Depression is never an easy thing to talk about, whether it’s with friends or family. It is something people would rather not bring up. Not speaking up or telling others about depression is something I know all too well.
Although I do not suffer from depression, I know several close family members who do — my mother and my step sister — both people very close to me. They both went through depression and it affected them in different ways.
Before I was born my mother went through a rough divorce with my step sister’s father. It was a year or two before she would meet my father. After my mom divorced, she had to move out of their home and was forced to raise my sister alone in a very small apartment in Ripon. Life was not easy for my mom or my sister.
A lot of the time my mom was, to say the least, frustrated with herself. She took the blame on herself for things that she didn’t have full control over.
My mother believed that she could have made her relationship work. That she could have had a home for my sister instead of an apartment no bigger than a storage unit. These things kept weighing on my mother to the point where my sister began to feel it, even though at the time my sister was only 6 years old. She didn’t fully understand the reason why my mother was acting the way she did.
After my mother met my father, she eventually sought help after some convincing from my father. But no matter how many people she saw. Or how many different forms of treatment she underwent nothing seemed to help.
At some point my mom stopped going altogether to see doctors and the therapist. None could help her deal with her symptoms. And she decided she didn’t want to spend the time or money.
Nothing changed with my mother for at least a few months. One day, one of the windows in my mother’s apartment got shattered by her. She hit it accidentally while she was moving a chair. To get it repaired was a bit pricey. But she didn’t want to leave it broken, too. So my mom decided to learn how to fix it. She knew a person at work who taught her how to switch out glass. (This was before the internet had ASK.com). After a few days and few failed attempts, my mother successfully put in a new window.
But more importantly my mother had discovered a new feeling about herself. She felt proud and she felt accomplished. It was the first time in so long that my mom felt good.
So, she decided to do more work around the house. She started off small, painting rooms, rewiring some lights. That kind of thing. Then she moved to bigger projects like tearing out tile to put in carpet.
The work that she did in the house continued to feed her sense of pride and accomplishment. It wasn’t a way for my mother to cope with her depression. Rather it was her way of overcoming it. This was exactly what she needed to overcome her own demons.
However, while my mother was discovering her own treatment, unbeknownst to my mother, her daughter began to experience her own depression.
After the divorce, my sister saw my mother go through depression and didn’t understand why she changed. Why she always seemed angry or didn’t want to talk to her own child as much. It caused a feeling in my sister to grow and develop. She felt as though she wasn’t good enough for my mother and the reason my mother was always upset was because of her.
It wasn’t that way at all but my mother never told my sister what my mother was going through. So as a young girl, my sister tried to figure it out herself, and arrived at her own conclusions. My sister felt that she wasn’t what my mother wanted.
That’s when my sister changed. She started putting all her effort into school and helping my mother, as a means of proving her worth. My mother thought since she had started working hard around the house, that my sister was doing well at home and school. This was far from it. My mother couldn’t have known, and she never asked.
Years later when my sister was in high school and I was in third grade, I always thought of my sister as a straight A student, who was physically strong and talented and my parents couldn’t have been prouder of.
But problems slowly began to surface from this perfect girl. My sister was constantly if not every day sick in some way. Some days she would skip sleeping altogether and avoid people. My parents tried to take my sister to a doctor but she wouldn’t budge. All they could do was watch as my sister slowly got more and more fragile.
It wasn’t until my sister’s first year of college that she finally snapped. My sister dropped out of college. To my parents’ surprise, she attempted suicide. It was only because my father was home that day that she survived.
She was taken to the hospital where after some tests, they diagnosed her as depressive and put her on suicidal watch. My sister was silent for the first few weeks out of the hospital. I can’t imagine what was going through her head. When my sister turned nineteen she moved out of our house and lived in an apartment. Life didn’t get easier for her. She went through tough jobs with horrible schedules. Three bad relationships and two divorces. My parents always checked up on my sister to see how she was doing. She was just living going to work then home and Repeat.
My sister is now twenty-nine and only now am I seeing things turn around for her. She has a good job, a nice home, but more importantly, she is discovering that feeling my mother had when she began to heal.
Last year our family went to Tahoe and she came with us. There she and my father hiked up a mountain trail. I don’t know what she saw or felt that day. But since then she has been hiking on trails every week. This summer she plans on going on a multi mountain hike.
I asked her why she was doing this and what drove her to do this. She told me that she wants to find herself. She wants to find what she wants beyond the streets of stone and towers of metal. My sister is looking for peace and, I believe, that like my mother, she will find it.
It’s hard to think of your family undergoing hard times. I never knew about my mother and sister’s depression till I was eighteen. I was surprised and upset that I was unaware of my own sister’s pain. How I gave her a hard time some days when we lived together.
I wanted to tell their story for those who don’t want to speak up and for those who have done everything under the sun, yet still can’t find inner solace. This is something that you can conquer that you can beat. Just because others can’t help you doesn’t mean that you can’t help yourself.