On the surface, she is perfect. The model wife, the perfect mother, the outgoing best friend.
The star student. In college, she was dedicated, her main focus on her studies. She worked tirelessly, for hours on end, trying to impress her peers, and her parents.
She is a daughter, who never wanted to fail her mother or father. Her first priority was always to them, always ensuring their happiness before her own.
Her happiness..she has struggled to find it, for many years, the things that bring her joy. The darkness overtakes her more often than she would care to admit, drawing her in to it’s clutches, whispering in her ear all of the things she thinks on a daily basis but would never care to admit to another person. “You aren’t good enough. You aren’t pretty. You aren’t tall enough. You are a burden to your friends and family. You mean nothing.”
You are worthless.
When her child was born, a time at which she should have felt immeasurable joy, she only felt emptiness inside. Now, she did not only have herself to disappoint, but her child as well. No one seemed to recognize the battle she was fighting, the constant war that raged within her. How could they? She put on a brave front, a smiling face. No one knew the difference.
No one understood that she couldn’t bond with her child. That the sadness she felt was not from a lack of sleep, but from a lack of joy. No one realized that she barely had the strength to hold herself up every day, much less care for a brand new life. No one was willing to face the fact that she was depressed.
She felt, if she told anyone, that they would brush her off, with words and phrases like, “This too shall pass. All new moms feel this way. Your just sad.”
They had no idea how this was affecting her marriage either. How she felt so entirely drained that she did not have any energy left for her husband. How she knew, looking in her husband’s eyes, that he was drained too. How he too placed a smile on his face, to keep up appearances, but on the inside, within enclosed walls, her sadness was suffocating the life from him. From their union.
Her friends couldn’t see it either. They viewed her as dedicated, strong willed and a force to be reckoned with. During social gatherings, she was the life of the party. Bubbly and outgoing, she could always be found at the center of the planning, the instrumental hand who was pulling everything today as she herself was falling apart. They praised her for her accomplishments both professionally and academically. They praised her for her good grades, her tightly knit family.
Finally, it started to unravel.
She couldn’t pretend any longer. The ability to hold herself to such a high standard began to weigh upon her until the depth of her sadness was so great that she could drown in it. She carried herself through days devoid of emotion, her eyes reflecting her pain better than her words ever could. She was withdrawing, and it became noticeable.
Finally they understood.
Finally they recognized that she wasn’t just tired. She wasn’t just sad. She was suffering, from a truly debilitating illness, and she would need their help, their guidance.
She still struggles. Every day is a choice. Every day, she has to decide if she will choose joy. Every day the darkness looms, waiting to pull her back. She continues onward, fighting.
Fighting, for her life.
*Friends, I wrote this post on behalf of a friend who is struggling. If you, or a friend or family member is suffering as well, with either depression or suicidal thoughts or actions, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1800-273-TALK. Depression resources can be located online at the National Institute for Mental Health at nimh.nih.gov.*