Location: New Jersey Occupation: Full-time Mom Age: 27
When did you first experience symptoms of depression?
When I had my first daughter at 24 years-old, I experienced the usual two week blues that they say every mother goes through at first. I think it has a lot to do with your life being turned upside-down; no one can really prepare you for it. It was the middle of the summer, and I was nursing, so while everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine, I was tucked away in a room somewhere with my newborn baby for the better part of the day. As time went on I adjusted, and things got better. Our daughter was perfect, happy and healthy, and a great sleeper. Baby number one was a cakewalk, to say the least. When we got pregnant the second time around, I knew it would be more of a challenge having one child in the terrible two’s, but I didn’t think it was going to be anything I couldn’t handle. My second daughter is currently 8 months old, and I am only recognizing now that I have postpartum depression.
When did it get worse?
Shortly after my second daughter was born, my personal life took a hit. I didn’t realize that the things I was feeling were actually going on in my own mind, if that makes any sense. I attributed everything to what was going on around me. A few months later when the dust settled, I started to notice I was still feeling the same things; I was getting irrationally angry with my daughter when she would act out, feeling anxious almost every day, smiling a lot less, and completely lost interest in the things that once made me the happiest. I was, by nature, a very happy, easy going, and optimistic person. I never got overwhelmed or stressed out to a point that I thought I couldn’t handle it. I noticed, though, that I was starting to lose my patience, especially with my oldest daughter.
Was there a specific time you can remember where it was really bad or uncontrollable (when you just weren't yourself)?
I think I hit rock bottom when I spent an entire day yelling at [my oldest daughter]. She wasn’t even really misbehaving or being fresh, she just wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted her to do, and I was reacting in a completely irrational way. I knew it at the time too; that was the worst part. I could hear myself yelling, and as the words were coming out of my mouth I knew I was wrong. I thought to myself, You are crazy! Why are you getting so worked up? She’s only two. RELAX. But I truly couldn’t even understand or control my own thoughts and emotions. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. That night, my in-law’s offered to watch the girls for the night so [my husband and I] could go out to dinner and have some quality time together, but I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the house. I poured myself a bath, sat in the tub, and soaked in the dark listening to my favorite record.
Did anyone else notice something was wrong? Did you talk about it?
My husband, who had been giving me space for a while that night, finally walked into the bathroom to check on me. I took one look at him and broke down sobbing. All I could say was, “I think something is wrong with me.”
What were some of your worst thoughts (i.e. harming yourself or your children)? How did they make you feel?
I think when people hear the term 'postpartum depression' the worst case scenario automatically comes to mind. For me, that wasn't the case. While I know that wanting to harm yourself or your children is a very real possibility, for me, I just kind of wanted to disappear. I felt like I wasn't being a good mother or wife, and I was really beating myself up over it while also feeling like I just couldn't handle it. I know harming yourself or others literally does nothing but damage in the long run, and I still feel rational enough to remember that, so instead I just felt like I wanted to just go away for a while. You know, everyone dealing with depression, whatever it type it may be, has that thought, they would all be better off without me.
Did you worry about your ability as a parent? What were some of your fears?
I felt like a terrible mother. My kids are happy and healthy and thriving in school, but I felt like a total failure. On the hard days I just had to cling to the hope that it won't always be this way, and that every day wasn't this way. I grew up with one older brother, and while I love him dearly, I always thought that when it came time for me to have a family I was going to have a huge family! I wanted at least four kids. Now I'm terrified of having more children. If I can't get what I'm going through under control, I feel like having another child would break me. I want to get healthy, because I still want that big family, and I want to be the best mom I can be to the girls I already have.
Was it difficult to open up about it?
I felt it for a long time, but I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud. I did not want to admit that something was really wrong. I was always a strong individual. I could always handle what was thrown at me, but I was starting to feel like I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I needed to lean on someone else for once, and it was something that scared the hell out of me.
Has your family been understanding?
I am very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive and understanding husband. He knew before I did that something wasn’t right with me. He’d ask me casually here and there if I was feeling okay but never tried to force anything out of me. He always helped out with the girls when he could see I was struggling but never made me feel guilty for it. Until now he is pretty much the only person who knew.
What did you do/are you doing to cope with it?
