First Day of School

I guess it has always been there to some degree since childhood.  I would love to say that my childhood was happy and that everyone around me was loving and supportive.  But who has that childhood?  I have met a few who have been fortunate enough to at least have strength in their basic foundational relationships.  The lucky few who are supported by both their parents, have a secure and safe environment, and a steady predictable routine. My upbringing was relatively stable in most respects but emotionally I would describe it as volatile.

I don’t blame my parents, and at my age I would feel a bit silly putting any blame on them considering my circumstances.  I wasn’t abandoned or left to starve and I wasn’t neglected or ridiculed.  My parents got married young and had four children in five years.  We didn’t grow up with much, and money was a constant source of stress and anxiety.  Their marriage wasn’t perfect and they were not ideal parents but they always made their children their primary concern.  So with all of their faults I knew the did the best they could consider the obstacles they were up against.   I may not have had a father I could have tender moments with, but he worked overtime, marched on picket lines and lived with very little material wealth for the sake of his children.  My mother was in over her head with four babies and a husband who worked all the time but she always made us the center of the universe.   She constantly took us to trips to the library, bought us every educational toy or game we could afford and made sure we did our homework.  She may have been too obsessed, but I would rather grow up with her than an indifferent mother.

School wasn’t much of a solace as I was awkward and socially withdrawn.  I found children my age to be a bit of a mystery and found more enjoyment reading a book than playing with other kids.  There is much more I could write about, but I won’t because I cherish relationships I have with certain family members.  I don’t want to dredge up old traumas for the sake of this blog.  Some things need to remain private, for the sake of my siblings and my immediate family.   When things got bad I literally hid in a closet in our basement.  I would shut the door and wait for my world to stop spinning out of control.  To this day I don’t think anyone in my family knew I would go down there, I guess they might know now…if they read this blog.

Depression has always been there.  The dread that will sometimes wash over me that I can’t shake.  It causes me to overreact and panic and lose faith in others.   My divorce made it much more pronounced but depression has been with me for as long as I can remember.  I had no idea how bad it would get until post-divorce I became suicidal and nearly completely lost my sanity.  Clinical depression is nothing to joke about or to shrug off as just the blues.  I realize now that I suffered from a mental illness that is quite common but extremely frustrating to manage.  But I fought back with traditional therapy, medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and eventually my situation greatly improved.

Although now, I can feel the seductive pull of the dark clouds sucking me back in from time to time.  At first it feels comfortable to give in to the black moods and collapse in tears but they soon take over.  And instead of having a quick therapeutic moment of release the dread wins out and starts to devour me.  I find myself lying on my bed looking straight up trying to fight back a panic attack.  I haven’t had one in over a year, and I am so proud that I have been able to stop them but when things get bad it is a constant struggle.  At least now I know I have some control, I don’t have to huddle in a closet until it passes.   And just knowing that I have some control has been paramount to my recovery.  As a child I didn’t know what it was, I couldn’t understand why I wanted to retreat by myself, why I had difficulty dealing with other and why I constantly had crying fits that were nearly inconsolable.   I couldn’t understand why things got so black in my head, and why hope was such a hard thing to imagine.  My Catholic upbringing caused me to look for a supernatural source but now I know the real demons live inside my head.  If it is brain chemistry or some genetic defect I don’t know, or if repeated trauma caused something in my brain to develop abnormally.  The source of my depression doesn’t really matter, at least that is what therapy taught me.  What matters is management, and trying to live with and fight against this affliction.

For the most part I do alright.  I am so much better off than I was just a year ago, but I still struggle.  And I know from the amazing feedback I have gotten from this blog and from fellow sufferers of depression that this disease is a tricky one.  If you are reading this and you have struggled with depression since you were a child, don’t give up hope.  You can and will beat it.  Some of us aren’t as lucky in life as others, some of us are born with more obstacles that the average person, and some of us are born with the biology that causes depression.  But it doesn’t mean that we can’t beat this disease and we can’t overcome it.

I wish I knew what I know now when I was six years old, if I could I would go back to that little girl with the ice blonde hair and the rosy cheeks and tell her that God isn’t punishing her when the gloom overtakes her mind.   Whatever is going on in her head is not pay back for any sins she committed and it is not a battle between good and evil.  The dark moods are just a slight flaw in her wiring, and that flaw is depression.  And everyone has a flaw, no little girl is born perfect.

