For the first time in 2 years I am going to write a blog that is not anonymous and posted by someone else. A friend who I have been writing for reminded me that if I posted this anonymously, I am still hiding. So I am struggling on where to begin. I should explain the title, SAD – it’s more than a feeling; SAD stands for Seasonal Affective Disorder. I was diagnosed with this 5 years ago, and have hidden my diagnosis from my family and friends. Until now that is. This is a hard topic for me to write about but after what has happened the last few weeks I know it is finally time. Today there is a story that needs to be told, a veil to be lifted. So with a deep breath I begin.
It was the fall of 2010 when I was diagnosed. In the beginning I didn’t want to take any medications but by January I agreed because I just couldn’t cut it and was sick all the time. I’ll be honest, I have been on anti-depressants before however I hated the side effects of the drugs. I still struggled, because well problems at home never go away, but overall I was a different person. I got involved in a support group and it was nice not to feel alone. I’d get random text messages, “Did you get out of bed today?” or “Go for a walk. Now.” It was and still is helpful. I was connecting to my kids and really enjoying time with them. I was preparing to start a new job and felt like this was going to be pretty easy to manage. By November of 2011 I was struggling to get out of bed in the morning, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I felt sick. All. The. Time. Thankfully my mom was at my house a lot and was super helpful with JB. The realization that I was failing as a mother and a wife was consuming me. I was taking the medications but I had become an emotionless zombie who was desperately trying to feel normal again.
My SAD season of 2014-15 was really hard. Especially the beginning of 2015. My marriage was struggling and the fighting in the house was out of control. Between dealing with a situation involving a family member living in my home and my depression I felt like we were one fight away from divorce. I was trying to handle everything on my own and I made some decisions; for the health and safety of me and the kids; and certain people had to be removed from our lives. My depression was making handling things that much harder and I was second guessing every decision I made. I had made a friend in my group, Emma (name is changed), and she was in the same place as me. We were kind of like kindred spirits, you see we were both handling our SAD alone. Her family didn’t know and neither did mine. I was still hiding every appointment, the meetings, the medications, and at-home therapies. I hid every aspect from my husband, my kids, my parents, and my friends. No one knew I was suffering. No one knew the pain.
I am handling my SAD season differently this year. I am not taking the medicine because I can’t handle the side effects. Due to some changes in our home environment and a huge stress being removed I feel confident I can handle this using at-home therapies. I noticed a few weeks ago that I didn’t have anything to say during lunch with my mom. I couldn’t maintain a conversation. And people started asking me if I was ok because I look “out of it”. I was aware that it was coming on. The cloud covering was thickening and the weight was pressing. So three weeks ago, I reached out to Emma because the idea of doing this alone is overwhelming. I found out that Emma had passed away. She was sitting in her car in the garage when her husband found her. I spoke with him briefly after I found out and he admitted he never knew about her SAD and is having a hard time dealing with the guilt of not knowing. He said he wishes he had known, maybe he could have helped. I couldn’t do anything but cry and hug this stranger that I had never met. I pray for him and their kids every night.
Emma’s passing was an eye opener for me. I could be Emma, my family could be hers. I’ve thought about what it would feel like not to force a smile, not to feel alone and miserable every second of the day, for my body not to hurt to move. I’ve wanted to not wake up. And when the cloud passes; I realize how blessed I am to have avoided the dark grasp of those depressive thoughts. Somehow I haven’t stopped fighting. I wish I had been more supportive of my friend, I regret not calling her sooner to go for a walk. I wish we could talk about how hard it is to explain to people what is wrong when hiding the truth. I wish I could have given her the strength to come clean about her condition. I wish I could tell her that her kids need her, her husbands needs her, the world needs her. I wish I could tell her that she is so important, her life is precious and valued, she is not alone, and that this feeling will pass.
Over the last few years I have pushed away friends. I don’t respond to invitations or messages, I just fade into the background. I have joined moms groups and quit because being the depressed outcast wasn’t exactly a draw for new friendships and I had a hard time connecting. I have stood on the outside of the circles I so desperately want to be apart of only to conclude that I wasn’t good enough. At times I have felt like I was watching my life happen from the outside.
I have a lot of reasons for hiding my diagnosis but the main one was and still is, I am ashamed. I am embarrassed that I can’t handle things like everyone else can. I am supposed to be super-mom-handle-it-all and I was falling-apart-at-the-seams-failure mom instead. I want to be a wife whose husband wants to be around her; not someone he avoids because he never knows what side of me he might get.
I am embracing a more aware and prepared treatment of my disorder. Instead of praying it will go away I am accepting it is part of who I am and it will pass. I have reminders set randomly to reach out to friend, set a lunch date, go for walk, send a text, answer a voicemail, or do a devotion. I am forcing myself to spend more time outside. I am focusing on my health and staying committed to an exercise program. I am no longer hiding. I am forcing myself to socialize regardless of how uncomfortable it makes me. I will continue to force myself to get up every morning and not go back to bed once all the kids have left for school (which is SO hard). I am making to-do lists that are impossible to accomplish but keep me busy and motivated. I remind myself to be thankful for everyday. I remind myself that this season will pass and I will not always feel like this. I can do this. I have to do this. For my family, for Emma, for me.
Emma’s passing made me realize that you never know what demons someone is battling, you never know what is going on behind someone’s smile. I wish I had taken a moment, stepped out of my comfort zone, and given my friend a call. Or showed up at her house just because. You never know when a hug, a call, a text, or an unexpected visit could change someone’s life.