Living with Depression



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My husband has been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Emotional Detachment Disorder.

We have tried to face these illnesses as a team, putting up a united front.

However, when my six year old son tells me that he thinks “no one with Depression should be allowed to have kids,” I struggle to stay on the team.

Let me put this as honest as I possibly can, for those of you who might be in a similar position to me: Being with someone with a mental illnesses is fucking hard work.

My husband and I have described his depression as the third person in our marriage, the mistress who clothes herself in darkness to ravish him and tear us apart. Her scent saturates our lives, and lingers like a rancid perfume over dinner, family gatherings, and trips to the park.

How am I supposed to live with this “other woman” ever-present in our marriage? Well, I tried to look online for advice and support for people who are married to someone with a mental illness.

You know what I found? Article, after article, after article, addressing how one can and should support their spouse: what to do, how to create a healthy space for them, what to look-out for, how to get him/her help, each word oozing with sympathy for the person who has the illness.

But, what about those of us who are trying to hold everything together in the midst of the chaos, sadness, depression, and rage?

Even when an article does touch-on what a caregiver can do to take care of him/herself, it inevitably ties it all up by saying that these tips for self-care will make you better at supporting your loved one.

Why can’t it just be about me and my well-being?

Does EVERYTHING have to centre around him and his well-being – even my own health?

I understand that my husband needs support, patience, understanding, and love. Really, I do.

But, so do I.

I have my own battles, struggles, illnesses, and pain.

The difference? He can count on me to be there for him every time, but I can’t count on him to be there for me. I know it’s the illness – he can’t help it.

I try to stay on his team regardless. In sickness and in health.

But, what is one to do when their child tells them, repeatedly, that he has been “trying to get Dad out of the house for years because he makes everything horrible”?

It is incredibly difficult to stay on the team in these moments.

It is hard. It is tiring. It drains me. It hurts.

And, despite how much I like to believe it, the truth is – I am not superwoman.

Maybe there is a lack of information and support out there for people like me because guilt holds us back from talking candidly about our struggles to love someone with a mental illness. We feel guilty about being frustrated, annoyed, and angry; and for thinking (more than once) about leaving. We don’t want to sound harsh, or seem like we don’t understand or care.

So, we suffer in silence.

I think it’s about time we work on removing the stigma associated with being a caregiver to someone with mental illness. We are not perfect. We have our own struggles. We want to quit sometimes. We feel resentment and anger. We feel alone. And none of these feelings mean that we don’t care, that we are heartless, selfish, or churlish.

It means that we are human.

To all of you out there who are doing your best to “stay on the team,” despite feeling exhausted, angry, alone, or judged:

I hear you. I see you. I am here for you.

Living with depression is not easy, and it’s okay to say so. It’s okay to want to walk away sometimes. It’s okay to want an easier life. It’s okay to cry and be angry.

Your feelings, your needs, your safety, and your well-being are just as valid as the person with the illness.

Prioritize yourself.



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When I was a Christian it was easy to do things to help others in a way that felt very monumental; after all, I was doing God’s work. Believing yourself to be a direct conduit between God and others is pretty major.

I walked in, what Christians like to call, “authority.” I had the authority of God with me. What I did, what I said, it was greater than myself, it was done with a believed God-given authority.

The belief that I was part of something bigger, that I had a “calling,” and that I was doing “God’s work,” gave me the confidence, or the imagined authority, to get involved in situations and in people’s lives that could seem, and does seem to me now, to be intrusive.

One thing I realized many years ago, when I first became an atheist, was how Christians use the idea of prayer as a free ticket to pry into people’s lives, and make assumptions.

I was taught to “pray with authority,” even though you know that you can’t tell God what to do. Part of being a responsible pray-er was to be as specific as possible. Therefore, it was important to know specific details about people’s lives and struggles, in order to pray for what was needed with more authority.

One thing that has not changed for me since becoming an atheist, is my love and care for people. I still want to do what I can to help those around me live their best lives. I like helping and supporting people. I like being able to celebrate with them, or be there when they need a helping hand. But, this is much harder to do without this sense of “authority” behind me, without a feeling that I’m doing God’s work, and therefore am infallible.

I know better. I know and have witnessed how much harm can be done by those who try to help, but are not professionally equipped or trained to do so. I have experienced how “the power of God” has been an insufficient tool to deal effectively with complicated situations. The truth is, the “authority” under which Christians operate is dangerous because it gives the believer a sense of entitlement as well as a false idea of ones ability.