Today I am taking it day by day, but honestly, recognizing and acknowledging what was making me feel so anxious and miserable has helped more than I could have ever imagined. I am taking steps to get outside help, which is a step in and of itself! What I’ve realized is that sometimes certain things are beyond your control, and you can’t freak out over that. I have people extremely close to me who suffer from depression, so I know it’s sometimes beyond fixing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try. It’s okay to talk to someone about it. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to take medicine if you feel like your walls are closing in, and if it makes you feel better.
What advice would you give to someone struggling with postpartum depression?
What I want people to know is that it’s okay to talk about! For so long women were made to feel ashamed if they had postpartum depression, but why? It’s not something we chose. It doesn’t mean we love our children any less. It’s just something we caught, basically. I’m choosing to open up about my experience because I need help, I need support, and I need advice and there is probably someone out there reading this who can help with that. Then one day when I feel better, hopefully someone going through this can come to me for support, help, and advice. It’s okay to talk about these things. We all have to start somewhere.
At what age did you leave home to move to California?
21. I moved to LA three weeks after graduating college. I had always wanted to visit LA because of the movies I used to watch growing up, but I had never been. I got a paid internship offer the night before graduation, and the morning of, I signed the paper. I was so excited to start this new chapter of my life.
Do you think that being a performer puts pressure on you to act a certain way?
As an actor, I can sit there and put on a show. I can pretend to be happy or sad or whatever the mood calls for. This isn’t something that I do often, because usually my emotions are real. But about eighty percent of the time that I’m actually sad, no one knows about it.
Has anyone ever known you to be depressed?
Everyone who knows me, knows me as a happy guy. A guy that can make anyone smile or laugh. A guy that brings out peoples' best qualities. A guy that cares for his friends and would be there at the drop of a hat. I am that guy. But what a lot of people don’t know is the daily struggle of my own mind.
When did your low point begin?
This past year, I had a national commercial air that millions of people saw and actually liked. But nothing came out of it. There was no big check in the mail. There were no invites to crazy parties. There were no more auditions. Emotionally, that commercial from start to finish was very difficult for me. Upon finishing the day of filming for it, I grabbed a coffee and went to the bus stop. When it came, I grabbed a seat in the back. I pulled out my phone and began writing a Facebook status update about how excited I was. I always look to inspire with my Facebook posts, so this one was going to be a good one. As I was writing, about halfway through this long status it finally hit me. Holy shit, I just accomplished one of my life long goals! I’m no longer dreaming about being on TV in front of millions of people, I actually did it. It was at that moment in the back of that bus from Inglewood to Hollywood that I started crying. It was one of the best feelings in the world. But a few months later the lights went out. After the commercial stopped airing, and after everyone stopped sending texts and leaving voice mails, the true nature of the entertainment industry reared it’s ugly head. The phone stopped ringing. The auditions were few and far between, and the bills were getting higher.
So that moment triggered it?
Yea, so around this time last year, things had been on a steady decline for me- both mentally and financially. I had been supporting myself on acting for the few months before January, and since I wasn’t getting the callbacks or the jobs, I was feeling a bit lost. My job situation had always been interesting out here in LA. I moved here on an internship that was supposed to turn into a full time job after three months. After a year and three months of being an intern, I was laid off, along with twenty-five percent of the company. Since then my jobs included bar back, server, doorman, promoter, concessions at a movie theatre, bus boy, recruiter, research assistant and a bathroom porter. None of these jobs lasted more then a few months, so at the time I was unemployed (even right now, acting isn’t paying the bills, and while I am aware of my talent and am aware that it takes a while, it’s not something that I can put 100% of my time into). So that was when I had the breakdown.
What did that look like?
I just wasn't myself. I was severely depressed. I can’t begin to explain the thoughts that went through my mind everyday. I woke up and wasn't happy. When I opened my eyes, I no longer looked at the day as if it was new and I could do anything. I woke up, and it was already the worst day I’d had since the day before. I had more anxiety than I knew how to handle. The fact that the moment I woke up knowing that I had nothing to do that day but look for work was not something I looked forward to. Imagine waking up everyday and knowing that there isn’t anything to anticipate, besides maybe seeing your close friends or getting an audition. For the first time in years, I felt like a lost little boy. I was 25 years old, and I had no idea where my life was going! I began applying for desk jobs- jobs that would give me little to no time to pursue acting, but for whatever reason, I was fine with that. I needed a job. I needed a career to fall back on, because at the time, I didn’t have one. Acting is what I was born to do. I don’t want to act; I NEED to. It is my passion. But those desk jobs weren’t responding to my emails.
What were you feeling at the time?
