My Mother

My mom is cut from a different cloth. Even from a young age, she has always done what she needed to do. At 19, her father died. She didn’t hesitate to help my Mema with the younger kids. She took a job right after high school so she could help pay bills. My mother had seven siblings but the two older siblings were married and were starting families, so she helped take care of the younger five. Still to this day she helps her siblings, financially or otherwise because that’s who she is – a caretaker.

Skipping years ahead, she got married and helped my dad and his brother open a business. She was the first employee and she excelled at it, even though it probably wasn’t her greatest passion. Still she learned everything about truck accessories for heavy duty trucks and continued to work that job for years. After some personnel issues, my mom and dad decided to open a second store, this one with my older brother at the helm. It too was a success and it still didn’t bother her talking shop about truck bumpers, wheels and other accessories. Like I said, she always did what she needed to do.

I can’t speak for my brother but I’m sure he would agree – she would do anything for us. In middle school when I developed migraines, that at times were uncontrollable and debilitating, she became my advocate. She navigated a new world of medicine and therapies and triggers. Fragrances were a trigger so she stopped wearing perfume and bought special soaps.

Years later I finally told her I had depression – bad depression. This was not her field of expertise and although she was probably really scared, she learned the ropes and how to help me calm down during a depressive episode.

When I had kids my depression worsened. Some days I couldn’t find my way out of the overwhelming sadness. I would often want to harm myself. My mom, who had never experienced mental illness herself, dug deeper and supported me the best way she knew how. It must’ve broken her heart when I became suicidal and needed intensive intervention. I stayed at a psychiatric treatment center for 6 long weeks. But she was there, helping take care of my children, visiting me and encouraging me once again.

As I’ve now stabilized, I think about the calls I made to her crying, suicidal. Her love, strength and endurance has never wavered and she just listened, not knowing how to help her daughter stop being suicidal. I firmly believe she was meant to be my mom, to help someone who struggled daily with invisible demons. Someone who wasn’t cut from that seemingly magical cloth. But I have learned from her, too. My bouts with depression have taught me strength, most importantly, compassion. My mom has been my advocate, leading me to be an advocate for those who suffer from depression and anxiety. Maybe to those who haven’t had support and are afraid of speaking out because of the stigma surrounding mental illness. Maybe I’m more like my mom than I think. At least I’d like to think so.

Out of the ashes, baby

I’ve had depression since I was young; I can remember feeling anxiety in middle school and I definitely had depression in high school, I just didn’t know it then. It wasn’t until college (when my Mema died) that I really had a problem. When she died, I couldn’t handle it. I dropped classes because of the stress and overwhelming sadness I felt. I dropped so many classes that I was only going part-time. I can remember leaving campus to drive to my parents’ house multiple times a week.

I started therapy at my college and after a couple years, I realized I needed medication to help with the depression. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t even tell my parents. Now, my parents have always supported me and never really talked about depression with me but I had it in my head that this was a major flaw – my family seemed stronger somehow, that I should just pull myself up from my bootstraps and get a grip. But I couldn’t.

After I graduated college and started my first job hundreds of miles away from my family and friends, my depression got worse. It made me miss work….a lot of it. My other coworkers were resentful and I felt like my bosses hated me. I didn’t fare well in Corpus Christi and after a bad breakup I moved back home. I felt unsuccessful and like a loser. My depression got even worse.

Fast forward to me going back to Corpus Christi: I got married, bought a house and got pregnant. After my first pregnancy I felt ok but after having my second child I was not ok. Postpartum depression reared it’s ugly head. I had to stop breastfeeding at 4 months so I could get back on my antidepressants but even the meds couldn’t save me from being suicidal. It was awful. I spent my energy on making sure my kids were ok and I simply didn’t have enough strength to fight the ugliness that had infiltrated my body. One day I had to go to the ER for suicidal thoughts. Luckily my parents were with my kids. I was sent to an acute behavioral center and saw an awful doctor who wouldn’t listen to anything I was saying. I was released after a couple days and I found a new psychiatrist who started me on different meds. I’d like to say that fixed me but it didn’t. I was diagnosed as having treatment resistant depression, meaning my meds were not effective in fighting the depression off.

Things were pretty bleak and my depression was not controlled at all. The only thing keeping me going were my kids – they of course had constant needs that I had to focus on. It was when they were sleeping that my anxiety increased. I couldn’t control ugly thoughts like I was a bad mom, a bad wife and a total loser.

I was running on empty with no hope in sight. After talking with my therapist and husband, we decided that I would go to a psychiatric facility for help. It was the hardest decision I ever had to make. It would mean at least 6 weeks away from my babies and husband and I felt incredibly guilty. But I had to go.

At the Menninger Clinic I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety and avoidant personality disorder. I started electroconvulsant therapy (ECT) and different meds. I was able to come home after 6 weeks but I have to do ECT treatments every now and then.

I still get depressed. I’m actually in a little funk right now but I know I’ll get through it. I will always rise. I used to think that people with depression were weak but now I know that’s nothing but bullshit. We are strong. We fight to live every day. It’s hard and some of us don’t make it because they don’t have the means or a support system. They suffer in silence and that’s why I cannot. Please do your part in eliminating the stigma around depression and help normalize it. Check on your loved ones, let them know you care and shine a little light in their darkness.

You don’t have to talk about your depression

When I first starting writing about having depression, I had no idea so many people would reach out. The outpour of support was overwhelming and comforting. It can feel pretty lonely at times in the darkness of depression.

But some people – some surprising people – have not been so supportive or they have ignored my blogs and constant talk to normalize depression. One person, who will remain anonymous, said she understood that I was depressed but didn’t think I should always write about it – that it might make my sadder, that people didn’t need to know my business. I felt almost like I was embarrassing her by association. Actually, I’m pretty sure she was embarrassed – even embarrassed for ME. Like I should be ashamed.

But that’s what I don’t get – why people are weird about depression and mental illness. That’s what this blog is for – lending understanding to others and normalizing all mental disease.

What’s shocking the most is the person is my age, a part of my generation. Perhaps her feelings toward depression and mental illness came from her parents and family who considered it taboo or a weakness. Where does it come from?

But I’m not going to stop blogging. I don’t think I’m whining and complaining about being sad all the time. I think I’m telling the truth about what it feels to have depression. What’s weird to me is why it makes others uncomfortable? Why would you feel anything but compassion or even indifference in my journey? I think that reflects more on the people who are judging than it does me. I’m fine with having depression. Well, not fine, but I’ve come to terms with it. But it doesn’t bother me, so why should it bother you?

Why are people so uncomfortable with mental illness?

Before I end this blog, I wanted to remind y’all that I start TMS tomorrow and will blogging about the entire process and how I’m feeling after treatment.

Thanks for reading.