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?

  • KyreBeth

    I cry everyday. I worry all night long. I keep earhones with audiobooks playing every minute I am not at work so I don’t hear the terrible things I tell my self. So I don’t listen to myself worry. So I don’t think too hard. It’s not a prescription, but it’s all I’ve got.

  • EOMama

    I’ve dealt with chronic depression in varying intensities since age 10. My family thought I was just a moody, intense, artistic, sometimes angry, always overly-dramatic teenager. In January of my freshman year of college, I had my first major depressive episode and couldn’t get out of bed for a week. It took another 3 years and at least that many more major depressive episodes for me to figure out I had an illness and get on an anti-depressant. At age 21, with the help of the miracle drug Prozac, I felt well for the very first time in my life. At first I was bitter and angry about all the years I wasted being sick. Then I got to living. With the help of a yoga practice, nutrition and holistic health professionals, I even got off the Prozac for a few years and felt truly great! Then I gave birth to twins and crashed. Hard. The road to recovery from PPD took about 3 years, lots of therapy, lots of yoga and meditation and supplements and yes, the miracle anti-depressants…. but I am better than ever and actually enjoying my 8-yr-old girls.
    Heather, I hope you realize what an amazing, inspiring, brave, brilliant, shining light you are in the world. Sometimes I feel as if you are writing words that came directly from my brain. Please keep talking about mood disorders and PPD. I am never shy to admit my own struggles because there are people like you who refuse to suffer in silence. I wear my depression like a badge of honor. I think you do too, and for that I am so grateful. xoxoxo

  • heather

    heather – thank you for this. I live with people who have the attitude that I should snap out of it and get over it. they also do not believe in taking medication. so I’m forced to keep this a private issue. it’s nice to be reminded that I’m not alone and there are those who understand.

  • Lauren

    I have Bipolar Disorder. Have had it for the last 5 years. Depression for about a year before that (while still trying to determine what I had exactly). I started a blog in college about it- life, being bipolar, etc. It has been the best thing I’ve ever done with my illness. I’m no longer struggling with it as much as I once was, but am fully aware of its power to return at any moment. I’m married to a guy who just couldn’t be more supportive of me and the many turns it has taken me through. We are expecting our first child in August. I keep up with my blog still because I wasn’t able to find any truly helpful stories of pregnancy and bipolar disorder. I have to remind myself daily that I have just as much of a right to a full and happy life as anyone else does. Mine just takes a little more effort and creativity than some. 🙂 I am grateful every day for the support of my family and friends- and I try to remind them of how awesome they are frequently, because they never failed to remind me of the same many years ago when this started. I could keep typing, but as difficult and frustrating as my mental illness is, I am glad to know that it’s possible to be happy despite it. For everyone else struggling too (because we deal with it every day- even on the happy ones): you have the right to a full and happy life. I hope you find the help and love you need.

  • I have been so ashamed of this disease for so very long….if I had a broken leg, everyone would understand but since they cannot see the pain I feel – they will never get it and they will never understand how it feels.

    “If you are a Christian and if you put all your Trust in God, you shouldn’t feel this way.” This is the biggest lie I’ve heard and it’s so very sad to me that anyone I know or love would actually say this to me……”If you would just have a drink with me, maybe you would feel better.” Another lie I have heard for a long time.
    I went to a Health Coach recently, and she is the one who told me “You need to see a Psychiatrist,, you shouldn’t have to live your life like this.” I couldn’t take one more day, and I couldn’t see through the deep dark hole I was sinking into. This is how I describe my depression….it does feel like I’m slipping, falling and trying to climb out of that hole…..I have had repeated thoughts of suicide that plague me like a monkey on my back. Would I ever do this? ABSOLUTELY NOT; however, how do you stop those thoughts from coming – when you are in that state of depression? YOU GET HELP….”You widen your circle of supporters.” That was the most amazing concept I heard…..I need help, and I need more help than what I currently have. I now have a psychiatrist, a counselor, a health coach and every single person knows of the other and they all support me in getting healthy. I am on the road to recovery, and it’s slow going – but I will get there. I’m not crazy. I’m sick and people need to realize this disease is not something we can “snap out of,” or “just have a drink” or “get over it.” It doesn’t work like that. I’m so thankful for my Husband. He has helped me and accepted me every step along the way. He’s never been scared of this disease, and he has helped me to fight it by rooting me on and believing in me and saying, “I love you, just the way you are.”

  • Depression like an eating disorder I find so rarely goes completely away. It’s always around bubbling, waiting to be brought back to the surface. I haven’t been actively bulimic in a long time, but I still think about it. It’s still there in my mind as a possibility, as an answer to some unspecified problem. Just like depression. For me it has always come and gone in waves. I’m never certain what will bring it on, but I’m always afraid of it. Afraid that the tide will pull me under. That I won’t reach the shore again. Even if I may be eating regularly and happy I’m always afraid that it will come back. I’m always in fear of that moment when you’re so low you don’t know if you can claw your way out again.

