When Depression Makes You Miss the Person You Once Were
I’m crying. Again. Since being hit with an intractable depression two years ago, it seems that’s all I do. Cry.
It’s morning and I am up earlier than usual. As I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of hot coffee, pink streaks of morning light begin cutting through the darkened, morning sky.
When I hear my daughter coming down the stairs, I quickly wipe away the tears and pop on a pair of reading glasses in the hopes she won’t see that, once again, I am sitting alone somewhere… you guessed it. Crying.
“Your crying,” she says the instant she steps into the kitchen. She is only 9, but she can always see right through my lame attempt to hide my puffy eyes and runny nose.
As a mother with depression, I feel I am never supposed to let my children see me cry. I hid my tears and torment for about three months after the depression first set in. But by the fourth month, the battle to hide my condition from my kids became impossible. What else could explain not just the constant crying, but the weight loss, my distractibility, the fact I hardly ever laughed anymore or my inability to sometimes get out of bed on weekends?
My daughter asks, “Do you miss Aiden?” She pulls up a chair at the table. “Is that why you are crying?”
We are into the third week since my oldest son, Aiden, has gone away to boarding school. Instinctively, I nod and wipe away the tears that have slipped out from under my glasses.
“Yes,” I say. “I miss Aiden.”
“Me too,” she says.
I give her hand a quick squeeze before turning back to stare out the window. By now, the autumn sky resembles a rich tapestry of blues and oranges, pinks and browns. I feel a pang of guilt for lying to her. Maybe lying isn’t exactly the right word. I do miss Aiden, almost every second of every day. But at this moment, sitting at the kitchen table, clutching a warm cup of coffee and drinking in the beauty of the sky, I realize who I really miss.
I miss me.
Over the last two and a half years, I have lost most of who I once was. With each passing day, another inch or two of my soul erodes away. I am simultaneously terrified, numb, agitated, exhausted, hopeless and unmotivated — so very different from the woman I see smiling at the camera in the family photos dotted around our house. I used to love to travel, ride horses, take oil painting classes, play board games with my children, garden, host dinner parties with friends, go on 5k runs, hide in shadowy corners of the house just waiting for one of my children to pass by so I could jump out from my hiding place and wrestle them to the floor with tickles and kisses.
Join the conversation. Answer this person’s question:
Since the depression set it, I have aged 10 years. The crying, coupled with all the hours laid in bed, have created puffy, purplish bags beneath my eyes. Because I don’t eat well, my hair and skin are dry and dull. I haven’t visited the gym in months. My arms and thighs feel weak. My pants hang off me.
I am basically housebound. Each afternoon, I send my husband, who works from home, to pick up my daughter at the bus stop because I am too ashamed to face the other moms waiting curbside for their children. Hearing what they have accomplished that day — the businesses they are running, the oil paintings they are completing, the family trips they are planning — all triggers that send me into a dark well of toxic shame.
I was once like them… but not anymore. Not even close. This illness has taken everything out of me. What is left is a hollowed-out scarecrow of a person.
And so, I cry. I cry remembering how things were — how I once was and the sheer terror I will never recover my sanity, my ability to work or laugh or draw or feel safe. The truth is I miss the very person I used to be so critical of. I was never nice to myself, but at least I had a self. Missing one’s self, one’s self-motivation and directive, is something that is hardly ever mentioned in the discourse about depression. But for me, and I suspect many other people struggling with this illness, we have been robbed of our very selves.
And for that, I cry.
And for that, I mourn.
And for that, I feel empty and utterly alone. Even in a room full of people.
And for that I need to say, even just to myself, that I miss — really, really miss — me.
Photo by Ty Williams on Unsplash