An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

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?

  • Pick a Name

    “… and no one will help you”. This is the worst part to me. When the people you love, who are supposed to love you, get angry and take out that anger on you, instead of giving you the hug and help and understanding that you need. Is it that much different than for a child who by the end of the day can’t keep his shit together and needs the adults to understand and treat him with love, not telling him he’s bad and that he needs to be punished? Just because we’re adults, doesn’t mean we’re immune from not being able to keep our shit together. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses, but not being able to keep our shit together is not allowed. F that.

  • Pick a Name

    Hang in there hon. Someone’s thinking of you and rooting for you.

  • Angela

    I lost my 18 year old brother in law 2 years ago today. I would give anything if he would have asked any of us for help. Thank you for putting yourself out there to help spread awareness.

  • samspeaks

    I was diagnosed with major depression/anxiety in 2010. Stressful work situation, emotional affair, husband working two jobs and three small children got to be a bit too much. So I politely had a nervous breakdown and it has been the best thing that happened to me. I was in group therapy for several months, was properly medicated, went to a counselor for a year and have had only a few deep episodes with depression. Anxiety? Oh yeah……it’s still there. I don’t dare stop taking my medicine. I figure God made people who make legal drugs for a reason, so I’ll pop these babies til I die. I never thought I would feel suicidal, but I did. On ocassion I feel weak….like I’m not worth much. I don’t want to do anything to improve myself…because it would require work on my part and I’m of the midset that I just need to be a wife and mom and one day I’ll be older and retired. Oh yeah….there’s a life to be lived in there somewhere, huh? Day by day. That’s what I have to remind myself. Day by day.
    Thank you Heather, for sharing your life experiences. Thank you for this forum. Take care.

  • samspeaks

    Oh, and we decided in group therapy that the handicapped hang tags that people have in their cars?? We should have them too….showing a person with a bandage wrapped around their head. 🙂

  • Jen

    I too have suffered – I can totally relate when you write ” the traumatizing sense of hopelessness that turns any obstacle into a reason to stop living.” That about sums it up. After I had my daughter (first and only) I went a little crazy, I think. Or maybe a lot, its a fuzzy time. And to be completely honest, one of the main reasons I will not have another child is that I NEVER want to go back to that dark place again. Anyhow – what works for me is that I can sense when its coming on and I take immediate action. Schedule Dr. Visits, get on a support group website, and of course, keep up with my medication. I start surrounding myself with people and I make sure to get plenty of sleep. That’s really the only things that I can do. I have to make sure I dont isolate myself. That’s my 2 cents for whatever its worth. P.S. I love your posts about Marlo – my daughter is the same age (July 09) so I can relate.

  • anon

    Around 4th grade I started throwing up a lot and was dragged around to various specialists (none of whom were mental health professionals) who could find nothing wrong with me. No one thought to drag me to see someone about my mental health. It was the beginning of problems with anxiety that weren’t properly diagnosed until I was in my mid twenties–at which point I was beyond miserable, desperate, and suicidal. I truly didn’t want to live, but felt suicide was too shitty of a thing to do to my mom so finally got more aggressive about finding help. Fortunately I found it. Looooooooooooots of talk therapy eventually got me heading in the right direction–it actually took years before I started getting a handle on things though. I was anti-meds then, and looking back I can see that that really wasn’t very smart of me (all of my therapists tried to tell me this). I’m pretty sure meds would have spared me years of suffering. In my thirties I was diagnosed with ADHD. That diagnosis explains a lot about my life from a very early age. By the time that diagnosis came around I was open to meds. I find Ritalin to be super helpful with the symptoms and talk therapy to be most helpful with the emotional fall-out living life with ADHD. Both anxiety and ADHD are things that Cause Trouble sometimes, but now that I have the proper meds and support, I’m usually living a life that I’m proud and happy to be living.
    My husband struggles with anxiety. A lot. His anxiety has at times taken over our lives. After lots of experimentation we found daily meds that keep him sane most of the time, but he still wakes up in the middle of the night sometimes in the middle of a severe panic attack. We actually have a route that we follow around the block in our neighborhood in the middle of the night that keeps us close enough to our house so that baby monitors can keep us connected to our sleeping children while we walk through the worst of it together until the benzodiazepines kick in.
    My husband and I have two beautiful children whom we adore. I think we are pretty terrific parents. My husband and I also have doctorates and healthy successful careers. We live in an adorable house in an expensive are of the city we live in. I’m pretty sure most people don’t know that mental illness is a very real part of our cute little family. We are very careful about who we tell, and sometimes I feel guilty about that because I get that it would be good and helpful for everyone to see that people with mental illness who are properly supported usually look just like everyone else. Thanks Dooce for being so open.

