I used to believe that depression meant lying in bed all day with the covers pulled over my head. Or not going out with friends or smiling during a funny movie scene. Over time, I have come to the realization that depression is more a suppression of feelings.
It becomes more of a stature of trying to hold in your heart. Saying things like “I can do it,” or “No thanks, I don’t need any help.” Slowly, the weight of depression can push down my desires and make me believe I don’t have needs anymore. My voice becomes vacant and far away.
I had my first baby a little over a year ago. There were days when it was too much to handle. I was up at 12 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m…it never ended. I was needed in order to keep this little person alive. My voice would get tight sometimes when I was busy changing a diaper or nursing. I wanted to let out what I was feeling. I remember being tearful, angry, and lost but wanting to keep it at bay. Suppressing my heart sometimes because I thought that would be better for the baby.
How might you lose your own voice? What obstacles come up in your life when you slowly begin putting yourself last? It’s easy to do. Do you do it when your spouse asks what you want for dinner or when you consider canceling childcare because you don’t really “need” it? Do you think, “I’ll be fine. I can just put my head down and get it done.”
Pushing further and further away from the true voice of yourself that might need help, might need to go out alone, might want Chinese food when the whole family wants burgers, and might struggle with hurting yourself because you do not want to let anyone down. That’s depression. A slow, deep, hollow feeling of inadequacy that makes you wonder your worth.
Finally, I started sharing my anxiety and depression with my husband, my therapist, my doctor, my mother, my mentor, and my friends. I shared my fears of not being an adequate mother if I have big feelings, my racing thoughts that would not allow me to sleep, and my shame of being so anxious something would happen to my son. And something began to shift. The shift felt like a boulder being lifted off of my chest. I could breathe, and I knew I wasn’t alone. Was I still scared? Yes. Was I still angry to have help? Yes. But was I alone? Not anymore.
And, if you’ve ever felt this way, you don’t have to be alone anymore either.
Christen Johnson is a therapist at Sage Hill Counseling in Nashville, Tennessee. She spent her post-graduate internship at the Hope Clinic for Women in Nashville where she gained experience working with women in crisis pregnancy situations and with young women and men who struggled with depression, anxiety, relationship issues and personality disorders. She is also trained in Trauma-Focused Behavioral-Cognitive Therapy (TF-BCT).