young miserable depressed man sitting and thinking by window

Just Because I Needed Care While I Was Depressed Doesn't Mean I'm Incapable

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People treat me like a child sometimes.

I am not a child. I’m in my 30s.

Sometimes I think people forgot this.

I can look after myself. I actually can. I can cook, I can keep the house clean and I can keep myself alive and dressed and clean. I can get up on time, I can go to bed at a reasonable hour. I am not completely incapable of doing any of these things. I can plan for the future and I can learn from my mistakes.

People treat me like a child sometimes.

It’s not malicious; in fact, those who care about me most often do this — and hell, I don’t think they even realize they’re doing it sometimes. So I let it slide most of the time without even feeling peeved. Sometimes though, more so as I get older and as I get better, it grates on me. Because I know what I’m doing. I know how to do things — that isn’t the problem.

The problem is I don’t want to do things — and the reason behind that. So I don’t want to shower, or cook, or clean — not necessarily because I’m lazy (although I can be) but because I do not think I deserve this care.

I don’t think I should be looked after, don’t think I deserve a good meal or a clean house. I struggle to get up on time because I don’t think I should bother — what’s the point, right? I don’t want to go to bed, because then I have to sleep, and I have to start over again. It’s the problem with depression: It sucks at your self-worth so you don’t see the point of these activities — activities that simply revolve around you. Other people have more worth to you than your own being. So looking after them is easier than looking after yourself.

While my mental health is improved, I still struggle with looking after myself. Not because I can’t, but because I don’t completely think I’m worth it. If my wife weren’t here, I doubt I would even do as much as I do now. I can manage a bare minimum under my own steam, but everything after that is for her or because of her in some way.

My mother, my sister, my best friend… many people have looked after me right up until a few years ago. For some reason, I seem to project this need to be looked after when it’s not what I need. I need kicking up the backside, in all honesty. It’s what I tell my wife all the time. As time has gone on, my mental health has improved as well as my desire to look after myself. But it takes time for that to sink in completely for everyone else, I suppose. And I don’t blame them, nor would I ever snap — but sometimes, I just… I know what I’m doing, OK?

When it comes to mental health and depression — what one person needs may not be what another person needs. So while I need a swift kick to get me to do the washing up, some people may need more care. I used to need that care. Hell, I used to have my sister clean my flat, and my mother randomly left me groceries on my porch in the middle of the day because I’d still be in bed and living off pizza delivery. That was my reality, and on some level I am still being cared for — but that does not make me incapable. Every little thing can be a struggle, because every little thing can hurt or hinder in some way. Definitely not my fault.

It’s odd, the way it takes us. But the reality is deep down we are capable people — we can’t do things not because we’re incapable but because it’s too hard at that point. We’re just too worn down by our own minds, our own thoughts, and sometimes we don’t think we’re worth it or it’s worth doing. There are a million little things that cause mental health problems, a million different triggers, a million different reasons and rationales and requirements we have to get through the day.

Or to avoid getting through the day.

For all this griping I’ve just done, there is one thing that’s important to note. I know they only do it because they care about me, they love me. And they worry. I’ve worried the hell out of my mother and sister over the years, caused my best friend no end of panic with suicide attempts and self-harming and complete meltdowns of various kinds. So this is their continued care, and I love them all the more for it, appreciate it more now that I ever did back then.

Still, I am an adult. I can look after myself.

Image via Thinkstock.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

Follow this journey on Weird and Important.

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When I Realized I Wasn't Asking for Help With My Depression — I Just Thought I Was

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Why is it that some people say all you need to do is ask for help and everything will get fixed? It seems to me when you finally muster up the courage to ask — and I mean really ask, not just insinuate that something may be wrong — nobody has any answers for you.

This is what I think when things I would like to have fixed by now are still a problem. I sometimes fear that no one else is trying to help me get better, but I am now realizing — maybe I’m not asking them for the help, I just thought I was.

I have lived with depression since I was 15. This was discovered when I was diagnosed with a dysthymic disorder at the age of 18. I had a diagnosis, I was being treated — but I felt it wasn’t enough. This wasn’t me asking for help yet.

I spent the next few years on and off meds, going through ups and downs, but nothing severe enough for anyone to notice anything was seriously wrong. I would tell people I wasn’t feeling well, I would miss out on things, I would fall behind in school. People started to see me changing. Even though it may have seemed like it, I wasn’t asking for help then either.

When I was 20, I was put on a higher dose of combination medicine and diagnosed with a double depressive disorder, which is the combination of a dysthymic disorder as well as a major depressive disorder. Somewhere in these years, I started having crippling anxiety and was diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. There were meds for that, too. At this point, I missed as many classes as I could without being kicked out of my program and spent most of my free time crying. But unfortunately, even though I felt like my pain was so obvious, I still had not asked for help.

In May of this year, after starting a trial on new medication, I decided I was feeling better and needed a change of scenery for the summer. I moved out on my own thinking I would feel better if I lived far away. For a little while, I felt like I no longer needed the help; I was doing well, I loved my job and my friends — it was all amazing. Then somehow, it all came crashing down. Everything fell apart so fast I couldn’t even tell you how it happened.

I attempted suicide in May, and then finally, someone asked for help for me. Getting to a place where you can ask for help is a difficult task. I am sorry to report that once it’s done, your job doesn’t get any easier. Yes, there are supports out there, and yes, some of them are incredibly amazing. But it can be a very frustrating process. Finding a counsellor or therapist, or a psychologist can be a challenge, and finding one you like is often even harder.