  • Melissa

    I am all of the above a wife, mother, and daughter and while I try to help my family understand that I am not lazy, or really a bad tempered person I just struggle everyday to function like every one else. Getting up in the morning getting the kids to school is a struggle most days then having to go to work at times feels impossible to the point when I get done with work I come home and go to bed. I should be the happiest person I know having recently married my best friend and love of my life, I have 3 amazing kids and a great family but depression is a battle I have fought with my entire life. I sadly do not have health insurance so I am unable to get the medication I so badly have need for so I must find ways of coping with out it. There are times when my anxiety issues prevent me from going to the grocery store or even spending time with family if there will be a group of people in one place. I completely freak out at the thought of going to the mall or doing any form of shopping unless I go in the middle of the night when there is no one there. I try to explain to everyone I know how depression can be overcome but not without help and do not talk about mental illness if you can’t be supportive of those who suffer with it because you have no idea what a person is thinking or feeling just because they are smiling or laughing does not mean they are not crying inside. I applaud you Heather for your very public struggle with depression you have been an inspiration to so many and I have cried reading some of your experiences because I have felt that way as well. I think you are an amazing person, mother, and so much more and hope you continue what you do for a long time to come.

  • sgrace

    I’m a therapist and I’ve been reading your blog for many, many years. Thank you for being so open about your struggles. I’m certain it’s been helpful for anyone who’s come across your blog.

  • Jennifer Messmer

    I have suffered from panic disorder for many years. Looking back, I’m fairly sure it started in junior high (typical bullying by mean girls sent me spiraling). I was fine in high school, but toward the end of college I started having panic attacks. They came and went since that time. I occasionally took medication for it, but for a long time was doing fine without.

    Then I had my first child. I didn’t realize it until long after, but I had pretty severe PPD. I was so miserable, angry, sad and thought about hurting myself (not to die, but just to go to the hospital so I could be taken care of; I was overwhelmed by motherhood). I climbed out of that with some therapy and no meds.

    A couple years later I had my daughter and PPD started immediately. Only this time I wasn’t sad. I was so filled with anxiety I couldn’t sleep and could barely leave the house without suffering a major panic attack. I wanted to jump out of my skin. Luckily my daughter’s pediatrician caught on (thank God they had me fill out those PPD quizzes every time I took her in for a check-up). I was fortunate that my health care system had a comprehensive program for PPD involving therapy, medication and acupuncture. The acupuncture worked the quickest.

    When I became pregnant with my third child, I decided to be pro-active and took a low dose of safe meds while pregnant, but upped it the moment my third child was born. She’s 6 months old now and I’m still medicated and doing REALLY WELL.

    I cannot stress this enough to those suffering — get help, don’t wait to do it and it WILL get better.

  • wicked opinion

    You. You and the community you have built. More than anything, that has helped me. So thanks. For really realz, thank you.

  • EJ

    I have a 13 year old son who has a mood disorder which leads to aggressive behavior, sometimes at school, often at home. He’s on a waiting list for residential treatment. It breaks my heart that when we are in crisis the only help I can get is from law enforcement. I think it’s pretty f’d up that our society thinks that the most appropriate way to treat a kid that is so sick is with the juvenile court system. He’s smart, engaging, and beautiful. I hate that this disease has set him up to fail. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll fight for him every step of the way, but it sucks more than I can tell anyone.

