At some point during the car trips of my childhood, my sister (the one who’s closest to me in age), would invariably stop to point out the creepiest, oldest, abandoned house on the side of the road and say,

 

There’s your dream house.

old barn_opt
I’d wrinkle my nose. We’d laugh. Then resume singing, You’re a Grand Old Flag or the oh so monotonous, Five Hundred Miles, until inevitably I’d poke her in the ribs and say,

Look! It’s your future home.

old barn 2_opt

It was a funny dig. A kinda two steps forward, two steps back exchange. The sisterly cha cha that we danced many times over the years we lived together.

Today, I still look for those houses. Still smile.

Sometimes I think it’s strange to smile at something so dilapidated.

So abandoned.

This week, after hearing how Robin Williams died, I found myself flipping through old journals, looking for the poem I wrote when I was 18. The one where I tried to understand why my sister had attempted suicide (the first time).

It’s an angry poem.

Why did you try to steal the time when we were little?

Now I’m almost embarrassed at my anger. Did I have any compassion? I hug you anyway.

I’m nervous talking/blogging about this subject. I feel it’s not my story to tell. My sister and I haven’t talked about this. Not now, not ever, that I remember. We (as a family) just didn’t. Even though all of us struggled with our own darkness.

On the other hand, I’ve made it a point to talk about depression and suicide with my children. I’ve even probably gone a bit overboard at times, carting my thirteen year old daughter off to a therapist when she dramatically screamed, I hate you, I want to die.

Hey she was my first teenager…and I didn’t want to take any chances.

Depression can be dangerous. It’s dark, often hidden. Oh and how it thrives in those secluded corners.

Depression I understand. That’s part of my story too. But it’s hard to talk about.

It’s a disease. There shouldn’t be shame attached to something that happens with our brain chemistry. Hey, did anyone shun me when I blew up the sulfur in chem lab my junior year? No, it was a mistake. Even the intimidating Sister Dolores didn’t yell at me.

It sucks to feel your lightness abandoning you. And it feels even worse when you think that because it’s in your thoughts, you ought to be responsible for pushing that darkness out.

Ask for help.

My sister and I may have joked about those dilapidated, abandoned houses. But maybe now I smile because I see them as hope. There’s a strength that lies beneath.

And they’re still standing.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 

xo

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32 thoughts on “The Strength that Lies Beneath

  1. Kate Johnston

    I totally understand, Coleen. I have what we in my family laughingly call, “The Family Depression,” because so many of us have been struck by this disease. Some of us worse than others, but it runs in the family. Nothing specific gets us down, we’re just down.

    That is probably why Robin Williams’ death has shaken me. To feel like you just can’t escape those demons, no matter how good you’ve got it, must have been a horrible way to live. I can’t imagine the suffering he must have endured.

    I’m sorry that your sister has gone through such difficulty, and my heart goes out to you and your family as well. It’s not easy being around people who don’t want to live anymore, who don’t care anymore, or who just don’t see what there is to live for. And it’s not easy being that person, either.

    I think the abandoned house is a great metaphor. Hugs.

    1. Coleen Patrick

      Thanks, Kate. I also was stunned and shaken by his death. Really unimaginable that someone can project so much life and enthusiasm, but it not be enough.
      Hugs back.

  2. Kathryn Chastain Treat

    I once told a friend that I could understand what drove people to suicide. There is that pain that you just can’t describe.

    It is very important to talk about depression and not hide from it.

  3. Jennette Marie Powell

    I had to laugh at “there’s your dream house” – twist on the ol’ “there’s your boyfriend” that a work friend and I used to play out at the bars looooong ago!

    I think many can relate to this – seems like we all have someone with depression in the family. It’s awful for everyone.
    Jennette Marie Powell recently posted..Little Bits Add UpMy Profile

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Thank you, Jennette. I agree, I think a lot of people can relate. Hopefully Robin Williams’ death will help to shine more light on it.
      By the way, we did the “there’s your boyfriend” bit too! 🙂

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      I agree, Phil. Such a big loss. Still hard to imagine, so much positive energy could be gone. And yes, it’s so hard to ask for help or even maybe understand that it’s there. I hope something good will come of this tragedy.

  4. Karen McFarland

    Better safe than sorry Coleen. Sometimes you don’t know how serious someone is when they make those remarks. And with your previous experience, I think you did what needed to be done. Perhaps your daughter could then recognize the seriousness of her accusations. Thank you for saying this out loud. It needs to be said. Too many of us are dealing with depression. I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been touched by it. ((Hugs!))
    Karen McFarland recently posted..Some Like It HotMy Profile

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      So true. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between my gut instinct and paranoia! Even though I don’t want to put more power into my own fear of depression, hopefully I’ve shown my kids the value and importance in reaching out for help.

