I am so incredibly honored to have author Michelle Smith here today to share her story with us. I’d known of Michelle via her books for some time (as Holly and Danielle fangirl like no other over Play On!) but it wasn’t until Holly mentioned that Michelle had experienced mental health issues as well that I found her story. I realized that Michelle and I had quite a bit in common, and I don’t think I have ever typed an email faster in my life! When I heard back from her, I was so excited- I knew you guys needed to hear her story too. Here it is!

Depression is a silent killer.

It’s something I’d heard before, a tagline that was scattered across random medication commercials and the occasional mention in a health book, but the concept never really made an impact on me. I never understood how depression could creep into your life completely undetected until it was almost too late. I never understood that it didn’t wait for something bad to happen, or for you to have a “reason” to be depressed.

I didn’t understand that it was a silent killer until it nearly killed me.

I’m gonna take y’all back to 2010. That year brought a new baby and a move back to mine and my husband’s home state of North Carolina after spending a year in Florida. Stressful, yes, but overall, it brought excitement from every direction. Our baby was happy and healthy. My husband had a great job. I had the privilege of staying at home with our son. We were surrounded by family and friends. On the outside, our lives seemed perfect. But me?

On the inside, I was screaming. And I wasn’t even sure why.

I mean, I knew that I should be overwhelmed with joy, even if I was in a perpetual state of exhaustion, but the only thing overwhelming me was emptiness. Although I was surrounded by people, I felt lonelier than I’d ever been.

I cried all the time. I cried when my son cried. I cried when he laughed. When my husband was at work. When my husband was home. When everyone else was sleeping.

At my six-week postpartum checkup, my doctor told me it was simply the baby blues. That it would pass. That I was just hormonal.

(Side-note: This isn’t his fault. I’m not blaming this on him. But at the same time, writing someone off as “hormonal” when they’re suffering from postpartum depression could very well be the same as signing their death certificate. So perhaps we should go a little more in-depth with the postpartum checkups.)

But I digress.

Over the next two years, I spiraled further and further down the darkest tunnel I’d ever faced. I can barely tell you anything that happened in those two years because it’s mostly a fog. If it wasn’t captured in a picture or written somewhere, I won’t remember it. For two years, I learned how to convince people that I was “fine,” despite my weighing only 90 pounds. I told them I was “fine,” even though I spent most of my nights crying.

I told them I was “fine,” even though I was dying inside. Which is why I’ve come to really hate the word “fine.”

It’s hard to describe depression to someone who’s never experienced it, but one way is this: Imagine falling into a dark twenty-foot hole, and no matter how many times you search that space, no matter how many times you feel the walls or circle the area or strain to see what’s above, you can’t find a way out.

You can hear people above you. You can hear their murmured laughter and chatting. You can hear them carrying on with their lives. Some of them know you’re down there, but they’re waiting for you to find your own way out because hey, you fell in the hole. Some of them know you’re there, but have no clue how to help. Some of them don’t even realize that you’re trapped because even though you’re screaming on the inside, you don’t speak a word.

Imagine the stages of panic, of terror, of hopelessness that you’d go through.

That kind of touches the feeling of depression.

Two years is an awfully long time to be trapped in a hole. And one night, I decided I’d had enough. I was alone on the bathroom floor behind a locked door, sobbing uncontrollably with an aching heart that was just done: done with the loneliness, done with the emptiness, done with the pain that comes from both feeling too much and nothing at all for far too long.

That night, I cried. I begged. I prayed. But when you beg for help that doesn’t seem to come, when you’ve been suffocating in silence for years, your fight…it gives out.

And that’s when help came.

I was moments away from taking my own life when I heard a voice, as clear as someone sitting beside me, say, “Stop.”

I’ve told this story a few times. Most of the time, people will smile at this point. And sometimes, people look at me like I just grew four heads. But I’ll tell you this: That moment broke through the fog, and it broke through the tears, and it made me pause long enough to push myself to my feet and walk out of the room. And that’s why I’m still sitting here today.

The next day, I had an appointment with the same doctor who’d once diagnosed me with the baby blues. But he was swamped and overbooked, so he sent in a midwife I’d never met. It pretty much went like this:

She asked how I was.

I told her that I was just fine.

She pulled up a chair. Told me that I wasn’t. Looked me in the eye and asked me to tell her what was really going on.

