to live with anxiety/depression to know how it feels

  • Mandy

    2013/05/06 at 2:01 pm

    Struggling with anxiety and depression. The anxiety is more under control with medication, but so far it hasn’t helped the depression as much as I have hoped. Working with an awesome doctor to balance it all out. I’m glad that you are so open, it is good to know you’re not alone.

  • Jen S.

    2013/05/06 at 2:02 pm

    I have suffered from depression probably since I was a kid although I wasn’t diagnosed until after I had my son. It has been through trial and error that I have found what seems to be the right medicine/dosage for now. After being on antidepressants for about 9 years I though a few years ago that I should try weening off of them and see if I would be okay, bad idea! After a few months my depression started to creep in little by little and by the time I really realized it I was suffering from severe depression and actually made my first and only call to a suicide helpline.

    It was that phone call that made me realize that this is a life long illness for me and and I will probably have to take medication for the rest of my life. It is so hard to explain “depression” to those that don’t suffer from it. I have your blog post “Because I couldn’t say it on the phone” bookmarked and reread it every so often. I have also forwarded it to friends that are suffering from depression that haven’t made it as far as asking for help.

    Thank you for writing so candidly about depression, it really helps more people than you probably know. Sadly in our society it still seems to be such a taboo topic.

  • A

    2013/05/06 at 2:02 pm

    Since the age of 17 (I am now 32), I have struggled with my anxiety disorder. Although, with the help of my best friend Zoloft I have managed to have a very normal, if not exceptional life. I’m a college graduate, working professional, wife, mom, I have nice cars, and a beautiful home. But I live everyday, everyday knowing that I have a mental disorder and I feel less than most because of this. It’s a stigma that I fight internally ( even above I felt the need to make sure you know that I am not living in a box under a bridge) and hope to one day realize this is okay, and we all have our cross to bear.
    I know I will on medicine for the rest of my life ( I tried to wean myself last year and it ended very, very badly) and I try to remind myself that I am very fortunate that medicine works for me and I have insurance to pay for my doctor’s bills and medicine.

    Please know that you are not alone, whoever you are reading this. It gets better, and there is always a solution whether it be meds or counseling. I promise you.

  • julie

    2013/05/06 at 2:03 pm

    Just remember, this is something that doesn’t affect only women.

  • Bellaboo

    2013/05/06 at 2:06 pm

    I got pregnant at 16 by my first poorly placed love. He left me the day my son was born because I backed out of putting him up for adoption. I gave birth to my son alone without any friends or family near. For nearly a month I drown in my sadness and depression from hearing from half the people I knew that I made the wrong choice, while the other half who swore that they would be there for me turned a blind eye to my floundering. I took my sleeping son into the bathroom with me and laid him in his bounce chair. I climbed into the tub with a razor and silently cried as I mulled over my choices. As I placed the blade on my wrist, my baby started shrieking as if in pain. It was as if a bolt of lightning had cut through the fog in my brain. The ramifications of my actions hit me as I thought about what my son’s life would be like if I killed myself. I sat there in the tub, listening to my baby shriek and I made a silent promise to him that I would never try to take my life.. that I choose to live for him. I have struggled and fought with my depression and anxiety to the point that I was agoraphobic. I have taken medication, dieted, exercised, done laughter therapy and still to this day constantly battle with it… but not once have I ever came so close to taking my own life again.

  • Renee

    2013/05/06 at 2:07 pm

    I have a teenage son with Bipolar Disorder. He was diagnosed when he was 10, and the first couple of years were a nightmare. He suffered from severe rage episodes and there were times when I wasn’t sure who he would kill first – me or himself. It was terrifying and heartbreaking.

    His diagnosis was a mixture of sadness and relief. Sadness because I knew this would be a lifelong struggle for him with no simple cure and a great deal of stigma working against him. Relief because I finally had an answer that explained his irrational behavior. The behavior that had made me feel like a failure as a mother and made every single person in my sphere critical of my parenting. And because we could finally get him the treatment he needed. I often have to defend my decision to medicate my kid but I’ve become very good at educating those with the luxury of ignorance.

