This is not a woe is me story. I don’t feel sorry for myself. (I try not to, anyway.) What I’d hope is this starts a conversation around this topic because I’m finding that there are so many women (and men) out there who battle depression. It’s very common… although many of us choose to keep it a secret because we feel ashamed and/or guilty about it. And… what I’m discovering lately is, we mustn’t. It doesn’t help us OR our cause. In ways, going through it can really be a character strengthener. There’s so much to cover… this is just the first discussion.
About two years ago I was in the backseat of a car with two girlfriends from back home. Tess and Lauren* (names changed.) Tess was the one driving, she was in the midst of getting her PhD in Psychology that year. Lauren, also successful, was tipsy in the moment (I was too) and started to get into some HDR shit. Thats Heavy, Deep, and Real for all you non-word nerds out there. The topic was depression.
Upon picking Tess’s brain on the subject, Lauren confessed -for what she said was the first time ever– that she often felt depressed and was currently in the middle of an intense bout of it that had been ongoing for months. She said she sometimes felt so dark, she’d even have thoughts about killing herself. Now…. mind you, Lauren is just not the kind of girl to say something for attention. She was spillin’ it… and she was borderline tears talking about it too.
I was shocked to learn this about her. She was always so upbeat. FUN. Incredibly positive. And she was gorgeous, in a great relationship, had a close-knit group of friends. Great family… not the type of person you’d imagine to be battling depression.
Lauren and I weren’t BFF, but we were good enough friends to keep in touch over the years and always maintained meaningful conversations. All the sudden she twisted around in her seat to face me and said, “Yurkie, you’ve been through some stuff. Have you ever been depressed?”
Truth? Less than half a year prior I had gone off anti-depressants for the first time in six years. I think only 10(ish) people at that time had ever known that about me. That’s including family members. It’d always been a secret I’d kept.
My whole life I’ve generally been known as the “really nice girl” who “always seemed happy and energetic” and “was always smiling.”…. You know when people tell you how they describe you to other people who don’t yet know you? That is what I heard probably 95% of the time growing up. And you know… I am that girl. But not entirely that girl. But over the years it had become a self-fulling prophecy for me to uphold.
But when Lauren point blank asked me if I had ever been depressed, I completely watered down the truth and said, “Not really. But I’ve gone through hard times and been really sad before.” I remember thinking… no, feeling, that I should have told her my true experience with it. Or some of it at least. Because my heart felt sunken for her. I could see how alone she felt. I knew my confession could have really benefited her in that moment. We all know what a relief it can be when we’re going through some kind of turmoil, to finally get to say, “I’m so glad I’m not the only one.” But I didn’t give that to her. (Months later I did, however.) Too much of me was still concerned with upholding the image people had of me in their heads. Vulnerability is a scary thing.
But I have learned that it’s also a very brave thing. And perhaps one of the few ways we can truly connect to other human beings in a meaningful way. I’d always admired people who’d use their own pain to later make a difference. Over the last two years, I’ve tried to be more open with my experience should the right moment come about… but even still, currently I have not told that many more people. I chicken out all the time. And those I have told, I usually downplay it. Out of fear of being judged, really. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I don’t want to harbor this secret. I just want to be myself. And this bit of darkness I routinely have to overcome is a part of me. I want to help others. So today, I’m getting real about this shit… to thousands of you. (…..AH!)
People’s lives…. can appear so bright and shiny from the outside, right? Especially thanks to social media. I understand this, no one wants to post their doom and gloom. But when we strip away reality to those who don’t know us, we create a semi-false image of ourselves and thus shrink the possibility of people relating to us in a way that could be truly healing to them. For me, depression has always been an incredibly lonely thing that I’ve had to deal with- mainly because I so rarely talk about it with anyone. I wonder now how much shorter the duration of these intense bouts of sadness could have been if I had only just let someone in, or had someone to relate to. Probably would have had myself a lot more happy days.
Another thing that held me back with talking about this, was that I’ve also felt so guilty about being depressed in the first place. I’m relatively healthy, I have a family who loves the shit out of me, friends who are nothing short of true blessings in my life, a career I’ve worked hard for and love… etc. I see some of the horrible things that people are going through in the world and how worse things could be and I ask myself, “…Why are YOU depressed?” Your ass should NOT be depressed. I beat myself up about that all the time. But if you’re educated on what depression actually IS, then you know that it’s not a choice. It is NOT a choice. You can still be grateful for everything in your life and also be depressed at times. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
Another thing that makes me feel guilty: depression can hinder me from being the Katey that I want to be for everyone. Which is that upbeat, happy, try-t0-make-everyone-feel-good kind of girl. Most of the time, I can fake it when I need to. And I do think there is something to that “fake it till you make it” mentality because I do usually feel better after forcing myself to put on the happy face- even if it felt somewhat inauthentic in the beginning. You can be depressed and NOT be someone who is depressing to be around. I don’t think a lot of people understand that. When I’m going through it, I genuinely make an effort to consistently “pull” myself out of it, even if it’s just momentary releases. I am not one to sit around and just accept it. I know I have to fight!