This woman, this stranger, was the first person to call me on my act. She’s the one who wrote a prescription and set me up with a therapist. So please, don’t ever believe that one person can’t make a difference. One person can literally save a life. Within days, I was on medication and sitting in a therapist’s office. I haven’t seen that midwife since, but I’m forever in her debt.

The thing about depression is that it isn’t a one-and-done fight—it’s a daily battle. And you go through seasons of different things working at different times. For a while, I was on a steady stream of meds + therapy + diet changes + regular exercise. After some time, my doctor and I agreed that I no longer needed meds. And even further down the road, I stopped going to therapy.

I…do not recommend this. Not if you haven’t come to a mutual decision with your therapist and/or doctor, or if you and your therapist aren’t on the same wavelength. Seriously, this is one of those “do as I say, not as I do” things. Because for a while, I was fine—thriving, even.

And then I wasn’t.

You see, I got an invitation to participate in this event when I was right in the middle of another episode.

The upside (for lack of a better word) to having a depression diagnosis is that you can usually recognize your tell-tale signs. I realized I was going into another downward spiral a few weeks ago when the irritability hit. When exhaustion was constant. When I had zero interest in writing anything at all. When I wanted nothing more than to be alone. One of the many downfalls of depression is that it makes you crave solitude, when solitude is the absolute last thing you need.

So here’s the thing: I’m back in therapy.


(Rolling up into therapy like “hiiiiii, thanks for existing!”)

There’s a possibility that I’ll go back on meds. And I’m okay with that. Again, we go through different seasons, and in some seasons you’ll need more help than others.

Remember the hole that I used to describe depression? It’s hard to see through the fogginess, sometimes nearly impossible, but there are amazing people standing at the top who’ll toss down a rope and guide you as you work your way out. Those people are out there. They are. I promise. There are doctors and therapists, family members and friends, teachers and counselors. If you truly have no one in your circle that you feel can trust, call a lifeline. If you’re in a state of emergency, call 911. Go to the hospital.

Fight for yourself. Fight for your well-being. Fight for your life.

One of the big lies that depression loves telling is that you’re worthless. That you don’t matter. That your story doesn’t matter. But there’s a key word here: lies.

Depression is lying.

It’s lying.

Repeat that. Keep repeating for as long as you have to.

I know what it’s like to be tired.

I know what it’s like to feel worn.

I know what it’s like to be scared.

I know how hard it is to open up to someone, to actually reach out and say, “I need help.” The thought can be downright paralyzing. People often say that asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do, and I agree wholeheartedly. But it’s also a necessity for survival.

You have to realize that you’re worth saving. And if you don’t believe that, then believe me when I say that you are so, so worth it. Please believe me.

Your best days are not behind you. Your story is only just beginning. And life may not always be perfect, but it can be so very beautiful.

About Michelle Smith

Michelle Smith was born and raised in North Carolina, where she developed a healthy appreciation for college football, sweet tea, front porches, and a well-placed “y’all.” She’s a lover of all things happy, laughs way too much, and fully believes that a little bit of kindness goes a long way.

Michelle lives near the Carolina coast with her family.

Michelle’s Books:

(Pictures link to Goodreads!)


Buy Play On: Amazon Barnes and NobleThe Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million

Pre-order Game On:  Amazon

Buy Kingdom Come: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | The Book Depository | Books-A-Million


I want to thank Michelle so, so much for sharing her story with us! This hits home for me in so many ways, I cannot even explain the impact Michelle’s story has had on me. This is the most accurate description of the isolation and impact of depression I have ever read, and her message is so incredibly important. 

For any mamas out there: “baby blues” and “hormones” only last a few weeks- so if you are still feeling bad, please, please talk to your doctor about the possibility of PPD. No one should have to suffer in silence.

I don’t think I can formulate words to ask you a question today, so let’s just talk. Do you have any experience with depression, baby blues, or anything similar? Or if you don’t, I will take a lighthearted story about unicorns. Or kittens, or cheesecake.

