Jolene

Hello reflection, it has been forever. For a long time you had changed. The disheveled hair was gone, dark circles had disappeared, and the sad and hollow eyes had become bright. A smile had replaced the downward turn of your mouth. There was hope and strength in place of hopelessness and loss. I had thought you were gone, but yet again here I am in front of you. Those eyes have returned. The smile no longer exists. You are lost.

However, this time it is not me I see. Although the reflection is clear and I know the face well, it is not I. You have taken it upon yourself, my old dark friend, to haunt my daughter. Why are you doing this? She is only 12, almost 13. When you visited me old friend it was after a terrible event and I was a bit older. Now here you are again and you were not invited. I understand you like to torment those who are struggling with great pain. In my daughter’s case it is bullying and overwhelming hormones, the curse of being young in this day and age. We have tried everything to prevent your visit though because I knew my genes were present in my child’s body. What do they say about genetics? I think once Michael J. Fox said that all it takes is a pull of the trigger and the gene will turn on. Whether that trigger be environmental, physical, or a stressful event all that it takes is one shot. We knew the bullying at our daughter’s school made her sad. We tried to stop it and help her through. We asked her school to listen and help. We talked to her daily about it. We were too late though. Old dark friend you had already entered her spirit. You had snuck into our house and crossed the barriers we had placed up. We did not invite you here. You took without asking and are no different than you were years ago with me.

Depression is haunting and painful. It is a silent killer. Why you did not come to me this time I do not know? If I could place my hands on my daughter and suck every ounce of you out I would. I know the pain you bring and have survived you. There is no fear in my soul anymore because I know I am stronger than you. Damn you. There is little in life that I hate, but I hate you. Right now I am so angry with you for invading my child’s body. For haunting my child’s mind. How dare you enter without permission!! Get out of her and enter me. I know you well and I can rid of you quickly because I no longer fear you.

Now I must sit and listen to my daughter say words I once spoke. I have to see in her the reflection of a younger me. I did not want this for her. In fact I feel great guilt. Perhaps it is my messed up genes that caused you to come to her. Perhaps if I had not taken an anti-depressant when I was pregnant with her 12 years ago, then maybe you would not be here. My last suicide attempt was when she was 2. Did that mess her up? Does she remember it? For eight years now I have not taken a medication or gone to a therapist. One day it was like the gene turned off and I could breath again. You are always with me, but I now control you and no longer fear you. I credit my daughter daily for saving my life. Yes, I had an amazing support system. A mother, father, and sister that stood by me every day. A husband who never left my side, even in the darkest moments. Yet, it is my daughter that I give the most credit. In her I saw pure joy and true love. Those big eyes would look up at me and in them was no judgment, but there was so much faith. She needed me and she loved me. She saved me. So what you do not see, my old friend depression is that I will now do the same for her. I am a warrior. I have fought you and won. You may place thoughts in her head or send irrational thoughts, but you will not win. When she tries to push me away I will hold on tight. When she tells me she hates me, I will tell her I love her. When she struggles, I will hold her up. She has my blood coursing through her veins and she is a warrior too. You will not win this battle, my old dark friend.

So here I sit anonymously writing this entry because I know there are people out there who still judge. There are people who think that those with depression should just “suck it up” or should remain quiet about what is going on with them. This causes those with depression or any mental health issue to feel dirty and crazy. They are not though. In fact they are no different than a person struggling with hypertension or diabetes. A gene was triggered or a hormone is imbalanced. It is that simple, yet many do not see it that way. Mental health is still the silent killer. One no one is willing to talk about in a society that is full of happy selfies and perfect lives. Yet, that is what kills us is the inability to talk or feel. What if someone posted a selfie with a sad face? How many likes would that get? What if someone posted that they had depression? How many likes would that get? I can tell you from experience that it would get very few and it would also get many people walking away + plenty of gossip. Although when I was younger and had severe depression + PTSD there was no social media, but when I would share secretly my diagnosis people often left my side. People fear what they do not understand. Many do not understand mental health issues, even though it is not much different from any other disease. For depression I often tell people to think of a day when they felt sad and then to think of how it would feel not to be able to turn that off, for that sadness to literally be out of your control. That is depression. It is a jumbled mess in your brain. Irrational thoughts float everywhere. You truly feel like people would be better without you and that you are a burden because you cannot be happy, even though you try. Trust me when I was in my darkest times I would try to be happy and fail, then my dark friend would speak louder and I would feel worse. Two of my own suicide attempts were not truly to die. I thought taking a bunch of my anti-depressants would make me happy. My brain was full of thoughts and many were not rational. I could not switch it off. One reason I speak openly about my past now is because I survived and to help others, yet I still have people tell me to “be silent because it could hurt your reputation”. When did being honest hurt your reputation? How backwards is that? I want to hear people’s stories because it helps me understand who they are. I know the world is not full of perfect selfies and lives. We all have struggles. Some cultures embrace those struggles and embrace emotions, but we do not.

