The Inevitable Conversation

By Kristin DrouinApril 29, 2014

My crying was continuous. Between forkfuls of spaghetti, tears puddled on my plate. It was New Year’s Day, and my parents and I were sharing a meal in my apartment. I had asked them to spend the holiday with me, but only my mother knew why: My doctor had yet to find the right combination of anti-depressants, I was transitioning to a new drug, and I could not be alone.

I had spent years perfecting the art of hiding my emotions, but with only three of us at the dinner table, it was impossible to ignore this mood, to avoid the now inevitable conversation during which I would finally tell my dad about the abyss I had tip-toed around (and occasionally slipped into) for a decade.

My depression was a secret I hadn’t realized I was hiding. For years, I was convinced the sadness I carried with me was merely extreme sensitivity, hormones, an overpowering sense of empathy, a reaction to the natural changes that an eighth grader or high school senior or recent college graduate experiences. As my feelings intensified with age, I found many reasons why I couldn’t share how down I was, not the least of which was the preservation of my self-image.

I was physically healthy, a strong student, an avid traveler seeking out ways to expand my comfort zone. I had a loving family. I was intelligent, ambitious, friendly, well-liked. This was how others saw me. This was how I saw myself. How could I be unhappy? How could anyone possibly understand why I felt so low when I appeared to have so much going for me? How could I continue to be the perfect daughter, the absolute best friend, or the ideal sister if I were to finally recognize this constant weight I’d been carrying? Acknowledgement of the depression, I thought, required ownership of a condition I refused to accept.

Above all else, I was ashamed. I thought I was weak. I thought sharing my sadness would ruin my reputation as someone who was capable of handling herself. I treasured my independence and felt completely pathetic that I couldn’t control this. Depression seemed like an emotion I should feel after a particularly sad event or disappointing news. Why did it keep coming back? Why couldn’t I get rid of it?

I finally reached a point where staying completely silent was no longer a safe choice. If I was to maintain any sort of functionality, I needed medical assistance. (I am quick to add the caveat, as many others have, that I cannot speak to what may help ease another’s pain, only that anti-depressants and drugs that complement them, in addition to counseling, work for me) My mother was a huge help in finding someone who could help care for my needs.

It is because of the medication, ultimately, that I cautiously opened up. It took an excruciatingly long time to find a combination of prescriptions that uniquely fit my needs. I was a terrified passenger on this trial-and-error roller coaster; I needed hands to hold onto during each decline and ascent. In addition to my mother, I chose two friends who are like family to me—and, at our spaghetti dinner, my father.

Having dreaded these conversations for so long, I was surprised to feel a small sense of relief as they unfolded. Instead of making me feel guilty that I had hid this from them, they respected the fact that I was choosing to tell them now. They understood the gravity of what I was saying and didn’t make me doubt how I felt.

In the following weeks, I found myself feeling immensely thankful I had let these individuals in. When my friend spent an afternoon Skyping and watching YouTube videos with me, keeping me safe from five time zones away, or when I was unable to eat and my dad helped me find something I could stomach—in these moments, I absolutely needed them and was amazed they could each help me in their own way.

Over the subsequent months, I gradually began sharing my journey with others I felt would treat me the same way that my best friends and family had. Each conversation was different. Some shared with me their own occasional struggles with depression; others reassured me by refusing to let our interactions be dominated by my “revelation.” Each time I shared, I felt supported. Here was another person I could call at night, another friend who would understand what I meant by a text or email saying I didn’t feel well that day. Here was another ally who could remind me that my illness is only part of who I am, somebody who still embodies all the traits I thought I would lose if I told others.

This is not to say opening up is easy—no, far from it. I still struggle in deciding when or if I want to tell someone about my depression. At several points, I considered ending this blog mid-sentence and burying it in some file on my hard drive. I share my story, however, because those who love me through and despite the dark parts have made me feel brave. I’ve realized my depression is a chronic illness, no different from any number of other conditions that manifest themselves more visibly.

I know how stifling the darkness can be. I’ve felt that the herculean effort to crawl through the layers of fog and fear and debilitating sadness may not be worth it. But now I am embraced by so many who lift me up. They remind me that each morning I wake up feeling healthy is a miracle.

It took me nine years to ask for help, but you don’t have to wait. Strength lies not in forging ahead alone, but in allowing others to walk beside you.