  5. Patricia Tilton

    What a very thoughtful post! It’s a national discussion we need to have. I’m sad about what happened to Robin Williams, but I really hope there is a lot of good that comes from his suicide. I have experienced two suicides in our large extended family — my uncle (WWII vet who suffered in silence) in 1992 and our grandson after he returned from Iraq in 2009. It is very hard on family members and they deal with a realm of emotions including anger. Your sister was blessed to have the support of your family. There is such a stigma attached with mental health issues. We can talk about cancer, diabetes and heart disease, but we don’t talk as much about depression and diseases of the brain. Thank you for you for being brave enough to share. Hugs!

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Thank you for sharing your story, Patricia. I agree with you, there is so much stigma for all, but depression is a disease. Hopefully there will be a shift in the way the world talks about depression, and hopefully then, it will be easier for those suffering to seek help.

  6. Catherine

    You are so brave coming out with this Coleen. That must have been a really hard time. I have a similar issue in my family. I get frustrated when it’s someone else’s story to tell and you’d get into trouble for talking about it but getting it out there would be so therapeutic. *hugs*

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Catherine. I think even just knowing that others can empathize–even if we feel we can’t tell the whole story–helps. Hugs back.

  7. kath unsworth

    Coleen I am glad you are talking about it. Robin must have suffered deeply under that mask of humour he always wore in public. I lost my brother to depression and I do believe the subject needs lots of attention. I had no idea at the time of how much he was suffering but I was never angry at him for the choice he made. I only experienced depression after he left us and then I got it. Thank you for sharing your story. The more we are open, the bigger chance of saving someone who might be thinking about it. Blessings to you and may your day be full of sunshine.

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      Kath, thank you for sharing here. I agree wholeheartedly with you that being open about this is significant. I hope there will be a movement in this direction. Sending you my best.

  8. Alarna Rose Gray

    Hey Coleen, it takes strength to talk about the things that matter. And in some ways, I disagree that it is not your story to tell. All of these things are shared stories…what our loved ones go through has an impact on us, too. Like those abandoned houses, we just keep reaching for the light. xox

    1. Coleen Patrick Post author

      So complicated and while I was nervous to post, I still feel it was necessary. Even if not all of the story gets told, at least it’s opening the discussion and heading in the direction of healing–and light. Thanks so much, Alarna.

  9. Name

    Hi Coleen: So sorry we’ve been ghosts as of late, but we’ve been locked away for months working on our book. We’re reaching the finish line though and will soon be back to our blogging buds, like you! Now onto your post. What a heartfelt & beautifully written post my dear!! I love the Artists window with a much different view of those houses now. When young, dilapidated barns, but now as you said, hope…what they can be!! Your post reminded me of another blog that touched us as yours did. If you have a chance swing by & check it out. Like yours it makes one reflect. We struggle with depression in our home as well Coleen. And you’re right. There are some who approach it taboo. You would think in today’s day & age, post Prozac nation & Therapy happy crowds, we could talk about things like this without shame. Yet there’s still a stigma that follows those who battle depression. I think blogs like yours help that immensely. Sharing now. Beautiful job!! BTW~ If you have a chance, swing by Mother of Imperfection (Sandy Ramsey) & read her post. Hi Coleen: So sorry we’ve been ghosts as of late, but we’ve been locked away for months working on our book. We’re reaching the finish line though and will soon be back to our blogging buds, like you! Now onto your post. What a heartfelt & beautifully written post my dear!! I love the Artists window with a much different view of those houses now. When young, dilapidated barns, but now as you said, hope…what they can be!! Your post reminded me of another blog that touched us as yours did. If you have a chance swing by & check it out. Like yours it makes one reflect. We struggle with depression in our home as well Coleen. And you’re right. There are some who approach it taboo. You would think in today’s day & age, post Prozac nation & Therapy happy crowds, we could talk about things like this without shame. Yet there’s still a stigma that follows those who battle depression. I think blogs like yours help that immensely. Sharing now. Beautiful job!! By the way, if you have a chance swing by & check out Mother of Imperfection ~ Sandy Ramsey ~ http://motherofimperfection.com/2014/08/12/depression-and-addiction-day-laughter-died/ She’s a wonderful woman & one of our favorite places to go!! 😉 xoxo

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