My Toy Company Is Joy Personified, But I Struggled With Depression for Decades


Content material warning: suicidal ideationTo the surface world, I lived an ideal life. My toy firm, Melissa & Doug, which I based in 1988 alongside my husband, Doug Bernstein, had grown from a tiny operation run out of Doug’s dad and mom’ storage right into a half-billion greenback enterprise. Doug and I had been married for over thirty years; we had six youngsters and a lovely house, all of which I used to be profoundly grateful for. And but, at many factors in my life, I needed to finish all of it.

lifelines author and melissa and doug cofounder melissa bernstein at age 5

The writer at age 5.
Courtesy of Melissa & Doug

I can’t recall a specific second that led me to hunt therapy for the psychological well being points that had plagued me for 5 many years, nobody incident of peeling yellow wallpaper or letting out a primal wail whereas driving down the road. Likewise, there was nobody set off for my existential melancholy and anxiousness—simply the data that this sense of despondency and hopelessness in regards to the which means of life had been inside me, seemingly, from beginning. Then at some point, the cry of my very own soul—my need to be seen for who I actually was—turned so loud that I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

lifelines author and melissa and doug cofounder melissa bernstein

My teen years.
Courtesy of Melissa & Doug

Melancholy has lengthy been thought-about some of the frequent temper problems, and but it’s changing into much more prevalent with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the grief, uncertainty, and concern that has come together with it. Final August, the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention reported that in a interval of solely six days, from June 24 to 30, adults skilled elevated psychological well being points, in addition to a rise in each substance use and suicidal ideation. That was about three months into lockdown. By fall, one other research (by JAMA Community Open) revealed that signs of melancholy had tripled in adults. With the darkish winter months that adopted, bringing Seasonal Affective Dysfunction into the combination, it’s no surprise that melancholy charges have continued to rise, whilst spring and the potential aid introduced by vaccines strategy. For me, emotions of anguish predated the pandemic. As a toddler, I used to be unable to be calmed. I used to be all the time upset, and I can’t bear in mind a time in my life once I wasn’t desperately questioning, Why am I right here? What’s the which means of life? A longing to be good exacerbated my disappointment. I strived to be the quintessential high-achiever, however I felt so profoundly imperfect, so completely different, like I would as properly be from one other planet. If my aim was to be a blooming, lovely rose, my melancholy was like a thorn; persistent and sharp and really a lot in the way in which.

melissa and doug bernstein of melissa and doug

Doug and I based Melissa & Doug in 1988—I nonetheless function the corporate’s Chief Inventive Officer.
Courtesy of Melissa & Doug

This was a really painful method to exist, after all, however I didn’t share my emotions with anybody. I saved all of it hidden inside me, which made my state of affairs progressively worse. As a teen, I collected sufficient tablets from round the home to fill a small bottle that I might carry within the pocket of my denims. That was my out, my escape from this world if the ache turned too nice. By the point I turned fifty, there was a lot extra at stake, and a lot extra to cover. Definitely, creating toys for youngsters—and parenting my very own—has introduced me large pleasure. However what did it say about me, that I might nonetheless be depressed with this unbelievable abundance in my life, and what wouldn’t it say to the world if I have been to disclose this about myself?

melissa and doug bernstein of melissa and doug, pictured with their six children in connecticut

The Bernstein household at house in Connecticut.
Courtesy of Melissa & Doug

Anybody who has struggled with melancholy, both of the existential sort or the kinds triggered by life occasions or a chemical imbalance, is aware of how exhausting it may be. And after 5 many years of repressing and resisting every thing I used to be, and every thing I had felt, I used to be weary. I couldn’t struggle my melancholy by myself for yet one more day. I merely now not had the vitality. And with that realization, got here liberation. I had reached a breaking level and now not cared about what others would consider me.

melissa bernstein of melissa and doug

The writer as we speak.
Courtesy of Melissa & Doug

I began noticing that acquaintances in my neighborhood have been raving a couple of specific therapist, and I made a decision to achieve out to her. We jelled from the beginning. I knew I might belief her, and we quickly have been off on an unbelievable journey collectively. This journey, admittedly, was additionally the scariest, most grueling work I’ve ever identified. I needed to go as deep as I had ever gone, stare despair proper within the eye, and relinquish the thought of being good. That was terrifying and really, very darkish—and I wasn’t certain I might make it out alive.

LifeLines: An Inspirational Journey from Profound Darkness to Radiant Mild

However fortunately, I did. And as soon as I began connecting the dots, I spotted that if I hadn’t been so decided to maintain my melancholy hidden, I might have gotten assist rather a lot earlier. I had thought I used to be alone; I wasn’t. I had thought my emotions and fears have been shameful; they weren’t.
That was 4 years in the past. At this time, I nonetheless function Melissa & Doug’s Chief Inventive Officer, however my expertise with remedy impressed me to create a free on-line neighborhood referred to as, to assist others as they discover their method to emotional wellness. I don’t declare to have all of the solutions, solely a profound need to assist others really feel much less alone. Friedrich Nietzsche, a thinker and poet whose work I really like, famously supplied this recommendation: “Throw roses into the abyss and say, ‘Right here is my due to the monster who didn’t reach swallowing me alive.’” Melancholy can really feel like each a monster and an abyss. However we may help one another to exist as our true selves; as roses, with our thorns and all.
If you happen to or somebody you realize is in danger, name the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or textual content HOME to 741741 to message with a educated disaster counselor from the Disaster Textual content Line free of charge.

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