  • Pickaname

    My father has Lewy Body Dementia as well, and sees “little people” in the corner of the room. Thank you for sharing your story. I haven’t heard of many stories from family members dealing with this disease.

  • Cat

    “…they’d like to wake up in the morning and feel something different…” The idea that there is another feeling: that is my reason for getting out of bed in the morning. Someday I’ll find that “something different.” Until then, it helps to know that I’m not the only one.

  • jenny

    I’m bipolar. I’ve never been hospitalized (yet), but I’ve been under the care of state mental health services for nine months, which was terrifying. Being *very* open about my issues has been really helpful for me–it means I have people checking in on me right at the moments in which I really don’t want anyone checking in on me. It gives me a sense of accountability. I’m not out to my superiors at work (I work in academia, so it’s a touchy subject), but I am to all my colleagues and friends. My husband is immensely supportive, as well. I’ve learned, reluctantly, to let people call me out when I’m acting off, and to actually listen to them when they do so. For me, that has been huge.

    Yoga, acupuncture, sleeping consistently (there have been huge studies on sleep as a trigger in bipolar disorder) and eating well have a massive impact on my well-being, but I can’t always stay as balanced with those activities as I’d like to. When I go off the rails, it tends to be depression that hits worst (I’m bipolar II, so my hypomanic phases aren’t dangerous–mostly they’re just really productive [and, frankly, awesome!]).

    One of the things that, shockingly, actually helps me most in depression cycles is working. When I stop working, I fall apart fast. But when I’ve gone into major depression while I’ve had a job, I’ve actually managed to hold it together by a thread. Many days I would be convinced I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, but somehow, I’d manage to drag myself out and teach for an hour. Even if I went right back to bed afterwards and didn’t get out again that day, it still kept me going. This seems so counter-intuitive to me, as I just want to isolate myself when I’m depressed and never get out of bed again, but somehow…it works. It’s given me a huge amount of confidence to know I could get out of bed and pull myself together for an hour, even at my absolute worst (so far). Of course, I’m hugely fortunate to have a job where most of the work is “prep” work (which can be done from bed if necessary) and the active “performance” time in the office is much less, but….working has saved me.

    I’m having a baby in November, and PPD seems extraordinarily likely for me (virtually all the elements of early parenthood are bipolar triggers), so I’ve opted to significantly limit my maternity leave, even though it’s paid. No one understands this, but…work is my safety net. I know I won’t *want* to work if depression hits, but I know it will help me to pull it together. It always sent me into a blind rage when idiots would suggest that I “fake it till I made it” out of my “funks”, before I was officially diagnosed. But on some level, putting on my “teacher” persona really does help me to stabilize my mood. It’s not “faking it”, per se, but it is something akin to “performing my best self, even when it seems impossible”. And that, for me, is really useful.

  • ivylea

    Just so you know, it sounds to me like you are doing exactly the right thing. When a loved one is mentally ill and you’ve done everything in your power to help them and gotten nowhere, you have to know where to quit. You can only give so much before their illness has yet another casualty: you. That outcome isn’t right for anyone. If you’ve truly done your best, you will know when to draw the line and refocus on yourself. No one should doubt your decision to do that.

  • ivylea

    Congratulations on admitting this to yourself. For most of us, that is the hardest step by far. Next, down the road a little when you are feeling especially strong for a day or even a moment, consider reaching out for some help that does more than distract you from your pain. That is the next important step and I believe you have the power to take it when the time comes. Good luck. <3

  • Kim

    I suffer from bi-polar disorder. What is that like for me? It is exhausting. I am so tired everyday of struggling to gauge myself. Am I doing too much, over extending myself, multi-tasking too much, moving too fast, talking too fast spiraling into a manic episode? Tough to slow down as a mom of 3, PTA president, dance mom, baseball mom, working mom, wife. Am I taking time to enjoy the moments, making moments, or just flying through them? Why am I screaming at my kids? I can’t stop yelling. Holy crap don’t they know there are 5 million thoughts swirling around in my head and if they ask me one more question or make one more demand on me my head will explode?! And we will all die a horrible death.
    And then there are the times when I can do nothing. Nothing. The thought of answering my phone or the door, or even an email is so overwhelming I feel crushed under the weight of it. And then I hate myself, despise myself for having shirked my responsibilities, for having procrastinated something to the point that I feel like a total screw up. And the weight and the dread and the hopelessness of it all crashes down on me at night, reminding me of all the mistakes I have made. I yelled at the kids again, I didn’t return a parent’s phone call and now I am embarrassed to face them, that check should have been mailed days ago…
    Yes, it is so exhausting. There is not a single minute of my day when I am not aware of my illness, when I am not struggling to cope, to keep it together to find the balance.
    Yes, I do see a doctor regularly and I do take medication. I am a firm believer in medication, don’t be ashamed to need to help. Meds make coping easier, but the symptoms never fully disappear. It scares me to think that I will always be this way, that this is as good as it gets for me. I fear that my kids will one day show symptoms. I don’t want this life for them.

