To the One Who Struggles with Depression
I see you cry in the quiet of the night as your worst fears haunt you like a bad dream. I see you put on a smile in an attempt to hide your pain from the world. You feel ashamed, afraid, and misunderstood. I hear you politely answer questions with your usual, “I’m fine.” Some days you are fine, but some days you can’t breathe. You’ve convinced yourself that no one cares how you feel. You think they won’t understand, so you hide it like a shameful secret. You think it makes you weak, but you couldn’t be more wrong.
Depression lies. It convinces you that you will always feel this way, but you won’t. Depression tricks you into thinking that life is just meant to be full of pain. It’s like a voice in your head that only sees darkness and despair. It speaks to you like a brutal critic, reminding you of all your faults and fears. Its presence is very real, but I assure you that its lies are not.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Depression is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression symptoms can include: depressed mood, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, changes in appetite, sleep issues, decreased energy, fatigue, guilt, feelings of worthlessness, difficulty thinking, and thoughts of death or suicide.”
I never knew depression until my older brother died in 2018. I was very familiar with anxiety and had learned my triggers and how to best manage them, but it wasn’t until his death that I started to suffer differently than I ever had before. Depression is one of the stages of grief, so I thought it would eventually pass, but it didn’t.
Then two months later, my two sons were diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. With no family history, we never expected such a diagnosis. I didn’t even know what Duchenne was. The news hit me hard, and once again, grief sent me into a tailspin of emotions. Depression showed up again, but this time it left a mark I haven’t truly been able to erase.
I didn’t want to get help. I thought I just needed to be stronger, braver, and snap out of it. I thought my struggles were about a lack of willpower. I thought I was just too weak to handle it. It took me a long time to admit to myself that I needed help, but I remember the moment like it was yesterday. I was joking around with my kids at bedtime one night. We were cuddling and laughing. I was giggling with them like a little kid. My husband turned to me, smiled, and said, “I can’t remember the last time I saw you laugh like that.”
He was right.
After the diagnosis, I went into autopilot. I put every ounce of my energy into taking care of my kid’s needs, that by the end of the day, I had nothing left. I felt broken. My motivation to be productive was gone, and my moods were erratic. I had days where all I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry. There were days when thoughts of hopelessness and defeat were all I could see. I felt shame for not being stronger. I wanted to be the warrior that my children deserved. I thought they were the ones who were really fighting something traumatic, not me, but I’ve since come to realize that depression is a battle too.
I’m not a medical professional, and I’m no expert on mental health, so I can’t tell you how to treat your depression. All I can do is tell you my story. My story of recovery includes a lot of factors. It includes faith, hope, purposeful thinking, and recently, medication. After seeing a doctor who determined that I was, in fact, dealing with depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress, I felt a sense of relief. I truly thought I was going crazy, but hearing someone put a name to my pain, made me feel better. Instead of guilting myself, I started to give myself grace. My battle was not my fault, and yours isn’t either.
It’s been two years since my brother’s death and my son’s diagnosis, and I can honestly say that I now have so many more good days than bad days. I still have hard days, but now I know that my bad days don’t make me weak, they make me strong because of how hard I fight to get through them.
I’ve learned that in the presence of darkness, there is always a glimpse of light too. My God will never forsake me, my hope will never abandon me, and my mind will not surrender to my depression. The important part is that I don’t give up.
If you are struggling with depression, don’t lose hope. There is always hope for a better day tomorrow. Don’t give up. Your battle doesn’t make you weak, it makes you stronger. Keep going and always remember to fight back against those thoughts of hopelessness. In the words of one of my favorite songs, “Fight on, fighter.”
My depression is so much better than it used to be, but it’s not gone. It’s a challenge that I might have to face for the rest of my life. Its triggers are not something I can avoid as a Duchenne parent. Worry, anxiety, and fear still show up often, but they don’t stay, and that’s what I try to focus on. If today is difficult, tomorrow is another day to try again. Feelings are not facts, and as C.S Lewis said, “Faith is the art of holding onto things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.”
I see your struggles, because I have them too. I see you fall down sometimes, I do too, but I also see you get back up and keep fighting. I see you hold onto hope for a better tomorrow. I see you so clearly, because I am you, but I no longer try to hide my struggle from the world.
Now I don’t just see pain, I see beautiful moments of joy every day. Even on the hard days when depression takes over, I see a faith that keeps me going. God is with me just as much in the storms as he is in the sunshine. I see a strength that will not be depleted by depression and a hope that will not be stolen by my struggles. The brokenness that I feel will not take away from the beauty that surrounds me.
I may feel defeated sometimes, but that is a feeling, not a fact. The fact is that I’m not broken because I have depression, I’m brave, and so are you.