    Getting good mental health treatment isn’t easy, but it is worth the battle. Once my son was properly medicated and his moods were stabilized our home life improved dramatically.There have been some rough patches, and that’s when we adjust his meds and step up his therapy. Now, at the age of 14, he and I have a wonderful relationship and I cherish it INTENSELY.

    One word advice to other parents of kids with mental illness: If at all possible, as soon as possible, take your kid out of school. School was the biggest source of stress and anxiety for my son and myself since preschool. He was bullied mercilessly and the bottom line is that the school can NOT do anything about it when kids have placed a target on your child. I had to wait until my son was in 8th grade and I felt comfortable leaving him home alone because I have to work full-time, and it was the best thing I ever did for him.

    Heather, thank you for this post and all that you do to decrease the stigma for mental illness!

  • Crystal T.

    2013/05/06 at 2:08 pm

    Yes, I’ve suffered with mental illness since I was a child. I distinctly remember walking through the front gates at my elementary school and willing myself to smile instead of frown. I felt so much dread every day. I slept a lot. I still sleep when I feel super depressed.

    What has helped was therapy and antidepressants and talking about it. Not just one of those things would have done it – all of them were necessary. My family and friends watch out for me. My husband pushes me to talk because he knows if I don’t it eats me up. I keep writing even if I do so in private. I practice self-care religiously because I’m afraid of getting to the deepest, darkest place. (There are some good workbooks for depression and anxiety and most other mental illnesses that help with that.)

    And my child has helped, too, even though being a parent has not helped my depression. My child has given me something to fight for every day. It wasn’t until he was born that I went all in with getting treatment – individual therapy plus group therapy plus medication plus a skills building class – years of those things. It gets better every year now instead of worse.

    Oh and another thing is that I seriously limit my time with those who tend to cause me to spiral. Sadly that comes from my family quite a bit and I can’t even explain why. I just know to keep sane I have to take care of me first.

  • Jen

    2013/05/06 at 2:09 pm

    Mired in a pretty hideous bout of depression right now, and not sure where to turn. I have two beautiful children, amazing friends, and a job I love, but at the end of the day when the job is done and the children are in bed, the joking, happy facade I’ve held together with Scotch tape and strength of will slowly peels away. I spend my night crying in bed alone, wondering if it’s even worth waking up in the morning. But I do. I do it for my children, who deserve so much better than what I’m capable of giving them as a single, working mom. I don’t know how much longer I can keep feeling so horribly, horribly alone.

  • grad.nauseam

    2013/05/06 at 2:12 pm

    I was on the job market in graduate school and feeling worthless and alone. At a huge conference where I was supposed to be networking, I spent an entire night scream-crying into my pillow thinking about chucking myself off the balcony of the hotel room I was given by a chance upgrade. I had been struggling for a while, but after that night I reached out to the DoCo and found so much support and strength. I don’t know if it’s taboo to say this here, but I was so touched that @jon took the time to respond. It made me realize that I was of a bigger “community” than I thought, and that it was time to get help. I’m not *better*, but I recognize my struggles for what they are, and I’m learning to deal with it.

  • Michele

    2013/05/06 at 2:12 pm

    My 11 year old son battles daily with anxiety and what seems to be bi-polar disorder (they are hesitant to name it this yet because he is young) and depression. He has a hard time being around other people and he often hates himself because of it. He has been hospitalized for attempting to run into traffic and point blank telling the Dr’s at the hospital that he just wants nothing more but to die. Mental illness is STILL such a huge stigma and we need to change that. Thankfully I was directed by a good friend to NAMI in our area. There are no support groups where we live so I was trained to facilitate one and will also be teaching the NAMI basics course. Mental illness IS an illness, and the more we talk about it the more I hope those who struggle and those of us who love them will be able to stop explaining themselves.

  • Stephanie

    2013/05/06 at 2:13 pm

    Within the last few years, I finally got my life back from depression. I didn’t know I was depressed I just knew I wasn’t good enough and that life equals sadness. I thank God everyday that my OBGYN (of all people) saw the sadness in me and helped me heal.

    Today I am free. Sure, there are bumps in the road but I’d take a week full of bad days rather than a lifetime of never knowing it could get better-that I could get better.

