This is my mother’s sister, my beautiful Aunt Sharon. The photograph was taken in the early 1980s at my parent’s fishing lodge in Quebec. I love this photo because it is so Sharon—pretty, smiling, adventurous, and fun.
I’m sharing this photo in memory of her, because she took her life last week. It was a shock to everyone. Even those closest to her. We didn’t know she suffered from depression. We didn’t know she was contemplating suicide. And it left us all breathless and shaken.
On hearing the horrible news, my first reaction was to wonder: How did we not know? Why didn’t we see the signs? What could we have done differently? Why didn’t she get help?
Then in the following days, my thoughts turned introspectively and I’ve contemplated: Am I any different from her? Do I have depression? Would I admit it to myself and others if I did? Would I seek help?
And you know what? I have, very recently, had depression. I didn’t officially diagnose myself, but I did research the symptoms. And I thought, Huh, I probably have postpartum depression. But I didn’t do anything about it. And even though I’ve never contemplated suicide, it would be presumptuous of me to think that I could go through bouts of depression on my own, without getting help, and never reach the suicidal point. My Aunt Sharon was an incredible woman. If depression killed her, it could kill anyone.
If you’re wondering if you may too have clinical depression, here is a list I found from WebMD of possible symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
I’m also researching and learning about ways to recognize depression in others. But just like the airplane oxygen mask metaphor teaches us—we need to put on our own oxygen mask before helping others with theirs. Diagnosing yourself and seeking help is hard for many reasons, but it’s the first step toward respite.
We’re having a memorial for my Aunt Sharon this weekend. I’m looking forward to celebrating Sharon’s life with family and friends who loved her. She was a fun, hard working, generous, attentive, beautiful, and loving woman who I will dearly miss.