I was just scared. I couldn’t see a future in anything that I did. I felt as if there wasn’t anything over the horizon, as if my luck had run its course. I knew I wasn't alone, and all of my friends and family showed me this everyday. I knew that I had so much support and so many people rooting for me, but after a while when all that cheering wasn’t attracting the right people, the crowd started to disappear. I was the nice guy who’s always there for his friends and always looks on the bright side of things yet doesn’t follow his own advice. I was lost and scared that the future wouldn’t be so nice to me.
Can you remember a specific day or incident that was incredibly low or scary?
Yes actually, I got up out of bed this one day and decided that I was going to walk around the neighborhood (Hollywood). Because both of my roommates had jobs, I didn't see them much until they got back from work, and because I wasn't feeling right, I'd sit at home all day. Sometimes I wouldn't have human interaction until four or five o'clock. So anyway, this one day I decided to go out and have breakfast. I ate, put on my headphones, and continued to walk. For whatever reason, that was the worst idea for me. Every two seconds a new depressing thought would pop into my head. Like things from second grade, when I didn't like the girl who had a crush on me and felt bad about it. So many random thoughts. At one point I stopped where I was and just stood there. I hated everything...not a normal feeling for me. All of my thoughts and experiences had led me to this point. I was broken. I turned around, went home, and tried to sleep it off. I was not myself.
Did you ever have thoughts of harming yourself? If so, what were they like?
I never thought of suicide. Deep down I knew that I'd come out of this. There were some days when I wanted to punch a wall just to feel hurt. I wanted to fall down the stairs just to get attention. But I never acted on it. It was like my mind knew what I was going through, but my body was fighting it. Since those days, I've been fine, but there was one moment more recently that really scared me. It was the death of Robin Williams. That shook me to my core. I have been low before- to where I thought of physically harming myself-and I thought that for me, that was as low as it would get. I'm a happy guy, and people seem to like me. I didn't think it could get worse, but when Robin died, I thought, Wow, it can get way worse. And I just thought to myself, I never want to be in this position ever again.
What helped you get out of the depression and anxiety? Was it something you did or rather external circumstances?
My friends and family mostly. I was able to talk to my mom about it. She was worried but knew that I would come out of this okay. She really set my head straight on a few of those days where my mind wasn't feeling so healthy. I also had this break out talk with my roommate that led us both to tears. I needed that one. But it was actually a job that really took me out of it. I went and had a meeting with my friend, Isabel Adrian, and she thought it was bullshit that I wasn't working and doing what I loved. A few days later she offered me a job, and from that point on I had something to keep me busy. That really helped me a lot.
What advice would you give to someone struggling with the depression and anxiety you felt?
Talk! Tell your best friend how you're feeling. Tell your Mom or Dad or anyone who will listen. If you're an actor or someone in the entertainment industry, talk to a peer or co-worker, because they are usually the only ones who know exactly what it is you're going through. I kept it in for months, and I changed. My whole perception on life changed, because I thought that no one cared and that no know could truly understand what I was feeling. I was wrong. Give depression a face. Make people talk about it. Things can get dark- really dark- but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I, for one, have opened myself up to talking about this. If someone needs to vent, I'm your guy. I just want people to be more aware of what's going on in their close friends lives, and if they notice anything different to speak up! It's so unbelievably important, and believe me, one compliment or one smile change someones day.
Location: West Virginia Occupation: retired church worker
When were you diagnosed with Parkinson's?
I was diagnosed in March of 2007.
What symptoms caused you to suspect something was wrong? Were there things you couldn't do anymore?
The first thing I noticed really years before I was diagnosed was that I couldn't walk as quickly as I had. It was harder to turn over in bed, and sometimes I got extraordinarily hot and tired- like I wouldn't have as I'd known myself before. The thing that really got me to the doctor was a tremor in my left hand.
Did the struggle (pre-diagnosis) make you frustrated, angry, depressed, etc?
I was depressed and probably due to the Parkinson's, because many people with Parkinson's will actually experience depression ten to fifteen years before they are diagnosed.
After you were diagnosed, did you research it? What did you learn?
A lot. I learned that one in every ten-thousand people have Parkinson's, and there's no cure for it. Even the treatment doesn't give good results after a certain time. Some people get good results for ten or twelve years and some people for eight or ten with Levodopa, which is the main drug they use to treat Parkinson's.
How did you feel knowing you had a disease?
