I live in Los Angeles where everyone has a BMW, a cell phone, and a therapist. I’m all about getting it out in the open, but not over tuna tartare at The Ivy....
Depression's been a close friend of mine for more than 30 years. I don't introduce my depression to strangers -- only to my immediate circle of friends. Fewer know that I’ve done 20+ years of therapy. Even fewer know -- and accept -- that I'm on meds.
This desire to not speak my truth goes way back. One of my earliest recollections of being depressed was when I was in first grade. It was a school day, and I couldn’t get out of bed. I don’t remember the cause for my depression; I just remember the feeling. Heavy. Tired. Sad. I told my mom I felt “sick” and she didn’t question it. I stayed home from school and huddled under the covers, silently crying and not knowing why. In hindsight, if I were my mother, I would’ve probed. Little did I know that she suffered from depression and anxiety herself. But she never talked about it either. And so the stage was set.
Because I rarely spoke about my depression to the outside world, the judgement I received was mostly from family. When I was 16, my father tried shipping me off to a boarding school against my will because he couldn’t deal with my depressive, suicidal ways (“rebellion,” as he called it). When my "therapist" at the time found out that I rejected my father's boarding school plan, he called me a "fucked up loser" who was "crazy" like my mother and "destined for Skid Row." (This therapist also happened to be a born-again Christian who nearly molested me in our therapy sessions and never had a license to practice therapy in the first place.) Fast-forward two decades later and I get a random phone call from an aunt (my father’s sister) screaming at me that I’m crazy, fucked up, etc., etc. I hadn’t spoken to her in years. Guess where she got that notion from? My younger sister, who used to be my best friend back in high school. She became my worst enemy, spreading lies about me to the family, telling them about my “deranged” mental state, my plethora of meds, my suicide attempts, you name it. (She -- along with my father -- were board-certified physicians, no less, who had the “authority” to made such claims.) The last conversation I had with my sister was in 2009. She told me that she was never going to speak to me again unless I checked myself into a mental hospital. Ten years later, she still refuses to answer my emails, text messages, and phone calls.
It's safe to say, I've had enough.
How does it feel to have such a “family”? Awful, to say the least. Fortunately, friends have taken their place. Although sometimes even they don’t know how to handle my depression….
Several years ago, a couple friends drove me to a mental health care facility for my suicidal ideations. As we got closer to the center, one of them attempted to calm my nerves and said, “Don’t worry -- this will be like your first day at school.” Didn’t feel like kindergarten to me. A week later, another friend visited me at the facility and stated, “This is nothing that a yoga retreat can’t cure.” Sorry, but a weekend of Downward Dogs wasn't going to keep me from killing myself. In hindsight, they were just trying to assuage my stress; yet it made me feel more alienated than ever. And forget about getting certain friends to accept that I take anti-depressants. Those friends think that depression’s curable through healthy eating, exercise, meditation, and sleeping well. If curing depression were that formulaic, I’d be the next Dr. Weil.
People just don't get it.
And I've been too ashamed to talk about it.
That is, until now.