“I wear a hearing aid. Some people have glasses. Some people have depression. Everybody has something.” — Seattle Seahawks fullback and Super Bowl winner Derrick Coleman
By all standard measurements, I am a successful person. I graduated 6th in my class in law school. I’ve worked at two top law firms and two law departments in large corporations. I’ve been married to the same wonderful man for almost 30 years. I have two healthy, well-adjusted children. I own two homes, one on a lake.
So why do I get depressed? Sometimes I feel both happy and depressed at the same time. It doesn’t make sense.
When I was a kid, my dad would yell at me when I felt sad and say “count your blessings!” Not a lot of sympathy there. To him, being depressed meant I was being weak or lazy. But I’ve never been weak or lazy. (Ok, sometimes I’m lazy, but only when I deserve to be).
Lorraine Bracco (who played Tony Soprano’s therapist, Dr. Melfi, on the Sopranos) describes depression this way: “it’s like a low-grade fever. We’ve been told to buck up and just do it, but sometimes that’s not possible.”
I’m not an expert on depression. But I do know what it feels like. When people commit suicide, I can understand why they do it. Fortunately, my religion and my children keep me from doing it. I don’t want my children to live with the stigma of a mother who committed suicide. And I don’t want to piss off God because I’m hoping there’s a better place after this life. As John Prine wrote in his song Angels from Montgomery: “just give me one thing that I can hold on to. To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.”
I have a lot of company– many successful people, especially creative people, suffer from depression. I tried to make a list but it got too long to put on this blog. To name just a few: John Adams (second U.S. President), Halle Berry, Jon Bon Jovi, Terry Bradshaw, Johnny Carson, Thomas Edison, Harrison Ford and John Hamm. I never got past the letter H on the list!
I’ve been told that my mother suffered from a terrible postpartum depression after my second oldest brother was born. My two brothers were born 11 months apart, so it’s understandable. But in the 1950’s, not only was there no such thing as postpartum depression as a diagnosis, but there was no medicine to help. People just suffered. I can imagine my dad wasn’t much help either.
Fortunately things are much better now. But there still seems to be a lack of understanding by others and a feeling of shame by those who suffer from depression (at least for me). I know I am not weak or lazy, but I can’t understand why I can’t swim in the toxic soup when others can. Who knows? Maybe other people drink or take drugs to survive. That’s not the way I want to live.