But, as I was trying to drift off to sleep tonight, I was missing this feeling of authority and wondering how things might be different if I still felt as though I had authority. Could I find somewhere else from which a sense of authority could be plucked? Can the authority to assume I have the answers to someone’s problem, or am a solution to their struggles be found in my humanity? Separated from a celestial being or deity?

As I finish up, I will be drifting off to sleep thinking about this: Can I conjure a similar feeling or level authority from the idea that who I am as a human gives me the authority needed to help who you are as a person, not because some God exists and says so, but because my humanity can reach out to yours and find common ground?

The Best of Times/The Worst of Times


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I frequently have dreams that place me in various times and places of my “previous lives” with people I haven’t seen for years.

There was, what is now, a short period of my life that has had an enormous impact on me. By the amount of emotional and mental baggage it has left, you would think it spanned more than 15 years, when, in reality, it was around 5.

Spanning the years between (roughly) 2001-2007, I lived an incredibly exhilarating and intense life that left me feeling burnt-out, beat-down, and deflated. Though, not right away. Some of this settled-in over the years as I reflected on the life that I have lived, the experiences I had, and how horribly underprepared and unqualified I was for so many moments I found myself living.

I’m going to attempt to unravel this time of my life that has kept me tied in knots for over 15 years now.

This is me just putting it out there and starting the process for myself.

Watch this space.

That Space in My Head


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I used to walk a lot. When I lived in Toronto, I walked everywhere, all the time.

I loved walking very early in the morning, or later at night – things change then. The city is different.

I would listen to music and play through a million different worlds in my head.

I never realized, until now, that this is where I have lived for most of my life – in my head.

However, as the pressures of adult life increases and presses in on me, I have had to vacate my head living space, to make room for lists of things for which I am responsible.

Despite this, I continue to fight to try and find my way back to that place – where daydreams are vivid and there are a million possibilities just waiting for my next step to play out.

My brain has become stagnant. It doesn’t write anymore. It doesn’t play anymore. It doesn’t create anymore.

Even dreaming takes work these days. It used to be as real and as constant as each breath.

I have been struggling to figure out what I want my life to be. I thought that I was trying to figure out who I am, what I want, etc. but, I am beginning to wonder if I’m really just searching for dreams.

Where do dreams exist?

Do they live in music? In movies, books, or television?

Do dreams begin to fade as you get older?

I enjoy being a dreamer – I love living in a land where anything is possible, where the stories are live and full of adventure, fear, love, wonder, and hope.

Music brings me to that place.

“Be the hand of a hopeful stranger / You’re scared but you’re strong enough / Be the light in the dark of this danger / ‘Til the sun comes up” (A Safe Place to Land, Bareilles/McKenna)

“I’ve been twisting and turning / In a space that’s too small / I’ve been drawing the line and watching it fall / You’ve been closing me in, closing the space in my heart / Watching us fading and watching it all fall apart” (The Pieces Don’t Fit Anymore, Brammer/Robson/Catchpole)

“When you’re walking downtown / Do you wish I was there? / Do you wish it was me? / With the windows clear and the mannequin’s eyes / Do they all look like mine?” (Come Pick Me Up, Adams / Alston)

“I’m down I’m down on my knees I’m begging for all your sympathy / But you (I’m just an illusion) you don’t seem to care . . . You humble people everywhere (I don’t mean to hurt you)” (Time, Kreviazuk, Wattenberg, Maida)

I walked down our street at 1:30am this morning and I dreamt. I breathed, I ran, I soaked-up the diamond snow and I began to make some space in my mind to rent it to myself occasionally until I can completely renovate and move back up there.

These are the Times


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Sometimes I get lost in nostalgia. Today is one of those days.

I lived in Toronto for 11 years in two different time periods. There was pre-New Zealand and post-New Zealand and the experiences are vastly different from one another.

This morning I find myself in deep reflection, once again, on my time there pre-New Zealand. This was an intense time full of deep relationships, friendships, emotions, highs, lows, struggles and heart aches.

During this time I led a reflection activity for a group of young people using Billy Joel’s song “This is the Time,” encouraging them to make the most of their young days because they would not last forever. I didn’t realize how true these lyrics would become for me. I truly thought that this was a time that would last forever; at least for me.

Watch on YouTube: This is the Time

As I sit here writing this, listening to these lyrics again, I am almost surprised by how much things have changed. I was certain that my life was going to continue-on in the same manner, that I would be surrounded by the same people, doing the same things, for the rest of my days.

