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Depression Doesn’t Care That I’m on Vacation

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I can feel the eye rolls and sighs of readers after they read my title. “How could depression hit in paradise, how ridiculous!” they might say and scroll past. This is precisely why I’m writing this piece, to address the misconceptions, misunderstandings and judgments people have about depression.

It has taken me a long time to admit I struggle with depression. I had every excuse in the book why the fog would not clear, why my feet barely moved, why my insides ached and why the simplest of tasks felt insurmountable. In my ignorance, I thought depressed people could just get over it and find something to change their mood. Truth be told, I thought it was an easy out for people to avoid their problems.

But then I had a devastating miscarriage

I was kept in the hospital alone with my thoughts. And they were not good thoughts, to say the least.

I thought they would pass once I returned home. They didn’t. Those self-loathing, blaming and shaming thoughts stuck around like dog doo in your shoe, tucking themselves in the deepest crevices, impossible to remove. There were days I could not get out of bed. Not because I did not want to, but because my body could not move. I had two children to take care of but I was immobilized by sadness. For the first time in my life, I realized this was more than I could handle by myself. This was not just being sad. This was not grief.

This was depression.

This was a deep, dark depression that cored my insides out and left me numb and empty. Rather than fight it, ignore it, or shame it away, I sat in it. I cried when I needed to cry. I slept when I needed to sleep. I took care of myself like I was sick, because I was sick.

From that point on, depression has been a constant lingering and unwanted guest in my life. I can go months without seeing depression or encounter weeks of struggle. Depression is like a quiet dinner guest, never really bothering anyone until it makes itself known. And let me tell you — there is no ignoring its demands.

There is no predicting when depression will hit. It can even arrive in the midst of paradise.

My family and I were in Costa Rica, a country of loving people, picturesque beaches and breathtaking sunsets. We were having such a wonderful time doing nothing but swimming in the turquoise ocean, lounging in the pool and listening to monkeys in the trees. I’ve never in my life been more at peace.

Which is why when my depression came back, it wrecked me.

For those who do not understand, depression is a bully. There is no controlling its wrath or intensity. The guilt I felt for waking up feeling it in my body was more damaging than the depression itself. How could this be happening? We saved for so long to afford this vacation, how is this fair? What will my family think? Will my husband be understanding or frustrated? What kind of weak human am I to allow this to affect me again?

This self-loathing is a vicious cycle. It beats me up like a schoolyard bully, leaving me helpless and shamed in my wounds. I sat in the bed, looked at my husband and said, “It’s here. Today will be a gray day.” I started to sob. I unloaded all my insecurities, guilt, horrible thoughts and endless depressive dialogue on him. He sat, listened, grabbed my hand and said, “I love you. It’s OK, today will be a gray day.”

From him there was no judgment about me as a person, a mother or a wife plagued with this dark day in paradise. There was only support and understanding. This has been the greatest gift of my life.

But I’ve found that in order to receive it, I have to give of myself.

I have to be honest about my depression. I have to advocate for myself when I need a nap, a break, a walk, a therapy session, a manicure, yoga or whatever it may be. However, with so much stigma surrounded around mental illness, it is not easy to advocate for oneself.

As I sat by the pool in Costa Rica, staring off into space on my gray day, I could not help but think of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love.” I have many friends that hated that book because they could not imagine that a rich author could have depression.

In response I want to scream. Depression doesn’t discriminate based on race, class, ethnicity, sex, gender and/or religion! All can be affected by depression.

Rather than shaming someone for speaking their truth about their struggle, let’s meet them with understanding, compassion and empathy. If someone breaks an arm or has the flu, we make soup or offer well wishes. Depression is a sickness and it needs to start being addressed as such.

This piece was hard for me to write. I know people will roll their eyes. I have a nice life. I consider myself privileged. But after burying my brother after his suicide, I promised from that point forward, I would speak my truth. About him, about me and about my life. This is my truth.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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Originally published: October 17, 2016
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