  • Casey

    Good grief – this was me. Single mom, working, taking care of a baby, groceries, light bill or phone bill? Car repairs, PTA meetings run run run. I didn’t have time to sink. Once he was in high school, and I hit menopause, I spent 5 YEARS in the hole of depression, where I feel like I should have been my whole life. It’s seriously beyond me how I did it all those years. Depression finally caught up with me and swallowed me whole. Those were Very Dark Years indeed.

    Now I’m on medication, and exercising, and eating right, and ALL of that (as someone above me said) needs to happen for me to be ok. And I am – I’m OK. But I’ll never be ‘normal’.

  • Kate Bloom

    I have been suffering with depression and anxiety since early teenage. I’m now 30, and understand that this is something I will probably battle with for the rest of my life. I too was hung up on the stigma attached to mental illness, which I sometimes suspect may be even worse here in the UK with our ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality, but blogs like yours have destroyed any sense of shame and make me feel I’m not alone in this, at times, miserable and loneliest of conditions. I have tried a lot of medication, some which has helped keep me stable, but I wouldn’t say happy. I’ve tried eye-wateringly expensive therapy which helped somewhat, but was countered by the financial stress it created. The thing I have found most life changing has been mindfulness practice and meditation

  • lemondelicious

    I had post natal depression with both my kids but was not diagnosed until the second one was 6 months old. It felt like I was walking through knee-deep mud in the dark and rain. When I started to think it was all getting to much I saw my doctor, got a diagnosis, a prescription and the number for a local support group. After spending 6 weeks with the support group I also started going to a psychologist and started work on changing what the voice in my head was telling me. It has been a long road back to wellness but now I am in a good place. I have lost some friends but two of the people in that support group are now two of my closest friends in the world – they get it!

    Some of the other thing’s that helped me included:

    This letter from Stephen Fry to Crystal Nunn

    The information on these websites (I live down under):

    John Kirwan – he is a famous sports star in New Zealand who publicly admitted to suffering from mental health issues and headed a national publicity campaign for the Mental Health Foundation about the same time that I was diagnosed. I firmly believe that his openness and honesty about his mental health helped a number of my friends and family understand what I was going through. It also helped me get over the stigma of having a mental illness.

    Heather B Armstrong – that chick ROCKS for her openess and honesty. I cannot count the number of times that I have read her blog and been reminded that I am not alone. And her fart jokes are awesome too!!

  • kate

    I have depression and am doing well on medication. I’ve accepted that I might need to be on it for the rest of my life, and that’s fine. Your words “what reason does she have for being so sad?” hit the nail right on the head — this is the whole point. When there is NO REASON for being so sad, and you’re thinking about how it might be better to kill yourself, and you can’t imagine that any of your close friends and family will be that bothered by your death, you know you need help.
    Thanks Heather for being so open, and best wishes to you and everyone else out there with the same disease.

  • patches23

    There is an important distinction to be made and one that does not come up very often. It is one thing to define a set of symptoms as mental illness, which may point to an organic cause, something chemical in the brain, and be treated with medication. And certainly this is the most common way of looking at depression and other sets of symptoms and is a useful umbrella term.

    Then there is psychological trauma, which is the part much less often spoken about. We are starting to talk about psychological trauma because of how it happens in war or some other conflict. The symptoms may or may not have their origins in traumatic brain injury, as might happen in war.

    But psychological trauma can also happen every day in every seemingly “normal” home in this country. At its most extreme, it is what is coming out of child abuse. I would venture to say that child abuse is the number one problem in this country, but it is almost untreated. (Ask a psychiatrist off the record about all these drugs that affect brain chemistry. If they are honest they will say they help some of the people some of the time.)

    Picture somebody taking a stick and beating you across the knees with it every day during the period when your legs are at their most developmental. When you become an adult your knees may have problems and saying “just snap out of it” doesn’t work very well. It takes therapy and other kinds of treatment.

    Now picture your mind (not just the brain, but your entire nervous system) being beaten when you are at the most developmental time in your life. An adult bullying a child, for example. Threatening them, telling the child what a piece of crap they are. A huge adult towering over a tiny child who is dependent on that very adult for its survival. Every single day. That child is going to think of him or herself as something inferior, as “less than,” because that was imprinted on them at such a crucial time in their lives. And I’m way over-simplifying this but the child is going to grow up and carry a boat load of stuff into adulthood.