  • That Crazy Chick

    2013/05/06 at 2:13 pm

    My son commited suicide at age 19. For 5 years I thought about following him every day. Every. Day. And then suddenly I saw where he had been, because I was there. Not firey anger or blame, just cold despair, tired of hurting all the time. Just wanting it to end. It took years of reading, seeking help, and talking to other people who’ve lost loved ones through suicide to find an even keel. I will never be who I was before I lost him, but I am a much better friend (and parent) than I used to be. I’ve learned to listen past the actual words. I wish I’d learned it before I ost my son, though.

  • Richard Morey

    2013/05/06 at 2:13 pm

    Thank you for supporting NAMI. I suffer from anxiety myself.

    On an unrelated note – is there any chance you can put the links for older and newer posts at the top of the page as well as the bottom?

  • RR

    2013/05/06 at 2:14 pm

    I dated someone with Aspergers and low-energy ADHD (they usually intermingle), with bold strokes of anxiety and depression mixed in. This wasn’t an easy ride, needless to say the relationship couldn’t be maintained but he remains my closest friend and companion. I’ve seen first hand the stigma attached to people whose brains operate differently. Everyone should be able to talk about mental illness like they talk about arthritis, heart disease or IBS. There is massive shortage of resources, understanding, safety nets and flexibility in the “system” that would allow otherwise ridiculously talented and intelligent people to have some semblance of quality of life. My friend can’t hold down a job and yet he’s the most intelligent and creative person I know. Heart-wrenching.

  • Barstool Babe.

    2013/05/06 at 2:14 pm

    I’m in my 50’s and was raised by parents who thought an epileptic was mentally deficient. I knew as a teenager that I was sadder than my peers, yet when I asked for “help” from my parents I was accused by them of blaming my mother for being a “bad mother”. That was the furthest thing from my mind, I just wanted to be happy. It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I found a therapist (an LISW) that actually helped me face what my issues were/are. It was also when I found a doctor who heard my pain and prescribed Prozac. I ended up being the trailblazer in my family. By watching my struggles, my siblings have all felt more comfortable seeking help when they needed it. Even my mother finally found that she could function better and enjoy life more by taking anti-anxiety medicine. I still wish she would try talk therapy, but it’s her decision.

    What’s helped me? 1) group therapy – where I discovered that I am not the ONLY ONE suffering from depression and how to identify and then talk to others about my feelings; 2) finding my voice and meeting others with the same struggle – it’s cathartic to be able to “vent” to others who know what I’m going through and it makes me feel good when I can be there to help others with their struggles, usually my just being there to listen to them “vent”; 3) you DOOCE – I don’t know how I can impress upon you how seeing you struggle through the valleys and get back up to the top and “normal” has inspired me and informed me that asking AND accepting help when I’m at the cliff’s edge is all right. I seriously doubt that I’m the only person who you have helped with your writing. Thank you.

  • parfae

    2013/05/06 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you for never shying away from this subject. It was your site that aided me in taking the leap to get help several years ago, and it was the best decision I ever made.

  • amomynous

    2013/05/06 at 2:15 pm

    My mother has suffered from mental illness (bipolar) for years. She still does and won’t admit it. She thinks no one can tell. She consciously stopped taking medication and she feels as though she’s normal. She’s not.

    My sister has mental illness. She has crippling anxiety, depression, and myriad other unnamed issues. She won’t take medication. And my mom won’t make her.

    I’ve tried to reason, I’ve bribed, I’ve yelled, I’ve cried, I’ve hugged, I’ve listened, I’ve asked, I’ve referred. And it doesn’t help. It introduces stress into my life that otherwise is not there. So this year, for my mental health, I stepped back. I’m stopping. I’ll listen and that’s it. I’m no longer researching medications and trying to label the symptoms as a bona fide condition. I’m just stepping back.

    Distancing myself.

    I’m losing two people in my life, but I’ve finally got my own life back. I know most people would say it isn’t the right thing to do, but it’s what I’ve chosen to do. It’s all I know how to do.

