The One Thing I Can't Say: I'm Depressed
By Kimberly S. on September 06, 2012
The first time I remember feeling depressed was in the first grade. My grandfather had just died. During recess, I walked around the school yard without talking or playing with anyone for at least three days. One of those times, Sister Miriam Ann decided to bring me into my classroom and tell my homeroom teacher what she had observed. This attempt to help me included empathy from both her and my teacher. I felt it in their words, even though I didn’t believe what they said: “Your grandfather is happy in heaven with God.”
That was approximately 36 years ago.
Since then, I have experienced many varying levels of depression, from mild to clinical—after every break-up, every time a performance run ended, when I failed exams, after recovering memories of sexual abuse, after each of my children were born and after my divorce.
I have had varying types of treatment—talk therapy, rehab, medication and EMDR. They all worked for a period of time.
Time is a tricky thing.
I am on the upswing from what I thought was a mild bout of depression. However, when examining the calendar, charting the amount of time I have felt down and the number of episodes of Pawn Stars I have viewed, I have to reassess—it has been severe. On the other hand, it hasn’t lasted that long and to the untrained eye, or to those who do not regularly see me, nothing seems unusual.
I don’t think my daughters have even noticed. Or maybe they have. And that kills me.
It’s not that there are glaring signs of my depression staring my daughters in the face. I do not stay in bed all day (at least, not when they are around), there is always food on the table, clean underwear in their drawers, and I have made it to every beginning-of-the-school-year parent meeting. However, I know what would be staring them in the face if I was not depressed. It would all be better—the condition of the house and my enthusiasm for after-school time beyond making sure they get their homework done successfully.
The funny thing about depression is that it can become comfortable. An upswing towards feeling good, although being the desired goal, is uncomfortable and unfamiliar—scary.
And what would people think if they knew I struggled with depression? That question plagues me with such ferocity that I dare not admit even the slightest bit of sadness. So things come out sideways. For instance, yesterday when I was driving my older daughter home from school, a telemarketer called. I answered the unfamiliar number with enthusiasm because the opposite, ignoring the phone, is typically one of the first signs that indicate I am depressed.
I thought, “Yay! I am answering the phone. I am getting better!”
The conversation started out pleasant but ended with an inappropriate outburst that stunned my daughter:
Telemarketer: Is Kimberly Speranza available?
Me: (with a very sweet sounding voice) It depends on who is calling.
Telemarketer: This is [so and so] from [so and so]
Me: (continues sweetly) She’s not available to you and please take her number off your list. I mean, this is Kimberly. Please take my number off your list.
Telemarketer: Are you on the National Do Not Call List?
Me: (getting angry) Yes.
Telemarketer: How’s that working out for you?
Me: (blows her top) Why don’t you suck balls and die.
(Uh-huh. I know, I know. It was terrible and completely out of character for me. It was my depression being inappropriately expressed as anger towards and innocent person trying to do their job. Additionally, it was a not-so-fine moment of setting an example for my daughter of how to handle annoying phone calls--not OK.)
I tapped the phone to hang up as the telemarketer whaled with laughter. My daughter heard him. She said, “Mom! That was awful. He was laughing at you.”
And there it is.
I don’t want to be laughed at.
I don’t want to be coddled and consoled.
I don’t want to be looked at like an insane person who is incapable of functioning.
Intellectually I know the above list of fears is unwarranted. I understand mental illness. I understand it is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. And yet, here I am, feeling exposed and afraid.
I am afraid that if I admit I am depressed, I will no longer be taken seriously. Everything I say, write, or suggest will be met with, “She’s just crazy.” Then I will be ignored, no longer heard or believed.
Typically, in order to avoid that vulnerable feeling of being exposed, I’ll cover it up by announcing my new “thing”: quitting smoking, exercising, juicing, writing 2,000 words a day, yoga, meditation, taking walks. Some of which I have tried, some of which I have only contemplated while lying on the couch with the TV mindlessly flashing before me. And when all turn out to be unsuccessful attempts at getting myself off the couch, the depression worsens.
In AA, the first of the Twelve Steps is: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol - that our lives had become unmanageable.
I believe that within the words of Step One lies freedom. Admitting. Saying what is. Calling a spade a spade.
I admit it, I struggle with depression.
Kimberly S. at Sperk*
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