When Depression Returns to Your Thoughts Uninvited

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Dear Depression,

Here you are again. Uninvited. Unwelcome. And, it seems, unavoidable.

I knew you were coming back to see me. I felt it in my eyes, as I watched the brightness twinkle away. I felt it in my shoulders, as I started to droop and slouch. I felt it in my steps, as my feet became weighted. Depression, I knew.

I found you in my thoughts, telling me what I can’t do and asking me what if. Whispering not good enough and focusing my attention on what could have been better, smarter, cleaner, prettier. I found you in my words. I heard myself saying always, never, nobody, everybody, should, enough, can’t. And worst of all, I found you in my feelings. I found your pit of sadness in my stomach. I felt your fingers of anxiety creep over me like frost on a window. You threw your heavy wet blanket over my heart and tried to suffocate my joy. Depression, you tried.

I’ll be honest. You scare me. When I think you, speak you, feel you, I am scared. A prickly cold sense of panic washes over me and I think oh my God, no. Not again. I can’t do this again. The thought of getting sick almost takes my legs out from under me. Almost makes me feel helpless. Almost.

But helpless is a lie you tell me. Hopeless is a road you lead me down. And this time I won’t go.

I know you’re here but I won’t go there. Depression, can we make a shift? Choose a different path? This time I’ll talk back. I’ll answer your nobody ever with somebody does, your not good enough with doing my best. I will fight to stay in the present moment when I start to ruminate on the what ifs. It’s so hard to change but I’ll try to tell myself I did, I can, I will. I will speak your name out loud, depression. Because that takes away your power and makes me less alone.

Because the truth is, depression, I’ve done this before and I can do it again. I will take a deep breath and accept my fear for what it is. I’ve seen you at your worst and it was dark and black and terrifying. I am scared of getting sick and I am stronger now than I was then. I’ll hold on tight to both of those truths – you can’t snatch my hope away. It’s mine. I earned it.

Depression, you may come and go, but I won’t ever stop. I won’t ever stop trying and fighting and hoping. My will is strong and my spirit is alive. So let’s go. Let’s walk together if we must. But this time you won’t drag me behind you, choking me in your dust. This time we will walk side by side. Uncommon friends on an uncharted path. It’s just you and me, depression.

Will you take my hand?

Follow this journey on Blue Light Blue.

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The Moment I Finally Broke Down After Silently Drowning in Depression

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The first time I truly realized I was depressed was shortly after my first son was born.  He came into our world, my partner had gone out for the night and I was left home alone with him, still sore from the delivery but able to move around on my own. I was in my pajamas, it was about 8 p.m., and I had just gotten my son to sleep after trying for over an hour. I was sitting in the lazy boy chair bawling my eyes out when I heard a knock on the door. I froze, afraid that if I moved someone would know I was in there, and that would mean interacting with someone. I held in my sobs, held my breath and prayed they would leave. I had been sitting there crying, an ache of loneliness in my heart, a feeling like I couldn’t breathe and yet when help arrived with that knock on the door, I couldn’t bring myself to answer it. I chalked it up to the baby blues, the lack of sleep and the change in hormones. I had already had about 10 years covering up my feelings to the outside world, so no one once asked me if I was really doing OK.

I spent the next eight years pasting a smile on my face when people asked how I was, raised my kids to the best of my abilities and absolutely falling apart once they had gone to bed each night. I constantly felt like I was drowning. I would sit in my car and have to talk myself into not driving into a tree. I carried my passport in my purse at all times and there were many times when the kids were at their dad’s that I stopped myself halfway to the airport. I constantly thought of what my kid’s lives would look like if I wasn’t in them, and more than once had convinced myself they would be better off without me. When I reflect on those times, on those last eight years, many have blurred into the other, and there are birthdays and Christmases that I don’t remember the slightest detail. There are missed baseball games, early bedtimes, temper tantrums and crying fits because of how I felt. There were days I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed and let the kids watch TV all day. There were nights when I would sit at home and drink two bottles of wine, just to forget how I felt. There were missed interactions with other parents because I constantly felt like a failure. Years of feeling like a failure as a parent took a toll on my relationships and I managed to burn through friends and family. I was 30 years old and all I could remember thinking about myself was that I was a disappointment to everyone around me. I hated myself. I couldn’t even be happy for the people around me, I hated watching people get married, hated how happy new moms looked and constantly looked for something negative that I could relate to.

About six months before I turned 30, my hate for myself increased and so did the sadness inside of me. I spent 20 minutes in the shower each morning, sobbing uncontrollably, not knowing why or how to fix things. I dreamt up scenarios in which I ran away, leaving notes for my children that they would get when they were older, hoping they would understand they were better off without me.