  • etty

    2013/05/06 at 2:15 pm

    I would never say that I sufferED from depression. I still suffer from it. Right now, I’m lucky. It’s not too hard to get out of bed, to trust my judgement, to have clarity of thought. That might change tomorrow, next week, next year…
    I was seriously ill at 13. Though no-one realised it at the time, it triggered some kind of PTSD that was further aggravated by a hideous separation of my parents at 15. A few weeks after my 16th birthday, I went to bed. For 2 months. Laid awake all night and then slept til the afternoon. It took my mother eventually threatening to have me sectioned to get me to a doctors and onto prozac. I hated it. The only thing worse than feeling the density, the pressure of the black cloud was feeling NOTHING.
    It took me until I was 24 and finally found a therapist I could take guidance from before that black cloud properly lifted.
    I say THANK GOD partners / parents / colleagues / friends don’t ‘get it’. Because that means they haven’t had to feel it. That knot in your stomach, that weight on your shoulders, that dull ache in your heart. I HOPE my nearest and dearest never understand it because I would never wish it on anyone and would rather feel their frustration with me than feel their empathy and know that it’s only because they’ve been at the bottom of that pit too.

  • dawn

    2013/05/06 at 2:16 pm

    I’m going through all of this, personally and with one of my children. He is struggling, and I am struggling. I told my husband the other day that I feel like I’m drowning, that I can barely keep my head above water. Sometimes I feel so unbearably alone and misunderstood I want to curl up in a ball and ignore the world–after all, they’d rather ignore me and what I’m going through.

  • East Coast

    2013/05/06 at 2:17 pm

    –>I worked for a mental health company for 10 years. It’s people like you who put a spotlight on real people and their mental health issues which encourages others in similar situations.

  • Elspeth

    2013/05/06 at 2:18 pm

    My mother has told me more than once that “depression is self-indulgent.” And then she expresses surprise when I keep my psychological struggles secret from her.

  • Jessi

    2013/05/06 at 2:18 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how I feel less alone when I read your posts about Depression & Anxiety. Today was a particularly bad day for me, this is just what I needed to read. And reading all the comments.. wow. Dude, we really are all in this together. I’ve just turned 25 and the last two years are probably the best I’ve had after finding the right medication but that doesn’t mean I’m better, and a lot of people kind of assume that I should be. I have days where I go out to a place I’ve been a million times before, but that particular day it feels like I’ve been thrown into the deep end of a pool and I can’t breathe and there are people every where and I need to leave. Other days I feel so low that I can’t even be bothered to sit up straight. Today was one of those days. I feel even worse for being low since I’m pregnant and I love and want this baby so much, but it makes even less sense to my friends now – how can I be so sad when I’m so lucky? I know I’m lucky, and just because I’m depressed and have anxiety doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate all the wonderful things in my life. Some days are amazing, I feel on top of the world, there is light, but I always know the darkness is coming back eventually, at some point. It’s just how it is.

    Thank you for this post. And thank you to everyone who’s sharing their stories too. I wish I could explain my story better, but I still find it hard to put it all down into words o.O

  • Monica

    2013/05/06 at 2:19 pm

    I suffer from anxiety. It got bad enough a few years ago that I literally couldn’t make it through a work day without having at least one panic attack where I felt like my heart might literally explode. I saw my doctor, started taking medication and within a month was able to make the decision to go back to school (at 33) to pursue a new career. It was that doctor and that medication that allowed me to be able to function like those around me, to be able to get through a work day without that horrible panic feeling, to be able to better organize my brain into making changes to improve my life overall.

    I finished that 2 year degree last May, I switched positions at my company 6 months into the program, have worked at home formthe past year and I now have a freelance business. I couldn’t have done it without the tools available to me. And the understanding of a very patient and understanduing husband who was there for me through it all

  • Sarah

    2013/05/06 at 2:21 pm

    I know you opened up the comments so we could share how mental illness has affected us, but I don’t want to share anything, because I’m just not “there” yet. I do want to let you know how meaningful your blog is to me, especially entries like this. Thank you.

