Depression is no joke. It’s a silent killer. It cripples you from the inside out.
If you’ve experienced it, you know this. If you haven’t, take part in the conversation anyway because you most likely know someone who has.
For literally years, I’ve wanted to share and be open about my struggles with depression and in recent years, anxiety. I wanted to share because if there was anyone in my life that felt the same way, I wanted them to know they weren’t alone because it can often feel like that. I wanted to share that there are ways to cope and see the light again.
When #BellLetsTalk began back in 2010, I thought that was my chance to share. But every year it came, I couldn’t do it. The fear of being judged, being seen as broken, and simply being connected with people I worked with and them seeing me as weak were far too great. Instead, I shared posts like, “I run for my mental health, what do you do — #BellLetsTalk”. It was my way of saying I struggle without saying it at all. And every year I would tell my husband that next year, I’ll share. And he always responded with, “Share when you’re ready, or don’t share at all. It’s all okay”.
My Early Experiences With Depression
I want to preface by saying that I had a great childhood and my parents did so much for my brothers and I. When I look back, I have very happy and fond memories. I also feel the need to express that I did not experience trauma in my life. This part of me is just something I have always felt I lived with.
Depression runs in my family on my mother’s side. My mom has always been very open with the struggles that some family members have faced and made me aware of what those were from a young age. My earliest memories of having depression go back to when I was in grade 5 or possibly earlier. I knew there was something inside me that made me sad but could never figure out why despite knowing family history.
When I was a kid I read a lot. Always found with my nose in a book because it was my escape. It gave me freedom to enter a different world and become another character. When I had my sad days at school, I asked my teacher if I could bring home graph paper. When I got home, I would shade in each square with my pencil. Sometimes making designs, sometimes just shading them all in until the sheet was grey. I don’t know why I did this, but I think it was an outlet for me to get my feelings out. My parents noticed and bought me graph paper so I didn’t have to keep asking the teacher. My mom would also encourage my designs and ask what they were or what they meant. I always said I didn’t know and would go back to the sheet.
At school, I had very good relationships with my elementary teachers. So much so, that when I would get overwhelmed in class, one teacher actually let me sit under her desk and do my worksheets there. I remember feeling safe under the desk and also preferred the darkness. From what I can remember, she never questioned why, but just let me do it when I asked. Shaun and I laugh about that now because it is kind of funny that I would just sit under the teacher’s desk, but I think I was just sad sometimes and didn’t know how to deal with what was inside me. In grade 8, I wore a black Hockey Canada toque that I pulled down to my eyes because it felt like the lower I pulled it down, the less people could see me.
Throughout elementary school, my mom would bring me to my family doctor and he and I would often have chats about how I was feeling. He would also ask what I did when I started to feel sad. I told him playing hockey helped and he said that was good and to keep playing. So I did.
I started playing hockey when I was in grade 3 and it was an immense outlet. I worked so hard at my skating because the faster I went, the better I would feel. If I’m strong at anything in hockey, it’s my skating and I think that has to do with those sad feelings coming out and hockey giving me a place to throw them at.
In high school, things got a little better. I had a group of girlfriends I surrounded myself with that were there for the hardships and heart breaks and I think that helped me a lot. However, I would still experience sad days but again, I used hockey as my outlet. I’ll never forget one week in particular was hard. I don’t remember why, but just remember being really sad. We had a game during that week and my coach came up to me after and said that was the best he’d ever seen me play and then asked if everything was okay. Hockey was such therapy for me and I don’t think I truly realized that at the time.
Opening Up to Shaun
Before I met Shaun, I dated guys and had boyfriends here and there but none of them knew this side of me. Shaun was the first guy I dated who I ever opened up to about the sadness within me. He made me feel safe.
We were around a year into dating when we went to Blue Mountain for a friend’s wedding. The morning after the wedding, we were so hungover that we went to Sunset Grill for breakfast. Somehow our conversation got deep and we began talking about things on another level.
It was over bacon and eggs that I told him I experienced sadness and told him the story of how I sat under my teacher’s desk in elementary school. The compassion and care that came through him was so incredibly heartwarming. He actually thanked me for sharing that with him and said it must have been tough. It was in those moments, those moments of sheer vulnerability that I knew I was going to marry him. I talked and told him some things that I never cared to share with anyone else. The love that poured out of him is something I will always cherish. I knew over that breakfast I needed him to stay in my life.