But there are times when I simply cannot get myself out of the house. I am more of an introvert by nature but when I’m really going through it I can really isolate myself for long periods of time. And then that’s when the social anxiety creeps in. I don’t want to let people down. I don’t want them to see me in a certain light. I don’t want to have to open up because I don’t want sympathy. It makes me uncomfortable and I’d rather claw my eyes out than risk bringing others down even for the moment. I don’t want my friends worrying, they have their own things to worry about. So I’ll lie about why I can’t make it to dinner. To a birthday party. I’ll lie about why I haven’t been in touch. Why I haven’t returned someone’s phone calls or texts for weeks. And I hate doing that. I hate it.
It’s not that I sit home and cry and cry and cry. Although it’s been that severe at times. When my Grandma passed away a few years ago (We were insanely close) I left the house maybe a handful of times over the course of six weeks. Rarely even left my bedroom. Except at night, I would go walking because I always found that therapeutic. I remember telling my roommates, “Look, I don’t want you to worry, or feel awkward around me. I don’t want to talk about it so you don’t have to worry about checking in on me. But I’m just letting myself grieve for a bit. Happy Katey will be back soon.” I knew she would be. At that point I was educated about my depression- I realized sometimes it happened out of nowhere and sometimes it was situational. And when it was situational it was usually worse. That was the first time in six months I had gone through a bout of it (I’d say it happens a few times a year) and I was now doing it without anti-depressants. What truly got me out of it that time was my faith in God. I usually find the more I lean on him the easier it is for me. But it’s a relationship I consistently have to work at and sometimes I don’t go to him until I’m at my lowest. I know everyone’s beliefs are different, I respect that so much. Just wanting to keep my story completely honest with you all.
This is getting long, and in future posts I’m going to fill you in much more with hopes that my story can help some of you that are going though it (or have before– there’s a 50% chance that depression will return if you’ve had it before.) OR help those who know people going through it. My closest friends would tell you that I’ve been my own little fighter, as sometimes it seems that I can’t catch a break for too long. I’ve had a lot of things happen that I’m private about and through it all I’ve had weak moments but I can say that I’ve never played the victim or been idle about my troubles. I am pro-active and fight hard to maintain my life and relationships. If anything, I’ve wanted to be an example that shit can get so bad- but life is still beautiful and we can still find happy moments. I want people to know that if we fight hard enough (alone or with the help of others) we can get through anything and come out even stronger than before. Every time I come out stronger. Not perfect… but stronger. And I promise I’ll tell you everything I’ve done in my own life to cope with depression- among other things.
And holy shizballs am I going through it right now. If you follow along on snapchat (or insta) you’d see that I’ve been at my parent’s new house in Colfax all summer long. I’ve been tending to a really sick family member as well as my dog, Lacy, who is 14 years old, my best friend, and on her last leg. I’ve pretty much been bound to the house as my parents have really needed me to step up (although they always give me an out, and urge me to go back to SF… bless their hearts, right?) But I know I am not the kind of woman to abandon my family in favor of simply having a “fun summer.” And there are times when certain things are more pressing than my career. It’s been a heavy, heavy summer for me. Draining and time consuming in ways that many of my own needs have fallen by the wayside. On top of that, this came at a time when I was broken up with by a guy that I really, really liked. (He’s amazing though, and it didn’t hurt my self-worth, I just miss the heck out of him.) Also all the changes with Violet Fog. It’s been a lot. I don’t sleep well, my hair has been falling out (why I went shorter recently… not just for a “new look”), my anxiety is through the roof and although I still find moments of happiness– I just can’t wait for this all to be over. And I’ve certainly grown tired of having to maintain a “perfect life” on social media to entertain others, you know? Time to just be real about it.
I’ve been doing what I can, but I know I can do even better. And I think writing about this not only can hopefully help others but also myself. Writing is and has always been my greatest therapy. It’s how I make sense of things. Following this post, I want to talk about things like staying mentally tough and what we can do health wise to combat this in the first place. Personally, I’m not sure how much anti-depressants ever helped me in the past. I’ve been off them for two years now. I am really committing myself to learning more about what I can do for myself NATURALLY to kick this shit when it happens. Or how to better keep it from happening in the first place. I’m going to share it all with you as I research and test out specific methods. I’m really interested in homeopathic healing, food as medicine, mental exercises… etc.
So just know know, if you’ve ever been depressed or ARE… you have an advocate in me and I’m going to use my time to find out what I can for us and also let you in on what’s worked for myself. You are certainly are not alone. Feel free to email me ANY TIME if you just need someone to vent to, or have questions. Ya just gotta keep fighting! Life is hard but my God is it SO wonderful too. I’m rooting for everyone going through it! Let go of that shame and guilt for feeling what you can’t always control. Much love, friends.
Reach me at Katey@VioletFog.com <3