My one shining star came in terms of a doctor’s appointment I had, for a full physical, one that I couldn’t miss as I hadn’t been in so long. My doctor walked into the room, sat down and asked me how I was. What I had rehearsed in my head was something along the lines of “Everything is good. I feel great, I should exercise more, and kids are good.” Instead what came out of my mouth was a sob, and then another and another with only two words — “not good.” Reflecting back on this moment, I’m not sure why the breakdown happened with my doctor. Perhaps I just couldn’t hold it anymore; perhaps I just needed someone to ask me how I really was. After a long talk I was prescribed a counseling session and a very low dose of anti-depressants.

It was a long road to recovery, one that hasn’t ended and is truly only beginning, even as I write this, years later. It took about eight weeks for the medication to kick in and it was a gradual change, it wasn’t as if I woke up one day and started feeling happy. I started crying in the shower less, I started being more patient with the kids and one day I realized I hadn’t thought about abandoning my kids in weeks. What that medication didn’t do though was deal with all the rest of the issues I had facing me. Even though I no longer felt as sad or angry, I still didn’t love myself, I still didn’t like where I was in my life. I also knew I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life, I wanted to change my life naturally. The anti-depressants saved my life, I will give them that.

I am not sure where I would have been had I not had that doctor’s appointment that day. I am not sure I would have been here to tell this story. But I also was aware I had been unhappy for over 15 years and that one pill wasn’t the cure. I started making changes in my life, which became easier as I felt more confident than I had in years. One of the changes I made was letting go of people’s judgment of me. I spent years wondering what people thought, living my life according to societal norms, letting others decide my path for me. When I wake up in the mornings now I want to get out of bed. I smile as I look at the gorgeous sunrises, I laugh as I chase my kids around the house and it fills me with joy to know that this life is truly an incredible gift, and I can only be thankful that I am finally present to live it.

Editor’s note: This piece is based on one person’s experience and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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When Guilt and Depression Go Hand-in-Hand

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I live a pretty “typical” young adult lifestyle. I go to a four-year university where I have always done well and made dean’s list. I have a roof over my head, clothes on my back and I have two internships and a job. I will go out to bars and parties and I have many friends. I come across as being responsible and having it all together — and that is exactly how I like to appear. Service is my passion and I’m always finding ways to make my schedule busier than it already is.

What many people don’t realize is I have firsthand experience with the demons of depression and the awful things it tells you to do in your head. I know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed in the morning and to wish you hadn’t woken up in the first place. I know what it feels like to resort to self-harm. Depression is hard because for some it is so easy to look normal. It is so easy to memorize the same rap to tell everyone when they ask how you are doing. You become a master of excuses and lies and deceit becomes your middle name.

The sadness and hopelessness one feels with depression is often paralyzing. It makes you second guess who you are and what potential you have in this world. It makes you feel as though you are simply taking up space, and breathing the air others deserve to breathe more than yourself. You feel like you’re dragging around your body from place to place, constantly having an outer body experience. All of these feelings are generally associated with depression. Most of them you learn in psych classes or maybe from an article you read online about someone willing to share their experience. But what isn’t talked about is the feeling that tags along with all of the other ones. The feeling that I think is the most devastating of them all: guilt.

I do not go a single day without feeling guilty about my depression. While I’m currently doing well in recovery, I still reflect on the terrible things I did when my depression was at it’s worst and make myself feel terrible for ever thinking or doing what I did. I have a beautiful and privileged life, where I am able to go to school and live in a beautiful apartment with my friends who love me. I am able to go home to my family who also loves me and feel safe there. I live in the nation’s capital which is full of endless possibilities and I can pursue any career that I desire. I am so lucky. But when I spent my nights sleepless and didn’t have the energy to make it to class I looked like just another lazy college student. When I had no appetite and would waste the food in my refrigerator I seemed ungrateful for the sustenance I had the privilege to have. And when I felt sad and cried for no reason when other people had more obvious triggers to sadness like a death or immense stress I looked weak and unappreciative of the good hand that I had been dealt.

What many people don’t understand is that depression has nothing to do with how grateful a person is. I realized all of the beautiful things I had when I was depressed. But honestly, this made me feel worse. Why did I feel the way I did when I had everything that I had? How could I not feel like living anymore when someone out there would do anything to be where I am? I felt guilty for feeling sad, and for everything that I did as a result of being depressed. I damaged my academic career by not going to class and I couldn’t hold my job that someone had helped me get in the first place. Worst of all, I saw how much I hurt and confused my friends and family. While they tried to help me and I refused it, I felt guilty and this only pushed me further into my depression.

