Happy and Depressed

Can you have depression and be happy?

Yes and no. This isn’t going to be confusing at all, no worries. I’m constantly wondering if those who have never suffered from depression think depressed people are sad or supposed to be sad all the time? I have Major Depressive Disorder and it’s treatment resistant so it’s really hard to keep at bay BUT I consider my life a happy one even when I’m experiencing a depressive episode.

Why? I live a good life. I have an awesome family. I talk to my mom and dad everyday and tell them I love them. My friends crack me up and I spend a lot of my day texting or messaging them. I love to laugh, although it’s been characterized as more of a hearty guffaw. I truly love my life and consider myself beyond fortunate.

BUT JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE NICE THINGS OR LIVE A GOOD LIFE DOESN’T MEAN CAN’T BE UNHAPPY – look at Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. These are two examples of celebrities who “had it all.” Sorry to burst your bubble but depression and other mental illness don’t give a shit about what you have or don’t. They comes for anybody.

The problem with me is that my damned brain keeps telling me I’m sad – very sad – and you can’t always fight that. Depression is a disease and a deft liar. At its worst it tells me that my family doesn’t need me (they do). It tells me that I’m worthless (I’m worthy) and that I won’t ever feel better again (I always do). But it’s exhausting constantly fighting those thoughts and eventually you start to give way to them. Getting out of bed becomes hard, brushing your teeth is hard, breathing is hard.

Fortunately, what’s not terribly hard is taking care of the kids, even through it seems unsurmountable during an episode. It takes a crazy amount of energy and a lot of pretending that I feel ok but the kids help my tune out the ugly thoughts, preventing me from showing them the sad side of their mama. They’re just too young to see and understand. Luckily, my mother-in-law is on standby and the kids love going to play at her house, so they might see Grandma a little more during the dark days but that’s fine – I’m giving my mother-in-law time with her grandkids and my kids the chance to make memories with their grandma, something I always cherished as a child. And I know they’re taken care of. It’s ok to take some time for you and for self care. Always remember that.

Every single time my little ones are at Grandma’s (and we’re talking a couple hours to a sleepover) I’m ready for them to come back home. They make me happy. And a little crazy, but mostly happy.

 

So, I’m not sure if this makes sense but yes, you can be happy while being depressed. I’m not always glum, dark and morose. The depression doesn’t go away but there are brief respites when the light breaks through and living is not so hard. For me anyway.

I’m lucky to experience those respites as much as I do; some aren’t as as lucky. And I’m especially lucky when it comes to the support I’m given and the resources I have for my depression. You would be surprised how expensive (medication, talk therapy, alternative therapies, etc) it is and how hard it is to find truly good doctors who can meet your needs. But again, I’m lucky. I just happen to have unruly neurons.

 

Unruly Neurons

I started this blog because I’m fed up with the bullshit surrounding mental illness.

What compelled me to start writing and blogging was when fashion icon Kate Spade (and later celebrity chef and humanitarian Anthony Bourdain) died of suicide. I was so upset about Ms. Spade’s death. Not only did she take her own life but also she didn’t didn’t seek help because she allegedly thought it would hurt her brand.

I was also pissed. I started pounding on my keyboard and opining a letter to the editor to our local paper, the Caller-Times. Here was a wealthy woman who had the means to seek treatment anywhere in the world – treatment that isn’t always available to the average depressed person but she was afraid of what others would think. The stigma of depression is what killed her and is what has to stop. We have to start talking about depression like it’s the deadly disease it is. It’s no different than diabetes, lupus or even cancer. I don’t mean to be dramatic but it’s not just two celebrities who died. I need to confirm this through Veterans’ Affairs, but 22 veterans die each day by committing suicide. It’s an epidemic, people. One that’s largely ignored and considered taboo.

What I don’t get is it affects 1 in 5 Americans – that’s about 44 million people – yet it’s all still “hush, hush” if someone has more than just the blues. Why does this bother me so much? Because unfortunately I have skin in this dark, ugly game. For more than 15 years I have been fighting depression and anxiety. My exact diagnoses is treatment-resistant major depressive disorder (MDD) with generalized anxiety (GA) and social anxiety. I’ve also been diagnosed with Premenstrual Disphoric Disorder or PMDD. It’s a real party.

The worst thing for me about having all these fun acronyms is that for the longest time I didn’t tell anyone, even my family, because of the stigma. People think if you’re depressed or have anxiety that you’re weak. That you have no willpower. That you can’t simply think yourself better, that you’re just lacking fresh air and sunshine. But it’s far from the truth. I’m one of the strongest women I know. It’s hard to go down a deep, dark hole where you feel hopeless and not so much like living anymore. It’s hard admitting you need help, and with that, pull yourself back into the light. It’s nothing but true grit to struggle through each day just to get up and do it again and hope for better. For all of you going through that now – know that I’m here, I understand and that this is a safe place.

I’m Heather. I’m 34 years old, happily (yes, you can be happy and depressed at the same time) married with two children – one girl and one boy. I’m a decent wife, great mother and a pretty good friend. But I do have unruly, misfiring neurons that can make this life pretty hard to lead this time.

Welcome.