  • jawnbc

    2013/05/06 at 2:22 pm

    I’m using a pseudonym because I’ve been bitten on the arse by disclosure…

    In my mid 20s I crashed and burned due to alcoholism: goodbye job, home, (asshole) partner–no money, only a small backpack of possessions. Some very good people helped me and I got into some services that got me out of the morass. A year later I felt renewed and grateful and motivated. 2 months on and I tried to kill myself, which I hadn’t done since my teens. But it was something I thought about all the time: I went from happy and grateful to what’s the point in the blink of an eye.

    So I started the long road. First shrink was not bad, and we found some meds that stabilized me and OH MY GAWD I understood what happy and content really felt like. Before that I was convinced that stressed (rather than losing it) was “happiness”. But the meds were like crutches–in a good way–in that they held me up so I could start talking through my shit. There was a lot of it to talk through. A couple of years on and I felt good and strong. We agreed I’d try going without meds and I was good for a few more years.

    Then back into the morass. This time I found an awesome shrink and we really got into it. Oh and back on meds. If people want evidence of how well pharmacology and talk therapy can work I tell them this: I went from being fearful, cynical and under-employed to calm, hopeful and getting a muthafuckin doctorate. A PhD isn’t all that, but it represents the ability to focus, to push through, to self-manage. All things I lacked before I got proper treatment and care.

    I was the guy “with so much potential” to the one “we always knew would succeed”. It’s not been a linear experience since; a couple of years ago a change to my meds brought back suicide–a side effect of a new med–which I wasn’t telling anyone about because I’d known so many who found NOTHING that worked for them and I didn’t want to be a princess. I nearly was a dead princess.

    In my relationship it can be sticky, there are times I want to smack my partner for arguing that my actions are related to the crazy. But instead of fighting with him (which brings out the crazy), I try to remember what it’s been like to live with me in the dark times and cut him some slack.

  • Christy Milford

    2013/05/06 at 2:24 pm

    I have been depressed on and off for about half my life, and I still struggle with self-acceptance and tolerance. I’ve been off and on various medications, and still fight with myself as to whether I need it, as if it makes me something lesser to have to take a pill to feel okay. My husband is unfailingly supportive, but he has no idea how this feels and sometimes I’m sorry that I put this extra burden on our relationship and our life. Lately I’ve been reconsidering whether I want to have kids, because I don’t want to pass this on, it would be too heartbreaking to see my child suffer like I have and not be able to fix it.
    Thank you, Heather, for sharing your story. It means so much to me that you start conversations like this.

  • Anon

    2013/05/06 at 2:25 pm

    sometimes I feel like the only reason not to kill myself is that someone would have to deal with my (fat, disgusting) body.

  • Beth Rich George

    2013/05/06 at 2:25 pm

    Depression, diagnosed as PTSD at first, almost 25 years ago. Never so debilitating to need hospitalization, but bad enough to NEVER miss my meds. Part of the reason why I follow you faithfully is your commitment to making mental illness as easy to talk about as any other chronic illness.

  • Sara B

    2013/05/06 at 2:27 pm

    After years of suffering without getting help, I finally sought help in 2006. I was diagnosed with Dysthymic Disorder; defined by Mayo Clinic as a mild but long-term (chronic) form of depression. I spent several years in weekly therapy and on medication. I’m currently doing well off of medication and not going to therapy but I won’t hesitate to go back to either or both if needed in the future.

    Thank you for talking about this. In March when I was unexplainably sad, I recalled your post giving the reason why September and March being particularly difficult for those of us who suffer from depression. I needed that reminder and I’ve shared with my friends as well. I can’t thank you enough Heather.

  • Randianne

    2013/05/06 at 2:27 pm

    I’m glad there are people like you who speak out. There are still people, my own family included, who think that depression is self inflicted. They believe that you can pray it away. If you hear it enough times, you can start to believe it and the guilt becomes overwhelming. A lot of lives are saved by people who have enough compassion and love to offer help instead of condemnation.

  • Jill C.

    2013/05/06 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you Heather for your honesty. Thank you for being brave enough to share your story.

    My son suffers from severe depression. He has been hospitalized three times since he was eight years old. He is 28 years old now. He still lives at home with his father and me. We are hopeful that he will be able to obtain and more importantly, keep, a job soon and that he will be able to move out. We want him to move out – not for us – but for him.

    The rest of us (husband and another son) all suffer from depression also, but not to the depths that the 28 year old does.

