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Friday, February 21, 2014

On Depression...

This is for my friend.

Sometimes, life is hard. I think I’m luckier than most in this world, and yet I still struggle with my own demons. I suppose that’s true of all of us, but not everyone faces the crushing weight of depression when things go wrong. For my friend (and anyone else) who is struggling to stay afloat, I want you to know, I’ve been there.

Depression isn’t something we like to talk about in our society. Mental health in general is a rather taboo topic, perhaps because for those with no history of mental illness, it seems as simple as a change in mindset. But depression is very real, and often very difficult to control.


I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, and mood swings my whole life. I learned in early adulthood that I suffer from some pretty serious chemical imbalances that peak in the winter and ebb in the warmer months. I also know that stress can put me in a funk regardless of the weather. The past few years have been hard on me given the many changes we’ve experienced in the Mennes household. In fact, I suffered from late-onset post-partum depression when Atticus was around six months old. The medicine my doctor prescribed made my skin crawl, so I lived with the sadness until things leveled out. And then when we moved to Houston, turned our entire lives upside-down, and received Quinn’s diagnosis, the depression returned, this time with a severity I had never experienced. But the only drugs that we knew to fight the funk without the desire to pull my hair out or walk around like a zombie all day weren’t recommended for pregnant women (especially those with a high-risk pregnancy like mine), so I was forced to power through.

It’s difficult to cope with something that many people feel is easy to fix. Over the years, I’ve had friends insist that I need learn to count my blessings, as if I hadn’t tried that before. Or they expect to snap me out of it with a quick hug, a phone call, or even chocolate cake. But depression doesn’t work that way. Depression is an all-encompassing reality that no amount of silver linings can overturn. Moreover, sometimes it feels normal to be sad. I know that’s not something that most of you can understand, but for those with chemical imbalances, they know how right it can feel to give in and allow the wave of hopelessness to take over. To fight it is to sink lower when you lose.

The bright side is that there is a bright side. I’ve learned over the years to ride the waves of depression that come my way and seek help when they get too serious. I’m lucky in that my family keeps me close and ensures that recovery is swift. Brian is my rock in this; he knows what works and what doesn’t. And he never tries to fix me. He just listens. I’m also lucky that my depression has never affected my work, as walking into my classroom is like a refuge, as if I've suddenly found a life-raft after treading water for days. But others aren’t so lucky. Others struggle to recover, regardless of their support system. If that’s you, then please seek help. It’s amazing how quickly depression can lead someone down a dead-end path. And once you start that road toward drug abuse, alcoholism, or even suicide, it’s hard to come back. 

Many of you will read this confession and feel embarrassed for me, or even sad. Don’t. I’m not ashamed. In fact, I’m actually pretty damn proud of my ability to overcome it and live a successful life. I’m proud of my coping mechanisms, my bursts of happiness in which I can appreciate the sun on my shoulders in late-February, or the sound of my children’s giggles on Sunday mornings. Those are the moments I live for. Those are the moments that keep the depression at bay for longer stretches of time. In order for more people to find their moments, we need to talk about mental illness without shame or fear. We need to help more people become aware of the struggles so that we can be more aware of ways to help each other cope.


If you're struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental illness, seek a strong support system. Here are some good places to start:





10 comments:

  1. Thanks for speaking out. Depression runs in my family. Well, no, I would say it more like "crawls" through....first tapping one on the shoulder, then another.... If had "run" through, it would've been gone, before it got too bad. I lost my father to depression, because he didn't seek help. If you are overwhelming sad, more than two weeks, seek help. Seeking help is a sign of strength and courage, not weakness.

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    1. I'm so sorry for your loss; the toll of depression can be devastating. Here's hoping that education and awareness can make this a topic people are more willing to discuss. Thank you for sharing your story and advice; I know it will help someone along their own journey. All the best, love!

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  2. Great post. I know with this alone you will help many. Love ya friend!

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  3. "It’s difficult to cope with something that many people feel is easy to fix. Over the years, I’ve had friends insist that I need learn to count my blessings, as if I hadn’t tried that before. Or they expect to snap me out of it with a quick hug, a phone call, or even chocolate cake. But depression doesn’t work that way. Depression is an all-encompassing reality that no amount of silver linings can overturn. Moreover, sometimes it feels normal to be sad. I know that’s not something that most of you can understand, but for those with chemical imbalances, they know how right it can feel to give in and allow the wave of hopelessness to take over. To fight it is to sink lower when you lose." Nice post. I love the honesty and NO SHAME!

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  4. I have major depression & anxiety.
    I am not ashamed either.
    Life happens ...
    I am currently working on coming off my meds and was on the highest dose that my GP had ever come across - thanks psychiatrist - I am half way through the weaning journey.
    It's great to see another one speaking out about the black dog - depression...

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  5. One of the biggest things that bothers me is when people say, "oh, I know just how you feel". No really you don't Only those that have real depression know the feeling of not being able to get out of bed for days at a time, or even wanting to get up and shower. Those that have suffered, are suffering or will in the future, just hold tight and pray. There is a reason that God has you here in this moment. We will spend a blink of time here on Earth and Eternity in heaven. Blessings to you and your beautiful family

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  6. One of many I am sureApril 24, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    I think you are a very courageous person, to speak so freely and honestly about an illness that is so rarely understood. I too suffer from depression and work in Social Services with people who struggle every single day to rise above water with mental illness. I feel so blessed that I have the support system and the medication I need to manage this struggle. It certainly gives me greater insight into what others are going through which I think is much harder for people who haven't experienced the dreaded black hole of despair. I try to be thankful and view it as an opportunity to truly try to understand and help others. Wouldn't it be nice for people with mental illness to turn on a switch and make it all go away? By the way, Quinn is absolutely beautiful! Thanks for making others not feel alone...

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  7. Very powerful as I am struggling with depression at this time. Mine has ebb'd and flowed my entire life and unfortunately I am in a much darker place this time. But I know this too shall pass. Thank you for this reminder.

    Also I cam across your blog after it went viral after the "troll" post. God bless you for putting this out there because your son is ADORABLE and people like that have mean spirits. Thank you for that.

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  8. Ever since I had a major head injury in my teens been suffering really bad with depression and been on probably all the anti depressants I've been on nothing ever works im so sick of people saying just smile we all feel like that at times but actually they don't really know what its like to go to bed wishing you don't wake up im ok at the moment but last weekend I just locked my self in for a few days and not speak to anyone just at them times im not sure how to deal with it only thing I get up for is work as ive held my job for 15 years im sorry for the bad spelling and grammar just hope anyone can put me in the right direction how to deal with bad patches
    Many thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hey Adam, thanks so much for sharing your story here. I know that sometimes it helps me to speak with people who will listen and understand where I'm coming from. Have you considered a therapist for those extra-rough patches?

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