I am not talking about feeling a bit blue or down for a day or two. I`m talking about soul-sucking living death, which is what major depression is for me.
I experienced my first real taste of my illness when I was 14. I grew up in a home that wasn’t comfortable with emotions. My dad was either angry or distant. My mom took on the role sad victim/angel/available parent.
My eldest siblings died of the genetic disease cystic fibrosis on either side of my unplanned arrival. I don`t know about how much that influenced me in vitro or during the my earliest days, but I`m sure it wasn’t a sunny and light environment.
The house I grew up in was dark a lot of the time. Not physically, but the glass was not half full. There was a sense of eminent doom and that the world was not a safe place. The only security came through bank accounts and hoarding. Listening to CBC Radio daylong didn’t help this less than optomistic outlook!
Things got worse for me after we were in a serious car accident when I was eight.
My Dad was driving our car and towing our tent trailer loaded with freshly picked fruit we had just bought in the Okanagon.
He came around a corner on the Hope-Princeton highway to find a wall of cars. . A drunk was turning around on the highway. From what I`ve been told, the option was a head-on collision or the ditch. He headed for the gravel shoulder and hit the brakes.
That accident lead to summer long hospitalizations for my mom and my second eldest brother.
Thankfully, they both recovered. My Mom always had a “gimped,” right arm and my brother has an amazing scar hidden under what`s left of his hair.
However, the accident further confirmed my view of the world as a scary, uncertain place. In those times, nobody sought counselling or emotional healing after traumatic events or deaths – things beyond our control.
If you regained physical function and made it home from the hospital, you were considered “healed.”
I remember everyone, from neighbours to people we barely knew – helping in all kinds of ways. They had me come over to their home first thing on school days, so I could have my hair braided and eat breakfasts of white toast slathered in butter.
But, nobody addressed the issue of having your world badly shaken at such an early age.
I was always an anxious and sensitive kid. I remember being nervous about public reading and sweating excessively when I felt self-concious at school.
My parents (and most people) wouldn`t have known how to deal with this.
There wasn`t any understanding or patience for sensitivity and emotion.
That was a luxury reserved for precious, rich people, who had time and financial protection from the everyday demands of life
My family didn’t fit into that category.
The onset of puberty was the trigger for my first bout with depression.
Thirty years later, I still live in fear of the beast, but I have and am still learning coping strategies to help manage my illness.
I will share these in my next column.