I’m a little ashamed to admit how long it’s taken me to write this article. I’m even more ashamed to admit that I’m too scared to tell you the whole story, but I promise you that everything I write will be the whole truth.
The last few months have been difficult. I am generally a very upbeat person. Without sounding too conceited, the term, “life of the party” isn’t a completely off base way to describe me. I’ve very publicly talked about how much I love to have fun and make people smile. That’s me. But it hasn’t always been.
The ag, especially dairy, community has been rocked recently with the news of yet another dairy farmer taking his life. People are shocked, confused, and hurt. It’s hard to understand where someone’s mind is in the midst of depression, and it’s even harder to believe that those close to him couldn’t see it.
But that’s the problem with depression. It’s so personal and internalized that it can literally affect anyone. They couldn’t see it because he didn’t want them to. Hiding depression isn’t as hard as you think, but getting over it is.
I was depressed for a long time. It’s kind of embarrassing. I’ve had a good life. I’ve always had what I needed and most of what I wanted. I have a family who loves me and friends who care. But depression isn’t about what makes you depressed; the true monster lies in once you get there.
No matter where or how it starts, it spirals quickly into a dark place where your own mind is the enemy. It starts with the feeling that no one understands and quickly progresses into thinking that no one cares.
Then, all of a sudden, everything feels like your fault. Even things you have no control over, like the weather, and you’re failing at everything. From there, it’s not that far of a jump to thinking that you’re the problem. The thought that no one would even notice if you weren’t there is always in the back of your mind.
Then, the scariest leap, is the thought that the world around you would actually be better if you weren’t in it. You’ve become a burden and even your family’s life would be better without you. That was hard to type because I’ve felt that. And I know that that’s where things get really dark.
Watch out for each other
I can’t keep reading these obituaries. I don’t want to remember that feeling, and I can’t go back. I’m not an expert, but without someone explicitly telling you, “I am depressed,” there are signs.
Mood swings — the mood swings are legit. One day, I was completely me — singing at the top of my lungs, wearing bright pink sunglasses, and going along with all of the inside jokes.
The next, I was a completely different person. I’d seek jobs where I didn’t have to be around people and say things like, “Does it really matter?” or “I’ll probably just screw it up anyway.” On those days, even a simple smile or “Good morning” was impossible to conjure.
Social media can be an indicator. If someone posts regularly, then all of a sudden stops, something’s wrong. I used to post things like, “I’m failing at everything today” or simply, “Life sucks.” Memories from those years pop up now in my Timehop app, and I cringe.
Avoiding obligations, whether social or professional, can be a tip off. I used to feel like such an outsider in my own family. I’d avoid every family function because I was “tired” or “had work to do.”
Then, I would never believe my mom when she’d say, “Everyone was asking where you were today.”
What did they care? I wasn’t worth that.
The hardest part is that you can’t really help someone who’s depressed unless they’re willing to help themselves. You can let them know that you’re there, that you’ve noticed a change and are willing to help or listen if they need you.
If they pop into your thoughts throughout the day, tell them. Send a text, a Facebook message, or a silly Snapchat video. I used to spend hours analyzing why random friends from my past had sent me a message all of a sudden.
Sometimes, just knowing that they thought of me was enough to turn a bad day into a less bad day. Most people assume others like them until proven otherwise, but when you’re depressed you assume the opposite. To this day, it’s still a little hard for me to use the word “friend.”
I remember always feeling left out, but I was the one pushing people away. I didn’t want to be all alone, but I felt like I wasn’t worth anyone’s time. It’s scary to admit that I still feel that some days.
I still find myself feeling like I’m not good enough. Every compliment is uncomfortably deflected via humor or good, old-fashioned avoidance. I’m so unwilling to share my successes with others because I don’t feel worth the praise, but I’m always willing to take 100 percent of the blame.
I know how deep that feeling can take you, and I hate knowing that others feel that, too.
If this is you, if you feel this, find me. Better yet, find a professional, and let them help you. You may not believe it now, because I didn’t then, but you matter to more people than you’ll ever know.