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How Watching My Mother Slip Into Depression Helped Me Face My Own

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I’ve heard people say depression is a phase everyone goes through.

For my mother, it was a life-long ordeal. She tried to hide it. She tried to pretend it wasn’t there. She tried to shut off the idea she even had it. For a while she thrived, but then she was triggered. For her, this meant her hard work at fighting off the fog meant nothing, and the darkness of depression returned. She sank back into her shell as if the light at the end of the tunnel had faded. She lived there, in the darkness, and it seemed like there was no way out. 

But my mother fought a decent fight for a long time.

She built a life, a family and a home with my father.

For a while, she thrived in her career and as a wife and mother.

She refused to accept the darkness would return.

But when it did, she wasn’t ready. She fell deep into herself, never to return. It was her mother’s death that did it. Even with family around her, she never found her way back out of it.

I was triggered into depression my late adolescent years, then again in my early teens, then again in my late teens, but I fought it. I knew I could beat it if I could just make myself healthy. I knew I wouldn’t go down the same dark path as her. I tried everything. I wrote poetry and stories. I exercised. I sang. I tried yoga and paintball, took up more new hobbies and spoke to counselors, close friends and family. I pushed, pushed, pushed the depression away as hard as I could. I saw myself as strong and capable conquering everything.

By the fourth time I was triggered into depression, my mother was out on mental disability. We weren’t speaking, but my brother told me she was suicidal and hospitalized for her anxiety and depression more than once. Her entire life had turned upside down, and the life and love that had once surrounded her had depleted, leaving her alone and drowning in her sadness. Looking at my mother and how she ended up, I was absolutely terrified.

So by the fourth time I was triggered, I realized if I didn’t do something to fight off my depression for good, I’d be fighting this exhausting fight for the rest of my life. It wasn’t just me being sad or “going through a phase.” This fight was biological and hereditary, and there wasn’t enough serotonin in my brain to keep me consistently happy forever. I didn’t want to follow the same path I watched my mother go down.

Carrying the knowledge I had tried all I could, I went to a doctor.

But I didn’t just go for me.

I went for the woman who lost everything to this horrible disease. Who pushed her husband to divorce and alienated both her children in her pain, rendering her completely alone.

But most of all, I went for the little girl who lost her mother, who didn’t understand it wasn’t her fault and who kept quiet because she didn’t want anyone else to feel her pain. 

Today, I’m not keeping quiet. It’s been about two weeks since I took that big step to get the medication I need to keep the darkness away permanently.

With help, I learned to live again. I realized I’d been missing out on so much in life. The fog cleared, and my perspective on how happiness could be obtained and kept was a feeling I never imagined I’d have.

I also learned depression is not anyone’s fault, but a biological and chemical error that sometimes we can’t fix on our own.

We’re often taught depression is just a phase or something we should be ashamed of, but it’s not. Only when we speak up about it can we get the help we all completely deserve.

Follow this journey on The Moments In Between.

Originally published: September 1, 2015
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