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Let's talk about depression

I drew this as a personification of my depression during therapy.
I drew this as a personification of my depression during therapy.
Melissa Estes

As many of my loyal readers know, I mostly write about Indianapolis' historical side. But there's much more to my personality than a deep love of history. For many years, I've battled severe depression. So today I'd like to diverge from fun topics and delve a little deeper to discuss a secret topic that was made not-so secret this past week.

Robin Williams' suicide turned a spotlight on mental illness and how many people struggle every day with depression. I'm not sure how much new insight I can bring to the topic, as many opinion pieces, articles, and headlines have beat that horse to death. I would, however, like to offer my own personal experience as a cathartic response to depression and as a way of coming to terms with what happened to a fellow compatriot.

It sneaks up. Honestly, you never see it coming, at least I didn't. You ask yourself, "My life is seemingly great. I've nothing to be sad about. What IS my issue?" The beginning is judgmental that way. Actually, the whole process is judgmental and telling yourself that you're choosing it just makes it needlessly more difficult. You fight against the inevitable until one morning, your husband tells you he can't take you hurting yourself anymore. He wants you to find someone to talk to. You lie there in bed, because the best way to describe your bed is a magnet that pulls you in and refuses to release you. As you continue to hurt yourself, and suicidal ideation plays itself out in your thoughts, you put up a wall with a curtain in front of it. "I'm fine" and "It's totally alright" are said to yourself and to others more than 10 times a day. You might slowing pull the curtain back when you tell someone you trust you're in therapy or that you've been diagnosed with depression. Most of the time, the blank stares and the invalidation leads you to let the curtain fall back down to cover you're solidly constructed brick wall. Better you be the person they *think* you are than to be your true self. You can go home and sleep afterwards.

You start therapy, you see a psychiatrist and you assume you're doing what you can to manage. Sometimes, when you actually think about having "the depression," it seems surreal. This cannot be you, you're not this person. I must be faking it or something. So you stop taking the meds and cut back on sessions with the therapist. Things seem okay and it's self affirming that you knew yourself enough to stop treatment. Then one night, in the wee hours of the morning, you find yourself standing in front of the bathroom medicine cabinet, unwrapping one of your husbands straight razors. As you touch your skin with the cold steel, you look up into the mirror and have no clue who is looking back at you.

Worthiness is a big component of seeking and attending treatment. If you hate yourself, your body, your thoughts, why would you seek treatment? And when you're talking to someone you trust, maybe just a little bit more than anyone else, and they say, "That's silly! You're the sweetest, funniest person I know! You're worth so much!" It sounds hollow. Personally, I'd rather hear silence than to listen to inane, perfunctory bullshit. And that's the rub, isn't it? You're in such a predicament with depression that nothing you say helps, nothing others say helps, and you come to the realization that maybe, just maybe, you need something else to cope. Some turn to drugs, alcohol, and I...I turned to food and self harm. You feel nothing but shame, guilt, anxiety, circular thoughts, and numbness. So, can't just "seek help" and everything is alright. There's a long, long process that, like Robin unfortunately showed us, sometimes has a crappy ending.

I'm still processing Robin's death with my therapist. People may think it's silly that a mans death, whom I didn't know, would cause me such pain. But, as an article I read the day it happened so APTLY pointed out, "Today I learned that it wasn't that a celebrity died, it was HOW." Robin had struggled for a long time, so have I. Robin had been somewhat open with his demons, so have I. He'd toyed with suicide ideas often, so have I. He once stated that he'd come out the other side, and hearing this, I would let myself plant a seed of hope. But then, when the man that proclaimed to us all to stand firm decided he couldn't take his own advice? It sends a message to all of us that maybe the fight to stay alive everyday is not worth it. That...that is why Robin Williams' death was a big deal to a woman in Indianapolis.

So as not to end this article on such a negative note, I'm working on things. My depression is no where near handled. I have made steps in the right direction, however. I'm seeing two therapists a week and am employing other holistic techniques. It's a long, hard I wish was more sparsely populated. There are far too many sufferers out there. But I think all of us, and those that love us, can change the stereotype and slash the silence on this pervasive issue. There's hope.

Here is an article about one writer's battle with depression. She gives a list of some of the things that help her through her tough times.

Also, if you need assistance NOW, here are some Indiana suicide prevention hotlines to call. The National Hotline is: 1-800-273-8255.

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