Posted August 14, 2015 by Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight in #ShatteringStigmas, Guest Post, Mental Health / 41 Comments


41 responses to “Depression is a Silent Killer: A Guest Post by Michelle Smith

  1. This is SUCH a beautiful post. *hugs* It was brave of you to open up, and honestly, I needed this post. A while ago, my friend was depressed, and I had no idea. Because she was so happy all of the time, always the one making the snarky comments, bubbly and cheery. But it wasn’t it. I found her one time after school, in an empty classroom, and suddenly she wasn’t all that she made out herself to be. When we got home, eventually she’d open up and I got a glimpse of what she was actually going through. And I’m thankful even now, that she found the courage to open up. Depression is important. We need more representation of it, in YA, TV shows, whatever. Because it’s real and it takes a toll on us all at one point.

    Lovely post, Michelle <3

    • Oh wow, that must have been so hard <3 I am so, so glad that she opened up to you though! My goodness, it is so good that you saw her too. It sounds like she is super lucky to have a friend like you who cared enough to stand by her side. BIG hugs to you both!

  2. Wow, what a powerful story. And so beautiful. I could relate to so much of what she was saying and it made me tear up a bit. So, yeah, I could talk about this topic for ages, but instead I’ll just talk about my dog. That’s a good topic, right? I was feeling so sick today (physically). Somehow she knows when I am sick or sad, because she came up to me and wanted to cuddle. Either that, or she was feeling sad herself and needed some love. Either way, it worked for me. Best anti depressant ever. 🙂

    • I sobbed. SOBBED. I couldn’t even finish formatting the post, you guys were lucky this was up by midnight. Michelle is just amazing, and her story… she just wrote it so heartbreakingly, beautifully well that… no words.

      AW your dog sounds AWESOME. What is her name? What kind is she? YAY PUPPIES!

  3. Wow. I’m speechless, but I’m still going to try to write a comment.
    As someone who doesn’t know what it’s like to have depression, this was such a powerful and educational post. Mental illness isn’t something that’s easy to understand when you’re on the other side, but reading posts like Michelle’s personal post is wonderful because it adds an added layer to just reading about facts. So, thank YOU to both you, Shannon and Michelle for sharing this. And I want you both to know that you’re incredibly brave for sharing your stories, and willing to help people like me who want to understand the disease better. Good luck on your journey! <3

    • Aw, thank YOU for your thoughtful response! It is really nice to know that people want to know more about it, want to know how to help and be compassionate. People like you make it easier to live in a world where everyone isn’t quite so sympathetic, and I really, really appreciate that, Nick! <3

  4. Oh wow, this post almost had me in tears, such a beautifully written post and it’s so true. The part that really got to me is this line”Depression is lying.” as that’s maybe the hardest part of it all you believe the lies even it’s not true. I think I’ve been depressed or very close to it for 2 or 3 times, I never got diagnosed or went to a doctor, but in my first year of psychology I realized what had happened and that it had a name. The only one I ever fully told about it all it is my boyfriend. I think most people around me still don’t know, my mom knew something was wrong during one of those episodes, but I never told her. It is hard to talk about it. And that saying I am fine, I get that part. And most people believe it when you say that.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us! How amazing that that midwife saw through your act and noticed you weren’t fine. I always find it hard to read about topics like this as it hits me so hard, which is the reason why I avoid books about depression, I don’t want to give it a foothold to pull me back into that hole. But it is also helpfull to read about it and hear what other people went through. I hope the therapy works and good luck with your journey!

    • I won’t lie, I sobbed. I could barely format the thing, I was shaking! It is SO TRUE about the lying, you almost feel guilty for feeling bad? At least that is how I feel. And that makes it even harder and more isolating, and it is a vicious cycle. I am really sorry that you weren’t able to talk to your mom too 🙁 BUT I am glad that at least your boyfriend knows and I hope he is there for you!

      And seriously, how amazing is that midwife? My OB was actually VERY similar when I was pregnant with my daughter. Everyone made me feel guilty (even my psychiatrist!) for even THINKING about taking medication, but I was so close to the edge, my OB set me up with a high-risk specialist and thankfully, my meds 😉 I am just SO glad that the midwife stepped in for Michelle- I can’t even think about how much longer it could have gone on undetected 🙁

      I totally get avoiding books if they’ll be a trigger for you- books should be an escape, NOT a stress. Good for you for knowing your limits, that is a GREAT step!

  5. You did an amazing job of describing what depression was like. The hole was an great example. I’m so glad that that midwife saw something! Thank you for your encouraging words.