    Again, thank you for all you do to fight stigma.

  • Vanessa Hutchinson

    2013/05/06 at 2:30 pm

    It’s been over two months since I started taking medication for my depression.

    I almost re-wrote that sentence because I don’t want it to sound like I am owning depression, as though it is part of who I am, the way people who smoke say they are smokers, never that they smoke. I don’t want to own something so destructive, to claim it. I guess I needed to, though, to master it, so I’m leaving that as is. I started taking medication for my depression.

    The first four days I felt even, as though the chasms of sadness in my brain had been ironed out, but so were the bi-polar highs that made my brain sparkle with spikes of Rainbow Brite happiness.

    The next week I laughed. I noticed. Those around me noticed. The laughter was a nice change from the crying, but it felt manic, even to me, a little like the too-bright reflection of sun off glass. It’s nice to have the sun, but it hurts a little to look at it.

    Week 3 was Christmas and New Year’s, a period of time I had been dreading, fearing, even, with a trepidation that sent sharp pains through the raw edges of my memories. I could still feel the drugs working, evening out again, but in a more sustainable, normal way, allowing me to focus on conversations better, allowing the white to look white again, instead of too bright, or slightly grey. However, it was a good thing I had those 10 days off, because I don’t know that I’ve ever been so tired in my life. I fell asleep during movies, in the afternoon, four or five times after initially waking up in the morning, and any other time I could.

    I brought this up with my doctor when I went in for a checkup during week 4, after he said hello to me and had to do a double take when I smiled back at him. He sat down and bowed his head. “I haven’t seen you smile in 8 months,” he said. That was just before he suggested I take the pill at night, to help me sleep at bedtime, and be awake when I need to be. I switched the next day, and I’ve been far less tired since. Over the following weeks I have felt increasingly different than the way I did for so long, specifically different than the way I did throughout 2010, thankfully.

    Different, and better.

    I’ve never wanted to be normal. To me normal meant blending in, fading away, being one of the masses. The thought made me shudder; that definition still makes me shudder. However, emotionally “normal” is what I have started to become, I think, and I like it a lot. Even though I realize the very concept of normal is subjective, what I mean by it is that I am no longer a shimmering shape, unsure which form to take, hovering at the edge of a dark abyss, wondering if I can fly. I feel human…almost stable, and my day to day life doesn’t send me into a panic regularly. I’ve had to learn to trust my struggle, to trust that I made the right choice with medication and honesty. It’s been hard to do, since I haven’t felt the ability to trust my emotions or decisions for a very long time. Depression steals your logic and The Crazy allows you to spin off the rails of what should be.

    I still cry, don’t get me wrong. Some day I will write about these last two months and what has gone on, but not now. Suffice it to say, it’s been hard, and bad, and good, and lovely. And I have cried. Often. And I have laughed. Hard. I’m glad for these emotions, though, the ups and the downs that don’t spiral me off into the stratosphere or crash me into my own private hell. Rarely have I felt the need to hide in the corner of my soul, behind the cobwebs, with the ghosts of The Crazy that I know, over these past 2 months.

    I’m grateful for that, and despite the upheaval in my life, or perhaps because of it, too, I feel stronger, saner, and almost, a little bit, well, normal.

  • BipolarMom (Jenn)

    2013/05/06 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you for this. Trying to explain depression to someone who has never been clinically depressed is so hard. Your post speaks volumes.

    After being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder early in 2006, I spent the rest of that year battling the demons of my depression. I was so lucky to have the endless support of my husband, my family and several close friends who listened when I needed to talk about what I was going through. I found a very good psychiatrist and was able to get on a medication that brought me to a stable level. I was finally able to get out of bed in the morning, finally able to enjoy food, and was finally able to begin living my life again.

    I just recently started blogging openly about my fight, how I’m at a point in my life now where I’m enjoying my journey along the road of recovery. I want to be a part of the movement to overcome the stigma attached to mental illness. On June 1st I’m participating in AFSP’s Overnight walk in Washington, DC. It’s one of my first steps towards contributing to educating the public about Mental Health issues and why it’s so important that we keep the conversations going.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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