To the Husband With the Wife Who Has Depression

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Dear Husband,

I love you dearly, more than anything in this whole world. I think you already know this. I know you love me too, I just forget sometimes. Depression clouds my mind and fills me with horrid thoughts about how unlovable and worthless I am. Sometimes I believe you, sometimes I believe depression.

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I know you prefer the good days when I’m happy and not anxious or snappy, and I wish I could have these days every day. But I can’t. I feel the cloud approaching and it petrifies me. Sometimes I tell you and sometimes I don’t. Please, if you notice the cloud before I tell you, just hug me tight and tell me we’ll fight it together. Please don’t ask me if I’m OK — my automatic answer will be yes. In reality, it’s a big no. You see, depression can make you feel ashamed.

I know sometimes I overreact about the smallest things and get angry, but please be patient with me. Forgetting the bread will not be the real reason. It’s that I feel like I’m losing control over my mind. Depression is very clever, you see – it builds up a wall of anger piece by piece, and you never notice it until it’s so big it begins to topple over. I’m sorry you get the brunt of my anger on cloudy days. Please forgive me. Please. Just tell me you love me and leave me to calm down.

I know it’s hard to help somebody through depression if you’ve never experienced it yourself. I understand. I totally get it. Just listen to me and ask about the cloudy days. I can’t just bring it up in conversation. Depression clouds your mind. I need you to break the silence.

There will be lots of times I feel like you’d be better off without me, or that my children deserve a better momma. Sometimes I’ll tell you. Most of the time I won’t. Sometimes I can go for months without those thoughts crossing my mind, and other times I think about them every second of every day for weeks. That’s the scary truth. Depression is vile — a vile, nasty monster. Please always keep an eye on me, but know no matter how many times you tell me I’m worth it I probably won’t believe it on cloudy days – but please never stop telling me. Ever.

I love our children more than anything, but sometimes I feel like a failure. I feel like a rubbish momma. My mind nags me and tells me other mommas do things better and love better than me. I feel like I always fall short. I find it so hard being a momma on cloudy days, but I try so hard to not let them notice the clouds. I hope you know I try.

I haven’t self harmed since February 2010, but the urge often consumes me. When the black cloud is here it consumes my mind. I fight it so hard for myself, my children and for you. I know it’s hard to understand why I crave it, I can’t explain it myself. It’s like an old addiction that comes to hurt me when it smells the dark cloud. One day I hope it won’t ever cross my mind again.

I know I don’t talk about these black clouds often, but I want to. I hate the silence it forces me to keep. There’s a certain freedom when it comes to talking openly about the monster. Help me find that freedom.

Depression makes me feel tired. Sometimes the fatigue is so bad I just want to cry. Every bone hurts. Sometimes I lay awake at night and worry about things that won’t even happen. Squeeze my hand tight if you’re awake too.

Sometimes it takes every bit of motivation to get up in the morning, but I never let you in on this. A new day often scares me. I wonder, will I cope? Will the sky be blue or black? Is the weather nice? Every single morning is hard, but seeing you makes it easier.

I want to publicly thank you for loving me and supporting me. You are the best.

Yours forever x

Follow this journey on Swords and Snoodles.

The Mighty is asking the following: What do you want your past, current or future partner to know about being with someone with your disability, disease or mental illness? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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My Chronic Illness Just Happens to Be in My Head

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I have a mental illness.

Saying that makes me cringe. It’s such an ugly phrase, “mental illness.” And “mentally ill” is even worse. Those terms conjure up unwanted imagery, none of which applies to me. At all.

I’m not crazy. I’m not violent, scary or a threat to others. I’m not drugged out and loopy on high-octane meds. I simply — and not so simply — have a chronic health condition that happens to be in my brain. I use medication to manage it. Sometimes I feel completely normal. Sometimes I don’t.

Lately I’ve been in the not-feeling-normal category. Yes, work has been really, really busy for me. That’s been a big part of it, for sure. 

The last time I wasn’t feeling mentally healthy, I was sad and unmotivated. I dreaded starting each day. This time it’s anxiety that’s kicking my butt, which is weird for me. I don’t normally deal with obvious anxiety symptoms, until I had a panic attack for the first time in many years. And since that night I can’t get rid of the tight feeling in my chest.

I’m irritable, impatient and jittery. I constantly feel like I’ve had too much coffee. I always have this dreadful feeling I’m forgetting something really important. I’m picking apart the skin around my fingernails. And I get lost in unimportant things (like wasting time on Facebook or checking my lists over and over), instead of being productive (like dealing with household chores or focusing on work).

Years ago, I would have just tried to grit my teeth and get through this phase. I’d convince myself it would pass, or that by the time I actually got in to see a therapist, I’d feel better and it would be a waste of time. It would take a complete breakdown to spur me to get help.

Not anymore. This time when I recognized I was in a downward spiral, I set up appointments with my occasional therapist and my doctor. I asked the therapist for strategies to manage my anxiety and stress. I told the doctor what was going on and he adjusted my medication and is monitoring me. I’m writing down which medicines I’ve tried, what side effects I have, dosages and other relevant information.