    And saying “snap out of it” isn’t going to work, and feeding them SSRIs like candy isn’t going to work. We need a new way of talking about this kind of trauma and a new way of treating it. I have my own experiences, yours may be different.

    Please let “psychological trauma” be a new part of the vocabulary of talking about what is affecting people.

  • Chicky1108

    I have struggled through the years -since junior high or earlier even – with what has recently been diagnosed as major depressive disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. That’s a mouthful, and a lot to take in for my family and friends. I think it was easier for them to just think of me as “moody”. But for me, having names to this awful way of thinking, feeling, living…it’s a relief. It’s a step in the right direction of finding a way towards a lighter heart. I am on medication and in counseling. It’s still a struggle, and it is infuriating how awful the stigma is that is still attached to mental health disorders. It’s infuriating when a friend tries to tell you to just “be grateful” for the blessings in your life. It’s maddening when someone tells you that you’re just talking yourself into being worse. Until someone has lived it, they really can’t comprehend how awful it is to wake up and give 100% of your energy to just putting your feet on the floor and starting the day. I hope and pray that more people will begin to recognize and truly understand that this is an illness – like any other. It’s not someone giving up or just not trying hard enough or not being grateful enough. It’s a disease that needs treatment and continual maintenance. Heather, thank you for continuing to put your story out there. It’s been a light in the darkness for me and I’m sure for many, many others.

  • Suzanne K

    I was a freshman in high school when my youngest brother died after a 5 year struggle with leukemia. I was 32 when my other brother, also younger, died of melanoma. It was the perfect storm to trigger what had been a chronic low grade depression into a major depressive episode, complete with suicide attempt. Nobody close to me understood how it feels to think that ending your life is the only way to stop the pain.

    Prozac and an understanding psychiatrist literally saved me. I lost my husband – just get better already! was his belief. My family never did understand. Until her dying day, my mother asked when I was going to stop taking that medicine. My answer? Never.

    What I want people to know is that there is hope. There are medications and caring doctors who can make a difference. Don’t give up. There are solutions that can make life livable.

  • Good timing; I’m actually not doing too well at the moment with my own depression and anxiety. I have a list of things that help and I do my best to utilize those things and fight it, but it’s exhausting and sometimes I feel like it’s all I can do to just survive. The guilt is what makes it so bad sometimes, like the guilt of not being able to work, or when I feel like a burden to my husband because of my problems (even though he’s very supportive), or when I try to explain to my daughter why I can’t drive by myself to see her and I know she really doesn’t understand. At times like that I have to remind myself over and over that I’m not choosing to be depressed or anxious and it is a real problem.

    Heather, you have also helped just by bringing first hand experience and information about depression and anxiety to the public and making everyone more knowledgeable, so thank you for that.

  • Panic attacks, Depression, Bipolar and two suicide attempts. Too much meds or too little meds. Never seems to be correct. Most days I do ok and struggle through. I lost my house, wife, children and friends I am getting my children back on the condition there are no more suicide attempts. The Hotline helps allot, walking also, My dog helps me. But it never goes away. I never know if tomorrow will be the day.

  • Nutmeg

    I’ve suffered from depression and generalized anxiety for all my life. It was difficult putting a finger on it because I did also have some really heavy stuff happen to me as a kid, so it was hard to know where it stemmed from. I remember having my first suicidal ideations when I was about 13. I made it through college before I got there again. I sought counseling while poor in graduate school. Insurance would only pay for a few visits and I didn’t have money to pay but I did start medication and have been on and off anti-depressants for the last 12 years and they are the key for me. Hypnotherapy has all but cured me of my general anxiety. I am the daughter of an untreated mother with bi-polar disorder… and my father died 10 years ago (today is the day his body was discovered, probably a week or so after he died), he was a severely depressed, serious alcoholic and probably died because he couldn’t and didn’t take care of himself. I’m okay. I have PMDD so sometimes things get a little hairy, but I haven’t thrown anything at anyone’s head lately. Despite my problems with depression I did NOT get Post-partum depression or even the blues (so there is some hope for people there, though I was medicated through my last pregnancy and still am). I married a doctor and frankly it took years for him to understand that I am not just “Sad” and I know he was scared the first time he found me curled up in a ball on the floor of the closet rocking back and forth! But he’s a trooper and he now understands he can’t make me feel better. I’m not sad. And it is nice to have a second set of eyes on me to let me know if things start to go off the rails a bit.