There is a stigma that people who are depressed are egocentric and thankless, and people who hurt themselves or attempt to take their own life are even more selfish and ungrateful. But I am here, as someone who has experienced all of these things to tell you that many people who are depressed are not thankless, they see the good in their life and the blessings that they have. Guilt can stop people from accepting help from others so it is not personal if someone declines your offer to help them. People who hurt themselves and try to take their own life are not selfish. They know how much their actions hurt other people. They are simply too paralyzed by the sadness to do anything about the guilt that they are overflowing with.

It was not the sadness that ate me alive when I was depressed. It was the guilt. The guilt that I was wasting a perfectly beautiful life being trapped in my own head. It took me a very long time to move forward from my sadness. I now wake up in the morning and can put my feet on the floor, even if I am feeling sad. I learned how to keep moving forward and not get caught up in the small stressors and details of my life. I learned how to let go of things that were out of my control and find the small imperfections in life beautiful as they are what make us human. I will deal with depression for my whole life, but my hope is that by tackling the stigma of depression and suicide, others out there can feel less guilty about what they are going through. If someone you know is fighting depression, remind them that you love them and that they are not a burden to you. If you reading this are battling depression, keep fighting, be gentle with yourself and remember that where you may feel broken is where the light can shine through.

If you or someone you know needs help, see our suicide prevention resources.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

This post originally appeared on The Odyssey.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: What’s one secret about you or your loved one’s disability and/or disease that no one talks about? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Man Reveals His 'Double Life' With Depression in Moving Facebook Video

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If you’ve ever had to “come out” to family or friends about having depression, you know the experience can be nerve-wracking. You might feel uneasy about their potential reaction — Will they get it? Will they think it’s just an excuse? Will I regret telling them?

Well, Doug Leddin from Ireland opened up about his depression in one of the most public ways you can —  in a intimate Facebook video that has already been shared more than 11,000 times.

“It’s not often I post something too serious on social media and I’m not sure this is the right thing to do and to be honest I’m nervous as hell writing this status,” he wrote. “But I hope it helps others and I hope you can share this if you think it will help someone.”

He said he’s wanted to get this off his chest for 10 years.

In the video, he talks about how depression has forced him to live a “double life.”

“The life that my family, my friends, my colleagues, my teammates see. But then there’s the life that I see and that I live and that I feel…I’m living a different life inside. I’m living the life of someone who suffers immensely with depression,” he says in the video.

He said what’s scarier than the darkness is the fear that others won’t understand. He hopes his video will encourage others to open up without fear.

Watch the whole moving video below:

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A Letter to My Teenage Self: Growing Up Blaxican and Depressed in White Suburbia

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There are some days when you look over your shoulder, unsure of who may be following you. You walk through the halls, nervously, knowing that people you have never met are talking about you. You’re trying to get through each day, unnoticed, but it’s hard. It’s hard when you feel trapped inside your head — when your depression is almost invisible. When your anxiety interferes on a day-to-day basis and when others try to make you feel like you don’t belong. It’s hard when you feel alone. Sometimes it’s as if nobody understands.

You look in the mirror, and you try to see what your mother sees. You try to believe her when she says you are beautiful. But at times the insults from the people at your school are all that you remember.

When they make fun of your hair, you want to cut it off. You want to straighten the curls out. You want to look like everybody else.

When they say your nose is too big, you want to change it. You want a different nose. You want to be like everybody else.

When they taunt your skin color, you want to hide it. You want to erase it. You want to fit in with everybody else.

When they put you down, you want to stay down. You want to give in to what everybody else is saying or thinking, but you won’t.

You won’t.

You will get back up again. You will shine. You will thrive in ways that you have never imagined possible. You will become stronger and wiser. You will defy all of the odds against you. You will love your curly hair. You will love your nose. You will love your brown skin. You will love it all.

You will love yourself regardless of those who try to break you.

They will not succeed, but you will.

You will find a way to overcome the depression and anxiety. It won’t be easy and some days will be difficult, but you will know who you are. You will know that it doesn’t make you inferior. In fact, you are brave, courageous and bold. You aren’t like everybody else, and that’s OK. You are you, and that is more than enough.

You will pass on all that you have learned to the girls of the world, who are struggling with their identities. Yes, pass on the message that your mother told you. Tell them they are beautiful. One day they will believe you.

