The Moment I Finally Broke Down After Silently Drowning in Depression
The first time I truly realized I was depressed was shortly after my first son was born. He came into our world, my partner had gone out for the night and I was left home alone with him, still sore from the delivery but able to move around on my own. I was in my pajamas, it was about 8 p.m., and I had just gotten my son to sleep after trying for over an hour. I was sitting in the lazy boy chair bawling my eyes out when I heard a knock on the door. I froze, afraid that if I moved someone would know I was in there, and that would mean interacting with someone. I held in my sobs, held my breath and prayed they would leave. I had been sitting there crying, an ache of loneliness in my heart, a feeling like I couldn’t breathe and yet when help arrived with that knock on the door, I couldn’t bring myself to answer it. I chalked it up to the baby blues, the lack of sleep and the change in hormones. I had already had about 10 years covering up my feelings to the outside world, so no one once asked me if I was really doing OK.
I spent the next eight years pasting a smile on my face when people asked how I was, raised my kids to the best of my abilities and absolutely falling apart once they had gone to bed each night. I constantly felt like I was drowning. I would sit in my car and have to talk myself into not driving into a tree. I carried my passport in my purse at all times and there were many times when the kids were at their dad’s that I stopped myself halfway to the airport. I constantly thought of what my kid’s lives would look like if I wasn’t in them, and more than once had convinced myself they would be better off without me. When I reflect on those times, on those last eight years, many have blurred into the other, and there are birthdays and Christmases that I don’t remember the slightest detail. There are missed baseball games, early bedtimes, temper tantrums and crying fits because of how I felt. There were days I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed and let the kids watch TV all day. There were nights when I would sit at home and drink two bottles of wine, just to forget how I felt. There were missed interactions with other parents because I constantly felt like a failure. Years of feeling like a failure as a parent took a toll on my relationships and I managed to burn through friends and family. I was 30 years old and all I could remember thinking about myself was that I was a disappointment to everyone around me. I hated myself. I couldn’t even be happy for the people around me, I hated watching people get married, hated how happy new moms looked and constantly looked for something negative that I could relate to.
About six months before I turned 30, my hate for myself increased and so did the sadness inside of me. I spent 20 minutes in the shower each morning, sobbing uncontrollably, not knowing why or how to fix things. I dreamt up scenarios in which I ran away, leaving notes for my children that they would get when they were older, hoping they would understand they were better off without me.
My one shining star came in terms of a doctor’s appointment I had, for a full physical, one that I couldn’t miss as I hadn’t been in so long. My doctor walked into the room, sat down and asked me how I was. What I had rehearsed in my head was something along the lines of “Everything is good. I feel great, I should exercise more, and kids are good.” Instead what came out of my mouth was a sob, and then another and another with only two words — “not good.” Reflecting back on this moment, I’m not sure why the breakdown happened with my doctor. Perhaps I just couldn’t hold it anymore; perhaps I just needed someone to ask me how I really was. After a long talk I was prescribed a counseling session and a very low dose of anti-depressants.
It was a long road to recovery, one that hasn’t ended and is truly only beginning, even as I write this, years later. It took about eight weeks for the medication to kick in and it was a gradual change, it wasn’t as if I woke up one day and started feeling happy. I started crying in the shower less, I started being more patient with the kids and one day I realized I hadn’t thought about abandoning my kids in weeks. What that medication didn’t do though was deal with all the rest of the issues I had facing me. Even though I no longer felt as sad or angry, I still didn’t love myself, I still didn’t like where I was in my life. I also knew I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life, I wanted to change my life naturally. The anti-depressants saved my life, I will give them that.
I am not sure where I would have been had I not had that doctor’s appointment that day. I am not sure I would have been here to tell this story. But I also was aware I had been unhappy for over 15 years and that one pill wasn’t the cure. I started making changes in my life, which became easier as I felt more confident than I had in years. One of the changes I made was letting go of people’s judgment of me. I spent years wondering what people thought, living my life according to societal norms, letting others decide my path for me. When I wake up in the mornings now I want to get out of bed. I smile as I look at the gorgeous sunrises, I laugh as I chase my kids around the house and it fills me with joy to know that this life is truly an incredible gift, and I can only be thankful that I am finally present to live it.
Editor’s note: This piece is based on one person’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.
If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.