  • Not all mental illness is related to anxiety or depression. My mother, after living 79 years, started exhibiting signs of delusional disorder, most likely caused by a rare form of dementia called Lewy Body Disease. She had hallucinations, auditory and visual, and created an entire group of “friends” to which she belonged, friends who were on the verge of extraordinary discoveries. Her reality broke completely. That was 2 years ago. I spent eight long months trying to figure out how to help her. Eight months of my husband finding me in the closet crying in a fetal position because I just didn’t know what to do. In the end, I got therapy. I learned that sometimes to maintain a connection with my Mom, I had to walk in her world. She is now living in a skilled nursing facility with stage 6 dementia and is on 2 different anti-psychotics. And though her delusions are what they call “fixed” – meaning they never go away – they have subsided. For the most part.

    Honestly, her condition might have fascinating aspects (I have a minor in psychology) if it weren’t for the simple fact that this is my Mom. Sometimes she is here with me. Other times she reads her pillow for news. And on the inside I curl up in my closet all over again.

  • ailouron

    Depression and meds are so complicated. When meds help, thank god they do. I just had an a-ha! moment about one aspect of life that may seem trivial, but when I think about what it means for me it is so, so, so important. I tear up, and I thank my mom for forcing me to recognize what I was suffering from, and to do something about it.

    I’m a recent expat from the US to Australia, and four years ago I would never have been able to live here. Not because I’d be scared of moving overseas, or because I wouldn’t be qualified to find a job, or because of any number of factors. But because four years ago I wasn’t on antidepressants.

    Just one of the many things these drugs do for me is allow me to relax.

    In Australia, lots of people have dogs. Lots of people have small dogs. And most of these dogs are kept outside the majority of the time. I imagine it’s part weather (they won’t freeze) but also
    part culture. Working from an admittedly small sample size, they don’t tend to be the coddled family members that many dogs I know (and love) in the states are. They tend to be kept in the yard while the humans are at work, and they tend to be kept in the yard overnight, while the humans are asleep. There are a lot of constantly barking dogs around here.

    Where we live there are at least two dogs nearby who seem to be outside most of the time, and who bark, I’d estimate, about a fifth of my waking hours. This means there are hours here and there where there is no barking, but there are also 30, 40, 50 minute periods where the dogs bark /constantly/.

    And it’s kind of annoying!

    But not really, for me, right now. Because every time I hear the dogs barking I think about times when I wasn’t on antidepressants, when I would not be able to focus on anything other than that dog barking.

    “Bark.” Shit. I’m reading. Keep reading!… and Talia rode with her companion out… “Bark.” and Talia rode… “Bark.” and Talia… and Talia… there’s no barking, when is it going to bark again? I know it’s going to… “Bark.” There it is!

    That sound that I couldn’t control would utterly absorb me. If I was watching a movie with my boyfriend at the time and the neighbor upstairs began walking around her room, I wouldn’t be able to pay attention to the movie. All of my focus went into trying to /not/ pay attention to the creaking and thumping, and ever so slowly I’d get angry – at myself for not being able to stop paying attention, at the house for being old, at the girl upstairs for being at home (“elephant feet,” I called her), at my boyfriend for trying to help, trying to distract me…

    So apart from taking away some of the apathy that my chronic depression leaves me with, apart from helping me to be interested in the things I always was interested in, but which didn’t feel worthwhile or interesting /enough/, I’m grateful for my antidepressants for freeing me from the trivial things I couldn’t control. Because 24 years of knowing that they were trivial, of relaxation exercises, meditation, telling myself to ignore it, trying not to care, feeling guilty, feeling angry, feeling out of control and incapable, I can finally relax. And listen to the dogs bark. And go back to my book.

