Last week saw the publication date for my book, Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes, which means it is now in bookstores (theoretically anyway).
So I wanted to reflect on why I wrote it …
I’m a tad over hearing about how depression and other mood disorders are yuppie diseases for folks with the time and resources to ruminate and obsess. I could do without all the advice on how to transform my thoughts into happy campers, even as I try every mindfulness strategy and cognitive-behavioral trick in the book. And I’d like to, one day, be able to tell family and friends the truth when they ask the predicable question, “How are you?”
We need to understand something important.
It killed my godmother — my mom’s younger sister — at the tender age of 43. It kills approximately 800,000 people across the globe every year. Suicide takes more lives than traffic accidents, lung disease, and AIDs, and it is the second leading cause of death in females aged 15 to 40. By 2020, depression is expected to be the second most debilitating disease worldwide.
But if you don’t care about those stats, let me tell you this: Depression nearly killed me. For two years after the birth of my youngest child, I was a suicidal mess. The worst part about it? Unlike a cancer victim, I had to keep it all to myself. I wasn’t able to utter a word to the outside world.
Because I had already been judged plenty.
Well-intentioned people said I wasn’t eating organically, that I wasn’t doing the right yoga, that I should be praying harder, and that my meditation attempts were lame. They told me to get over my childhood crap and move on, to buck up like the rest of the population. So I continued to fall into my cereal bowl every morning, to carry with me a paper bag for imminent panic attacks, to lock myself and my kids into the restroom of a Starbucks until my meltdown subsided, and to pull over onto the side of the road whenever I started to shake.
After trying 23 medication combinations, working with 7 psychiatrists, participating in two inpatient hospital psychiatric programs, and attempting every alternative therapy out there, I made a bargain with God.
“I will dedicate the rest of my life to helping people who suffer from mood disorders,” I promised, “if I ever wake up and want to be alive.”
Miraculously that day did come… the morning I woke up and thought about coffee.
So here I am. With my mission: to educate folks about mental illness and to offer support to those who, like myself, suffer from mood disorders.
So that others might find a seed of hope in my story, and be able to hang on for one day longer. So that anyone who struggles with anxiety or depression–even in the slightest way–might find a companion in me, some consolation in the incredibly personal details of my story, and a bit of hope to lighten and often dark and lonely place.
It’s about my end of the bargain.