But, everything has changed.

There are beliefs, lifestyles, locations and people long-gone that I thought I would never leave, or leave behind.

Despite the fact that I was encouraging a group of young people to be mindful of their current situation, that it would not last forever, I did not seem to grasp this reality for myself.

There is one truth I know in life – things will change. I miss my friends, I miss the city and sometimes I even miss some of the experiences. I never thought I would be sitting here, miles away, having not spoken to most of these friends for many years, worlds apart from one another, living completely different lives.

In-between us now sits the large ocean called “Life,” and it seems impossible to cross.

“Sometimes it’s so easy
To let a day slip on by…”


Remember What You Love to Do


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It’s so easy to get sucked-into the stresses of life and lose-track of the things you enjoy. I love to write, but I tell myself that I have to do all the other “important” things first before I can focus on the things I enjoy, and then more often than not, never get-around to doing what I love. I do not stop to take time for myself.

I am currently taking 3 condensed university courses and struggling just to keep-up. Not to mention the fact that I have a precocious 4 year old who is keeping me on my toes.

On my desk there sits a daily calendar that offers vibrant, artistic, inspirational quotes. I was underwhelmed by today’s message, until I glanced-over to it while stressing about all that I had to do and all that I have been unable to do, and realized that its message was one I desperately needed to read: “Remember what you love to do.”

Remember what you love to do.

Don’t get lost in all the stress. Don’t fill your day with only that which has to be done, but take time to do something that you want to do – something you enjoy. Don’t forget to do what you love to do.

And, I love to write.

Yes, there are assignments, tests, quizzes, books to read, papers to write, rooms to be tidied, chores to be done…

But, in all of these things, I should never forget what I love to do – because, if I do that, I forget myself.

We all have responsibilities, chores, tasks and maybe even deadlines, but it is so important to not allow these things to become who we are. They are not more important than taking the time to do something we enjoy, to express ourselves and allow ourselves to rest and to be renewed.

Therefore, even though this is just a little note, I sat still and allowed myself to write before running-off to fulfill my next responsibility and in so doing, discovered that taking 5 minutes for myself not only allows me to remember what I love to do, it also reminds me to love who I am and to be kind to myself.

Remember what you love to do.

Poem – May 16, 1998 (17 yrs old)


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She lies on her floor writing
for no one but herself.

She does not know who she is
there is not a soul who can tell her.

They confuse her more and
her spirit.

Hearts she is supposed to have
to handle one has been hard enough.

Will rescue her and help her to surface?
is her question for everything.

By everyone known and unknown
by no one but herself.

By poetry that gets her nowhere


The Thorn in Her Side – A Poem


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I spent some time reading-through two of my old journals tonight. I found a journal entry from December 4, 2001 that piqued my interest. Once again, it reminds me of something I could have written yesterday, because of how familiar it is and how applicable to my current state:

December 4, 2001 (21 yrs old)

Sometimes when I sit down to write in my journal it is very difficult to know what to write and where to begin. I am sure that my journals are some of the most strange, inconsistent journal writings ever recorded. But, it serves its purpose for me.

I thought that this entry was particularly interesting, given the fact that I had begun this evening’s readings with a few poems in a previous journal that are very raw and unpolished.

In my previous post, I commented that I was going to start with bones – bare, naked and vulnerable, and this poem is just that.

NOTE: This poem could be triggering to those who have experienced the trauma of sexual abuse – if you are concerned for yourself, please do not read further.



The Thorn in Her Side _- June 12, 1999 (18 yrs old)

A little girl,
Unsure and frightened.
Unknowing and trusting
Of those around her.
They are older and wiser
And she should be able to
Trust them.

One night
A friend
Took advantage
Of that small
Stripped her of innocence.
She stood naked for the entire
World to see.

She felt it was wrong,
But did not know
What do do
What was happening?

Ashamed of letting her
Brother hear.
What if he knew?
He would tell and she would be
In trouble.

Closing her eyes
She attempts sleep
But she feels
And sleep won’t come.

Curling into a fetal position
For the safety of her mother
She hears herself
Yet knows that she makes no sound.

As the tears stream down her
Rosy cheeks
Soaking the pillow where
They land
She eventually drifts away into
A deep

When she wakes the next morning
She remembers it as a
Haunting dream
And shoves it –
To the back of her mind.

But the seed had been
And it would soon become a huge
In her side.

