For better or worse, it's made me think. For better, I think. I hope.
Thinking is something that I do often. But usually it's how to make a joke, or explain my life in an amusing way for a story, or how to break down a script effectively, or how to get my sons to bring their laundry downstairs, or how not to bury my husband in the backyard, or how to engage teenagers in dramatic storytelling. It isn't usually baring my soul for the masses. But, I think it's important this time. The path has been set in front of me, and all I have to do is take a step of faith.
So here goes.
I saw Next to Normal at the Amarillo Little Theatre last weekend. This play is about a woman and her family and how they all struggle with her mental illness. She is diagnosed Bipolar, and takes medications and sees a therapist, and her family suffers. She suffers. The production was incredibly well done; it's increasingly harder, the older I get, to suspend my disbelief in the face of poor acting. This was not the case in this instance. I was enraptured from beginning to end, and wept (not cried, there's a difference) more than three times during the play.
My husband and I were driving home afterward, silence in the car with the exception of the occasional sniffle, and he looked at me and gently affirmed, "You are not that woman, sweetie."
And I'm not. And I'm SO GLAD I'm not. But I do struggle with a very real illness. Depression.
It sounds so lame when I see it typed out like that. Oh, DEPRESSION. Like you're depressed that you didn't get those concert tickets. Or you're depressed that someone died in an episode of The Walking Dead. Or you're feeling depressed that you didn't get a promotion.
No. That isn't depression.
I'm not saying that those things aren't valid, but they aren't depression. Those things might embody disappointment, perhaps.
Depression is not being able to drag yourself out of bed to play with your child. Depression is crying uncontrollably when there really isn't anything wrong. Depression is being unable to leave your house for the fourth day in a row because you just don't have the energy or the inclination to be with people. It's trouble sleeping, or sleeping too much, or aching joints and muscles, headaches and upset stomachs, weight gain, weight loss, and a myriad of other symptoms. It is real. It is clinical. It is a chemical imbalance in your brain, and it can be treated.
I take antidepressants. I have for years. But there's a social stigma that you're somehow weak or lazy if you can't pull yourself out of a depression.
"Just decide to be happy!"
"Suck it up."
"You just need to worry less and pray more."
"Snap out of it!"
"Smile and pretend you're happy. Eventually you will be."
While I do believe that happiness is indeed a choice, the people that have said these things to me have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what they're talking about. Depression is an actual illness. You wouldn't tell someone with diabetes to "Snap out of it, already! You don't have to take insulin. Just will yourself to feel better."
That's why no one talks about it, I think. They're afraid of being judged, and armchair doctored, and that people will treat them like they're crazy, and JUDGED.
And I'm tired of the judgement, frankly. The people that think I have it all together are dead wrong. Well, they're right, actually. I do have it together, most of the time, BECAUSE I AM MEDICATED FOR DEPRESSION.
Some of my family members are, as well. I'm not going to out them here, but it's a genetic illness, did you know that? It can be passed on from mother to son, or father to daughter, just like diabetes, or heart disease. And because of the medication, I'm able to do things with my sons, and function normally in society, teach theatre to teenagers, be a good(ish) wife and take care of the myriad of responsibilities that are mine alone.
Even with the medication, sometimes I still have to pep talk myself out of the house. I put on some lipstick and give folks a smile. I dress for the day I want to have. Sometimes I have to go from the outside in. But those days are fewer and far between. The medication is life changing, and people shouldn't be afraid to talk about it. It doesn't make you less of a person, inferior, or crazy. It helps. It makes my life better.
And a better life? That's what we're all aiming for. I hope you attain yours, and I hope that you don't judge or begrudge me for getting mine, however I choose to do it.
But I'm not going to be silent about how I get there anymore.