Depression has as many causes as there are people. It can be situational, chemical, genetic, some combination of the above, or have no apparent reason. It affects people of all ages and is not a respecter of race, religion or money. While it affects both men and women, about twice as many women as men experience major depression.
Clinical depression is not a short-term reaction to a loss, though a loss may be a factor in depression. It is a long-term, pervasive illness that can seriously impair one’s ability to function day-to-day. Major depression lasts at least two weeks and includes accompanying physical symptoms like headaches and other chronic pain, digestive disorders, changes in appetite, etc.
I credit the Internet and the social network it provided for pulling me out of depression and rearranging my whole way of thinking.
I spent more than two decades mired in depression so bad that there wasn’t a moment I didn’t wish I could die. Working up to twenty hours a day, didn’t help. Nor did periodically staying awake entire weekends, attempting to do all the housework I couldn’t do otherwise. I experienced constant physical pain because I was sleep deprived and wasn’t eating right, and eventually experienced a complete physical collapse, landing in the ER.
I didn’t kill myself, obviously, though there were times I actually craved death in much the way you’d crave food if you were starving.
My sense of responsibility always kicked in and stayed my hand at my lowest points, though I felt like Atlas had an easy job in comparison. I was a single parent of four children. Their father, my husband (and later ex-husband) was a drug addict, which meant that 100 percent of all responsibility – financial, parenting and housework – fell to me. The children’s father died of a heart attack in 1995 at the age of 37, having destroyed his body through years of chemical abuse.
If I took my life, my children would have no one. No one in either family wanted any of us and made it a point to say so. At one point I begged my parents to let us sleep on their floor so I could get away from my then-husband’s ongoing abuse. My parents refused. We shuttled from one substandard housing arrangement to another or lived with people who further abused me and/or my children. More than once we were homeless, living in motels or in the car.
On different occasions, I asked three separate physicians to write me a scrip for antidepressants. On all three occasions I was ignored or refused. I finally hit the point that I just shut down, willing myself not to feel anything. I went to work, then came home and locked myself in my bedroom. I was a functional automaton. My kids were by then teenagers and I knew that they could fend for themselves. That didn’t absolve me of dealing with them. My youngest was verbally and physically abusive toward me, which simply sent me spiraling even further into the physiological abyss. At one point she even broke down my door, splintering the jamb beyond repair.
I sought help through the courts because I knew that this child was far, far beyond my control. The courts told me (in my daughter’s presence) that since she wasn’t going out and stealing from other people or businesses, there were no drugs, and I wasn’t abusing her, they couldn’t and wouldn’t do anything. However, I still had to file incorrigibility charges against her or I would be held accountable for the fact that she was skipping school and routinely ignoring local curfews. In the end, I lost my job, primarily because of all the times I had to go to court with her – which were not excused absences, even though I was required to be there or be charged with contempt of court.
Then, just around the end of 2000 and the time when I hit rock bottom, I went online for the first time.
Not Alone Any More
After a lifetime of hearing that I had no human value beyond what I money I brought home, I went online with no expectations. I was a fan of a television show, found its associated forum and decided to post, desperately hoping for a positive response.
It took a few days for an initial reply, but that was the door that opened the floodgate. Within a few more weeks, I was introduced to chat programs, expanding the new social network further. I started talking to others with comparable backgrounds and experiences. I talked to a mother whose child had multiple severe birth defects. I encountered survivors of rape and incest. They were real people who could and did offer real solutions for the problems I encountered.
I think I’d been online for two years when I realized that I didn’t want to die any more. I had found a network of friends; I was learning, for the first time in my life, that I had value as a human being. And whatever else was true, I was definitely not alone!
The Love Disconnection
Given my marital history and a childhood filled with violence, I wanted nothing to do with the male species for many, many years. I barely tolerated my own sons as they were growing up. My Internet connections changed that, too.
One of my online friends was a tenacious woman who cheerfully and repeatedly pounded into me that I was dead wrong in my views of men. She brought to my attention the fact that in locking out any and all males, I was effectively condemning innocent men.
At the time, I just told her that I was thrilled if she found someone, but love and I would always be on opposite sides of the fence. That was about three years ago. She’s laughing these days, all things considered.
As you may have guessed by now, I met my husband online.