    This is revolutionary, and just one step towards living life a little bit more. Dooce, I’ve been reading your site for nine years, and your honesty about your struggles helped me recognize my own. Combined with my mom, your stories made me willing to do something about it.

  • sania

    I was misrable before my child 1st child was born. Since he was born, I have not gone to those dark places. It is like I have a constant companion, unconditional love so pure and blissful. I think if I did not have him, I would not have been here. Childern give us reason and reason to wake up and do our best every day. I still battle a little bit of it, and sometime just thinking about him makes me feel better. I call him my medicine.

  • Tina Beveridge

    PPD. Right now. Found out 6 months ago almost everyone in my dad’s family has some variation of anxiety issues or a combination of anxiety, depression, and/or compulsive behavior. Mine has been amplified by the hormonal changes. But that generation “didn’t talk about it” so here I am, in my 30s, just now finding out how to deal with it. Thank you for posting this. I hope when my kids are a little older, my body will regain balance and my symptoms will even out.

  • please let me be anonymous

    I have bipolar disorder and am very high functioning. This does not mean that it is easier for me. Most nights I drink because it is much more effective at dealing with the anxiety than my Xanax prescription, and also because I don’t have to explain to a cashier why I need beer the way I feel like I have to explain to my psychiatrist why I need Xanax. I always feel like a junkie asking for the medication I need. It’s not my psychiatrist’s fault, it’s whatever ugly thing in my brain causes me to see myself as human dog shit. There is a logical part of my mind that knows I am worthy of being alive but it seems so small compared to the part of me that has given up on having a real relationship with other people. I would definitely be dead by now if I didn’t have children. I can’t do that to them while they are young. I figure one day when my parents pass away and my kids are grown with their own families I will move away, fade away and feel okay about ending this. I haven’t enjoyed being alive for over a decade, despite offers of help and a comparatively good support system. There’s something just wrong in here, and I think I should be allowed to die with dignity.

  • Following your struggle over the years has probably been the best tool I had to help friends deal with their own anxiety and depression issues. I (thankfully) have never had those issues, but I have close friends who constantly battle the impact that these diseases have on their marriages, work life, and personal life. You didn’t know it at the time, but your honesty about what you were dealing with and the feelings you were battling was helping a lot of people…

  • daybydana

    Can I just say that this ranks as one of my all time favorite posts that you have written. Thank you.

  • Kate H

    It’s true. I have a close friend who was recently diagnosed bipolar and OCD and in crisis most of the time these days. His family and many friends are not supportive at all, but being one of only two supportive friends is so draining. There are definitely days I just want to change my phone number and move on.

  • I have battled severe anxiety and depression for 25 years. Some years it wins, some years I win. I have a decent chemical regimen now, along with a compassionate doctor whose gentle words “you know you will to take these for the rest of your life” really helped me to see that this is brain chemistry, not a character flaw. Still, when I speak about having a mental illness, my family looks around, almost embarrassed. Both of my parents have suffered from this, and my brother as well. We are functioning people, who are participating in life. I am not ashamed of having an illness. I did not ask for the dark cloud or panic attacks. I would rather feel competent and calm. I haven’t slept the night through in years, but I still get up and go. I still have hope.

  • BlueVein

    I can completely relate to your post, misscaron. I recently became unemployed. Even when I was working, I had to use the same talking to myself techniques that you describe. Without the structure of work, it is even harder. I think that, as you have discovered, there are ways to compensate for having depression – besides the talking to myself, I have also made it a goal to take a walk every day, even a small one. And, while unemployed, to make dates with friends at least three times a week. Also to eat well. All of these things can help mitigate the depression, and allow me to have a life. It can be VERY hard some days to do these normal things, but, if I can muster the energy, I know it helps.

  • Roberta

    I’m so sorry for your loss. My dad killed himself on 11/11/03 hours after I spoke to him on the phone. He sounded fine and I too beat myself up wondering what I could have said or done to make a difference. Bipolar disorder is rampant in my family and I fear for my son too. I have no words of advice, but I do understand.