    Sorry Shannon, I can’t come up with a good unicorn story for you right now. Have you read a unicorn named beulah mae? That was one of my favorites as a little kid.

    • Well that sounds cute! I am off to search for Beulah Mae, mostly because that is a funny name for a unicorn! 😀

      And I agree, Michelle basically knocked it out of the park. HA that fits so well with her book too- totally unintentional!

  6. This was such a beautiful and heartfelt post. I literally don’t have any words to say… except for that warm feeling inside me that is respect and pride. I respect your bravery so much to face your fears and your problem and your insecurities head-on. I know that there have been times when I have been down myself… I’m surrounded by love and family and friends, and then just one day, I’ll be filled with sad thoughts and cry to myself in one corner. I definitely have an idea how this feels, and to actually be depressed must be a thousand times worse, and so I am truly in awe of your strength and the strength of millions of others who are enduring this and surviving the next day, and then fighting against it. Thank you so much for sharing your story. What an inspiration you are!

  7. This is so well written. I was going to say “This was great,” but of course, it isn’t great to have depression. My husband’s struggles have really opened my eye to how suicide is NOT about being selfish or feeling unloved. I think it is often about what you described almost coming to–simply the only escape a person can find from that horrible pit.

    Cheesecake…I owed my son a major apology yesterday, so I bought him his own personal cheesecake. He was so thrilled to have 100% control of a freakin’ cheesecake that he has become very generous with it, sharing slices with family and friends.

    • I know exactly what you mean! Michelle expressed this far better than I’d ever be able to, in a way that I think people can really relate to. It’s so true about depression and suicide too- I think if anything, the person likely feels a tremendous sense of guilt, but absolutely cannot handle the pain another minute.

      Your son is my new best friend 😉 Seriously, send him over! I’ll buy him a cheesecake too, and then I would feel less guilty about eating half of it 😀

  8. Thanks for apsharing this post Shannon and for opening up about your struggles Michelle. I think you made me want to go to therapy. I have been diagnosed w/ clinical depression since the tender age of 9. I think I was in about second or third grade when it first reared its ugly head. I would panic and cry and just couldn’t get out of bed or go to school or anything. Now this is not come thing a child should go thru but ,y family had other stuff going on so I was able to slip by unnoticed till I became a teen. That opened a whole slew of hormones and even deeper depression eh IH led me to some really scary places. The most common responses I get when I say something about my depression is “ther is not way your depressed, your like the happiest person ever!” No….I’m just really good at pretending. The other is ” what the hell do you have to be depressed about your life is amazing.” That’s it is please but tell tmy brain that. It must have missed the memo. Anyway I have been flailing lately. I am not in a good place despite medication but I could be a lot worse. I’m not going to wait for that a lot worse to come. I’m going to do as you said and take control of my life cause I want to be happy, not pretending to be. ?

    • Oh my goodness, sweetie! I just want to give you the world’s biggest hug right now! First of all- we are close enough that if you ever just want to meet up for lunch or something, just to have someone to talk to, I am here!

      Second, I am SO proud of you for taking control and wanting to feel better! You are so right- waiting for worse certainly won’t help, but therapy does! Just getting it out is helpful- I know in the past, I’d feel like a weight was lifted, you know?

      Third, I am so sorry that you’ve been dealing with this for so long- something NO child should have to go through. And I know how hard it is when people are insensitive. I get that too- the whole “you have two beautiful children, what do you have to be depressed about?”, and I want to scream at them like, THAT ISN’T HOW THIS WORKS!

      You, my dear, are amazing for sharing this with us. And what I said before, they aren’t empty words- I mean it! I can meet you somewhere, whatever! Our kids can entertain each other, or we can do something without them- feel free to DM me, email me, anything! I am always here <3

  9. This story is just…beautiful. I think it’s amazing when people can get to a point where they are able to share their story and give other people hope and awareness. I have dealt with anxiety and depression for many years. I’ve never gotten to the point where I wanted to kill myself, but I know how easy it could be. I know people that have wanted to, and I’m so happy to for the ones that did say they needed help and got it. It’s important to remember that help doesn’t make you weak. It just makes you stronger.

    keep in touch – i always comment back!