  • J

    I am lucky. I have never suffered from depression. But I spent 13 + years of my life and had three children with a beautiful tormented man who was bi-polar. His family ignored it when he was a teen and tried four times to kill himself.

    I don’t remember how many years ago it was, but I remember a post you wrote about someone who killed themselves. And how all you could think about was that could so easily be your family mourning you. I had that post bookmarked so many years, would read it and cry, until one computer switch, I lost it.

    My husband was 32 when he killed himself over 13 years ago. While I take comfort in the fact that he is no longer suffering, I would have gladly endured more of his ‘pain’ to still have him here with me. He was trying to set me free from his torment. There is no worse feeling than the helplessness of not being able to help the ones you love, and doing everything you can, and losing them anyway.

    Thank you, Heather, like so many have already stated, for sharing your struggles. You are saving lives and that’s a beautiful thing.

  • ivylea

    To stay sober for 17 years and then face such horrible back-to-back tragedies, you must have incredible reserves of strength. That alone makes you a worthwhile and important person with as much right to be here as any of us. I can tell that and we’re complete strangers. I’m sure many people in your life would have much more to say. So please don’t give up. <3

  • Katie Jacobson

    This about made me cry! So awesome that you’re this supportive and understanding!

  • Jenn

    I have anxiety/panic disorder and depression that has come and gone many times in my life, particularly in the last decade (I am 32). Mental illness runs in both sides of my family, and I grew up with a mother who was addicted to gambling, living in Nevada.

    I took Paxil on and off for 8+ years after having been prescribed it by my regular doctor. It gave me a flat affect and boy, did I feel like shit if I took it even an hour late. Still, when I would feel better I would decide to go off it, thinking it had done its job. I tried therapy a couple times, but the therapist I saw decided that all my problems were due to my husband (then fiance) and said she wouldn’t see me unless I made him an active part of my sessions.

    In 2011, I began having many disturbing physical symptoms (difficulty swallowing and eating solid foods, severe palpitations, chest pain, and abdominal pain). I had been off Paxil for almost a year but I was not doing well and I had a tough time believing that my symptoms were related to my anxiety and depression. In August of that year, my husband’s aunt committed suicide and it deeply affected me, even though I barely knew her. I could sympathize with how she must have felt, staring into an abyss and not seeing any possible way that things could get better. At that point, I began to be unable to sleep or eat much, which of course always exacerbates anxiety. At the end of September, there was a week where I was in the emergency room almost every day due to severe abdominal pain and I was finally admitted for observation on a Friday, then discharged on Saturday. On Monday, having not slept since being discharged, I called my husband sobbing and let him know that I couldn’t do anything anymore and that I needed help. Although I never had any active suicidal ideations and was very anxious that I would die somehow but not at my own hand, I knew that I was at a point where if I went much further, I might hurt myself just to stop the pain and the anxiety.

    My husband drove me straight to a psychiatric hospital, where I was immediately admitted. I was in so much pain, mentally and physically, but I began to feel somewhat safe that first night. Of course, I was put on a cocktail of meds–an SSRI, a sedative, a sleeping pill, etc.–but they allowed me to get to a better place mentally where I wasn’t completely freaking out all day everyday. During the 8 days I was there, I was able to start eating and sleeping again and my mental status improved accordingly. My family and friends were very supportive, calling me and visiting when they could, and this helped a lot too. When my psychiatrist and social worker began to discuss discharge, they told me that I absolutely needed to find a therapist and see him/her. In fact, they called and scheduled an appointment for me with a cognitive behavioral therapist. I saw her the day after I got out of the hospital, and surprisingly, it helped me almost immediately. Not like I was completely cured after two sessions or anything like that, but she really helped me to see why I had become the way I was (she even had me a do a family tree of mental illness and addiction, and it was crazy to see that nearly everyone on both sides of my family had been affected) and most importantly, she showed me how I could change my perceptions of myself and learn how to cope with life. She helped me to let go of the trauma and pain I was holding on to from my childhood and really change the way I think so that I can deal with my anxiety. I was able to get off my sedative and sleeping pill, and decrease the dosage of my SSRI several months after beginning therapy.

    So to anyone who is suffering, I would say PLEASE, PLEASE get help. It’s so hard to do this but it’s so important because even when you think nothing can help you, you can be surprised. And don’t be afraid of medication and therapy like I was–do what you need to do to be happy and healthy. I personally recommend cognitive behavioral therapy because it truly changes the way your brain works. There are many workbooks you can find on Amazon that will help you start the process, too. The ones I used were “The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook,” by Edmund J. Bourne, and “Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think,” by Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky. I also recommend yoga, or any type of physical activity that allows you to work through stress in a positive way. Meditation can be helpful too. And finally, don’t let the stigma of mental illness hang over your head. There are so many people who are dealing with it in some way and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I was amazed at how supportive and kind everyone was to me during my hospitalization; they didn’t make me feel weak or stupid or anything like that.