  • My gut response has always been “snap out of it” or “get over it.” My go to line was, “I don’t have the time or energy to be depressed.” I would buy you flowers, pay your bills, pick up your kids if you would just agree to stop suffering so I could be happy. Finally a friend explained it in away I could truly understand, I was holding her baby who would not stop crying no matter how hard I tried or how much I soothed. I also didn’t understand colic until I held that baby…I did everything, everything. I was beginning to panic. . . My friend looked at me and said her baby crying was how she felt inside when she spiraled downward into depression….no matter what she did, how hard she tried, or how much she wanted to stop..she couldn’t……I got it. Truly got it, in away I never had before. My friend has good and bad time, the baby outgrew the colic, and I became a better friend.
    Thanks for sharing your story. Nobody facing depression should have to do it alone.

  • Rosie B.

    I’ve always suffered from depression – as far back as I can remember. I got help in college. When my husband and I were dating some of the kids in the youth group he mentored tried to set him up with one of their sisters. I really started to freak out. I knew I had to deal with it or I’d lose him, my mind or both. I was put on an antidepressant and had weekly therapy. I couldn’t tell my parents because there was, in their minds, too much stigma attached. They would likely have browbeat me into stopping the meds. Eventually I was weaned off the meds and maintained a tolerable existence. When i had my daughter, I was plunged deep into depression. It manifested itself in many strange ways. i finally sought out help when I found myself, while washing dishes, contemplating the sharpness of a knife. I had (still do) a very supportive and involved husband, a great, easy going baby, a good job – and I had trouble making it through the day. I strongly believe that therapy is essential with meds. I have a great deal of compassion for those who don’t have access to assistance. I can feel their hopelessness.

  • BlueVein

    Jen – I will echo what the others have said – you are NOT alone. At all. Reach out in whatever way you can. <3

  • This is beautiful. Thank you.

  • I am 38 have lived with major depression & anxiety for as long as I can remember. I didn’t have a name for how the awfulness I constanlty felt until junior year of high school when I attempted suicide & was hospitalized. I’ve been hospitalized for this condition four times since then and each time it saved my life.
    I work every day to stay on top of my disease. Some days are better than others…some days are absolute hell. But I’m still here & that is a very good thing.

  • 15 years on SSRI’s….I thank God every day for the scientist, or whomever, discovered these pills.

    The thing that kept me going was the (almost) certain belief that, somewhere, somehow, someplace, it simply HAD to get better. I simply refused to believe that the deep, dark pit I found myself in was all there was to life. It was a long, rocky, desert-dry, road. And, there are still days when it is that way again,(mercifully few).

    For all you have done for all of us out here on the perimeter….My heartfelt thanks!

  • Isabelle

    Thank you! So glad to know about NAMI as I have been wanting to help reduce stigma surrounding mental illness in children. I advocate every single day for my child but would like to help other families because mental illness in children is stigmatized so much. It shocks me how we have come so relatively far in addressing mental illness in adults compared to children. Also parenting a child with mental illness is hard because it is not recognized as a special need and people constantly assume something is wrong with how you parent.

  • Up-voting this isn’t quite clear enough of a response. I am not intending to agree with or encourage any particular action; I just wanted to let you know that your words were read, understood, and appreciated.

  • V.

    I have anxiety and panic disorder; diagnosed in 2010,while in grad school,though suffered from it as long as I can remember,and certainly as teenage valedictorian of all things. It’s a special kind of hell to have your mind spin off into every what if and your body’s panic keep you from eating or sleeping…much less from enjoying your life. No one in my family except my husband believed what I was going through was real or understood I couldn’t just “buck up and feel better.” Heather, your website convinced me to get help, and because I got help- meds and ongoing therapy- I’m alive and happy and well today.

  • J L

    You know, no one talks about vitamin deficiencies. I was way depressed for a long time. Started taking vitamins. No more depression. And Bingo was his name-o. Pop!

