**Trigger warning: Discussion of depression and suicide.**

I’ve battled depression on and off for most of my adult life. My first episode of major depression was at 19 as a freshman in college. It was pretty much all I could do to get out of bed once a day and go to my boyfriend’s car, which he would drive around late into the night as I rested my head against the passenger window and slept some more. I don’t know how it started or why I eventually felt better, though I can say that boyfriend was not altogether pleased when he realized drowsily acquiescent is not my natural personality.

You’d think after all these years I would have learned how to ward it off better, but that’s not how depression works. It sneaks up on you and it’s done it again to me these past few weeks.

I started this post almost four years ago. I had written a paragraph about my weight (this was during the Program) and then this:

BamBam thinks he’s cute over there in his chair making cooing sounds at me. He thinks it makes up for all the screaming and fit throwing he’s been doing today. He’s wrong…and extremely lucky I’m a pacifist.

Where was I? Oh yes, the rough week. Honestly, it’s been a tough year. Not all bad, but a lot has happened. I’ve already told you about the boys and sensory processing disorder as well as Sparky and me doing the intensive weight-loss program. (Zoo Keeper) started preschool and has had at least three, sometimes as many as five, separate therapy appointments per week in addition to school.

I love that I wrote that about BamBam. He’s equally adorable today, but there’s more talking and less melting down, which is awesome. We often forget that he didn’t use words until he was three, so it’s a good reminder.

I look at the tough year comment and laugh. Not because it wasn’t a tough one, but because I’ve said that every year since and each one has been tougher than the last. It was difficult and exhausting dragging BamBam around to all of Zoo Keeper’s appointments and trying to keep him entertained as we waited. But this was right around the time BamBam was starting therapy of his own and the scheduling became really complicated. The school year Zoo Keeper was starting turned out to be the preschool year from hell for him, only we didn’t know it until March or April. We’re still trying to unravel his stress from parts of that.

In fact, this year, 2014, has been the first year that hasn’t kicked the shit out of the year before it. Now, before Fate gets all up in arms and starts throwing crap at us, I’m not saying this year has been awesome, or even much of a breather, it’s just a testament to the pure, unadulterated suckage that was 2013. By comparison, 2014 has been a bright, shining star.

Vincent van Gogh's 1890 painting Sorrowing old man ('At Eternity's Gate')

Vincent van Gogh’s 1890 painting
Sorrowing old man (‘At Eternity’s Gate’)

So why, then, am I depressed? I had already increased one of my antidepressants a few days before Robin Williams’ death, but reading about it being a suicide hit me hard for some reason. Yesterday, Tuesday, was even harder to make myself go through the motions of my day than it has been in recent weeks.

As I put the boys to bed last night, Zoo Keeper asked me why my voice was so “straight.” I asked what he meant and he said it sounds really flat, like it does when I’m mad. He’s so observant it just kills me sometimes. I told him I was sad, not mad, and that sometimes people just get sad, but I’ll be okay. Then I thanked him for noticing and told him he’s an excellent observer.

I will be fine. I’m not suicidal. I don’t even think this is a major depression episode, though it’s headed there, which means I need to act now. That’s why my doctor and I decided to increase my medication. I’m lucky that I recognized that I needed a change. One of the things that makes depression so insidious is that it can be slow; it can bide its time. It can creep up so slowly and steadily that you don’t noticeĀ the signs until you’re in the thick of it. Until you’re sleeping all day and have to work so hard to get the motivation to get out of bed and you think maybe it’s not worth it anyway because nothing’s going to change and it’s never going to get better and you are a waste of time and effort. It’s almost like you’re not even really there; like you’ve already moved on and there’s only this empty shell left. And the you that’s gone took all your laughter and enthusiasm for the things you love and the only thing left in the shell is pain.

And shame. Shame because you can’t just snap yourself out of it. Shame because you’re weak. Shame because you need help. Shame because you don’t have an answer when people ask you how they can help. Shame because you get tired of telling them that. Shame because you’ve become a burden on the people you love. Shame because you’re still taking up space in this world; using air that could go to other people. More worthwhile people.

I’m not anywhere near that point now, but I have been in the past and I don’t ever want to go there again.

It’s a fine line for the loved ones of depressed people as well. After all, they have their own lives, their own needs. They may care deeply, but not know what to do to help. Or how much to do, because at some point they’re not helping anymore, it’s enabling. But where is that line?

Then there are those who don’t understand, or refuse to believe, that depression is a mental illness. Some tell you to snap out of it. Some may tell you that you just have too much time on your hands, that you should just get over yourself, that you’re being selfish, or even go so far as to call you a narcissist. Some, like my stepmother, may even tell you that you’re not depressed enough to warrant help. I said something to her about the antidepressant I was on at the time and she waved my comment away with her hand, blowing me off because her daughter “suffers from real depression.” And the fact that I still remember that comment more than 15 years later shows how deep it cut.

And then sometimes you have mindless mouthpieces on television spouting hateful garbage about suicide being an act of cowardice. To them, I say go find someone with a brain cell you can borrow so you canĀ use it before you open your trap.

I’m not sure where this post was heading when I started it four years ago. I have lots of those sitting around, posts I started and abandoned before I got to the part that started me writing it in the first place. There was one salient sentence in this one, though:

The post isn’t really about running, either. Not exercise running, anyway.

Maybe I meant running from shame. Because I think maybe that would be a big relief.