    Sorry for writing a book, Heather, but I think this is a great post you’ve written and I hope that people who are struggling can read these posts and see that there is help, and hope.

  • Kidsakeeper

    Our new born son died 33 1/2 hours after he was born in an unexpected way. At the time our older sons, then 8 and 14 grieved so very differently…it is has been a very long road from where we were almost three years ago and late last year we noticed our now 10 year old just wasn’t able to function. We took him to our paediatrician and two years after the death of his brother he has been diagnosed with PTSD. Hearing him tell the doctor that he had thought about killing him self so that he didn’t have to be sad any more was almost as bad as having our baby die.

    He is now in counselling and we hope that he will turn the corner in his grief journey with their help.

  • Feist&Furious

    THIS. Heather, your posts have helped me–and my husband–feel less alone. I think I had a major depressive/generalized anxiety episode when I was a tween, but the first adult episode just about destroyed me. Work was the one thing that kept me functional, even though my co-workers didn’t know that I needed my mom to drag me out of bed in the morning (living at home while my husband was in grad school overseas because I crashed emotionally there without work), or that I spent weekends wondering how I would survive until Monday. I’m in the midst of a second, thank god milder, episode now, but I still have days like today where I think I’m going to go “crazy” and I don’t know how I’m going to get back to my usual level of relative tranquility. When I told my boss I’d have to miss work for therapy appointments, her response was, “I’m so glad it’s not something serious.” WTF. I’m so blessed that meds work for me, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. People don’t get that. You’re helping them understand. Like everyone else said, please don’t ever stop posting. It’s too easy to feel alone in this journey.

  • Lindsay

    My brother sounds exactly like that. His behavior when he gets into the manic cycles is scary and dangerous. Have you managed to find an effective way to handle your siblings during their periods of instability? I would love any suggestions that you might be able to offer. This is literally tearing my family apart.

  • Lou

    I really want to thank you, and everyone else involved, for working so hard to de-stigmatize mental health issues and treatment and to try and change the way they’re seen. I don’t think I’m anywhere near brave enough or strong enough to approach that world yet, but I know how important it is. I was diagnosed with depression when I was thirteen and told that medication and therapy was my best chance. My mom, who recognized the warning signs way before I did, finally forced me into talk therapy when I was fifteen, and for a year and a half I sat in that chair talking about how much I hated myself for being “weak” and “pathetic” and “ugly”, because I was ruining everything by somehow “manipulating” people into thinking I was sick. I felt guilty every time I went to therapy because I was just some loser who needed to grow up, but here I was taking time away from clients who actually needed help. I refused medication until it literally became a case of take the damn pills or kill myself, and the only reason I chose the former is because I could see how badly I was hurting the people I love and I knew that I would never be able to forgive myself if they had to be called into my therapist’s office one more time to hear about how their daughter was ruining her life. (Seriously, it’s been two years and I still get choked up every time I remember it. My parents were so scared for me, it still hurts to think about it.)
    So now I take Zoloft. Have been on it for two years (I’m eighteen now). And I’m not quite sure where the line comes between “recovering” and “recovered” but I’ve definitely come a long way since then. I’m in college, studying to become a creative writer; I’ve found things that I honestly and openly just love about my life; there are whole weeks where I wake up every day and get really happy because the sky is pretty and I can sew myself neat stuff later. And while I’d like to think that I can take a bit of credit for this, I know a whole lot of it goes to my wonderful therapist and those little blue pills.
    And yet, I still get that horrible kick of guilt every time I go to the doctor’s because we all know I’m just “pretending” and I could “snap out of it, if I REALLY wanted to.” I still struggle not to call myself names every time I take my medicine. And I get so angry sometimes, isn’t it enough that I have to deal with all of this doubt and hatred from myself without having to also get it from society? I know firsthand how completely fucking awful it feels. So to all of you fighting against these ingrained thought patterns, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Maybe I’ll manage to join you someday when I get a bit further in my own recovery.

    tl;dr- It’s hard enough to be depressed without having to deal with the stigma, I wouldn’t wish it on anybody, thanks so much for working against it.

  • Lori

    Life-long sufferer of Anxiety/Depression here, but didn’t know what the hell was wrong with me until I was in my early 20s. Even then my family/friends would say, “You’re not depressed! You just need to keep busy and cheer up!” Wth? Anyway, I’m 42 now and so enjoy reading your blog posts about your own battles with mental illness. Even after 20 years it still helps immensely to hear that we can be productive people with full lives even with our issues. Thanks for that, Heather.

  • Feist&Furious

    Anyone would be struggling after what you’ve been through…and sometimes it’s about finding bootstraps that are dangling off other people’s shoes when yours are too frayed to tie anymore!

    Here are some good no insurance resources:
    1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

    You are NOT alone.

