You know when you put your best foot forward to make it look like you have yourself together? We all do it. Resumes, interviews, high school reunions, first dates, new friends. Sometimes it’s about extra makeup and a new outfit. Sometimes it’s about highlighting an accomplishment or talking about an amazing trip overseas.
And sometimes it’s about plastering a smile on your face when all you want to do is cry.
I grew up in a household that, despite all statements to the contrary, existed on appearances. My brother and I were presented as perfect children. Good grades, active in sports and extra curricular activities. I married the perfect boy and my brother married the perfect girl. I think my parents struggled being working class in an upper class environment, and they compensated by presenting the perfect picture. Perfect marriage, perfect kids, a house, the whole bit.
The reality was that my grandmother (and probably her mother before her and her mother before her for as far back as we could go) passed to my mother the genetic predisposition to depression. I knew my grandmother was going to therapy and taking anti-depressants before I even understood what that all meant. It was always sort of whispered about. Looking back now I can see the untreated depression in my mother through most of my adolescence. Only since I’ve moved out and away from home have my dad and I (and my brother and I) talked about my mom and and her treatment needs. For awhile it was so bad she was pretty much housebound except when absolutely necessary for work and to babysit my nephew. My dad told me once on the phone my mother’s doctor used the diagnosis “manic-depressive” although to be honest I don’t see much mania and a lot more depressed when it comes to my mom.
It took me a long time to accept that I’d inherited this tendency. The anxiety has always been a part of my life, but I’d managed to power my way through almost any situation that triggered it, including a trip to Europe for five weeks with 40 people I didn’t know before the trip. But the depression hit like a brick after the twins were born. I’ve talked here before about all of it. I’ve talked about weaning off of the meds right before we had intended to do the FET that ultimately failed once we actually got off the ground with it over a year later. Weaning felt right, and good, and I really enjoyed the idea that I was taking control of my life both by getting on the meds, and by getting rid of the meds.
Then the FET came and went, and failed in spectacular fashion, not by not working, but by giving me hope only to rip it from me. That FET almost destroyed me. And my family. It took a long time to get to a point where H and I could even speak to each other about anything that wasn’t how to manage the day to day of meeting the twins’ needs. Work went to hell in a handbasket. I got pregnant again, only to have that pregnancy fall apart almost as soon as it happened. My twins turned five and started school.
And through it all I managed to muster up a smile and power through. Appear as if I had it all under control.
And I could feel the ground crumbling beneath me. It was coming out in small tremors – yelling more at the kids for doing things that kids do; being angry at everyday inconveniences; losing my sense of worthiness and being unable to find my center again. Feeling like I don’t really like myself much.
I debated writing this post. Because it’s hard to put out there that I don’t quite have my head above water right now. But NOT writing about it is dishonest. Because while I’m not drowning, I’m certainly not swimming right now either. I’m gathering my resources, I promise. “Rallying the troops” as my best friends call it.
I sat down to write this hoping that by simply putting it out there I’d be able to relieve some of the pressure to make things seem perfect, especially on a month when I’ve committed to posting every day. But also, I’ve learned that depression, like infertility, like miscarriage, is something that nobody talks about but so many people are dealing with. Only when someone puts a toe in the water and admits to going through it do we discover just how not alone we are in our struggles.
So there it is. Shedding appearances.