We now interrupt my regularly scheduled humor and cynicism for some reality and humility…
By Anne Opatz
About a month and a half ago the ambitiously talented, fiercely stylish and endlessly benevolent creator and editor of HaveHeart Magazine, Heather, dropped me an e-mail. The title was straight to the point and very clear. I knew what she wanted even before I opened her message. “AHEM” the title read. In other words, where is the next addition of “The Adventures of the Girl Who Got Dumped on Valentine’s Day”? I stared at the heading for about 10 minutes, thinking of what to tell her and why I had yet to write anything. “I can blame it on a million different things,” I thought. But I was tired of making excuses. I simply closed my computer without writing a word back, rolled over in my bed and continued to cry.
It has been over 3 months since my life drastically shifted from having what I thought was a stable relationship and living in a town I loved to becoming the ultimate late 20’s cliché: single, living with my parents, basically having to start over. With each passing day I thought things would be getting better. But while I have been plastering a smile on my face to keep up appearances, inside I have been falling down Alice’s rabbit hole, feeling powerless to stop my descent. Sudden and drastic change can do that to a person, make you feel powerless and in a culture and world that can often subjugate women to begin with the added pressure of change can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, or in my case my heart.
This powerless feeling which has accompanied change is what has led me into a labyrinth of crushing depression. A depression so deep it at times has made me doubt life itself. At first I did not recognize the signs and symptoms of my depression, nor did I see that it was getting that bad. Yes, I was moody, yes I was withdrawn, yes I wasn’t sleeping- than sleeping too much. I just thought it was all part of the “grieving process” after a breakup. But as the days passed on and love for the true things I had in life began to fade (things like my slug bug pug, Mary Jane), I began to fear my own thoughts. Thoughts like: what would happen to Mary Jane if I were not here?
How can things have gotten this bad? What kind of a question is that for me to ask? I was gifted this beautiful creature that gives me nothing but unconditional love, who wants nothing more than a belly rub and her squeaky hamburger, yet I am asking those kinds of “what if” questions. I didn’t want to become that person, that woman. My life needed to have more meaning than this depression that I had sunken into.
For me recognizing that has been the first clear moment I have had in months. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 15 million people in America suffer from depression and of those 15 million, a majority who suffer are women. Worse than this, it is estimated that nearly 2/3 of those with depression don’t get the help they need. Can you imagine, so many of our fellow females in the fight silently suffering? And right now I can safely say I have been one of them.
Depression is the monster hiding under your bed, the ripped cuticle you can’t stop picking, the 45 cents short for your caramel latte. It is at first an annoyance that festers and then it grows as you feed it with internal and personal negativity. What starts off as a bad day at the office can snowball and become the memories of when your second grade teacher didn’t like your Thanksgiving hand turkey painting. What’s more is when you’re in that place, that place of blackness with no side of light, the loneliness birds can begin to circle round, making things just that much worse.
Depression feels like an endless circle of pain. In order to end the endlessness you have to cut the circle like a pizza pie. Break it off piece by piece and examine it, reconfigure it until the pieces make sense and fit together correctly. For me, I had to begin by accepting that this place of utter devastation had nothing to do with my former significant other. Though his extremely untimely actions started the series of events that have lead me to where my life is today and at times I do miss him terribly, he did not do this to me. I did this to me. I have worked so hard to keep my life at an even keel and in a static place that the fear of change has become the neon pink elephant in the room. I have been trying too hard for too long to maintain complete control of the uncontrollable.
I believe not just me, but a majority of women struggle so much with trying to gain control over their lives that they become buried under an avalanche of fear and anxiety. American journalist Dorothy Thompson once said, “Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.” The exact same thing can be said for battling depression. You have to battle through it in order to get to the other side and that is what I have begun doing, battling through it.
I’m not going to lie, it is a hard battle to fight. You often don’t want to admit that you have the dreaded “D” word and that you can claw your way out of it with persistence and a “just get over it” kind of attitude. However, having this kind of attitude will only hinder your ability to find your way out of Alice’s rabbit hole and back into reality. This is where the generosity of spirit and true human compassion comes from. Allowing yourself the ability to really lean on others and allowing yourself the luxury to find joy in the simplest of things, that will be what shoos the loneliness birds away. It is the toy at the bottom of the Lucky Charms box, not the 5 carat Tiffany’s diamond on your left ring finger that will allow yourself the opportunity to become okay with who you are in the direction your life has taken. For me, that is where this journey of true healing has begun. My ability to let control go and find out where my journey ends will be the ultimate test of how far I have come and how far I am to go.
IF YOU THINK YOU YOURSELF OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW IS SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION DON’T WAIT… GET HELP NOW. YOU CAN FIND MORE INFORMATION ON DEPRESSION, WHAT IT IS, THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS AND HOW YOU CAN GET HELP AT The National Institute of Mental Health’s website: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/index.shtml