  • Feist&Furious

    Does your regular therapist have any recommendations for sliding scale or pay-what-you-can sessions/groups in Chi? I live here, too, and feel like there must be something.

    Of course, it also sounds like you’ve already tried looking for all that. I’m so sorry, Shannon. But the fact that you’re still trying to move somewhere that you know would be better means you’re strong. I know, I’ve been there, nothing I say will really help right now–but you’re doing what you are able to do right now, and maybe that’s enough until tomorrow.

  • ivylea

    Until age 22, I never experienced mental illness firsthand. I knew many people struggled with it; I knew they couldn’t control it; and I resolved not to judge them as a result.

    Deep down, though, I still viewed the world in terms of “us” and “them.” I saw two types of people: the normal ones, like me, and the mentally ill ones. Feeling confident I would never be one of “those people,” I unconsciously viewed “those people” as inferior.

    Then I moved 1900 miles north and was blindsided by seasonal depression. I was constantly, unspeakably exhausted and fell to pieces at the slightest obstacle. On the rare sunny days, I felt both a surge of energy and a kind of hysterical regret over the weeks I had just wasted as a vegetable. It took months to decide this had to stop and only getting help would make that happen. And a huge factor was my discovery of the “depression” archive here on

    Now I know that there is no “us” and “them” when it comes to mental health. If there are two types of people, they are the ones who know mental illness can strike anyone at any time and the ones who haven’t realized that yet. I envy their good fortune, but I wouldn’t go back if I could.

  • AlohaSmiles


    I have so been there. I know, I know, I KNOW how youʻre feeling even as you read this. Will you do me a favor? While you read these words, will you take a deep breath? Just one breath. Thatʻs all you have to do today. That one breath is enough. Tomorrow on your “to do” list, will you write “take two breaths”? And thatʻs all on that list. Once youʻve completed that task, youʻve accomplished all you need to do for that day. And that day after that? Try two breaths and a glass of juice. Breathe and juice. Two essentials. And then one day, when you feel like it, try adding: Call 1-800-273-TALK to your to do list. You can make it through today, Anon. And you can make it through tomorrow. If you give up, Iʻll understand but Iʻll be devastated. Truly, I will. There are experiences to learn from, insights to gain, love to give yourself, healing to be done, others to help. You are needed on this earth. Your heart hurts, I get that. Itʻs in pain and none of the rubbing on your chest will make it go away. But breath. Drink juice. Ask for help. And repeat. Your heart will heal. And one day, without planning it, youʻll do something unexpected and amazing: youʻll half-smile. Keep fighting the good fight, Anon. Youʻre worth it.

  • Jen

    You are all wonderful. All of you. This is why I blog, and follow others. There is so much love and support out there. You all may never know how much your kindness has helped me today. God bless you all. xoxo

  • Roberta

    I understand. I’ve felt that way too. The only thing that stopped my suicidal thinking was that I live my son more than I hated myself. Eventually, I got the right combination of meds and don’t loathe myself anymore. Please try to get on some medication, if you aren’t already. It does help and life can feel worth living.

  • Catherine

    “They are struggling with a sense of doom so overwhelming that they cannot see anything beyond it.”

    Thank you for this entire post and for this sentence in particular. THIS. This is how it is. I’ve struggled with depression since my senior year of high school and anxiety for the last 4 or so years now…and it’s crippling and invisible at the same time. Most of the time I manage ok, with regular meds and therapy, but there have been some…..very, very low times which included self harm, suicide fantasies, and irreparable damage to relationships and my career.

    But with help I keep going, and I’m still here, and I want to continue for a good long time. I’m so thankful that there are people like you who are willing to make depression visible, to speak out and not be ashamed of it, who reinforce that it is a condition like any physical condition, and that it deserves to be taken seriously.

    Thank you.