  • rebecca

    ,,,no shame for this gal who depends on my meds to make things all better. thank you for sharing your story and for doing the good work you do to bring awareness,,,

  • Amy B

    This happened today at a junior high in Marion, IN. I teach 8th grade in the next town over. Your post today is unfortunately very fitting for that school and community.

  • thank you for writing about something that we all don’t want to speak about. I started practicing yoga years ago and through that process learned out to meditate. That is what I do when I start to feel that overwhelming sense of dread that makes it difficult to get through the next few seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, sometimes months of life.

    I got married yesterday. It was the most beautiful, perfect, happiest moment in my life. That night I woke up in a cold sweat, clenched chest, sobbing because I had been so happy just a few hours earlier that I was convinced something terrible was going to happen very soon. To wake up in the middle of the night so terrified that you can’t breathe…but you know there is no logical reason for this worry beyond words…
    I reminded myself to meditate. Just focused on my breathing and the peaceful sounds of the night – it was an incredible feat of concentration that I had to keep up for over an hour. If I let go for even the tiniest bit, the drowning fear came rushing back. And in that state of meditation, I fell into a deep peaceful sleep and the world was back to normal when I woke up.

    When things are really bad, I take vitamin D and increase my outdoor exercise. Sun and blue sky really help.

    Thank you for sharing your bad and good times. It takes away my fear. -Joanna

  • Jill Cicchello

    I started to read your blog long before I was married and had my son. I would read and try to understand but I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. Until, my brain broke. That’s what I call it. My brain broke. It was 10 days after my son was born that I knew something was off. Something was wrong. It took drugs and therapy to recover. Luckily, I live in Canada so I had my full year of maternity leave to recover. I then went back to work and 6 months later feel apart again. My first appointment with my psychiatrist and he put me on medical leave. It’s been 3 months of leave and I’m finally better. It took playing with my meds to get my cocktail right. Now I feel normal. I have a better understanding of my limitations and my triggers and I know to stay away from them.

    This may be really hard for some to understand but through my cognitive group therapy group I met 11 AMAZING women! And by AMAZING I mean AMAZING!!!! (sorry Heather for all the !). They became my lifeline and why I fought my way back. Again, this may be hard for some to understand but if I were given the option of PPD and meeting these women or not having PPD and not meeting these women I would choose the PPD. They had, and have, that much of an impact on my life. I fell in love with each one of them.

    Mental Illness sucks donkey balls! I know that, I lived it. But, I choose to not allow it to rule my life. It is something I learn to live with and sometimes it will win the battle but ultimately I will win the war.

  • Christel

    I struggled with severe depression from the time I was 9 and wasn’t so bad after the age of 18…until in the span of eight months in ’07-’03 when I lost 3 family members, my aunt had a seizure in her sleep and we had to take her off life support, my 2 year old cousin didn’t make it out of a tonsilectomy surgery and had to take her off life support, and then easter morning a 19 year old cousin shot herself with her dad’s hunting riflie in the bathtub…after that the depression came back full force. Throughout those horrible years, I dealt with suicidal thoughts though I never attempted. My mother also suffered from horrible depression and it was just her raising me. Going through the thick of it, I had some pretty awesome friends and adult mentors that were always available to me all hours of the days and nights. As an adult, I still have days and weeks where I don’t feel my normal self and my husband helps me through those.

  • I suffer from alcoholism, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation and the only thing that ever helped me was talking with people who suffer from the same things who are willing to take the time to help me off ledges.

  • Jael

    Heather, nearly one year ago you shared a tweet from a man who had chosen to end it all. I was going to comment, but didn’t. A couple days later my father ended his life on my graduation day. I don’t think he meant to. He just couldn’t cope anymore.
    I kept coming back, re-reading that post. Trying to make sense. Trying to decide how much was my fault for not saying something about what you wrote.

    I’m still very sad, even though I admire him and love him and think his choice was actually brave in so many ways. I think of all the things I might have done differently. I wish I had made him stay, not let him go. I wish I had gotten help for me. I nearly sunk trying to save him. Anyway, there’s more to say. But I can’t. I do understand.

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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