This weeks blog was inspired by watching a new favorite show of mine called Downton Abbey, I am currently watching season 2. The show I watched this week revolved around wounded patients returning home from the Great War. One soldier was deeply depressed and didn’t want to leave the hospital but because the doctor didn’t regard his condition as being serious he told him he would have to leave. In doing so the depressed soldier killed himself. Yes I am fully aware that this is a fictional show and that the Great War happened a long time ago but I still believe our society has not fully comprehended the seriousness of what depression does to a person. I will not hide behind my veil anymore, so prepare, this one may sting a little.
Mental illness has run deep around me, I have wrestled with this perpetual demon for as long as I can remember. When I was a teenager it was labeled teen angst. When I was a young adult it was called being in my twenties. When I was in my thirties it was baby blues when really it was postpartum.
The day I realized that my “baby blues” were more shades of grey then blue, was when I started my acting career up again after having boy number 1. I was asked to audition for a PSA on postpartum depression. I picked up my sides the day before I was supposed to read. I started reviewing my papers as I sat on the bus back home and hid the tears that were flowing from behind my Jacki-O style sunglasses. Numb to what was happening to me as I read further I decided right then I would not be able to do the audition the next day and risk breaking down. My come back to acting was again put on hold for a little while longer.
I didn’t run to my doctor, my mother or my husband. I kept trying to hold it down as long as I could without exploding. It finally erupted 6 years later after my father passed. To accurately define the moment of impact would be difficult. There was so much leading up to it that each moment blended into the other until I couldn’t see anything except for a blur in front of my face.
What felt like an eternity of low days was indeed roughly about 25 years out of my now 39. Not everyday was shrouded in dark shadows, there was a lot of good in there too. A big chuck of that good came when I met my tribe of girl friends after I had boy number 2. Without them I do not think I would have ever gotten to the point in my life where I could have openly admitted that I was depressed.
Before having boy number 1 I had moved to a province where I knew no one. My husband and I came east for work and to be a least a province closer to my family even if I was in Nova Scotia and they were still in Newfoundland. Meeting people in my early thirties proved to be difficult at first. It wasn’t until a friend from home came to visit and hooked me up with another one of her friends who had boys close in age to mine that things started to shift. My blind “friend” date was a hit and she introduced me to other momma’s that she had met at play group. PLAY GROUPS were my saviour back in the early days of being a mom. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. But when I did what a difference it made in my life.
I had found myself a tribe of women who became my village. We would babysit for one another, we changed each others kids diapers, cooked each other meals, and handed out tissues on the days that one of us felt like the world was crashing down. There was no judgment, no back biting and no harsh words of “get over dat my dear and stop being so soft.”
We always got through the worse days together and because of that we were able to offer a kind shoulder and the advice we all needed to hear. We encouraged each other to see our doctors, to do yoga and to just simply breath. In fact, it was one of my tribe members who brought me to my doctor on the day that I finally hit rock friggin bottom. She made the appointment, drove me in her car and held my hand as we cried together.
On the lighter side of things, there was always someone who had a square of chocolate hid away in the freezer for special occasions, be it good or bad. We had “girly” birthday celebrations a plenty and had our own kitchen parties marked with silly pictures (that never go on FaceBook) and nights at the theatre where we pretended to be sophisticated and worldly. I also have a friend who had her own cupcake business so on the really bad days there was nothing better than her peanut butter, triple chocolate, cups to put a better spin on my day. Self medicating at its best.
Our babies have become little humans going about their own little lives and dramas and we do not get to see each other as much now that they are in school. We still know that we are and will forever be there for each other. And that kind of medicine is just as important as anything that comes from a little yellow bottle. Combing friendship with the help from my doctors was the recipe I needed to finally get my life on track. My vision is no longer blurred, my bad days are just that and I know that when things sometimes become over whelming that I have tools to help me get through it all.
I wish that same combination for anyone out there who is still struggling. It’s tough, I know. The first step is embracing it. When I finally wrapped my arms around my depression and acknowledged its presence in my life things changed. I think owning it and then telling someone about it did the trick. Being able to hear yourself say it out loud can be a defining moment. When you put it out there, you are letting it go. Letting go can be really good sometimes, so let go and don’t look back.
See you next week.
R. H. Downs