  • Darlene

    I have battled severe anxiety and depression for 15 years. It started once I moved across country, got married, and my mother fell ill. I was paralyzed one morning when I woke up not knowing who and where I was. I could have been a baked potato for all I knew. The anxiety was something that to this day I cannot explain. Anxiety is a word, but a feeling and mental shift that is hard to explain. I wandered, I read, I cried, I drank, I wrote, I painted, I cried for help. But let me tell you, not many people “back then” and in their early 20’s knew what to do for me, not to mention suggest therapy or drugs. So, I continued. For a very long time. Not eating, drinking, staying up every single night. I bought every single self help book, saw every alternative therapist in L.A., and drank lavender tea as if that would be my saving grace. I lived this life for three years until finally finding Prozac and Clonozepam. I found these drugs because of a friend that I met at the Chanel counter at Nordstrom. I confided, told, spilled, poured my heart out to her. That crazy woman at the make-up counter. Clean up in isle….make-up please. She told me to get on Prozac. That it had saved her. I did. Six weeks later, I felt my legs and heard myself breathe for the first time in what seemed..forever. One year later, I gave birth to my first child. She’s an extremely happy and healthy child…a Prozac baby indeed. She’s the antidepressed baby I like to say. Sailing smoothly, and staying on meds, I kept paddling. I decided to go off of my meds a few months later under the supervision of my doctor and Clonozepam, or as I just call her..Clon. I continued therapy, acupuncture, exercise, and all goodie things my docs had suggested. Good days, bad days, but not days where I wouldn’t eat spaghetti sauce, or anything red because it reminded me of blood and Jeffrey Dahmer. Those were bad days. Really really bad days. So, as a measure I used those memories as a mental litmus test. Since my daughter was born, I have suffered through losing my mother to mental illness, and my step mother who committed suicide in November. Mental illness is always hanging out on my front porch. Yes. It’s never going away. My family suffers, and I suffer. Together we have all suffered. However, I am forever grateful for that wonderful make-up artist at Nordstrom who gave me her ear, who heard me, who wanted to help me. I am grateful for my friends and family for supporting me in the following years in all the therapy that I have gotten and continue to receive. This is part of my life. As I have a thyroid disease I will always take meds for, I have anxiety and depression that I will always get treatment for as well. No doubt. No question. It took me a long time to get help, and I am lucky to be alive. I am happy that times have changed and mental illness is something that we can all read about, blog about, chat I didn’t have any of this and good grief I wish I had. But, if resources like, PBS specials, easily googled local self help groups and more are at the fingertips of people, I hope there are less people who have to suffer for as long as I did. It’s the one person who listens because you spoke. A friend, a family member, a neighbor, a department store employee. Just reach out, get the help, and take care of yourself and do what you need to do from that point on. No shame. Be good to you and get the help you need. Things will get better. Things DO get better. Thanks, Heather!

  • Kate

    This post really hit home for me. Between 2008-2009 I was hospitalized 4 times for major depressive disorder. It started with my now ex-husband and I going to marriage counseling, and a complete breakdown during one session that landed me in an inpatient unit at the local hospital. I knew I wasn’t functioning in any real way anymore, but I didn’t realize how bad I was until I was admitted and treated by a wonderful group of psychiatrists, therapists and nurses. With medication, therapy, a strong support system, and the dissolution of a very unhappy marriage – I am now 8 months away from receiving my masters in Social work, and I am specializing in clinical mental health practice. My hope is reach out and help ANY person who can’t see their way to the end, has felt the hopelessness of mental illness, regardless of the diagnosis. If I hadn’t been hospitalized I don’t know where I’d be today. All I know is that today, I am a grad student with a 4.0 GPA, remarried to a wonderful man, have healthy family and friend relationships, and a new outlook on life. I don’t even need medication anymore (though I know this is rare that I have been able to wean myself off of it and still be alright). With my clinical training I have learned to self-care, to recognize triggers, and to address mental health needs as they arise. Heather, the work you do on your site, and with NAMI is awesome. Keep it up, I am a NAMI advocate as well, at my local chapter here in Indiana. It’s a fantastic organization and reaches out to so many. Keep it up, for all those people out there that feel lost in the dark.

  • When my second child was a year old, I was finally diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, something I’d been living with for far too long. I just thought it was the way I was. I thought I’d snap out of it eventually. This was only days before we moved halfway across the country. Things deteriorated rapidly, to the point that my husband basically despised me for being so “lazy” and “angry all the time” and for not being able to get my shit together. It ended us. I was suicidal, and my marriage was a catalyst. I wanted my girls to have a mother around here on this earth.

    What has helped me? The most empathetic psychologist I’ve ever met. He validated my depression. He gave it a name and he made me feel a little less crazy. Another thing that has helped? People like you. People who write about depression so that the rest of us realize that we are not alone. That we are not the only one. That there is help out there, and that all we have to do is ask.

    So, thank you so, SO much for doing what you do. You save lives.

  • ” I would definitely be dead by now if I didn’t have children.” Me too. They’re the only thing that keeps me going most days.

  • Sara

    I have developed very effective (for me) coping mechanisms. I need enough sleep. I need DAILY exercise (as in, if I miss more than a day any given week, my emotional stability plummets and it will take me weeks to claw my way back out of the hole). I need regular creative time. And fortunately, I have a husband who does not complain when I shirk my other “responsibilities” to get the sleep, exercise, and creative time I need to stay stable. I vigilantly monitor my mood and when I notice myself starting to slip, I activate every coping mechanism I’ve developed over the past two decades. And I remember what it felt like to be a high schooler driving home and thinking about how easy it would be to end everything by crashing my car. I remember what my hands looked like bruised, bloodied, and swollen from punching the crap out of brick walls to find some way to physically manifest the pain I was feeling inside. I remember what it was like to be lying on the floor, sobbing, unable to sit up to care for my screaming baby downstairs. So I remember how dark it was, and I how much I don’t want to go back. And I do whatever it takes to stay out of that hole.