I’m also taking steps to reduce the stress in my life. I’m gardening more and online less. I’m actually not working this summer. My husband and I calculated due to my successful winter/spring of work I can take a break. Of course, the stress of that success has driven me to needing the time off. But whatever. It is what it is.

This dogged dedication to doing what needs to be done to feel better is a big part of effectively managing my chronic illness. It’s not easy. It would be far easier to hide under the covers of my bed and wish it all away. Or grit my teeth and soldier on, making everyone around me miserable while I suffer. But those strategies obviously didn’t work in the past. What’s that old definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results. Yeah. That. I’m done with acting insane.

Honestly, I’m not really feeling better yet. But I have faith that I will. I always do, eventually.

That’s the thing with my “mental illness.” Like many chronic health conditions, I go into remission and have relapses. Back and forth. Over and over. Living with a chronic condition can be exhausting. But I don’t have a choice. So I do it.

“Mental illness.” Yes, I have it. But I’m not crazy. My illness doesn’t define me. It’s one aspect of who I am. And that’s all.

Follow this journey on Honest Mom.

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I Thought I Wasn't the 'Kind of Person' to Get Depressed

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There are two big lies I’ve always told myself.

The first is I could always handle anything, no matter how much I took on.

The second I told my doctor as I sat in his office, trying to explain to him why I didn’t want something “unnatural” to help me return to myself.

“This may sound really ridiculous, but I’m just not the kind of person who takes medication to cope,” I said.

As I said it, I realized I did indeed sound ridiculous. From the amused and slightly pitying expression on his face, he apparently thought so, too.

Because the truth was, I wasn’t the kind of person that went to a psychologist, had an anxiety disorder or got depressed — until I was.

It was October of last year, and I was sucked into the end-of-year rush. I’d taken on far too much work like I had repeatedly done before. Sandra, my business partner and one of my best friends, warned me I was stretching myself dangerously far and was going to snap. I guess you don’t have any concept of your limits until you’re faced with them.

Unsurprisingly, I got sick. The doctor confirmed I had a sinus infection and asked if there was anything else bothering me. Feeling like I might be overreacting, I mentioned I kept feeling like there was a wind stuck in my chest when I went to sleep. It caused me to wake up feeling panicky just after I fell asleep, often triggering a nightmare that I would die if I breathed in or swallowed.

The doctor reacted with a lot more interest than I had expected him to. He recommended I see a psychologist at the practice.

Psychologist — the word was foreign in my mouth and sat awkwardly on my tongue.

I walked into the reception that Friday for my appointment. I mumbled, “I’m here for Karolyn, the psychologist.” I nearly followed with, “Oh, but it’s just because I can’t sleep, nothing serious!” I looked around the waiting room to see who had noticed me, and no one was particularly interested. Then the shame hit me — how dare I be embarrassed? But I was. 

After a few months of therapy, I felt as though my anxiety was basically under control. But something still wasn’t right. My sleep patterns were a mess, I had lost my ability to concentrate and focus and I felt like I wasn’t present in my own life, like I was in a numbed-down state of self.

So after having not gone for a few weeks, I went back to my therapy session. My therapist looked at me and said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re depressed, perhaps due to burnout, perhaps not.”

I began to cry, because although a small part of my mind had suspected this, I did not want to be the depressed person. I had come to terms with being the anxious person and the patient to a psychologist. Now, I had a new label to wrap myself in, and a new uncomfortable word to roll around on my tongue until it would no longer stick in my throat.

Surely I had no right to claim such a diagnosis. Would I not be diminishing the experience of those who were “properly” depressed? I have a good life. No, a flipping great life. What is someone like me doing owning and accepting depression? I felt like I didn’t deserve to identify with an illness loaded with associations of suffering and dysfunction.

I went home, read up on depression and discovered not all depression is the same, and not everyone will necessarily experience depression in the same way.

Depression isn’t just about feeling sad all the time. You could lack energy, experience loss of concentration and memory and struggle to sleep. And if left untreated, it’s possible to end up in the darkest hole imaginable. Fortunately for me, as I started slipping down into that blackness, I had someone there to grab my hand. Someone who had suspected a low level depression underlying all that loud, shouty anxiety right from the start, and who was already working on it with me.

As it turned out, with a combination of therapy, a prolonged period on natural antidepressants, cutting out most sugar and refined foods, managing work stress, regulating sleep and deliberately removing myself from some ongoing family drama, I pulled out of the dark space very suddenly (although it’s taken a few months to settle), without needing the prescribed medication. 

I was prepared to be very honest with myself, took a number of actions, was in therapy for eight months and worked damn hard to pull myself back to the air. I also now know I have the propensity for depression and will watch myself for the signs, or the denial, very carefully.

I do have the right to be depressed, because it’s something that happened to me, just like any physical illness. And I own it with a deep gratitude for what the experience has taught me about myself.

