Today’s post in honor of Mental Health Month is written by a guest writer. She is a mom, a wife and a blogger from the Pacific Northwest who wishes to remain anonymous. But she wants to share her story to help others who may be struggling.
Trigger warning: depression, attempted suicide and mental health treatment. If you are in crisis, please reach out 800-273-TALK (8255) or check out these additional mental health resources.
My Experiences with Depression
Depression for me started at a pretty young age. I remember feeling like something wasn’t quite right and that I didn’t experience joy the way others did back to childhood. I had a decent childhood, other than some addiction issues in my family and my parent’s divorce, but I had this overwhelming feeling that I wasn’t meant to be starting at about the age of 6 or 7.
I was bullied in school and since home life wasn’t that great, I had a hard time finding happiness. I just couldn’t understand why I felt different and how to voice it.
Then, starting in adolescence, depression sank in very deep. I had a traumatic experience and it all kind of started flowing. I found myself wanting to die and I actually spent almost my entire freshman year of high school in a mental hospital outpatient program.
In the years after that, I struggled to have a will to live and attempted suicide many times. In my early 20’s I fell deeper down the rabbit hole and thought I would never get out. I just couldn’t see beyond the pain I was feeling. It was like a dark cloud constantly hung over me and even though I wanted it gone so badly, I just didn’t know how to make it disappear.
I gave birth to my daughter at the age of 20 and I thought that would be a new beginning for me. Instead, postpartum depression took a grip on me and I ended up going in and out of the same mental hospital I did as a teenager. In fact, I went there 3 times for week-long stays when I was pregnant with her. I felt useless as a mother and worried this would be one more thing I would fail at and that added to my depression.
In all those years, I was on so many prescribed drugs and I didn’t know if I was coming or going. The side effects were terrible and made it hard for me to keep employment.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
The light at the end of the tunnel came in a few ways for me. I was blessed to meet my husband who is still my rock and has made me realise my self worth when I didn’t know I had any. I also started a different kind of therapy with a counselor called DBT or Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. In DBT, you don’t just talk about your problems. You learn to work through them and change your thoughts and behavior. This was a huge turning point for me.
Another therapy I did, which is still highly controversial is ECT or what some might think of as “Shock Treatments.” This isn’t as scary as many movies make it. I was put under anesthesia (as well as muscle relaxants) and given electrical shocks through probes placed on the side of my head to induce a seizure. This was a 2 week hospital stay to have the therapy every other day. I truthfully do not remember a lot of that time period or the months after as it causes a great deal of amnesia, but I do remember that for the first time in my life, that cloud I was forever doomed to have over me was starting to lift.
I still struggle with depression and anxiety. It isn’t gone and I don’t think it will ever be gone. I just now have more tools to cope with it and I have overcome the suicidal thoughts for the most part.
If you are dealing with this kind of deep depression, I want you to know it can and will get better. It isn’t easy to recover from and it isn’t something that will happen unless you put in a lot of work. However, I am here to tell you it is worth it. My smiles now are genuine and my belly laughs are plentiful.
My Tips for Coping with Depression:
I take care of my body.
I know you have probably heard it over and over, but I can honestly tell you that diet and exercise play a huge role in my overall wellness. If I eat junk and don’t give my body the nourishment it needs, I feel depressed and have no energy. And exercise is an amazing way to kick those natural feel good chemicals into gear. It really does work.
I stay busy.
I don’t allow myself to have long periods of time where I am not doing things. When I need to take some time to regroup, as we all do, I give myself a time limit and stick to it. I say, “Ok, you can cry today and spend it in bed feeling like crud, but tomorrow, that’s it. You need to get back into your routine.”
I found hobbies.
This goes along with the staying busy aspect, but having hobbies that bring you joy are great for those days when you are having trouble motivating yourself. It takes your mind off of the bad feelings and gives you time to devote energy to something positive.
I surround myself with positive people.
I used to feel so alone when I had so many friends and a super active social life. I wondered how that was possible. The problem was, I was avoiding my feelings by escaping into superficial relationships. I now surround myself with only a few rock stars in my life for the really personal stuff and I focus on cherishing and building those relationships.
I know that depression, mental illness and anxiety can feel like they have all the control, but I can promise you that they don’t. You can find ways to cope with them and take back the control in your life. Keep fighting and look everywhere you can for help. I tried many different kinds of therapy before I found the right now. I am in my mid thirties now and never thought I would make it this far. It really is worth it.
If you are struggling, please reach out 800-273-TALK (8255) or check out these additional mental health resources including a FREE Printable PDF.
If you missed it, check out my own recent story of depression including my 30 Days of Positive Affirmations Series.