Growing up quasi-Amish taught me how to bake bread from scratch, sew my own dowdy jumpers, grow organic wheat grass in a pan on the windowsill, and hide. Good lord, was I skilled at hiding. I had a lusciously guilty stash of sugar cubes that grew over the years to include Thin Mints, Warheads, Pixie Sticks, and some fundraiser candy that called itself World’s Best Chocolate (and really was! at least to a chronically deprived sweet-tooth…) and none of my five hundred siblings ever found it. Talent, non?
I also learned how to hide my feelings, my opinions, my idiocies, and my problems. It’s a little-known fact about families who isolate themselves from the world: rather than creating a safe haven, isolation breeds like an insidious form of bacteria until you can no longer reach outside your own skin. No one allowed in, period.
I can’t begin to tell you how powerless I was raised to be. I have a lifetime of poisonous mantras stashed in my mind: Do not ask for help. Your feelings mean nothing. We do not talk about that. Doctors want to harm you. Policemen want to harm you. Your instincts are wrong. NO ONE CAN HELP. Honestly, the two best things I’ve ever done to fight off those mantras were meeting Dan, who tirelessly chiseled away at my mind with rock-solid compassion, and starting this blog. It’s not easy, of course. I constantly want to censor myself (and I often do, if you want to know the truth), and I revert several times a day back to Your feelings mean nothing. We do not talk about that. No one can help, no one can help, no one can help, no one can help.
Writing about depression, in particular, feels like stripping in front of the entire world. It comes with a host of other confessions like failure and weakness that I would much rather keep hidden, and it looks so raw and grotesque out in the air. Hi, I’m Bethany, and I can’t manage to take care of two teeny-tiny little girls and one teeny-tiny little apartment by myself and oh my god, am I actually admitting this aloud?
But your comments and e-mails have given me exactly the boost I needed to shrug off my Amish mantras and do something unimaginably frightening: Ask for help. I went to the doctor today, all of my own volition, and I told him the truth. And now there will be tests and further appointments and possibly referrals, and though we know nothing yet, I feel hopeful. I don’t know how to explain what hope feels like after this long, but thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.