Shame. I felt it weighing me down, making my life a nightmare. As I tried to cope with the stress of my job and my inner demons, my husband, Ron, was feeling some pain in his side. He figured it was his blood pressure medication. He was diagnosed, finally, with colon cancer that had spread to his liver. “So, sorry, nothing we can do,” they said. Quality of life was all that mattered now.
Why hadn’t I noticed how tired he was, how pale? He was a stoic and kept much to himself. I think those attributes may have killed him.
Occasionally, I found myself closing the door to our bedroom, slipping to the hard wooden floor and weeping silently, so he wouldn’t hear me. Talk about living in the now. I learned how to do that pretty quickly.
I sank lower than Ron, my mood black, but I fought taking anti-depressants because of the stigma attached to them. I prided myself on my intelligence and was ashamed that I was mentally unbalanced, that I couldn’t cope on my own. I cried copiously in the doctor’s office, but I was not about to be like all those others, who were not strong enough to get through the stressful situation they were in without help. Medical help.
No, not me. I’m not that depressed. I can pull myself out of this hole. Not like my mother and three sisters. No, not me. I didn’t need drugs. My brain was just fine, thank you.
Finally, though, I gave in. I said, yes, maybe I do need them for a little while. Just to get over this mountain in my way. How silly I was for not taking them as soon as my husband was diagnosed. It took my doctor six months of gentle persuasion before I agreed. How much easier those six months could have been.
Once I started taking them, it was like I had stepped on a balance scale with me on one side and the depression on the other. Now, no more ups and downs, no crying every day.
There was peace in my life for the first time in over forty years. It wasn’t just the last six months that could have been better; my whole life could have been different – different choices, different paths. If only I had known that I was suffering from depression and that there was something that could have been done about it.
There are a lot of people out there, not talking about depression, just dealing with it the best that they can. I was the worst example. If I admitted to being depressed, I thought people would think less of me. I worried more about what people would say, than my own health. So what if they thought I was weak! Their loss, not mine.
Once I started on the anti-depressants, my life was one hundred times better, even with Ron slowly dying. I could help him by being happier around him. Every morning he would say “It’s a wonderful day,” and I could honestly answer back “Yes, it is,” thinking to myself, Because you’re still here, I can be somewhat happy. Because I take a little white pill, I can cope.
Now that he’s gone, the drugs help me to cope with the grief.
Search your heart right now, and be honest about it. Has how you see me changed, now that you know I am fighting depression every day of my life? That I am taking medication to ensure I don’t have a breakdown. Do I appear weak to you or deranged or maybe normal, as normal as anyone can be?
I hope that in my lifetime the stigma of mental illness/ mental health changes. I used to suffer from depression. The neurons in my brain did not function normally. They didn’t snap like lighting across the right pathways; the little white pills, the drugs, made that happen.
And perhaps it will happen. There are far worse mental health issues than mine – bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis – and they’re often made worse by drug and alcohol abuse issues. But still people who suffer from these conditions are beginning to talk about it, including athletes and celebrities.
Mental illness happens. It doesn’t mean God or the universe is punishing us. It’s just nature misfiring. And nature usually holds a cure for its misfires. We just have to expend the energy and the dollars to find it – for every mental illness.
A new campaign said: Speak out. So I am.
Mary Cudney has found that retirement has opened up a whole new world. When she’s not walking her Mary has been telling stories since she could talk. Recently, she’s been taking writing courses and exchanging ideas with fellow authors. “It’s been an awesome experience,” says Mary.
See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.