babies and pregnancy · chronic pain/fibromyalgia · culture/multiculturalism · depression · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · medications · services · teaching

The Blues

I thought growing up that I was depressed. Life was pretty depressing between the psychotic mom, the deadbeat dad, the suicidal siblings and the pooping/screaming baby half-sister whose pseudo-mom I had become as soon as she popped out.

(Hold on while I yell at my husband. Dammit, yes, I ate all the chocolates, yes, I shouldn’t type. Let me write!!!!)

I always excelled in school. Honestly, school was easy. Since I had a high school reading level in elementary school and a beyond college level reading level in high school, nothing except math and science fazed me. Luckily, I knew enough math to get straights Cs in math and science and still come out with a A- average. I graduated number 21 out of abot 350 students.

When I got to college, reeling from running away from home and a break-up with my first (gay) boyfriend, I figured it was time for therapy. Since the university offered counseling services, I signed up during one of those depression awareness weeks. I ended up in counseling for all four years. My main psychologist was great, though, she didn’t understand my culture issues at all and as far as complaining about my mom’s abuse, I hid the truth about what my mother still did to my siblings because I didn’t know how to handle that.

I think my last psychologist in college had to go to therapy over my sessions. She was appointed my therapist when my former psychologist of four years transferred elsewhere. Suddenly, all my “post traumatic stress disorder” issues and “body dysmorphia” was the least of my problems. I was 21 and ignoring most of my friends, I helped my sister run away, kidnapped the other and petitioned for full custody. I remember the therapist being wide-eyed through my rants.

At 25, like Devora writes in her blog, I felt like a REAL grown-up. My sister was away in college and doing well. I was in a financially precarious position but I was figuring that out. I had to get rid of my cats because of terrible allergies but I was dealing with that as best I could. Then my allergies worsened tenfold and fibromyalgia hit.

By 26, I didn’t feel really grown-up. I felt depressed. The pain was so terrible that I was in agony by the end of my wedding day. When my friend Esther walked over to hug me, I was so afraid of her touch that I burst out in sobs. She apologized to ME and walked away. Suddenly, I was married, Jewish and really depressed.

I tried to snap out of it. Hello, no one is beating you with telephone cords? Hello, no one is stalking you? No boys are playing mind games with you. You have the perfect husband. You never starve. So, your skin feels like it’s on fire and you joke that if you were a superhero, you’d be that dude in the Fantastic Four that sets himself ablaze. You know, at least he can fly.

But nothing seemed to work. Not therapy. Not the combination of pain medications that didn’t work and the antidepressants prescribed for pain that also didn’t work.

I didn’t realize something had to change until I noticed how little I spoke to my friends. I ignored their calls. I didn’t feel up to talking to anyone but my therapist. The final nail in the coffin (sorry) came when a friend’s uncle committed suicide. Everyone was distraught but I was numb. I felt sorry for the family but I also wasn’t shocked. I had read earlier that week that depression and mental illness can kill.

My newest Nat-shaped friends who had meant me when I was down in the dumps and loved me anyway convinced me to go to help when they started to offer to do ANYTHING for me to make me happy. They offered a limited supply of hugs and love and free meals. When I didn’t call right back or I acted totally crazy, they hung in their for me. One would carry my bag if I was in pain, the other would send cute emails and check up on me.

One thing that the Hispanic AND Jewish community have in common, I think most communities do, is that there is a great stigma to being mentally ill or being a little more sad than usual. People don’t really know how to react, especially those who have never been depressed or had family or friends that had seen someone through a mental illness. I can understand that.

My worst fear growing up was becoming crazy like my mother but now, I can see how being a little “crazy” according to some now makes me empathize and sympathize with people so far removed from my realm of understanding. People feel comfortable telling me when they’re in pain because I know they know that I’ve suffered. I consider myself very lucky to be someone that my friends confide in and put up with even when I’m not the greatest friend in the world or even a good one.


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