Well at first I was angry, then I was sad. Now I think I've just sort of come to accept it. I try to do the things that the Parkinson's Association and the Michael J. Fox Foundation say will help, and I just live with it.
Did others want to talk to you about it? Did they treat you differently?
Some people did, and some people didn't. I don't think [anyone treated me differently].
How did you tell your family? What was their response?
Well I told most of my family right away. My husband knew, and my son knew. Other members of my family and those at work I told right away. They're very supportive, and they were also a little angry that I had gotten Parkinson's. But basically they were helpful, supportive, and loving. Work became the great support group for me. They didn't treat me any differently, yet if I was having a bad day, they were willing to talk to me about it. There were a couple people in our church with Parkinson's that I talked to about it. It's always nice to know someone with the same or similar illness that you have, because they really understand how you feel.
How did you feel around other people? Did your opinion of yourself fall or grow?
Well, once I got my tremor under control, I felt okay. But before I was diagnosed and had it under control, I felt self-conscious about it. Other than that, I think I felt [comfortable] around other people. I think my opinion fell, because I thought, Why did I have to get this? At first I was pretty depressed and thought I wasn't handling it very well; I'd always thought if I got any type of disease or illness I would handle it better than I did at first! Then later I did think I handled it well- I continued to work and do the things I had normally done. I felt a little bit better about myself for being able to do that.
Did you want to talk to others about it?
I wanted to talk to others with Parkinson's. It was almost impossible to do that, because we don't have a Parkinson's support group [in my town]. Even on the phone and over email with all the Parkinson's associations you can contact, I just couldn't seem to find someone who said, "I got diagnosed, and this is what you can expect." Finally, I got all that information from reading rather than from talking to others. I talk to a friend, who's a counselor, and to a couple of my good friends and my husband. Mostly their responses are, "You can do this," and "Eat well, sleep well, and stay in good condition. And when they have a cure for it, you'll be ready."
What has been the most difficult aspect of Parkinson's?
Being tired! I always had a lot of energy. Being tired and depressed are the worst aspect of it. It's very annoying!
What was your hardest day or lowest point? What were your thoughts? What were you feeling?
I can't think of a single instance, but I just wasn't feeling well. Again, I'd ask why I had to get it. But I know there is some kind of neurological glitch in my family; my grandad had ALS. My dad's brother had MS. I have Parkinson's, so I guess I wasn't as surprised as some people might have been.
How have you gotten yourself through any negative thoughts and feelings?
Get up, get dressed, and go on everyday. There's nothing else you can do unless you just want to lie in bed and not take part in life. You just have to keep on.
Do you have any advice for someone with Parkinson's?
Find a good neurologist. Find a movement disorder specialist. Try to continue doing all the things you've done. Walk, go to the gym, do yoga, and pray! Those are all the good things.
For more information on Parkinson's, visit The National Parkinson Foundation at: http://www.parkinson.org/parkinson-s-disease.aspx
Welcome to Mind Your Voice- where real people talk about real mental health issues. I began this site as a tool for everyone to connect on a deeper, more emotional level. Why? I find it so strange and unacceptable that in the twenty-first century, people receive "physical illness" as normal yet "mental illness" as unnatural. We are not comfortable discussing our minds. We are ashamed and embarrassed by mental struggles like depression, anxiety, and disease! I thought about how much unnecessary suffering we go through because of a simple misunderstanding- mental illness is common. In fact, it is far more common to become mentally ill than physically ill (and we all get our fair share of physical illnesses!). The mind is far more sensitive than the body, and believe it or not, everything is connected. It's why you feel especially low when you are physically sick or injured. Lying around and being unwell causes mental distress. Likewise, mental distress causes physical symptoms of distress. But we don't talk about that. When someone asks you how you are feeling, do you ever really say, "Terribly"? Most of us expect a simple, "Fine," or "Okay." We never open up, yet it is absolutely amazing when we do. You will realize how similar humans are, and most importantly, how normal you are. As for those "crazy" or "terrible" thoughts and feelings you have? We all have them. The depression, self-deprecating thoughts and emotions, the anxiety ("for no reason"), and so forth...all of them are normal.
As someone with a chronic mental illness (OCD), I decided to create a space where we can all open up and be honest with each other. I want to begin to tear down the stigmas attached to mental illnesses and struggles. I want to show that everyone-whether through an external experience, a genetic predisposition, or both- suffers mentally. Let's voice our minds. Let's talk about them. Let's be ourselves. Let's be well.