  • Jennifer

    I am 26 and I struggled with depression a couple years ago. I went through an abusive relationship turned engagement turned I never want to see you again. He abused me mentally. Never physically. The holes were in my heart and my walls. Sometimes I wished he would just hit ME because I felt like why wasn’t I good enough to receive his anger. 2 weeks after the breakup, my neighbor shot and killed my cat. 12 days after that, my dog (accidentally during play) killed my other cat. I fell into a downward spiral that I could not get myself out of. I found myself going out a lot. Trying to fill the void. Trying to feel loved. I went out with friends one night. I was rejected by an acquaintance for a date. I didn’t even really like him. He was too blonde for me. I just liked the idea of not being alone. I found myself 2 hour later in the middle of a panic attack in the backseat of my car. I remember calling my friend to come get me. (See you CAN be blackout drunk and still know not to get behind the wheel.) By the time she drove the 45 minutes to come pick me up, I had gouged a pretty significant line down the entire length of my foream. I was crying for help.

    The next day I woke up at my parents and told them I needed help. That I could no longer do this on my own. We found a therapist, I found anti-depressants. I told her my story. She listened. She understood. She didn’t judge. She helped find me when I had completely lost myself. I had missed a lot of work already, so she approved me for a 4 month leave of absence. She was my saving grace. My family was there for me. But every situation is different and I felt like everyone just assumed I would pick myself back up and keep going. But I had run out of gas. She helped me believe in myself. She helped me enjoy my life. 3 and a half months after I found her, I found my now husband. I was still on anti-depressants when I met him and GUESS WHAT he understood too! I told him I hoped he didn’t think I was crazy. Turns out he had a similar event take place in his life. I was finally free. Free from the depression. Free from the hurt. Free from the just not quite feeling like I matter.

    Because I matter. And she matters. And you matter. And they matter. We are all intricate pieces in this vast puzzle we call life. We are all making our stories. And mine happens to include a very dark chapter. It doesn’t mean I am crazy. It doesn’t mean I am broken. It means I overcame something. It means I am a fighter.

  • just me :)

    I love this! I told a friend who seemed to be seriously contemplating “The End” that there are people who already rely on her being here for them in their future – people who will be robbed of her presence – and if she can’t commit to life for herself in the moment, she should at least turn to consider “others” who could perhaps need her to stick around… Someone will call her Mom, Sweetheart, their best friend, their boss / manager / employee / co-worker, a neighbor, pretty much EVERYONE in your world needs you in the world to keep their experience here on track, in order, and “on schedule.” I know that may sound odd, but I really do feel we are all involved in one another’s lives – even peripherally – for a VERY important purpose. It isn’t fair to the people who need you in their future to deprive them of the Blessing That Is YOU! For we are ALL someone’s blessing! We ALL mean the WORLD to someone, or more likely SEVERAL someone’s! I’m SO glad you wrote yourself this powerful letter! Keep reminding yourself of your powerful & very wise messages… you are an inspiration, love!! ❤
    ❤ ~Just Me 🙂

  • The community here and also on The Bloggesses blog give me so much faith in the essential goodness of humanity, both make a great antidote to the sometimes bleaker aspects of life.

  • YOU. You helped me. It wasn’t until I stumbled across your blog in college that I even started to realize that I wasn’t the only one. I mean, I have a job, great husband, good friends – why am I sad sometimes? Why can’t I just “snap out of it?” Why do I sometimes just want to go to bed? YOU showed me there’s no shame in proper medication, no shame in therapy, no shame in talking about your depression, putting a name on it.
    Sponsored by my butt.

  • Cường

    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.

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  • Amy Jane

    There is nothing more shameful and embarassing then having it all and still wanting to die. I’m here because of therapy and meds. They fill the good times with color and keep me from running or shutting the garage door during the bad ones.

  • My husband suffers from depression. I find it hard to always be understanding even though I too have been depressed. He just is so detached from family life and nothing seems to give him joy. He will be fine and then low again. I am left feeling very lonely.

  • PandoraHasABox

    Thank you for this post. As always, I want to give you the world’s biggest hug for being such a vocal supporter of those of us, who suffer with depression. You’ve taken an illness that was misunderstood and hidden in the shadows and given it clarity and sunlight.

    It took me until I was 32 to get help. At least twenty of those years, I was suicidal at one point or another. The only reason I didn’t kill myself was because I was an only child and didn’t want to hurt my parents. I did everything to alleviate the pain: diet, exercise, positive thinking, social activities, volunteering…nothing worked enough to ease the pain. What did work? Finally sitting down in front of a therapist, crying through FOUR boxes of Kleenex in an *hour*, being told that I was depressed and needed to see a psychiatrist, seeing that doctor, getting on a good cocktail of drugs immediately, and suddenly discovering what *HAPPY* felt like. Btw, in case anyone doesn’t know, HAPPY is damned nice. I like it and highly recommend it and could kick myself for being too chicken shit to deal with my problems for THIRTY-TWO years.

