Update: Many things have changed since I wrote this ~ all of them for the better. All thanks to the experiences I’ve shared here…
I’m starting this post with no clue as to where it’s going to go. There. You’ve been warned. So stay with me.
I’ve spent the better part of the last 6 weeks being fully aware, and coming to terms with the fact, that I have been struggling with depression for the last two years. This may seem trivial to some of you, but to me, I’m walking out on a major limb by sharing this.
I get frustrated and tend to avoid people who constantly complain, create drama and collect jars full of sympathy from others. So for me to admit my depression is uncomfortable. I have this suffocating fear that I will be grouped in with the “Oh woe is me” people of the world. I refuse to be seen as a victim – I believe that there is no such thing. We all make our own choices. We can choose to change for the better, or to wallow where we are. No one forces us to stay in any one situation aside from ourselves.
That being said, I am the Queen of the “keep your mouth shut and just say yes” lifestyle. This is where trouble began. I said yes.
I said yes to a project that was nowhere near my destined path. And I knew that. But my life purpose doesn’t involve a high-power career, or an important sounding title. So, in an attempt to prove my worth to family, friends and society in general, I said yes. It was exciting at first. I got to meet all kinds of new people. I impressed them with my newfound “importance”. I felt admired for all of my hard work. But it didn’t seem to get me anywhere. No matter how hard I tried, I simply could not find the resources needed to take the next step. To be REALLY important.
The longer I went on this way, the more “down” I became. Things weren’t working out, and I couldn’t understand why. I thought that if I put a higher priority on the project, it would make it work. So my family, friends - even my kids at times – took a backseat to this project. I ran in circles trying to please everyone, and explain myself. To prove that I was worthy of being important. It seemed that the more I was able to do with the project, the more demands were laid down upon me. My health started to suffer, but I kept that to myself for nearly two years.
After a year, I realized that the project wouldn’t take me where I needed to go. But, at that point, I was convinced that it was too late to turn back. Too many people were expecting great things from me, and I didn’t want to disappoint. So I kept my mouth shut, and kept saying yes. As you probably guessed, nothing got better. In fact, it all continued to slide downhill.
My need for joy was being completely overlooked by everyone – including me. Again, I will not be viewed as a victim. I had every chance to say no. To walk away. I chose not to, partly because of loyalty, and partly because I feared the humiliation that would come with doing so. I would have to admit that I had failed. That I had been unable to live up to the expectations of everyone around me. So I kept going, because I chose to.
Other people involved in the situation can’t be blamed, either. I know how to wear masks, and I am nearly a master at “faking it”. As far as anyone knew, I was happy, motivated and enthusiastic. I had created a very convincing façade.
So, for over two years, depression gradually crept up on me. I would not talk to anyone about it, because I didn’t want to be seen as weak, or a drama queen. I kept focusing on what I could do to make things work. My relationships with people I care about were going to hell. My health was getting worse and worse. My need for others’ approval became stronger every day. I didn’t even want to talk to my friends anymore. I stopped laughing – of course, I laughed sometimes, but not the good, happy, belly laughs. I was always tired and sore. I couldn’t concentrate, and my memory went kaput. I didn’t know what to do, because no matter what, someone would be angry, disappointed or otherwise upset with me.
I finally was able to scrounge the courage to separate myself from the project, but realized – almost too late – that I had replaced it with another project. One that wasn’t even mine, and that I had had thrust upon me. Out of guilt, fear and obligation, I went with it.
Again, I had to prove that I was worthy of being respected and accepted by others. I started to become angry, and always felt irritated by the thought of the project. I didn’t dare tell anyone, though. That would make me seem negative, lazy, or unappreciative. So instead, I gushed about how much I LOVED the project, and how it was so “refreshing” to be using my education, when in actuality, it had very little to do with it.
I kept asking myself what was wrong with me that I couldn’t enjoy what I was doing, or why I deserved anyone’s respect if I was so ungrateful. I convinced myself that I owed it to these people to do this, and that there would be negative consequences if I chose not to. I asked myself how I could possibly hold my head high in public if I let anyone down.
There were only two questions I didn’t ask myself ~ What about me? What do I want?
When I finally did ask myself, the answer was simple. I just want to be home.
I want to be a mom. A crafty, homemaking, party-planning mystic-healer. At home. In my own space, with my own standards, and my own life. So that’s what I chose to do. That’s it.
Very few people have been supportive of that decision. I’ve been asked how I can consider myself a feminist if I’m “just” a homemaker. My response? I’m exercising the very thing that women before me have fought tooth-and-nail for: the right and freedom to choose. I’ve been asked what I plan to do for the future, since I “can’t stay at home forever”. My response? I haven’t decided yet. But I know that it’s going to be something that makes me happy.
I’m learning to say “tough shit” to these people, and to ignore their condescending attitudes. In my personal situation (not that it’s any of their business) I more than pull my own weight. And I deserve to be respected and happy.
This isn’t about them. It’s about me.
I am allowed to work toward my own goals. I am allowed to find a life that makes me content. I am allowed to say “NO” whenever I want, without giving a reason. I don’t have to answer my phone every time it rings. I don’t have to say “yes” to anyone’s requests or demands upon my time. I know my limits. If I feel as if I can handle a task, I will offer. But for now, my time is my own, and I get to choose the handful of people to share it with. No one can convince me otherwise.
This isn’t about them. It’s about me.
Everyone heals differently. For me, solitude is essential. I’ve never been fond of unannounced drop-in visits, or of pushy requests for chunks of my energy and time. To be completely honest, I would adore a hermit lifestyle. But, that’s simply not an option. So, in order for me to begin this journey, I need to be alone in my space. Writing is one of my favourite outlets, and with the filter of the internet, I find it to be one of the best forms of release and expression.
I hope that by writing this, I am able to assist others in coming to terms with their own struggles, and if they are experiencing depression or other disorders, that they are empowered to talk to someone they trust. The hole is deep and dark, but there’s always someone who can lower in a ladder. All it takes is a call for help. It’s not shameful. It’s not a sign of weakness.
It’s not about them. It’s about you.
I invite every reader to share their own story ~ Anonymous is perfectly acceptable. I welcome compassionate, supportive messages, but please refrain from sharing your sympathy. We are not victims. We are survivors.
For support and information, I encourage you to visit www.twloha.com 'To Write Love on Her Arms' is a non-profit dedicated to mental health and healing.