I’m not sure how to start this blog post so I’m just going to start writing. Today I’m not writing about technology. Today I got a card and a couple of gifts from my sister, Gwendolyn. I haven’t talked to her since 2008.
I love my sister. It brings me much pain to realize how our childhood has affected her as an adult. I know that I always seem happy, excited, optimistic and ready for the next challenge that life brings my way. Unfortunately, her life and thoughts have been very different.
She suffers from depression. I didn’t really understand what this meant. I thought depression was something that was temporary. I thought it could be cured if things in life got better for you. I thought medication helped make life better if you have depression.
Whenever I think of depression, that commercial with the cloud comes to mind where that’s sad person is always followed by that sad cloud. Then I think of the more happy, parody version MadTV did:
Pretty much 99.9999% of the time, I am happy, joyous, grateful, full of energy about life! Sometimes, I have felt guilty that I am just so excited about being alive while others seem to find the world a horrible place to exist.
I would say that I have experienced situational depression when I have had to deal with overwhelming drama in my life like domestic violence.
It’s hard to think when you feel that your mortal life is in danger. I found the image of Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs to be extremely helpful in understanding what I needed to become the fully developed person I was meant to be:
Thankfully, by refusing to participate in unhealthy relationships, I have not had to experience what I consider to be depression in the years. That’s why I call it “situational depression” because a specific series of events created something like a fog that enveloped me so tightly that it altered my perception of reality.
My sister is a loving person. She is a talented artist. She wants to do great things with her life and in the world but…
She is very critical of herself. She doubts herself often. She questions why anyone would really even like her. She constantly battles with guilt. She gives up easily…sometimes.
I enjoyed her fond childhood memory blog post where she went to the petting zoo with a tin can to feed to the goats (and she did!).
I guess we always had big imaginations for what was possible!
I’ve tried to help her ever since we were little. I could never really understand what she was going through. When I was younger, I know I said things that may have made her feel worse. I just didn’t understand.
Now I do.
One of the things I began doing about seven years ago was that I clearly communicated my unconditional love for her. I told her, no matter what, she would always be my sister, she could always come to me for help, and that I would always love her.
It took a few years for this to sink in with her. She was sure that at any moment I would pull back my “love” if she did something to displease me. Finally, she began to respond by asking for things she needed help with like a ride somewhere or not beating herself up verbally after failing to do something. Meeting other people’s expectations was important to her. Me too. In fact, overly important. Why the fuss? Our mom conditioned us to respond like this. That’s how she was; “Do this or I won’t love you anymore” (implied of course).
All it really did was confuse us, make us wary and uncomfortable sharing our feelings with others. At first, I thought it was just our family and I came to know others who had experienced the same thing. What I realized is, change starts with me.
I am so happy that Gwendolyn decided to drop off a hand-drawn card, a recipe for sugar cookies on Hello Kitty origami paper, a “rat shaped” cookie cutter, Hershey’s kisses, and that delicious bag of Dunn Bros coffee!
I hope we can reconnect in the future. I hope that she continues to get better coping with her depression so that she can live… really live and enjoy her life.
Gwendolyn, if you’re reading this, I love you.
Inspired to write a deeply personal post after enjoying an amazing breakfast with Annie (@modeknit) on Friday and I hope this helps others. She shared how she blogged about her husband’s illness, his battle with cancer and how it helped her to truly and deeply process her experience. Thank you Annie.
I found Kellen’s blog post on Depression 101 to be both personal and detailed in explaining how depression feels and the myths, misunderstandings and assumptions around it.
If you think someone you know is suffering from depression, check out these resources:
- What is Depression? – National Institute of Mental Health
- Depression Overview – Mayo Clinic
- Understanding Depression – WebMD
Some symptoms of depression from the NIMH website:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
- Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Overeating, or appetite loss
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment