by Liza Larregui
I was always an emotional child, crying at the slightest of things. I cried so often, my father nicknamed my spells tear soup. “Are you making tear soup again?” He’d say as he tried to comfort me. “You’re getting soup all over my shirt!”
My emotional state never really changed as I aged. Throughout elementary school, for some odd reason, whenever I asked to use the bathroom, my teachers would deny me. The result was me peeing in my pants; watching as the urine would puddle around me and the other kids would start to scream. I’d cry in the bathroom, waiting for my mother to bring me new clothes; the dread building of having to face everyone in class again.
In middle school and high school, I was an outcast. With very little friends, I’d often find myself alone and sad. I had made one friend though: Nancy. Nancy lived around the corner from me and was my best friend (only friend) despite my awkward behavior and lack of experience in just about everything. When I found out she was moving away, I cried. Though that was a normal reaction, it was just another round of tear soup for me.
When I was 16 years old, my father woke me up earlier than usual for school one day. I knew something was wrong and immediately felt my stomach turn.
“I’m so sorry, Liza. I don’t know how to even tell you this but Nancy was found murdered.” This tragedy catapulted my depression into high gear. Whatever sadness I had been feeling prior was nothing compared to the deep, dark, fog I was thrown into. My life changed forever after her murder. My grades dropped as I started to miss school more. I’d sleep when I came home from school, forgetting about homework. A friend of mine even told me that she heard me snoring in class one day.
I was sent to the school therapist, who did absolutely nothing for me. I ran from her office and sat in the stairwell, crying. A teacher walked by, looked at me, and said “It’s time to get over your friend. Move on.” No compassion; no understanding; no manners. No one understood what I was going through.
When people ask if I went to college, I always joke and say, “Well, I was enrolled!” I couldn’t sit in a two hour class without facing a major panic attack. My breath would become labored and I felt like I would die, so I just stopped attending (however, I still have student loans!)
Life never really felt good until I met my husband. The moment we met, I knew he was the one, as corny as that sounds. The fog I had been in for years lifted. Work seemed easier and daily activities became fun instead of burdensome.
After we were married and the excitement wore off, my depression slowly seeped back in. I’d find any reason to be absent from work, which caused huge financial problems and fights with my husband.
I decided I wanted a baby. A baby would soothe my soul and everything would be better again. We tried, unsuccessfully, for over a year. Every month was just a depressing reminder of my failure to conceive.
I had a scheduled surgery for my hand, and the doctor asked if there was any chance of pregnancy. I dejectedly replied with a “No.” A week before the procedure, I asked my husband to bring home a pregnancy test – just to be sure. Turns out, I was pregnant. The elation I felt only lasted a short while; when the pregnancy symptoms showed up, I suffered severely, even having to go to the hospital to receive fluids.
Even though my depression wasn’t acknowledged by anyone, I kept being told I was a pretty good candidate for postpartum depression. The anxiety I already had mounted with my son’s impending birth.
How am I going to be a good mother?
What if I fall asleep and drop the baby?
What if the fog comes back, full force, and I commit suicide?
All these thoughts ran circles inside my head.
It wasn’t until 2014, 2.5 years after my son’s birth, that I was officially diagnosed with a mental illness. Not just one, but several. I refuse to say “I am depressed,” or “I am bipolar.” I am not my mental illness. It’s a disease I suffer from, like diabetes or cancer.
The relief I felt from finally being heard and understood almost made me feel like I didn’t need treatment; but I do, and it’s a life long treatment.
Self-care is difficult for everyone, I won’t deny that. However, when you have a little human who depends on you to sustain their life, it’s absolutely terrifying.
There are some days I find it hard to care for myself, let alone my child. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful support team to back me up on those days where my illness gets the better of me. Unfortunately, there are still many days like that.
As most people do, I have a personal Facebook account. I see other mothers who seem to have it all together; the one’s who take their kids to the park and zoo every day or make perfect cupcakes for the entire class. I’ll never be one of those mothers and it’s okay. I’ll always need a little help from my team and from my doctor and that’s okay.
Am I ashamed? No, I’m not. Being a mother is an absolutely rewarding experience, but it’s also one of the hardest. There’s this tremendous taboo surrounding mental illness and there shouldn’t be. You can be a mother and suffer from depression. You can be a doctor and suffer from depression. You can be anything you want to be and suffer from depression.
There are plenty of people out there who are ignorant to the facts and say hurtful things; those things can take an already vulnerable person and spiral them into the dark abyss. But there’s another side, one where closeness occurs. Finding other people who share in the same diseases you do and can relate is one of the most incredible feelings. Knowing there’s people out there who are on your side and will stand by you no matter what, is really the most important thing to remember: I am not alone and neither are you.
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