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It’s Mental Health Monday again, friends! Today, we’re super lucky to have Jem from over at Little Adventures sharing her story about chronic depression. Before we get started though, let’s talk a little about what Mental Health Monday is about. Some of you may be familiar with the series, but for the newbies, I wanna make sure we’re all caught up.
Uninspired is all about helping twenty-something women live passionately now, even while we’re building our futures. That’s why it’s so important to talk about mental health! Our twenties are this wild free-for-all where we haven’t quite figured out the logistics of who we’re going to be, or how we’re going to set the stage for the rest of our lives. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how exhausting that can be. It can be so exhausting that it causes people to need medication for anxiety or chronic depression. If we don’t talk about how common these things are, and if we don’t talk about people who have successfully gotten through it, these people might lose hope.
So, why don’t I just write these posts myself? I am a grad student in marriage and family therapy, after all. I’m a prime candidate to answer all your questions about the mental health field.
Well, lemme tell ya.
I only have one personal experience. And unfortunately, my personal experience is highly textbook-based. When I tell you guys that people survive being depressed, and they live happy lives even through anxiety, I want to show you examples. Not textbook examples. Real people. So I got some real people.
I’m so grateful to everyone who has volunteered to tell their personal stories regarding mental health. This series is helping people– just look at the comments. Jenn from the postpartum depression and anxiety post from July was able to help a brand new mom find hope. Nour’s post from June about overcoming social anxiety for a job interview gave some seriously actionable advice on what you can do to calm down in an important social situation. Today’s story is going to give you hope that even when you have chronic depression, even when you’re lying in a hospital bed after attempting suicide, you can come back. You can come back and live the life you’ve always wanted.
“I have suffered from chronic depression in varying degrees since my early teens.
I’m very open about the basics of my experience with depression, but I don’t tend to discuss it in great detail. I’m used to talking about the fact that I was bullied, and the fact that there’s a large history of it in my family. But there’s much more to it than that.
Bullying led to many scars that I still carry with me to this day. Lack of self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence are some, along with the core belief that I don’t deserve anything. I’ve fought hard to change these beliefs, and they don’t inhibit my life as much as they used to, but they’re still there, lurking like some creepy stalker hiding in the bushes, waiting to approach. Bullying is evil and cowardly, and children can be so cruel, not realizing the long-lasting effects their actions can have on someone.
In addition to this, all the women on my mother’s side of my family have suffered from chronic depression. As a matter of fact, we recently learned that my maternal grandmother had her children taken from her for a month while she recovered from a breakdown. It was hushed over, and no one spoke of it until after she died. I’m glad we now live in a time where mental heath can be talked about. Even if there is still a stigma, it is not brushed under the carpet as much as it used to be.
When I was at my worst a few years ago, the inside of my mind was a hell I couldn’t escape.
There was this large back hole constantly hanging over me that sucked the joy out of everything. There was an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair. Nothing could lift the fog I was living in– I was drowning and saw no way out. The worst feeling was the emptiness– I felt like a shell of myself, not really participating in life. My chest felt heavy all the time, I was constantly having irrational thoughts, and my motivation was at rock bottom. Even eating seemed too much effort. My only way of coping was to sleep. It was an escape from reality, and if I slept, the next day would be closer. One step closer to the end where I could finally be free of this awful burden I carried.
One day, I’d had enough.
The strange thing is, I don’t exactly know what led to that decision. Nothing out of the ordinary happened that day; I was just tired. Tired of living, tired of even existing, tired of being tired. So, I took matters into my own hands.
I took pill after pill hoping each one would make more of the hurt, more of the despair, everything, go away. I thought I was a burden to everyone around me, too. To me it seemed everyone would be better off without this moody, irrational, empty shell of a person sucking the happiness out of their lives. I was texting a friend as I took the pills and with each message, my words were more and more jumbled. I don’t remember much of what happened next, but I was told he broke the speed limit driving through town to reach me. He got me to the hospital, and had to carry me through the doors. I was taken straight in and put on a drip. Apparently, I’d gone blue.
When I woke up the next day, I saw my parents. They lived six hours away, and they’d driven the journey to be by my side and I felt so ashamed that I’d made them worry. Lying in that hospital bed, taking in the things people had done to save me and support me, was a turning point. No one realized how low I’d sunk, because I never talked about it with anyone. Now that I had the support of my family, friends, and therapy, I could begin the long, hard road to recovery.
I was put on a cocktail of pills.
Often, they made me feel worse, and the cocktail was changed. About a year of that, and I once again decided that I’d had enough. Only this time, instead of having had enough of life, I wanted to take it back again. All the pills made me lethargic, nauseous, irritable, and a whole host of other unpleasant things. Through sheer bloody mindedness and against my therapist’s advice, I threw all my pills in the bin. As I was on at least seven a day, and I didn’t wean off of them, I went through withdrawals. I was sensitive to light, had constant headaches, was even more irritable, the nausea increased, and my body ached. Honestly, I don’t recommend that method at all. But, I got through it.
Eventually, I found myself again.
I found myself through friendship, exercise, and proper nutrition. Not long after I came off the meds, I found roller derby, and it saved my soul. Through derby I formed those positive relationships, found an exercise I enjoyed, and found a release for my emotions. I gained confidence in myself because I was able to see that I am capable and can push myself beyond my limits. My chronic depression is one of the main reasons I am so passionate about friendships. Without my friends, I don’t know where I’d be now. And laughter really is the best medicine. Talking things over with someone close is invaluable, and that’s something I have only learnt in the past few years.
I will always have chronic depression floating in the background. But as long as I look after myself, and am aware of my warning signs, I can keep it under control.”