Not everyone is so lucky to have this kind of support but over the years and this last one in particular, he has been my saving grace. Reminding me to breathe through my panic attacks. Checking in on me when I’m sitting in the bath and letting the water from the shower head run on me. I’ve experienced some extremely dark days and with the passing of my grandfather, Shaun has been more than I could have ever asked for. So understanding of the feelings I was having when never experiencing them himself. That meant a lot to me.
The sadness, anger, and sheer emptiness I felt over the last few months with the passing of my grandfather has been incredibly overwhelming. Sometimes all I can think about is how broken I was and how empty I felt inside when that all transpired. I experienced more panic attacks in the immediate two weeks after his passing than I ever have. It was hard to get out of bed some days. Even harder to simply stand and breath and wash my hair while in the shower. I felt like I was a walking zombie — going through motions and simply moving from task to task without actually thinking. That was the darkest I’ve ever felt. It scared the absolute shit out of me and it truly felt like I couldn’t return to the person I was even if I wanted to.
That darkness scared me so much that I reached out to a therapist to begin seeing someone again. I say again because I saw a therapist back when I was in university. Most people don’t know that. In fact, I can tell you on one hand how many who actually do. I hid it well — paid cash and threw out my receipts so my parents couldn’t find them. Told my parents I was going to the library when I’d actually be going to a session instead. Looking back, I’m not sure why I hid it. I knew if I told my parents they’d be supportive, but felt that telling people made it official that I may be broken. I hid that I saw a therapist because I felt people would look at me differently. What is so embarrassing that we feel the need to hid that from others?
This past summer I knew I wanted to begin seeing someone because there were some dark and hard days then. I kept putting if off though because I was waiting to see if I could pull through on my own using mechanisms I knew once worked for me. What I experienced in October and on though was not okay. I knew that the only way to pull myself from out of the darkness was to seek help.
Sometimes I get scared for the future. Not knowing if I could ever experience this and not come out the other side. Having bouts of depression is scary. You can’t see the light and you are your worst enemy. The thoughts that can creep into your mind can be dangerous. You have to constantly remind yourself those thoughts aren’t the real you. It is both mentally and physically exhausting.
Finding Support in Others
“I’m so sorry you lost an amazing presence in your life. And I hope this raw and vulnerable post was cathartic in some small way. Proud of you for saying the things you did because it’s not easy, but this will have inspired someone to think that hey- maybe it’s ok not to be ok! This year is insane and nothing but normal. I have missed seeing you here and I’m so happy you’re back…here’s to a beautiful tribute to your grandfather and making it out from under the dark. I bet he’ll help you get there my friend.”
That last line — my heart shattered and I broke down in tears when I read it. How can someone I’ve only met once socially distanced style be so humble and kind? To say that I can pull through this and that he’ll be there to guide me. That she’d missed seeing me on Instagram. I felt overwhelmed with support in that moment.
As I edited the above paragraphs for the last time before publishing, this song came on the radio. Thank you Eduarda for being there for me through such an incredibly dark time — I sure do miss him.
Wanting to Help
Depression is something that isolates you. You prefer darkness over light, being on your own as opposed to with others, and your care to do anything at all completely vanishes.
Almost every single person I talk to on Instagram I haven’t met yet. But they are people I have been speaking to almost everyday for the last 10 months. After my grandfather’s passing, they sent me messages to check in on me to see if I was okay. They sent me their phone numbers to call or message if I needed to. And Eduarda messaged me the day of my grandfather’s funeral letting me know that she was thinking of me. In a time where I wanted to disappear, these messages reminded me that even though we haven’t met, I had people rooting for me. People that reminded me that there are brighter days and that we don’t have to do this alone.
The post I shared on Instagram about my depression this past year brought so many others into my DMs. Some members of my family checking in or sharing their stories, members of Shaun’s family reaching out and sharing their stories too, and people I haven’t met yet saying they’re rooting for me and there if I need them. In a time where I have never felt so alone and empty, these messages gave me hope.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, I am here. I can be your ear for listening, or the embrace you need when you can’t speak the words to ask for it.
I think the #BellLetsTalk initiative is so amazing because if it wasn’t for that, I probably would have never even thought to share what I’ve struggled with. But let’s take it a few steps further and really dive into it because it’s here, it’s real, and it’s not going anywhere.
#BellLetsTalk is taking place this Thursday, January 28th. Be part of the conversation. If not for yourself, then for the ones who need you to.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, ask for help. You do not have to do it alone, I promise you that. Here is a link to seek help should you need it.
For further reading about my struggle with depression in the last year, you can read that here.