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11 comments on “Growing up with Depression

  1. talktala:_ ori

    Hi Juliet. What a fantastic, sincere, painful, hopeful piece.
    I wanted to know if we could feature it on our site? Please contact me directly if interested – ori@talktala.com.

    Thanks!

  2. Anonymous

    I’m sorry you’ve gone through this. I feel like you jumped inside of my brain and were writing about me. The thing about this illness (my doctor said mine is a slight chemical imbalance) is that it is so sudden and it sneaks up with out warning. I’m not glad that this happened to you, but it is good to know that there are others out there who live with this and understand what it’s like.

  3. Pingback: Childhood Depression; I Was 13 When I Attempted Suicide

  4. Phil

    Juliet

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your experiences regarding post-divorce blogs -> very insightful. But along the way I have took note of your struggles with clinical depression and anxiety. I was curious to know if you’ve ever been diagnosed with BPD. I divorced one, and your symptoms and thoughts sound a lot like my Ex.

    1. julietjeske

      Actually it is a bit presumptuous for you to go all the way to Biopolar disorder, especially based on this blog. My doctor said flat out that I didn’t have bipolar disorder, plus if I did I would really need to be medicated right now and I haven’t been on medication for over two years. Plus I have never been hospitalized, never had a suicide attempt, never had an overdose…and on and on and on. Run-of-the-mill depression is highs and lows of anxiety and depressed states. I do not have mania. There is a huge difference between anxiety and manic attacks. I am not staying up for days on end, I only had that symptom briefly when I was the worst off which was right after my divorce.

      That diagnosis is actually a much more severe disease and a separate disease from depression. One of the tell tale signs of bipolar disorder is sexual promiscuity and I have never gone through that in my life. Other symptoms are poor impulse control, alcohol and drug abuse and I don’t have those either. I can go months without touching alcohol and have never done drugs. I have known several people over the years that had BPD and they were much sicker than I have ever been. I am afraid what you are doing is simple projection…sorry…but you are projecting your own experiences of your ex onto me. My doctor diagnosed me with reactive depression, stemming from my divorce. For instance I had never had a panic attack until I left my husband. Anxiety and mania are not the same thing. Anxiety is panic, mania is increased energy…when I have a panic attack…which luckily are rare now…I tend to just sit there and try to calm down. I am not running around doing anything. What I think I have suffered from since childhood is Dysthymia which is a lifelong low-grade form of depression. I also grew up with an abusive parent, he was actually arrested for child abuse and the whole family was put into therapy when I was 11 years old. That also has a lot to do with my psychological profile as it were.

    2. julietjeske

      I realize you are just trying to help, but honestly BPD is a much more serious disease which has been well studied and completely biological in nature. Meaning bipolar patients are born that way, a divorce won’t set it off. A traumatic event might make things worse but a BPD patient is going to have BPD if things are going smoothly in their life or if they aren’t. It is such a horrible mental illness because it is extremely debilitating. And nearly every person I know with BPD has been on medication and has to stay on medication for their entire lives. I haven’t been on meds since right after my divorce and I am actually better than I was, not worse now that I am completely off the drugs. People get anxiety and mania confused all the time but they are very very different. I can be lying down and go through major anxiety…mania is something else entirely.

      I had symptoms of depression as a child mainly due to the abuse in my home, I don’t mention on the blog because my father is still very much alive and still married to my mother. I have an odd relationship with him and he has come worlds from where he was when I was a kid. He did get better, although it took years and he is still known for his temper. But the man he is today is nothing like the man who raised me. The abuse was worst with one of my siblings and I don’t wish to pull them into this public a forum. So that is why I don’t talk about it on the blog. It is here on the comment section but I don’t many people read the comments…so I am taking a risk.

    3. julietjeske

      This is a description on what I think I actually suffer from. I wasn’t diagnosed with this, but when I first read about it…a lot of my life made sense. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Dysthymia.htm

      There have also been multiple studies regarding child abuse and subsequent mental illness. Something about the abuse damages the brain, especially in small children. I lived in fear for most of my childhood, that is going to mess a person up…it is that simple.

  5. noonebutabloghead

    When I’ve read you pouring your heart out about your divorce, and your depression, I really admire your ability to share and be honest about this kind of thing.

    I’m dealing with slightly similar depression and anxiety problems (albeit mine didn’t start as early as your’s and I’d never have the guts to get up on stage like you do!) and I really admire your ability to help nudge this kind of problem a little closer to the limelight.

  6. Pingback: Why Enabling Depression is Impossible. | julietjeske

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