To see more from Denise, visit her website.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to your teenaged self when you were struggling to accept your differences. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Why You Didn't Know Your Friend Has Depression

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Most of us have had it happen — the conversation that reveals someone we know, possibly even love, battles depression and we didn’t know it. We think to ourselves “but they seem so happy!” or “they are so fun to be around!” and the news doesn’t compute with what we know. I have chosen these statements because they are statements that have been said to me when I was finally brave enough to tell someone I’ve struggled with clinical depression for most of my life. I have even been surprised by the number of people I know who fight a similar battle, and I never would have guessed. Here are a few reasons why the revelation of clinical depression takes us by surprise, as I have experienced in my life.

1. Episodes of depression come and go.

I have gone as long as two years without serious bouts of depression hitting me. I was naive enough (hopeful, maybe?) to believe I had been cured. But it returned when I least expected it. Most of my life has been a roller coaster of “emotional times” and “stable times,” and when I was younger I just told myself I was a “sensitive” person. It wasn’t until a doctor pushed for more information and I researched on my own that I realized I had all the major signs and symptoms of depression and had battled with them most of my life. So yes, it does come and go, and if you catch me on an “up” there would be no reason to suspect I could have ever had a brush with mental illness. As I have matured I have also realized there are definite triggers, and the response to them is very real and very dramatic, but outside of that there is little reason to discuss my illness.

2. Depression mimics (although in an unhealthy amount) normal emotions. 

Let me speak plainly: If you do not suffer from clinical depression, you will have a hard time relating the reality of someone who does. A crying fit to you may be the sign of a bad day. To someone with depression, it may be the explosion that is expressing complete worthlessness and despair. Retreating to your room in frustration to you may be a way to cool down. To someone with depression, it may the start of withdrawal that begins an emotional downward spiral. Declining a social invitation for you may mean you need some quiet time. To the person with depression, it is a way to avoid contact and remain in the darkness. You are seeing the tip of the iceberg in a person with depression, and you have no idea there is mass hiding below the waters because for you there never has been the bitterness of cold, frigid ice. Trust them when they try to tell you they feel depressed.

3. They are living functioning and contributing lives.

Again with the iceberg analogy. You see the tip of the life they present. Sure, you may see the warning signs you have read so diligently about, like weight changes or withdrawal, but for the most part the times in my life when I have been most depressed I have also still functioned well. I have showered, curled my hair, ran my kids from place to place, even lunched and laughed with my friends. I can’t say why I don’t usually completely shut down, I just never did. I don’t know if I function out of habit or out of hope, but I do. I rarely wallowed in my filth and let my life fall apart. As a matter of fact, when my real battles with depression and death idealizing began I was in school, an honor student, singing the theme song for prom and cheering at the school basketball game. But the clouds still rolled in and I didn’t want anyone to know. So I lived and suffered mostly in private.

4. The person you know with depression doesn’t want you to know they have it.

Depression is extremely easy to downplay.  A quick little “that was a rough time for me...” or “I am struggling with that” is usually all I have to tell someone who is checking up on me after an emotional battle. People are understanding when it comes to struggles. What they don’t understand, however, is real depression. Telling someone you are struggling with serious doubts about the worth of your own life, or if you have the strength to face one more day, is a huge risk. Not all are created equal when it comes to this news. I have lost a friend or two who I knew just couldn’t face the storms with me. And I don’t blame them. It’s not fun and it’s not easy. It’s even harder if you weren’t aware of the problem (see opening paragraph), thus, we learn to hide it. It’s safer that way (not in reality, but we see safety in hiding) so we pick and choose very carefully who we tell, if we tell anyone at all. In my experience, even upon the telling of our illness we will downplay it. We desperately want to avoid the stigma, we want to be normal and we desperately want to be helped. We just don’t dare say those things out loud.

Because of the perceived risk in revealing this news, too many people suffer in silence. Too many pull themselves together to face the world, but alone at home they crumble in shame, guilt, and agonizing pain. The pain is the worst part of it, and while feeling it you are sure this is the only way you have felt and the only way you will ever feel again. That is why ending the charade is so important. As I have become more open about my illness, with my husband, my doctors, my church friends and even my siblings, it is easier to win the battles. The storms still roll in, but I have many willing hands ready to hold an umbrella for me until it passes. That is why if you find out someone you know and love has depression, your reaction will make a difference. It is why if you are struggling with mental illness, you must take down your mask.

When we work together, we can win these fights.

Follow this journey on Better Than We Deserve.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us a story about a time you encountered a commonly held misconception about your mental illness. How did you react, and what do you want to tell people who hold his misconception? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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