Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
How am I? I always say I'm fine.
Yet I wake up each morning and force myself out of bed to get through another day.
I feel as if I'm wearing a suit made of lead and I have to use all my strength to keep taking the next step – to wake the kids up, to smile and kiss them good morning, to pack their bags for school.
Then I sit down and rest so I can summon up more strength to get myself to go to work. Some days it takes me just a few minutes, some days it takes an hour. Other days I have a panic attack and can't do it at all.
I'm not stressed, or overworked, or underappreciated. However, none of this matters. Even the easy things are hard to do when you are wearing a leaden suit.
People talk to me and I respond, but my smile takes effort. My muscles pull hard to make it happen. The words in my mouth feel off, like a movie soundtrack that's slightly lagging.
One step at a time, I make it through the day. At home I struggle to act normal, to ask about everyone's day and try to remember mine. My reactions must be appropriate enough because no one seems to notice.
After all that needs doing is done, I lie down for the rest of the evening because "Mommy's tired." Some nights I am asleep before the children.
I'm smart enough to recognize that the time of year affects me. Winter is when I bottom out. But I have to admit that even during other times of the year, I often just feel "less bad." My life feels as if it has been dimmed. Colours are muted, pleasure is dulled and fleeting.
I don't want to feel this disconnected. I've been trying to "get better" for years.
Multiple combinations of drugs, different therapists, sun lamps … these are the bandages holding me together while I walk through life with a giant hole in my centre. I'm physically and mentally tired. Worst of all, I'm tired in my soul.
Considering that I have loved ones who were diagnosed with cancer this year, I should be thankful for my life and my own good health. Instead, I feel cheated. I am the one who wants to die – why can't it be me hosting the lethal mutating cells?
How can I tell my family that I am sick when they are the ones facing "real" illnesses? How can I tell my husband I want to die when that would leave him alone to raise our boys?
Instead, I keep all the torment inside and my body aches. I'm not hungry but I can't stop eating. I'm touchy and quick-tempered. I cringe and sigh when people want to talk because it takes so much effort.
I desperately hug and kiss my children. I smell their hair and rub their backs just to feel their small bodies under my hands.
I would say that they are my reason for living, but I don't think I'm living any more, merely existing. They are the reason I can't kill myself. I feel trapped.
I know that I sound like a monster as I put this down on paper. I know that it is heartless and cruel to wish a mother's death upon my children.
I am not a callous and unfeeling person, and that is why I answer "I'm fine." In reality, I'm depressed.
For the sake of my family, for the sake of me, I take myself to the doctor again.
As is her modus operandi, my wonder doc immediately gets me sorted out. With a couple of medication adjustments and something off-label, the change is remarkable. I can answer the phone now. This sounds minor, but it's not. It means I now have the energy to face the unexpected, to accept an invitation and meet for lunch.
I return to society. I have energy for the first time in a very long time.
At first I feel manic and can't sleep, but slowly my body adjusts and I realize this is how "normal" people must feel. It's like the first time you get glasses and realize that the blurry world actually has details. Finally you can see the leaves on the trees.
This will sound insane to anyone who knows me, but I am now a morning person. Suddenly, the morning is my favourite time of day. I am appreciating the peacefulness of the house before anyone else is awake. I am going for walks. I am writing.
Spring arrives, and today the sun and I are shining together.
Do I still have depression? Yes. I will fight this fight my entire life. But I'm no longer depressed; I'm no longer suffering.
I promise to savour my "right now" because I don't know how long it will last. All I know is that, walking in to work today, I'm looking forward to someone asking me how I am. I can't wait to tell them the truth.
I am fine.
Stephanie Reidy lives in Halifax.