In today’s world, maintaining a healthy adult relationship can already be a challenge with the normal stressors of life like children, finances, and busy schedules; but what happens when you throw depression into the equation? Being a mom of five kids, wife, sister and friend, can make most days incredibly hectic for anyone; however, when depression ensues and the darkness takes hold, regrettably all those roles are held hostage. Days, weeks, and sometimes months can pass by before anyone notices that I have progressively vanished behind the cloak of a plastic smile. By the time the effects of depression become evidently noticeable to the outside world, it is too late; by that point I have already morphed into a reclusive stranger that my family, friends, and even my spouse, can’t easily recognize. Detached from reality and lost among the sea of racing thoughts, I try rescuing myself from the bleak and lonely pits of depression; but often the effects of battling this illness within me, leaves behind a noticeable trail of unfinished chores, abandoned responsibilities and broken relationships.
While mounting chores can become overwhelming when depressive episodes strike, trying to manage the multitude of adult responsibilities like kids, work, and appointments, can be equally as heavy. I cannot even count the number of doctors appointments I’ve rescheduled, planned engagements I’ve cancelled, or the total amount of work days I’ve called off, all because I couldn’t mustard the strength to pull myself out from under the covers of my oversized bed. Many people fail to understand that clinical depression isn’t just taxing on our emotional state of mind. The entire body can be plagued with crippling physical ailments like severe fatigue, body aches and pains, migraines, and even a weakened immune system; making the possibility of achieving a gold star for good attendance, unlikely at best! Unfortunately, in the professional world, the roller coaster of unpredictable challenges caused by mental health struggles, more often than not, leaves broken sufferers, unemployed, untreated and unable to adequately survive among the rest of civilized society.
Although cleanliness and responsibility are fundamental parts of my life that have been impacted by depression, my personal and romantic relationships have taken the biggest hit! Symptoms like low self-esteem and self doubt can become ticking time bombs ready to implode at the slightest discrepancy. Then there is isolation and withdrawal that can absolutely be an endgame for new or weak relationships. Shamefully, over the years I have perfected the art of withdrawal. By masking the waging wars brewing just below the surface of my fragile psyche, I am able to temporarily maintain brief interactions with friends and family. However, ,the repetitive flow of intrusive thoughts eventually become too consuming to continue the show. Once the curtains are drawn and self-preservation mode is activated, I then begin to withdrawal from the world to battle alone. One by one, I irrationally shut off communication to the outside world. During intense depressive episodes of isolation, previously arranged social commitments are blown off without notice, repeated calls and text go unanswered, and resentments are fueled by negative assumptions conceived from the wandering minds of those I have left behind in the silence. While many relationships do survive the treacherous rigors of depression, they won’t be exempt from collecting a slew of scars along the way.
Regardless of the trials I have endured while battling this invisible illness, with each victory I grow a little more. I have learned that I can either remain a lifeless victim of a diagnosis, or I can fight back against the dangerous side effects of depression that has attempted to steal my life more than once, by learning healthy coping skills and by no longer staying silent when the darkness begins to roll in. We were never designed to journey through life alone. Thankfully, through the process of developing strong healthy relationships, I have learned that there is victory in vulnerability. Now, I know that in my weakest moments, my supportive army of friends and family, are defiantly standing with shields up ready to fight for me.