Authentically Me – Dec. 1998


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When you are someone who journals, you have the great advantage of being able to go-back and answer that nagging question: Was I always like this?

I have begun exploring my old journals and while there are many in this world who would say that I am still a baby, a mere 37 years young, I believe that there is a wealth of information and experience to be mined from within their covers.

When I was eighteen years old, I felt like I was so old and so mature. There are valid reasons for this because, by my eighteenth year I had already lived what felt like several lifetimes and been-through an incredible amount of unusual and phantasmagorical life-experiences.

The following journal excerpt is from December 17, 1998 and is the very first entry in a new journal. It is incredible for me to read because it sounds like something I could have written last year.

As I explore my journals, I will be sharing excerpts that I find interesting. They will be in original form, non-edited and raw. One day I will put more meat to the content, but for now, I start with the bones.

Dec. 17, 1998

Sometimes I worry about my sanity. I am terribly confused. I no longer know what I believe in, what I like and dislike and very plainly, who I am. I find myself liking things and not liking things on the basis of the opinions of others. I also find myself not liking things just because they are liked and popular. I feel that if I like something that is popular I am saying that I am a crowd follower and cannot form my own opinions. I do not know how, but I have to discover myself again and find out who I really am. Unfortunately, I feel as though I have to hit absolute bottom before I can. It is too easy right now to simply ignore things and pretend things are alright. I have to feel, believe and know that it is absolutely necessary that I find myself.


Wow, kid.

The idea that, at eighteen, I felt that I had to try and “discover myself again,” boggles the mind. I see eighteen year old’s now and they are like babies, so young, innocent, and unaware. I thought I was a “worldly” eighteen year old, but I didn’t know jack. I was a baby like them once; I just didn’t know it.

They say that ‘hindsight is 20-20,’ and this entry is an obvious red flag to me knowing now that it would be a mere few months later that I would overdose on pills in an attempt to find relief from all of these troublesome thoughts and feelings.

Like I said, I was naïve. I knew nothing of what was yet to come and had a flimsy grasp, at best, on all that had been.

Nonetheless, there is a beautiful trait that pokes through the mess – and that is the constant intent to be genuine. I do not now, nor have I ever, wished to pretend that I am somebody I am not.

“I must keep my own style & go on in my own way; and though I may never succeed again in that, I am convinced that I should totally fail in any other” (Jane Austen, Jane Austen’s Letters).

The yearning for authentic sincerity that I often wore like an inconvenient abnormality, has been rubbed by the intimate hands of time and is showing itself as one of my most beautiful strengths.

An Unholy Confession


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She knelt down at the bench that was drenched with the tears and prayers of all those who had come before her. This was a seat that was not meant for resting, but for wrestling. Sinners came to this bench to confess, to plead, to repent and to rise in salvation.

The black shoes she had been wearing restricted her from attaching herself to the bench in the manner she thought necessary to get close to God, and as she twisted-around to remove them, her black uniform skirt got caught on the sleeve of her tunic, revealing more of her regulation nightshade pantyhose than modesty would approve.

She did not know that he was watching her.

He was always watching.

She went about her business, preaching and teaching the word of God, leading the people in praise and worship of the creator she loved so very much. She was just doing what she had been called to do, the best way she could.

In her twenty-one years of life she believed she had a firm grasp on the world, and was wise and mature to its ways.

When he came to her and confessed his love, she found herself spinning and dizzy, unable to find her bearings and questioning what she had believed to be the safest place.

“My wife knows about you,” he confessed. She felt sick to her stomach and wanted to turn from him and run. Unable to speak, he continued, “I’ve been talking to my therapist about you.”

Was she, honestly, hearing him correctly? It seemed as though she had been thrust into another world, like a twisted version of what one might find beyond the wardrobe.

How could she have let this happen? What had she done to lead him on?

She stared back at him, in shock and disbelief and noticed for the first time how many wrinkles his face held and the glisten of his silvery white hair.

He was in his 50’s and had kind, but lost, eyes. She had always appreciated his gentleness, but now she felt like he was a predator. He was no longer a sheep, but a wolf in sheeps clothing.

“I love you,” he made his confession plainly.

She tugged at her white blouse nervously, suddenly feeling naked and exposed. In her mind she was pleading with him to stop looking at her. She felt undressed by his stare.

“What am I going to do?” he asked.

She said nothing. Frozen to the ground, unable to move, the world rang in her ears and she remembered what it felt like to want to disappear.

She never wanted to be seen by a man again.