    • I agree with you, I think Michelle’s story has the ability to affect a LOT of people. I have felt the same things, but I don’t have the eloquent way of talking about it like she does, of connecting with others. It is just so important that people feel like someone, somewhere understands them- and that is what Michelle’s post did for me, 100%

      And I LOVE what you said about help making you stronger- you are so, so right!

  10. I’m not even sure what to say but thank you for sharing and that it made me really emotional. I was pretty ok after my little humans were born but I still had down times (not PPD but actual baby blues). And that was hard and I wanted to be alone and just cry but it passed. I can’t imagine it not passing. Again thank you for sharing because it may really help someone.

    • The not passing is scary as hell. Because everyone keeps telling you that it will and then… it doesn’t. And you’re hanging on by a thread, basically, and every day that it gets WORSE instead of better, it feels like roulette: will it ever get better like people say? Will it get worse? HOW could it get worse?

      The baby blues are EVIL, pure and simple. WHY, biology!? I mean, thank goodness it DID go away for you, but even so, why does it have to happen to begin with? On TV and such they make it look funny- like Rachel on Friends? When she cries over Emma’s name, and everyone has a good laugh. But no, baby blues are just that- BLUES, and it sucks. Thanks for sharing your story too Grace! It’s good to know for all the moms out there- that the blues CAN and do go away, but if they don’t, help is good too 🙂

  11. Oh, wow. Thanks for sharing your story with us, Michelle, and thanks to Shannon for giving her the opportunity. To be honest, while I was reading the post I was just all, “COME HERE. COME HERE AND LET ME LOVE YOU.” While I’m lucky enough to say that I haven’t met anyone with depression (that I know of), I’m the kind of person who feels so much for other people who have.

    I fear getting depression myself. Back in elementary school, I got incredibly emotional over the smallest things. I got pissed, sad, and angry so often back then. Now in high school, I can say that I’m trying to go through life more lightly, but there are still times when I want to hide in a corner and just not come out. But you’re totally right when saying that there will be people who will give you that rope and help you get out. <3

    • Michelle’s post absolutely blew my mind, and made me feel ALL the things, so I know what you mean! I am really glad that you have been doing better! I think we all have those “hide in the corner” moments, but hopefully you’ll be able to keep coming back out. <3

  12. This post means EVERYTHING to me – thank you so much for sharing your story! I’ve always described depression as feeling like I’m too tiny to fit in my skin (that’s the fog), but the deep hole is a better description I think. It makes more sense too, for when people ask me.

    Your last few paragraphs remind me of a quote from Challenger Deep: “The world must, for once, come to a grinding halt for me.” It’s so hard to say that, but like you said – you need to fight for yourself and fight for your health, despite the lies that say you’re not worth it.

    • I agree Kayla, I LOVE that I have words to describe some of my feelings now- that is such a hard part, not ever knowing just how to get the feelings into actual coherent words!

      And I LOVE the comparison to Challenger Deep- that quote was SO powerful, and I must admit, when I read CD, I thought that too- why can’t the world, just once, do that for me? I guess I will have to fight to make such a thing happen!

  13. I don’t have words right now. I am in tears.
    Michelle writes about depression in Play On and captured it in a way that I don’t think has been done in YA… and for her to share this. Wow. Such a powerful thing. I never know what to say when someone bears their heart this way, other than that I want to hug them and be there for them however I can. Can’t really do either in this case, but this post affected me very much. Thank you for sharing. <3

  14. This post had me in tears. Especially at the end where Michelle talks about the lies that depression tells us. For me, motherhood was often painful – not because of PPD (though I do think I had a little of that), but later, when my oldest son started having “issues.” All those years I’d been told I was fine when I didn’t feel fine – and then I had the burden of wondering if I’d passed that “un-fineness” down to my kids. I spent a lot of time in uncontrollable tears when they were younger (especially after we adopted my youngest and I felt completely overwhelmed and unfit – but that’s a whole other story). I had times where I sobbed and sobbed until I felt like I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t cope and couldn’t do any of the things that were expected of me as a mom. Therapy helped but I still need to remind myself time to time that the feelings of worthlessness are a LIE. Thanks again for these posts.

    P.S. I hope you don’t mind that I’m totally doing self-therapy in these comments and processing – I need it after these posts! As you can probably tell, I’ve been holding off on reading these until I had a time that I could sit down and really think about them. Might be overloading myself now!!

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