Somewhere around the time I was 14 years old, my parents made the decision to close up their cake shop. I was too young (and too arrogant) to be considered to take over the family business. My mother took her business very seriously, honestly only trusting herself to decorate the cakes that bore her name. This came with good reason. My mother was very very good at what she did. She could mold and shape icing into intricate designs. Some of her wedding cakes were decorated into patterns that looked like the most delicate lace. They were quite simply beautiful. My mother would be the first to tell you that she couldn’t draw on paper. Her art was in icing, shaping, and baking delicious cakes. She took pride in her work. She sold her cakes for a reasonable price and was so good that one woman took it upon herself to purchase cakes from my mother then resell them to others at a higher price as her own in the St Louis area. I remember practicing what she did as a child and never being able to make my decorating the same as hers. If you have ever worked with icing you will know that while pliable, icing can be taxing to work with. One has to maintain constant steady pressure on the icing bag while decorating to prevent globbing, smudging and overall messiness. What made my mother close her business was not a lack of demand or sales. She closed her business when arthritis took over her hands and she could no long maintain the same level of pressure as she had before. Squeezing an icing bag even for a short time brought her pain and discomfort. Multiply that by 48 birthday cakes and 5 wedding cakes sets (Typical wedding cakes have at the very least 3 separate cakes involved but in most cases more) in one weekend. There were days when she couldn’t do it at all. She really had no choice at that point but to close up shop and figure out what else to do with her life. I remember this time frame in our lives in a hazy kind of way. I was a self-involved teenager and couldn’t see past my own needs/wants to see how this effected my mother. All I could really see and be bitter about was the aftermath. My mother sunk into one of the deepest depressions of her life. There were days she couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed. I took it upon myself to make most of our dinners. I became responsible for the cleanliness of the house (with bitterness and disdain for the work). As I’ve talked about in prior blogs I was missing a vital family core which I try to implement in my family. I had no idea how much she needed help, I had no idea that we were supposed to be a team as a family. Mostly I just had anger towards her because I truly did not understand what was happening and we never talked about it. I just knew she was tired all of the time and I resented her for it. This was before google, the internet was in its early stages and the average person did not understand we were on the cusp of an abundance of knowledge, and connection with other people that had not be fathomed before. Now I can go online and find hundreds of resourses for helping not only people with depression, but how to help yourself when loving someone with the deepest forms of depression. At the time, I had no idea what was going on and I wish so much now that I had. Hindsight is 20/20 but I feel like I could have been more and done more for her. She started counseling and got help and I am so glad that she did. I was lucky and I got my mother back.
Since then I have been deeply involved with a few different people with clinically diagnosed depression. Depression is needy, jealous, and controlling. Depression sucks all of the joy, light and love from your life. I hate depression. I have so much anger at this thing. This thing that brings down the most important people in your life because for people with true deep depression there is no hope. If there is no hope then what is the point of getting out of bed every single day? It is hard to stand on the outside of it looking in, listening to the people that matter most to you in this world tell you that no you are not in fact enough (I would like to be clear that my mother never did this to me). That there is nothing that brings them joy. Nothing tastes good, nothing feels good, there is in fact nothing to look forward to, and there is nothing here for them on this earth. All the while you are staring at them feeling an overwhelming sadness because they are your world. You are in their life and to hear that they can’t even look forward to a second of all of the things you love doing with them or about them is soul crushing. There is no reasoning with depression and there is no wheeling or dealing. You cannot look at someone with depression and snap. It is not about you. They can’t even see you, not really. They can’t see anything but their own pain, their own suffering, and even if you were to bring up logical points about times they have been happy, depression knocks them back down. They feel attacked, they feel alone, and they feel as though things have always been that way and always will be that way. You want to scream at the top of your lungs, “Don’t you know how amazing you are, and don’t you know how much there is to do?! Don’t you know that when you say you’re life sucks, you’re talking about my life too!?” You’re living constantly at the edge of a precipice afraid at any moment they could be gone and you will be left wondering what did I do wrong? What could I have done differently? Or even thinking, oh my god, how could they possibly be so selfish. Don’t they know how much this hurts? This is even scarier when the person shows no signs of depression at all.
I have read so much about depression as I’ve gotten older. I have tried to understand this beast and the best ways to fight it. I am by no means an expert. I am also not here to provide expertise as to what works and what doesn’t because I am still learning. If you have someone in your life who is struggling with this monster, make sure to take care of yourself as well. If they are in therapy or even if they aren’t, get yourself some help. Get yourself a professional to talk to because regardless of how strong you think you are, or how much you think you know, there are thoughts and feelings that you need to process. You cannot thoroughly help someone if you do not help yourself or are not in a good headspace. I am beginning my journey with therapy next week. This is all in the journey of righting myself this year.
As for your loved one, be there for them. Don’t just tell them to get out of the house and get some sun (this is a common recommendation for those with depression). Get some sun WITH them. If you make plans to get outside for the day, understand there is a good chance those plans may fall through because they just simply can’t do it that day. By it, I mean anything. Sit with them, and for gods sake listen to them and what they are going through. Really listen. Try to have them seek help. Help them understand that all therapy isn’t the same. Therapy is like trying on clothes. You have to find the one that fits. Understand that if they decide to take medication for help that there will be a period of adjustment as they find the right medication and their mood may vary wildly. Seek a bigger circle of support from friends and family. Also understand that sometimes they will just not want your help. The link I am providing below is to an article by Joseph Bennington-Castro on a website called Every Day Health. I have no affiliation with them but this article contains so many links to helpful resources that include and extend beyond the suicide prevention hotline.
These are trying times and so many are struggling. There are those struggling to make their voices heard in a world that seems to be against them, there are those who have lost businesses, loved ones, and in some cases everything. We need to be there for each other now more than ever. If you are lucky enough to have been born a fighter than fight for the ones you love and for the ones that can’t. Be the voice they cannot find or that others cannot hear. Vast, sweeping changes need to be made in this country right now and in all of this we need to love each other a little more and pay attention to the struggles of others. Hear them, they are screaming for help in so many ways whether it be out loud or internally.
The background on my desktop contains my newest favorite quote that comes from all places, ‘The Walking Dead’.
You are a fighter and you never give up. So fight. Fight for this.