I’m Carrie. I run a successful firm. I am a great mother. I always have the best snacks for my kid. I’m at gymnastics practice cheering with enthusiasm. I have a loving boyfriend. I’m engaging, charming and a great friend. There is no problem I can’t resolve.
Until I don’t feel like Carrie. Recently the bottom fell out of my world. Suddenly the firm wasn’t so successful. Suddenly I couldn’t get out of bed to make my kid’s day fun. At some point I realized I hadn’t bought groceries in two weeks. Suddenly I couldn’t sit through a two-hour practice without bitter tears. Suddenly I wasn’t loved. Suddenly I was sleeping 12-16 hours a day. Suddenly I couldn’t see a way out or any positive outcome. Suddenly my depression had gained ground on the battlefield and took possession of my camp.
Depression relapses are crippling. They seem impossible to overcome. People who have lived with depression for years have slowly learned the uniquely personal tools that help them dig out. My personal treatment includes a call to my doctor and a couple days to unapologetically wallow in the feeling. Each day after I add one small task and ignore the multitude of other things that used to get my attention. Exercise, eat right, get outside, connect with a friend, sleep when you need to, forgive yourself for not being 100%.
Here is the rub. Have you ever tried making your depressed mind and body do anything? Everything feels impossible and sometimes painful. If someone threw a swarm of snakes in my bed, my mind would actually spend a few seconds considering if it is worth the effort to jump out and run away. In the middle of a relapse your mind is not concerned with what is best for your health and your future. Your mind has convinced your body that there is no future; but you have to jump out of the bed anyway. You have to take steps toward your health and future. This is when people matter most.
I found my family and a few precious friends to be invaluable during my last relapse. Normally I hide out and brave the storm alone. I want to appear strong; but this time I showed them my vulnerability. I broke down and let the pulp of my former self just lay there in all my lack-luster glory. They got the version of me that hadn’t showered, hadn’t put on a face and could only muster a greasy ponytail. I wore leggings as pants. My face was puffy from endless tears and my dignity was nowhere to be found.
My people did not give me pity. They were not put off by my weakness. They were honored to be called up for duty. They stepped up like a fresh army and pushed me through all of the steps I needed to take. They helped me with my daily routine. They took me to dinner and made sure I ate. They listened. They got me out of bed and forced me into new activities. They reminded me how great I am even when I’m not 100%.
In response to their insistence, I signed up for a martial arts class. During the second session I found myself sincerely smiling after a solid month of despair. I had just learned how to break someone’s kneecap. The thought of this knowledge seemed ridiculous and it made me giggle out loud. Surely, I would never need to break a kneecap, but for the first time in months I felt powerful again. I saw a glimpse of the successful manager, the good mother and the problem solver. I saw a glimpse of the person who was worth loving.
My most trusted friends and family got me to that point and were the healing ingredients I needed. Showing them my vulnerability and leaning on them was the absolute best course of treatment for my depression and for our relationships. From now on, I will not forget to let those precious people see me and help me.