My sister died last week. She was my best friend, the only person who was always there for me throughout my life, and my biggest advocate. Her sudden passing has hit me extremely hard, and has understandably had me on the verge of tragedy induced depression ever since.
It also made me realize that I suffered from depression as a child, teen, and young adult.
Since we are talking about the seventies and early eighties my depression was undiagnosed, mocked, derided, and chalked up to any number of other factors.
But I know this feeling I have now. I know it well.
I remember it from wandering around the neighborhood as an 11 year old because I didn’t really want to go home. I remember the anger it produced that got me ejected from back to back to back recreation league basketball games. I remember the feeling of not being able to *do* anything because I was so far in a bad place in my head that I was all but paralyzed.
Back then the treatment I got was “stop being such a baby“, “snap out of it”, and abandonment.
Want to know why I had such a high iq but failed school? Depression. Want to know why I drank vodka at 12? Depression. Why I over-ate, was anti-social, was “always negative” etc…. It all seems so simple now.
I was told to stop frowning, to cheer up, to stop being such a drag. If any of you out there have ever suffered from depression this probably sounds all too familiar; and you know that snapping out of it is not an option.
Especially if you are an 11 year old boy without treatment, or a dad, a stable family, or hell anyone looking out for you at all for days at a time.
Luckily, I somehow mostly outgrew my depression. Looking back now, though I can see it was always there, right under the surface, ready to disrail my life at any moment. While I mostly had this “undercover depression” under control for the majority of my adult life I did struggle with alcohol abuse intermittently. My sister and I shared this struggle.
My sister was the opposite of me in every other way. She was confident, outgoing, friendly, social, and outwardly very happy.
Doing an honest self inventory of myself now has me wondering about her. Was she depressed too? Did hers start later in life, or was she carrying it around with her since we were kids like I did? Did she develop full blown depression in the time since I moved away and wasn’t in touch as much?
I’ll really never know.
But I know I loved her and she loved me.
In her passing she is still teaching me things, and like many things she taught me previously, these lessons hurt. But the truth often does.
I’m still going through the depression that comes along with the passing of a close loved one, but I know I’ll get back to myself at some point. Even if things will never be the same again.
In memorial of someone that always helped other people her whole life, if you are reading this and you know a young person that you suspect might be struggling with depression do something to help.
It can be low key, it does not have to be a grand gesture.
Send them a video of something uplifting or funny, tell them they can always call you just to talk, or just ask them if they want to take a walk with you. Just be there for them.
Just don’t tell them to snap out of it. Please.