This is the second post in a series about a common illness that affects at least 1 in 4 women in the United States…depression. As I shared in my first post on this topic, I have also experienced depression and have found help.
Amberley, a friend of mine, is raising two children while living with a hearing loss. She also lives with depression. Amberley recently shared her story with me of finding help. In future posts, I will share other LipreadingMom.com readers’ stories. In all these stories, I want everyone to know that depression is common. If you are struggling with it, you are not alone. Visit my last post for helpful resources, or feel free to contact me directly for supportive information.
Lipreading Mom: How long have you dealt with depression, and why did you seek help?
Amberley: The first thing you should know is that I am the oldest of three, I have twin brothers that are 15 months younger than me. I was seven when my parents divorced and we moved to Georgia. I went from being a “Daddy’s girl” to seeing him maybe once a year until I was 12. I was subjected to brutal emotional abuse by a cousin that was seven years my senior that happened to live with my grandparents, who we stayed with until my mom found a job and we got a place of our own. My brothers weren’t subjected to the abuse because they were the “twins” and cute and younger. I was told I was ugly, fat, the reason my parents had divorced. She told me I was worthless and all manner of hateful, terrible things and I believed her. I thought it was my fault that my mom was sad and unhappy. I was the reason that she cried.
So, I made up my mind at a very early age to be the best little girl I could be. I was going to be the “dream child”. And, in a lot of ways, I was. My mom and I became best friends as I got older and I shared everything with her, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that my cousin was telling me such horrible things and blaming me because that would make her even more unhappy. I lived with my perceived ugliness and “fat-ittude” until I was well into my 20s.
I have always tried to make everyone around me happy. I would smile and chat as if I didn’t have a care in the world, but inside I always felt I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or smart enough. I tried so hard to always, always have a smile on my face. Through high school, both of my brothers were the big men on campus, even though they were younger than me, everyone knew me as “Erik and Tyson’s sister”. I didn’t date much and was always reading. Again, I thought I was too ugly and too fat to date and, again, the cousin was right there beside me (figuratively) whispering in my ear that I wasn’t good enough.
I married my husband who I had known since I was 13. I was happy. I was in love. I was looking great because I exercised all the time. From the time I was 22 to the time I was 25, I lost 85 pounds. I had people tell me how pretty I was, but I still didn’t see it. I still didn’t think I was skinny enough or pretty enough…still not smart enough, either. But, I was married to a man that loved me and when I was 24, we found out I was pregnant with my first child. I had to go off anti-depression medication and my husband had never really had to be around me without medicine.
My obstetrician said since I suffered from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and was clinically depressed, they would watch me like a hawk after I had my baby because I was more susceptible to postpartum depression.
I had my baby girl and did fairly well the first seven weeks. By week eight when it was time for me to go back to work, I started having suicidal thoughts and just couldn’t stop crying. Medicated, again.
I ended going back to work for two weeks, but my husband and I talked about it and I was basically working to keep my daughter in daycare. That was pointless, so I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. I would not trade that decision for anything in the world, but I was so cut off from people and I had a lot of time to be inside my head. The depression set in hard and heavy and I had to up my medicine dosage.
Nine months after my daughter was born, I was pregnant with our second child. I had to go off meds while pregnant. Again, I was fine until about week-eight post-partum. I was immediately put back on the medication for depression.
Even with all the medicine, I still had a really hard time around my period. I would cry about everything and would sometimes want to go hide in my closet, but “who would look after my children if I was gone?! Who could be a better mother to them than me?!” I thought. There were periods of time when I thought I was better and would go off meds, especially when there was a choice between buying formula or diapers or whatever or my medicine, but I’d always circle back around to the crying jags, suicidal thoughts/ideations and wanting to hurt myself.
My husband and I finally had a really big heart-to-heart and we vowed that I would never go off meds again, if we could help it. I have been on Zoloft now for three years and it helps, but I am by no means “cured.” I still have a lot of episodes where I want to just disappear, but my children are what keep me going.
Lipreading Mom: How has your medical treatment impacted your family?
Amberley: My treatment has impacted the way my family behaves around me. There are sometimes good-natured jokes when my medicine gets low, sometimes I even laugh along with them. My children probably know my moods better than anyone. They bring me leaves from the yard or a special rock or draw me something when they see me looking a little sad.
I don’t sleep well and, unfortunately, my daughter has picked up my sleep habits now that they are home-schooled. She stays up a lot of nights with me. I hate that my children think they are responsible for my happiness and I have tried to explain over and over that they don’t have to worry about me. I try to talk about everything with the entire family if anything bothers me and I try to “use my words” carefully. They know that their mom suffers from depression and they know I have to take medication for it. It terrifies me to think that either one of them will ever have to deal with this.
Lipreading Mom: If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything about your medical recovery? Why or why not?
Amberley: I wouldn’t change much. I think that I am still working towards recovery and I don’t think I’ll ever be “cured”. I realize that I will have to be on some form of medication for the rest of my life to help me cope with life. I have a long family history of depression.
The only thing I can think of that I’d change is not feeling so ashamed of it. Depression is not a punishment or a choice, it is just something that I have to deal with and, hopefully, my family will continue to be as supportive and wonderful as they are about what they have to deal with. I lose my patience sometimes and I never feel quite “normal”, but what is that anyway?
Lipreading Mom: What information would you like to share with others who want to learn more about treatment options for depression?
Lipreading Mom: Be honest with yourself and with your family and medical provider! Don’t be ashamed…it is not your fault and the more information you have, the better you can help them and help yourself. Talk to someone, whether it be your priest, pastor, counselor, a dear friend, whatever, but seek help. You are not alone and there are places to get help.