Why Laugh?

My favorite quote as a teenager was “Laugh and the world laughs at you.  Cry, and you wet your face.”  I didn’t really know why, but it made sense to me.  I thought it was hilarious.

It turns out that Depression runs in the women in my family, and unlike the big boobs and tiny waists that also run rampant in our X genes, this time I did not miss out.  I didn’t learn that my mum and nan had had depression until I admitted I was taking anti-depressants at 32 – still very raw and uncomfortable about it.  Hearing I was not alone, at least in our crazy family, was a huge relief but I felt guilty for having such depression when, really, all was fine and dandy.  Nan had lived in a real Depression and had depression, and my mum had been a child when she had three children too close together in the Valium soaked 70’s.

To say that I was shocked and appalled when the Doctor diagnosed me in his office would be an understatement.  I burst into stereotypical tears even while my three children (all under 6 at the time) chortled madly from the play corner because I ‘looked so silly’.  Even the Doctor was smirking (turns out he has an inappropriate response syndrome, he told me later – yeah, sure).  I had beautiful, busy, healthy kids, I was doing well at Uni, had lost alot of weight, deliberately, with EasySlim and was fabulously thin – I didn’t have problems and certainly no reason to feel like shit.  But I couldn’t sleep really well, and while everyone around told me how great my weight loss was, one honest acquaintance told me that whatever I was doing I needed to stop it immediately because I looked sick.  She was right.  I was sick.  I was miserable.

The anti-depressants helped and I stayed on them for quite some time until, midway through my degree, I suddenly felt like it was time to stop.  And I did.  And I was fine.

Until the next time.  This time, I raged at my Doctor, he didn’t laugh and I told him I was NOT taking anti-depressants.  He considered that, asked me to take a look into St John’s Wort and exercise and come back and see him in a month no matter what.  I got online and answered a survey by the fledgeling Beyond Blue and ended up being a guinea pig for their depression self-help website.

A month later I visited my weird doctor – things were still tricky, I was juggling a couple of part time jobs and part time Uni, and the kids – but somehow I was in a better place.  At that stage, the Beyond Blue website had already taught me two things – not to feel ashamed or guilty about my depression and to try to change my self-talk.  Instead of telling myself how stupid I was, I went easy on myself.  Shock.  Horror.  I laughed more.  I was kinder to myself.  And it really, really helped.  And doing these things grew me a thicker skin for when other people threw barbs at me….Instead of thinking I was shit when someone was rude to me, I tried hard to change my thinking, to wonder instead “Poor them…I wonder what’s up their nose?”

In accepting my depression, I was able to closely inspect it – I now know I had depression as early as 6th Grade and as a result I can remember casting it off in my first year of highschool by reinventing myself and, funnily enough, using much the same techniques as I learned later through Beyond Blue.  I also know that severe weight loss, along with insomnia will bring it on at a cracking rate and that if my Iron levels are low, and as I get older, my Vitamin D levels drop I will likewise feel low.

That’s not to say I have it under control – far from it.  After a tricky two years with the challenging child, I returned to the doctor last year and spilled it out.  Things were hard and I couldn’t see the bright side anymore.  I still felt stupid and guilty with my bourgeois first world problems.  Depression still carries a stigma, I don’t care what anyone says.  I was trying hard, too hard to be strong and I needed a little help.  I went back on anti-depressants.  And they helped.  But after 6 months, I felt ready and I cautiously weaned myself off.

That was 6 months ago.

It’s tricky writing this post because I am essentially admitting to mental ill-health, how embarrassment, and at the same time, there are things that having depression has taught me and I want to share them with anyone who might be worried, or sad, or ashamed…I’m ok, I look for the funny, I work hard at positive and, yes, this does make me somewhat immature – I admit I still have the toilet humor of a 13 year old boy.   I am as thick skinned as a rhino (except for when I have PMT) and I can be as honest as I think you can take.  I can empathise without pity because, Heaven knows, I know I could be there next week.  I actually am crazy – but I’m pretty sure that has nothing to do with depression – it’s a family thing.  Why laugh? At 42, I think I finally accept who I am and the crazies that live inside me; I laugh in the sun, because it works for me – and because even if it doesn’t always work, I reckon it’s always worth a try.


15 thoughts on “Why Laugh?

  1. I think you are an amazing, very talented and wise woman. Having been visited by the Black Dog, I know she can be a bitch.

    Call me if you ever need, I’ve been there, I know I may well go there again, and I know how much it sucks (especially in my case, when I was made to feel the one that had something fundamentally flawed me.)

    Positive thoughts for you.

    • Well, thankyou lovely Rob, and positive thoughts to you also…you know my mum is very matter of fact that the black dog is ‘owned by’ creative people in particular…food for thought?

  2. heeey! crazy women from crazy families unite! me, I come from a long line of cripplingly anxious ladies……we all seem to deal or not deal with it in our own ways……frankly though, i think that it has a lot to do with the STATE OF THINGS, you know, if you REALLY looked objectively at things, is it any freakin wonder that some of us get a little bleak or anxious sometimes…….

    big hugs to you fellow traveler.

    the duck


  3. I salute your crazies and that wildly creative gene pool they ooze from. You and your fabulous family have enriched this mad lady’s life with great conversation, warmth, and friendship.
    Mad???… who cares!!!

  4. You rock lady – always knew it but know it even more now. Thank you for being brave enough to share your journey . It’s only when we speak the unspeakable that it stops being the unspeakable. I often use my long association with that black dog to show to young people that you can fight back, have a life, career, and fun times when you work out how to get that dog to stay on a long leash. Sometimes he escapes, but then I just have to go back to basics again.

    Ps my newsletter articles are poultry ( pardon the pun) in comparison to your wonderful words. Xo

    • Well you know I can talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles, so sooner or later I’m bound to go to the unspeakables 🙂 I reckon you have the right idea using these experiences to show people you can still be funny, fun and functional despite the rubbish – no wonder you’re such a gem!

      And I love your articles 😉

  5. Hello, it’s so OK and fine to write about depression, it’s courageous and honest an it helps. Not letting it get too bad is a great skill too, cos it is treatable and the earlier the better. I’ve had it really badly once and then caught early since then and treated with antidepressants again and therapy. Off now but keeping well is part of life… and good self talk is key.

    Good to meet you via the Rewind.

  6. This is a lovely post that many people will relate to. I like what you say about accepting the depression you were able to closely inspect it. And I can identify with being silly with your kids and laughing at yourself. This is mood-lifting stuff. Great post, courtesy of Rewind.

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