Follow this journey on Not The Kind of Person.

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The Website Crushing the 'Real Men Don't Get Depression' Stereotype

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It’s a statement so simple, yet often ignored: “Men get depressed.”

These words are written boldly across the front page of a newly launched website and men’s mental health awareness project, HeadsUpGuys, created by the Men’s Depression and Suicide Network out of Canada’s University of British Columbia (UBC). The project was funded by the Movember Foundation, a global charity for men’s health. It launched on June 16 during Men’s Health Week.

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Mark Goodwin, a graduate student studying library and information studies in UBC’s iSchool, and research assistant for HeadsUpGuys, said the mission of the project is to present important information about men’s mental health in a serious but accessible way.

“I’ve always been interested in male stereotypes in society,” Goodwin told The Mighty. “And I was also interested in disrupting them.”

In this case, HeadsUpGuys is challenging the stereotype that tough men “real men” don’t experience depression. But across Canada and the United States, this isn’t the case. An estimated 840,000 Canadian men experience depression each year, and in the United States this number is more than 6 million. For years now, the suicide rate has been about four times higher for men than for women, and according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, white males accounted for 70 percent of all suicides in 2013.

The goal of the project isn’t to make men more or less emotional, but to instead reframe traditional views of strength and masculinity.

“Holding everything inside is kind of the easy way out,” Goodwin told The Mighty. “The real strength is tackling it head on and taking steps to be a better man.”

Screen shot 2015-07-16 at 7.56.19 PM The site itself was developed by a team of clinicians and researchers, led by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk, a Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program in the Department of Psychiatry at UBC. It offers practical and easy-to-access information about depression and debunks myths like, “Depression is a sign of personal weakness,” and “Anyone with enough willpower ought to be able to ‘snap out of it.’” It also offers testimonials from men who experience depression, along with videos providing tips to help both men who are depressed and their support networks.

In one video, for example, a suicide attempt survivor, Josh Beharry, discusses the physical symptoms of depression he experienced while attending college.

“My appetite went away. My energy and motivation where going too,” he says in the video (below). “But what really did it was when I stopped sleeping.”

According to Goodwin, symptoms of depression like physical pain and anger are accepted in the male experience. Because of this, it can be hard for men to realize what they’re going through is in fact depression and not something they have to fight through.

With more video, more blogs and a further reach, HeadsUpGuys hopes to provide men everywhere with information about how to recognize, accept and man-up to depression.

photo source: headsupguys.ca

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Fans Honor Actor's Openness About Depression With Comic Con Surprise

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“Supernatural” star Jared Padalecki got a sweet surprise at the show’s Comic Con panel this past Sunday, when a sea of fans payed tribute to the actor’s mental health campaign.

When panel moderators opened up the floor to audience questions, the actor was “overwhelmed” when more than 7,000 fans unexpectedly lit candles in the audience, U.S Weekly reported. The gesture was to show their support for Padalecki’s “Always Keep Fighting” campaign, an effort to support those living with mental illness, depression, addiction or suicidal thoughts.

Padalecki, who also stared in “Gilmore Girls,” opened up about experiencing depression in a Variety interview this year, where he discussed the moment he was diagnosed with clinical depression.

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Padalecki posted pictures of fans wearing “Always Keep Fighting” shirts on his Facebook page.

It kind of hit me like a sack of bricks,” the actor told Variety. “I mean, I was 25 years old. I had my own TV show. I had dogs that I loved and tons of friends and I was getting adoration from fans and I was happy with my work, but I couldn’t figure out what it was; it doesn’t always make sense.”

The Always Keep Fighting campaign sold more than 27,500 shirts bearing its slogan, according to U.S. Weekly. All proceeds went to To Write Love On Her Arms, a non-profit dedicated to inspiring hope for people experiencing addiction, depression, self-injury and thoughts of suicide.

“Supernatural” fans have a history of embracing mental health issues. Carry On, a support group specifically for “Supernatural” fans, was created to help fans stand against their “own personal demons.” The group has more than 11,500 Twitter followers.

“This is so touching and humbling and honoring,” Padalecki told his fans, addressing the collection candles, according to U.S. Weekly. “I don’t have the proper words to say thank you or how humbled and honored and excited I am and keep it up, guys. Thank y’all so much.”

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Padalecki and fellow “Supernatural” star Jensen Ackles wearing “Always Keep Fighting” shirts.
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The Most Important Thing I'd Tell Every Person With Depression

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There are all types of people, of all ages, in all walks of life, facing depression and mental illness. Although each story and struggle is unique, let us unite and help each other as best we can.

The stigma will continue to diminish if we keep the conversation alive. By sharing our stories we may be able to help more people understand what we face on a day-to-day basis. By raising awareness we can not only make it easier for those dealing with mental illness, but also friends and family pained by having to watch their loved ones attempt to cope.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we were able to remove the frustration caused by the misunderstanding of mental illness? Here I share the most important thing I’d tell every person with depression.

If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention LifelineHead here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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