    Looking into my genetics, it turns out this is definitely a brain chemistry issue. I discovered that when I thought that I didn’t need my meds anymore after having my second kid. I was on thyroid medication then and thought that my previously undiagnosed thyroid condition was what had caused my depression. When I started telling my husband all the women he could marry when I died because they’d be better wives and mothers, he luckily had the intelligence to get me into the doctor that day.

    Long story, but the gist is that depression is a disease and needs to be treated as such, especially if it is chronic and recurring and based on brain chemistry. Thank you for being our advocate.

  • K

    I agree. I highly recommend books by Elaine Aron “The Undervalued Self” and also “Highly Sensitive Person”. The former talks about chronic undervaluing of oneself due to earlier childhood psychological trauma, which often leads to depressive effects or full blown depression. It outlines practical steps one can take to heal himself/herself, and can be a lifesaver for those who may be unwilling or unable to go for therapy. (But of course she addresses the limitations of that and still recommends therapy where necessary.)

    Her book “Highly Sensitive Person” on the other hand talks about life as a minority – 20% of the population have higher sensitivity than the average person. I thought this might be relevant to this discussion, because for a long time I too struggled with depressive effects, teetering on the edge of full blown depression, questioning why I just felt/behaved seemingly differently from everyone else. But knowing this trait of mine really helped, because I could suddenly see my sensitivity not as a defect, or a weakness, but just something that is simply not prized in our more highly competitive, aggressive and fast-paced culture. Knowing this trait and managing it well went a long way in helping me become a more fully functional human being. I’ve followed you for so long, but I’ve never commented – but now I just want to put this out there just in case anyone, anywhere might benefit from this little bit of information. It changed my life. 🙂 Thanks Heather for talking about it so bravely.

  • Autumn

    I have some kind of something depression related – I’ve never been formerly diagnosed, but I have the symptoms. I developed a bunch of coping mechanisms over the years, and I only have a full-scale melt-down once a month or so. And right now, the most amazing thing I have is my husband. He is one of the few people in my life that understands that when I say that I can’t stop crying, I really mean it. He tells me he loves me over and over, and curls around me on the bed when I can’t function anymore. And every time, he tells me he loves me and wants me to be happy, and he tells me he wants me to get help. He builds up my strength a little bit every time. Soon, I’ll be strong enough to ask for help. I have survived this far because of him.

  • Hi Autumn, I’m in the same boat so you are not alone. Do you have kids? Are you talking to him about it? I haven’t been able to have a conversation with him about it as I’m afraid it’ll send him into another episode. It’s a vicious circle. I would give anything for him to go and get some help or talk to someone about it. I do worry that some day it will be too much for me to deal with and I’ll walk away. Anyway, you’re not alone.


    I’ve shared some of my story today, including why I chose to take antidepressants and breastfeed. It’s a real illness, and the more people who understand it the better. Well done!

  • Paula

    Back in the nineties, when my little son was 7 years old, I started to feel anxious, upset, aggressive, cranky, and was crying or freaking out, out of the blue, my doctor was so clever to let my thyroid be checked. It was neither bipolar disordner, nor depression, it was an autoimmune thyroid disease, which has been treated for 20 years now successfully. Check it out and go to an endocronologist, before diagnosed with something psychological and being treated with antidepressants by your doctor. There’s an excellent self-help expert in the US called: Mary Shomon.

  • Desiree Johnson

    I have suffered from depression my whole life. I remember being 7 years old and thinking my life was over. My father was bipolar so I was too scared to admit that I had a problem. My parents never knew that my teenage years were spent contemplating suicide. I’m now in my 30’s, married with 2 kids and still struggle. I take medication but still have the days that just seem impossible. I have a great job, a great family and no reason to be depressed. I live with the guilt of knowing that I should be happy because so many people have it worse off than I do.

    My 12 year old son also fights with depression, and it is so hard to watch your child have the same struggles as you. Especially knowing that he will have to struggle with it his whole life. Media has made us ashamed to admit we are sick. I remember growing up and hearing all the prozac jokes knowing that my father was on that medication. I never told anyone about his manic episodes because I thought maybe they would think I was crazy too. I feel like I’m rambling, but that’s depression for you… a thousand thoughts a minute and no way to straighten them out in sight.

  • Your struggle has helped me help my husband recognize that it’s OK to seek help. That struggling isn’t weakness. Together I feel we turned a corner last night–he’s going to get a complete diagnosis and possibly medications that can help. For some reason, some of my favorite bloggers struggle with depression–but maybe they’re my favorites because they are open about it. You helped me. End of story. Without you sharing, I might have made all those assumptions about him. I might be telling him to “snap out of it.” But instead I’m a partner fighting the battle with him. Thank you. This was the very best thing to see this morning. I needed it, and I will share it with him.

  • Desiree Johnson

    It’s great to have a support system at home, but if it gets worse you need to go to the doctor. You don’t want to lose him over it.

  • Desiree Johnson

    Both of my children were diagnosed with PTSD after the sudden death of my father. I understand, and it does get better. By getting him the help he needs he’ll soon turn around.

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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