So here I sit anonymously sharing my daughter’s story. Why? Because I am old enough to face those who judge me, but my daughter is still young and I need to protect her. She is in the middle of her fight. Yet I need to write. I need to get this all off of my chest. I want others out there who are silently struggling to know they are not alone. We may be quiet, but we can all work together. We are all fighters. I also write because I want those whose child is bullied or those who have children who are bullies to open their eyes. If you child is bullied seek help and fight for them. If your child is a bully do not take it as an insult, instead help them to change. Do not allow your child to put other children in the position my daughter is in. Words and actions can deeply hurt a young mind. We as the older generation can set the example and create the change. So lets talk and let’s put it all out there. Lets fight for our children and create a better world. One free from judgment and labels. Instead lets take personal responsibility and be the voice that is needed. We are the change. Finally, to my dear dark friend……..you are dismissed. You are no longer welcome in my house. Today and every day I am my daughter’s voice and I will teach her to roar loudly. As change comes the trigger that sets you off will begin to disappear. I believe in this world and I believe in each individual. Change is coming.

4 responses to “Jolene”

  1. Janet says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Reading it was like looking at my reflection in a mirror. I sent it to my children as both suffer from panic attacks and depression as do I. The only way others to understand is either to be open minded or to experience it themselves and I truly don’t believe either will happen, but there is always hope. I’ve had people tell me that I just said I was depressed for the attention or ask what do I have to be depressed about. Makes you question your own self and sanity. Thank God you survived to be there for your daughter. My thoughts and prayers are with you both.

  2. Suzka says:

    I see myself in your story. Both my children have social anxiety and depression. They have been in therapy and on anti depressants since their tweens. I have kept it a secret for just as long. Living in a small town, the stigma is very strong. I have seen my children bullied by their peers, parents, and even teachers because they are “different”. I have seen my daughter viciously bullied by omission from long time friends. I think, maybe if I was open about their diagnosis, people would treat them differently like kids with ADD or ADHD which seem to be more accepted. But then I realize, as educated and successful many in my community are, they are uneducated to mental health diseases and the children would have bullied them anyway. As my children advance through their teen years and beyond, ironically, I see how much more “balanced” they are compared to other teens. I used to compare and think, my children are missing out on the best years of their lives. But their happiness is redefined. They won’t find it in parties, drugs, or taking drunk selfies but instead they know what really brings them joy. Music, playing video games with friends online, texting and isn’t that what every Mom wants? for their children to be happy? as happy as they define.

  3. Katja says:

    Thanks so much Jolene for your very profound contribution. I can see a lot of my own story reflected in your writing. I am from a very small town in Germany and I can empathize with what Suzka said about stigmas. Since my move to the United States in 1996 I feel much freer and happier. However, I am constantly torn. Torn because for my own sanity, I need to talk to others about my feelings but at the same time I want to protect the privacy of my family.

  4. gina says:

    Hello,

    Thanks for your story. My son was diagnosed with bipolar at age 16 he is now 20. He was stable for a while, but is fighting to get his life back on track at this time. I am like you I am also fighting for him and with him. I don’t care how tired I get I will never stop fighting for him.

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