Behind Her Smile

If you knew me prior to 2014, you would have thought something along the lines of, “There’s a girl who’s high on life.  A girl who gets it; who is in love with the life she’s living.  She understands what’s really important; has a large family who loves and supports her, a boyfriend who spoils her crazy, an adorable runt of a cat (come on she’s pretty stinkin’ cute!), and she’s pretty healthy and fit.”

You’re assessment would appear to be spot on.

But it was the furthest thing from the truth.

For most of my life, I have been eaten away with stress.  I worked at perfecting a charade so that no one would see the truth.  No one would see the girl who silently cried herself to sleep countless times since childhood.  They wouldn’t see the girl who hated her life so much that she worked herself sick fighting against it.  Nor would they see the look of defeat with each doctors visit as they discussed the ramifications of the stress she was carrying around.

They wouldn’t see the sham for what it was.

Countless doctors; countless tests; countless diagnosis of extreme levels of stress.

I was beating a brick wall with a rubber hammer and it took 31 years for the exhaustion to bring me to my knees.

When I was formally diagnosed with depression in 2016, the few people that were aware of it (which were very few), allowed themselves to assume it was due to our car accident and I didn’t correct them.  It would be impossible for me to explain how I went from the illusion above, to a woman staring down a pill bottle wondering how many it would take to make the pain go away.

It was in the darkest days, the lifeless ones that had be praying tomorrow wouldn’t come, that I decided to stop.  I didn’t want to play the game anymore.  I didn’t want to pretend I had a huge loving and supportive family; I didn’t want to pretend my life was perfect and I was the epitome of health and happiness.

I was tired.

I was scared – terrified really.

And I felt completely and utterly alone.

But I wasn’t.  The first time I caught myself staring down the prescription bottle, a single, “Babe?” coming from the living room startled me from those fatal thoughts.  Vic knew there was something wrong, but not what exactly.  I knew he felt helpless and it only fueled the guilt.  I was hurting the sole person who never left my side.  It was this spectacular, perfectly-imperfect man who saved me – time and time again.  Because his concern had hit an ultimate high, he wouldn’t let me out of his sight for more than a few minutes.  Most times he wouldn’t say anything, but would simply just be with me.  Regardless of what I felt like doing – or not doing – he was right there; cooking, sleeping, staring into space – didn’t matter.  And I know, you may think this would drive you crazy, having someone under foot, but his constant presence is the single only reason I’m here to type this today.

I was in the darkest of places.

I felt defeated.

I felt useless.

I felt as though I was failing in every aspect of my life.

I felt lifeless.

My single daily thought had become, “What the hell is the point?”

It took me months to come up with an answer to that question.  First came the morning I awoke to see Vic sleeping.  My friend; my lover; my partner; my fiance; and my literal lifesaver.  The man who was worrying himself silly over me, lay in blissful slumber.  I knew once he woke, the worry lines would reappear.  The tentativeness would once again be alive and well.  I did that to him.  The man who cooked my sick mother homemade chicken soup when it’s all she could tolerate post-surgery; who held my hand as I seen my parents through sickness after sickness; who cooked, cleaned, and did everything possible to make my life easier as I decided to go back to school (twice); who was at my side every single step of the way through my surgeries and post C care; and who single handedly kept me from cutting my life too short.  It was that day I sought help.

I made the call that morning for a doctors appointment.  I knew myself well enough that if I gave myself any length of time to think, I’d talk myself out of going.  I won’t lie and make it seem like it was a cake walk; I certainly had more in common with the boat in the Perfect Storm film, than that of a romantic comedy, but it is worth every single second.

I never truly understood depression until I began my own journey with it.  I had those moments when I would feel depressed, but never anything close to last year.  It was through regular therapy sessions and constant follow-ups with my doctor that I made it this far.  Having had the episodes with the medication, I wouldn’t allow myself to take anything stronger than Tylenol until I felt I was able to face it again.  Attempting to work through injuries sustained in two car accidents while attending intense physical therapy was hell without any real pain relief.  The pain would get so bad, my blood pressure would sky rocket.  But I couldn’t chance it.

I’ve come a long way in the last year and a half, but I know I still have a long way to go.  Through the help of professionals, I have come to realize that it’s okay to feel the way I do.  They have made me feel that I am justified in my feelings and the need to move forward with only my own personal health in mind – both physical and mental.  They have made me see that I am not a failure, but a woman who became caught up in making excuses for everyone around her.  A woman who is now better equipped to decipher between loving and supportive relationships and toxic ones.

These people have helped me in ways I didn’t even know possible, but I still struggle.  I still have days when the tears fall and I feel defeated, because regardless of what I do or how hard I try, it just isn’t enough.  But now I talk about it.  I don’t pretend to have it all together and I know Vic is here to help me through whatever it is I’m feeling – as are the doctors.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So if you’re ever feeling any of these things, don’t be afraid to reach out.  As cliched as it sounds, there really is help out there.  It may be in the form of a significant other, a friend, or even a stranger.  Whoever it is, allow them to help you continue putting one foot in front of the other.  You may never be able to recapture the life you once had, but think of this as a good thing because that life is what got you here.  Your life can still be fabulous.  It’ll take work, but it’ll be worth it – I promise.

And let’s remember, just because you see someones smile, doesn’t mean there isn’t a raging battle they’re fighting on the inside.  Be kind and let’s work to stop the judgements.


One thought on “Behind Her Smile

  1. Susan says:

    You are very brave to air out your laundry for everyone to see. Vic is a wonderful person to love and support you through the unknown. I had the chance to know him in childhood. He was raised by a strong woman who taught him to be the person he is today. I’m thrilled you have each other.

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