9 p.m. Thursday is when my gladiating begins. My television is tuned to watch Olivia Pope and my iPhone is charged up and ready to follow along on Twitter with the hashtag Scandal. My eyes dart from the screen to my phone as my fingers fly to respond, retweet,
or refresh my feed throughout the episode. It’s one intense hour that I get fully immersed and feel like I am watching a show with an entire community surrounding me. I love it.
But before the clock strikes nine, I get ready by turning on the television to the appropriate network and semi-watching whatever is on.
It’s usually Grey’s Anatomy, so I just leave it on in the background and go about the last minute chores after my
kid goes to bed. This past Thursday, though, my kid went to bed earlier than usual and as I turned on the television, I sat down to catch up to see if Derek had left Meredith behind for D.C. The episode swallowed me up as I tried to figure out who all the new doctors were and what was behind the big accident. Suddenly, the on-screen ambulances were pulling in and wheeling out two children hurt
from a car accident because their mother had driven off a bridge. Then, the mother was wheeled out. The children were relatively unhurt, but the mother was in bad shape and the craziness of the ER swirled around the storylines rooted around mothers and children.
Mothers and children – the balance of work and raising a family, the fears of a newly pregnant mother who just discovered that her
unborn child has a potentially fatal disease, the expectations of mothers, the desire to be a mother and the heartbreak that comes with infertility, the exhaustion and difficult work of parenting, the mental health of a mother who would drive off a bridge with her kids in the car.
I held my breath as some of the tv doctors angrily said lines that began with “What kind of a mother?” and “Crazy mom…” while others
desperately tried to find a legitimate reason that would make it seem like the mother had no other choice. Tox screens were ordered, CT scans were done, and emotions ran every which way. Finally, a tiny hairpin tumor was found to explain away why a mother would’ve caused such a terrible accident.
But I felt no relief. I felt the sting of “What kind of mother…” and “Crazy mom…” like a slap on the cheeks. Shame overcame me and
wanted me to hide while those words repeated in my head. It brought me back to every single time I felt that shame and I heard the echoes of voices that said things to me like:
I would never be with anyone who was unstable.
Do you want to be with all the crazy people? In a padded room? You just have to
snap out of it.
I don’t want to be friends with you anymore because I have a hard enough time
dealing with my own shit. I don’t want to deal with your crazy shit, too.
What kind of mother would do something like that? Why didn’t she just get some help?
Crazy people shouldn’t become mothers.
And then, the show was done. Meredith found a nanny, seemed to resolve things with Derek, and the rest of the doctors somehow moved forward. The husband of woman who had driven the car off the bridge is told that there was a tumor, which caused her psychosis, and then he apologizes to her for thinking that she could’ve had a psychotic break. In less than a minute, I was suddenly swept off to gladiate.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that tv mother, though. I silently shouted to the tv, “What if there was no tumor? What if there was no
socially acceptable or “legitimate” reason for what she had done? What if she was really depressed?” What shame would there have been? Would the husband still stand by her side? Would the rest of the doctors continued to have said that she was a crazy mom if there was no tumor? Did the tumor somehow make what she did more understandable?
The shame I felt while watching this episode is something real. It was painful to watch it because of that. There was no nice wrap up and
de-stigmatization of mental illness in this episode and I felt so saddened by that. It is this very stigma that has made me shy away from talking too much about my own battle with depression. I don’t want people to see only my depression because depression is a chronic disease. It’s the disease that I manage on a daily basis. It will always be a part of me, but it is not who I am. Click To Tweet
But maybe the way to remove the stigma is to keep talking about it and to remind you that if you are going through depression or any other mental illness, you are not alone. I stand with you. I walk with you. I hear you. I will raise my voice for you. Click To Tweet
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, postpartum depression, or any other mental illnesses, here are some resources:
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please call this number 1 (800) 273-8255 to get help because your life is worth it.
You can also go to this website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/