“Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves.” – Emily Brontë, 19th ― century English novelist & poet best known for Wuthering Heights.
I learned this the hard way. My pride cost me dearly, financially, emotionally and mentally. I lost my job and plunged into a deep depression all while trying to navigate a messy divorce and the mental health system so my son, Joe, could get the help he needed to cope with his severe, recurrent depression.
I thought I knew everything, when really I knew nothing. See, I’ve always been the caretaker for my family and friends. When someone needed an ear- I was there. When a family member needed a loan I was there. I was a “fixer,” the strong one everyone looked to for support. I was proud to play this role. After all, everyone likes someone in control. But, when it came to me being the one that needed help, it became near impossible to ask for it. A little voice inside me kept telling me, “You are a failure if you can’t take care of your family. You can’t need help. You are nothing.” The voice played over and over again like some crazy song that gets stuck in your head and won’t go away. I felt like a carousel in a horror flick going round and round again, faster and faster waiting for my body to be flung off into pieces. The world spun so fast and I was paralyzed.
I didn’t have a good night sleep for at least a year. I was exhausted and walking around like a Zombie that’s been punched in the stomach. Sometimes I could barely breathe. I remember walking into work every day reaching for the door knob and thinking, “I can’t wait for this day to be over.” Finally, it got so bad that I went to the doctor and after my appointment they let me lay there and sleep. Have you ever heard of that?
As you can imagine, my work suffered. Even with an understanding boss – I didn’t make it. I lost my job. She did all she could by suggesting I take Family Medical Leave Act or get help through the Employee Assistance Program. My excuses were many – I couldn’t financially afford the pay cut after all I wasn’t receiving child support. No time for therapy. After all, my energies were spent dealing with my verbally abusive and controlling (and soon to be) ex-husband who took me to court over and over again, stalked me at work and home (eventually leading to a Protection From Abuse Order). Then there was the fight for Joe, who had become a recluse. I’d go to work and he’d be sleeping on the couch and I’d come home and he would still be there. It became impossible to get treatment because he wouldn’t leave the house. I fought the fight, because my son was NOT going to be left behind in a flawed mental health system. This is a post for another time. I was also raising an active teen a girl and managing a household all while helping both kids deal with the divorce. Finally, I started therapy and eventually went to a partial hospitalization program. Ironically, immediately after partial, I was let go. It just couldn’t get any worse. I had failed anyway. My pride ruined my life.
Looking back, I’m amazed that we survived because at the time, the situation seemed impossible to overcome. Worst of all was the guilt in knowing that I contributed to our problems. I spent days on the couch barely able to face the day. How we survived is beyond me. Somehow I’m here to tell the story.
Lessons I learned along the way:
- Pride in moderation is good. You can take pride in a personal accomplishment or that of your child. But you can’t let excessive pride get in the way- it will destroy you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You are not an island, rather we as humans are a school of fish, helping each other along the way to travel harmoniously.
- If you have recurrent sleep problems – see a doctor immediately. Once sleep is disrupted everything else is distorted. It is the most destructive health problem which acerbates all others.
- If you are depressed, communicate your feelings with a friend, a clergy member a therapist or even a stranger. Expressing your depression is the beginning of recovery.
About the Author
Cheryl Kelly is the mother of two and a member of the Glade Run Family Advisory committee. She came to Glade Run 2 years ago seeking help for her 17 year old son, who had been diagnosed with clinical depression and severe anxiety since the age of 12. The family spent 3 1/2 years navigating the system, advocating for help, and went through every service imaginable to assist with her son’s medical care. During this time, she was also attempting to manage her own depression while keeping her family intact. Once she found Glade Run, it was a lifesaver for not only her son, but for her entire family. Cheryl would like to use her passion for writing to share her experiences as a form of hope and encouragement to other families as they move along their journey.