One night after I exploded at one of the boys for a completely ridiculous and uncalled for reason, Erin told me that the family felt like they had to walk on eggshells around me. Her words were the most painful and eye-opening she has ever spoken to me. In that moment, I felt like a complete and utter failure to my family. In no way did I deserve all the love and support they had given me and I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. To add to my self-flagellation, this occurred near the end of my time at the Mood and Anxiety Clinic at the University. With months of group and one-on-one therapy behind me, I should have my act together, I told myself.
There was a time when being told that I made my family walk on eggshells would have caused me to become defensive, blame others and then turn on myself, convinced that I really was the selfish monster I assumed people believed I was. Guilt and remorse still wash over me at times for the way I have acted over the last ten years and in that moment I feel broken and ashamed for what I have put my family through. Not that I set out to act this way; malicious and vindictive behaviors are not something that live inside me. Until Erin said something, I had thought I was doing much better, but that is the thing with depression, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
When I looked back through my notebooks and journal in preparation for this essay, extremely dark and scary feelings bubbled to the surface. I can’t describe what it feels like to know, unequivocally, that you’ve caused your family pain. I chose not to dwell on the darkness though. Instead, I looked for what could be learned and how I could better myself. For the first time I felt I was on stable ground and thus able to accept responsibility for my actions without berating myself for days on end. I am working hard to keep an open dialogue as to how I am feeling and not climb into my shell and shut down. These are important steps to repairing the trust and other damage that has happened because of my depression.
As painful as it was to hear, I am thankful that Erin said something. It never occurred to me that my family could feel that way, though looking back it is pretty clear as to why they would. Communication is key in all relationships, but especially with those who have depression, or a loved one with depression. If we don’t talk and conversely don’t listen then no progress will be made towards a better life.