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Comments (16)

  1. Anonymous

    I can totally relate to this blog. I have been struggling with feelings of depression for a while now and the thought of really coming out and admitting or acknowledging these feelings terrifies me. I feel like admitting I’m depressed makes me sound crazy. Thank you for sharing your story, it gives me hope

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  2. Jeremy Mayo

    I can so relate to your story. It is so great for someone else to be saying that they felt some of the same things I did. I am so glad that your friend was there for you, I know what that is like, I have lost most of mine due to my depression and the unlimited pursual of spiraling down, but am glad to say that life gives us something new each day. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  3. Jeniffer

    This is beautifully written, and has definitely resonated with me.
    Thank you for this!

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  4. Katie

    I just started stumbling down the road to building a support system and finding recovery from Major Depressive Disorder. I’ve played with medication for years – with the help of a medical professional, of course – but never let in a counselor or family and friends.

    Thank you for your story. Thank you for uplifting others. And thank you for letting me know that, at least in your story, people can understand. Perhaps I can feel the same way soon.

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  5. Anonymous

    I waited a few years before talking to people that I know in person, but what do I do when the people I trust enough to tell don’t understand? And when they don’t realize just how horrible things really are?

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    1. Anonymous

      I’ve found myself in this situation so many times and always ask myself the same question. People who don’t suffer from depression just don’t realize how it feels. They say, cheer up! As if it is that easy!! I’m glad I’m not alone in this. Thank you.

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  6. catrin

    This is simply incredibly well written. Thanks a million for sharing your story!

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  7. Julia

    Kristin- Asking for help will always be a sign of bravery instead of weakness. Thank you for reminding us of that. I’m on a similar journey right now and i love the words that you have written. I love your story – it’s hopeful. 🙂

    Take care.

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  8. Anonymous

    I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to go through this and then to put it out there in the public like this but you are truly an inspiration to all those who suffer in silence. Thank you

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  9. Kristin

    Thank you all for your comments. They mean so very much to not only me but, I hope, others who are walking a similar path. I hope that those of you who’ve said you are in the same place can find those individuals who are willing and able to hold your hand, pick you up, or give you a shoulder to lean on during your journey.

    Anonymous, I thought that not only did I not have the right to be sad – I also felt, very deeply, that no one could understand the darkness if they hadn’t been there themselves. I’ve done my best to explain to friends and family how I feel without painting a specific picture of where I go when I have a rough patch, if that makes sense. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by those who admit that they don’t understand or can’t imagine what it feels like but who support me, nonetheless, in their own ways. You may not feel there is someone with whom you can talk about this now who understands the potential severity and strength of sadness, but remember that it took me almost a decade to talk about this. I’ll be thinking of you (all of you!) and hoping that the opportunity for a seemingly “inevitable conversation” finds you soon.

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  10. Nancy Ginn

    Thank you for sharing! Not only is it important for you to ask for help and let your parents in, it’s so important to help others in your journey! As a mom, I need to know how to help my own child- every story, every view helps! Thank you for helping me to understand a little more than yesterday!

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  11. Krissy

    You are so very brave. I can only so God for the strength to do the same some day. I’ve tried and am stuck in silence most days. I will rise again. And I will trust again!! Thanks for sharing brave one!!!

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  12. Lory

    you are not alone… i know how hard is to open up, how hard to keep everything inside you, to fake an image of you for the outsiders, and it’s hard to find somebody that understands you, someone who doesn’t judge you, who fully supports you, someone who really loves you and cares for you. it’s so hard…. i think it has never been harder than today….

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  13. T

    This is perfect. I’ve been planning on telling my parents and opening up to get help for some time now. During the past two days, I was talking myself out of it. But I don’t want to waste anymore time. I deserve help and that doesn’t make me a weak person. Thank you Thank you Thank you for sharing. It means the world.

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  14. Angela

    I totally relate with your story.. I hid this so deeply from everyone, including myself, and I totally didn’t understand what was happening to me. I felt trapped in my brain… like a prison cell. How do I explain that to someone? How do I, like you said, preserve my sense of ferocity and having-it-all-together, when I struggle so much with controlling this beast that loomed over me? Reading this made me feel at home. Like you had taken something out of my brain and miraculously wrote it all on paper. It made me feel less alone.. less shameful that I, a friendly, well-loved by those around me, struggles so much with the dreaded hate-to-even-type-it depression. Thank you for writing this so eloquently.

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  15. Kristy M

    Thank you for sharing this story. I just had an eye – opening moment at work yesterday. I’m not hiding my anxiety/depression as well as I thought. It’s not it allowing me to fully do my job. I know I need to seek help but I’m scared. I’ve at least taken the first step and made an appointment with my primary doctor to talk about it. I hope the feeling of failure will soon subside.

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