The Thing I Carry
Depression is a thing of isolation. Of self-doubt and self-recrimination. Of worthlessness and disconnect. The voice of the yetzer harah is a tiny whisper compared to the voice of depression and its good friend anxiety. You may tell yourself, “I am stronger than this,” or, “I won’t give in to this,” but depression is a thing of lies twisted together out of truths. It convolutes your very sense of self – the self you have been building, nurturing and growing since you first blinked your eyes against the harsh lights of the real world. Depression takes that self and makes it unrecognizable beneath layers of self-hatred and the agony of detachment.
Depression is a creature so sensitive it cannot bear to confront itself; it is a thing that blames and yells and cries and fights against everything. A look, a word, a sound – all of these can send depression into a whirlpool of self-obsession and denial. “We are unworthy and you have made us so.”
Depression is a thing like oil, or cooking grease, slipping its way between me and my husband, me and my children. It coats my relationships with slime and grit, leaving us all unsure of our footing.
Depression is a thing I live with. Sometimes we cohabit within my body in peace: I tempt it with SSRIs and medical marijuana, massages and ice cream. I make sure it is fed in the healthiest of ways so that it will allow me to do what I need to do. But depression is a thing like a baby, constantly wanting attention. “Did you forget I was here? How dare you forget me, for even a moment?”
Depression is a thing that has led me to tears and rages and the very knife’s edge of self-harm – screaming to those around me, “Make me stop what I’m doing! It won’t end well!” and being dismissed until I choked out from a raw throat, “This is an actual cry for help. HELP!”
Depression – the real, bone-deep kind – is of barbed wire and quicksand. Slicing you to a death of a thousand cuts while suffocating you with every movement you make against it. Any attempt to combat it pulls you in further, cuts you deeper, until you are a mess of gasping scars. The only way to escape is to slice through each of the barbs that bind you, each deep-seated pain that stabs so quick and so sudden. Once you have done that, you can reach out a hand and, if you are willing to accept the help offered to you, let yourself be eased out of the muck.
Depression is a thing I was diagnosed with just over three years ago. I am in two different kinds of therapy, have tried three different primary antidepressants with three different boosters. I participate in charities. I go to the gym. I push myself out of my comfort zone. I engage in activities that help me build a sense of accomplishment and mastery. Activities that help me remember I am kind – needed – loving – loved – when depression yawns widely and tells me, “Why don’t you go for a drive and never come back? They’re better off without you.”
Though I do my best to make sure all four of my children are cared for and surrounded by love, I worry that it will never be enough, never be equal to what I had dreamed of giving them. Therapy, together with open and honest (and age-appropriate) conversations have been vital in reassuring my children that I have fought this and will continue to fight this for them.
Just after getting to a stable place with my meds for the first time, we discovered her, hidden inside of me. Precious. Painful. Every day of my pregnancy with her was a war for our joint survival. There were times I just wanted her out already; I couldn’t bear the responsibility of being her safety and security. Her very existence is an act of chutzpah, each quirk of her lip and raised eyebrow an act of defiance. “I made it here through blood, sweat, and tears,” the jut of her hip says to everyone around her. “Do you think you can push me around so easily? You know nothing of war.”
I love her with a fierceness that is almost terrifying.
My daughter’s name is Chaya Hadassah. Though my sister Chaya Esther is convinced I gave my baby her name, Chaya Hadassah’s name is entirely her own. Chaya is my hope for her joyful and unapologetic life while hadassim are a plant that releases their sweet scent only when the leaves have first been beaten and crushed. My baby’s two years on this earth are a testament to strength of will. To stubbornness. To survival. To being stronger than.
I know that depression may be a thing I carry with me, or walk beside, for the rest of my life. Anxiety may come to visit too often.
And if that’s the case, so be it. It will be our burden to bear, held high above us in triumph, or dragged along beside us, carving furrows in the ground.
But it will be borne with exhausted pride to the foot of my monument.
My Chaya Hadassah.
Hindy Bertram lives in Jackson, NJ with her very patient husband and four incredible children. Together, she and her husband are involved in various forms of community outreach. Since her diagnoses of depression and anxiety, they have become vocal advocates for supporting those living with mental health concerns. In her spare time, Hindy — Hindy has four children. She has no spare time.