Don’t take this to mean it isn’t worth it, because trust me when I tell you it absolutely is. Knowing I have a whole team of people in my corner is sometimes the only thing that gets me through a hard day. I am still trying to find a therapist, but I’m OK with waiting for one I like. I am happy I was able to get the help I needed, even if I wasn’t able to ask for it.

I think if I had been able to tell someone I wasn’t able to ask for help on my own, I could have saved myself a lot of complications. But the thing is, I thought I was asking for help the whole time when really I was not. Be clear with what you need, and tell people if you can’t do something, because the only one missing out is you. Getting help is hard, too; I am frustrated every single day by it. But it’s all about trusting the process and waiting for positive outcomes.

Image via Thinkstock.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. 

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On Days I Feel Down

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Today is just one of those days.

Last night, I found myself deeply depressed. Maybe it was me just missing my dad, maybe it’s just me feeling like my life should be different, or maybe it’s none of that at all. Maybe, I am just down.

On days like today, everything feels like a struggle. Everything feels like there’s an anchor attached to it, and no matter how hard I try, nothing will move. And depression will do that; it makes even the most mundane of tasks difficult, and it feels like there’s nothing anyone can do or say to make things better.

I wish there wasn’t such a negative stigma attached with depression and other mental health disorders. I wish people would feel free to talk about such things and know nothing is wrong with saying they are depressed. I am not ashamed to say I have depression, to say I have days like today, where everything is seemingly hard.

On days I feel down, I am hopeful for tomorrow. I am hopeful tomorrow will wipe the slate clean, that it will feel different from today. And when I go through days I feel down, I draw strength in knowing I am not the only one. I know there are countless others just like me who battle with depression. Some are still in the shadows living with depression in secrecy. I am here today to say it’s OK to come out of the shadows, to admit something is wrong. If more people could do that, it could drastically help the perception of those with depression and other mental illnesses.

Know you are not battling depression alone. It’s OK to feel whatever you’re feeling. Together, we are mighty.

Image via Thinkstock.

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What a ‘Depressive Episode’ Day Looks Like for Me

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There are flare-ups for people who have arthritis, fibromyalgia and Crohn’s disease. Panic attacks for those with anxiety. People who have depression go through what I call “depressive episodes.” Depressive episodes can last a day, a few days or maybe even a week or more. It is a period of time when the symptoms of depression become so intense they’re debilitating.

I’m currently in a depressive episode. I have no appetite. I don’t sleep more than two to three hours a night, and I only get out of bed to use the bathroom and get something to drink. I can’t shower. Brushing my teeth is a major chore. The television is on, but it doesn’t draw my attention.

My level of interest of absolutely anything is zero. My only social interaction is with my husband and my cat. Appointments and other plans get canceled because I can’t leave the house. Oh and housework? Yeah, that’s funny.

What goes through the mind of someone in a depressive episode? Obviously, it varies depending on the person. Like many, I have anxiety, in addition to depression. There are so many thoughts. They repeat over and over again. They don’t stop. It’s like the ticker at the bottom of the television screen. Instead of the latest headlines, my thoughts and feelings keep scrolling around my mind. I keep a journal and I write when I’m going through tough times.

This is an excerpt from today:

“How am I supposed to go to [social function]? I can’t even leave my bed, let alone leave my house. I don’t want to see anyone or anyone to see me. I’ll be the ugliest one there. My hair looks like shit. I hate my clothes. I can’t talk to people. I have nothing to say. What do I say when someone asks me what I do? ‘I can’t work because I’m too sick to function’?”

It’s so awkward. I’m worthless. I don’t want to be here anymore. Wonder if anyone would notice if I was gone. Or care. Probably not. No one bothers talking to me anymore anyway. I guess I can’t blame them. I don’t have much to say. I’m easily forgotten. I thought I had friends. I think even most of my family forgot about me.

I have no purpose in life anymore. I’m a waste of space. I’m not going to achieve anything. Everything I’ve tried to do has been a failure anyway. What the hell is the point? I won’t have a career, and I doubt I’ll ever have kids if I can’t even function like a normal human being. I have a headache again, probably because I can’t sleep. I’m exhausted. I just want to sleep and never wake up.”

Anxiety, anger and feelings of worthlessness all tangle together and keep rolling down the never-ending spiral staircase. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating, and as if all of that isn’t enough, eventually, there comes an overwhelming feeling of guilt. I care about my loved ones, and I hate to let them down. I also feel like I’m letting myself down. I panic, I cry and I curl up in a ball in bed. I pray I fall asleep so I can escape the misery.

Most people with depression or any chronic illness hear the phrase, “One day at a time,” quite often. I’m holding onto hope that the next day will be better.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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How Finding Beauty Every Day Helps Me Manage My Depression

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Ever thought to yourself, once I lose weight or get that amazing job/house/boyfriend… then I’ll be happy? What if I told you that’s not how it works. Sometimes, the secret to finding that elusive happiness is actually to stop chasing it. Because it’s right in front of you.

I know. I didn’t believe it either. I kept thinking, “If only I could XYZ… then I’ll be happy.” But it took a steep fall into the darkness of depression to finally get it.

Clinical depression runs deep in my family. I have struggled with it most of my life, but this time was different. This time, I didn’t see it coming. It had been building for years and I didn’t even know I was slipping down a dangerous downward spiral.

I woke up one morning and found myself curled up at the bottom of a deep dark hole where I could barely breathe, wondering what happened. Wondering how I got here. And not really caring if I ever saw light again. I didn’t even realize it at the time, but so many things had happened over the years that pushed me here. Little by little, until I hit the bottom.

All of a sudden someone who thrived in the spotlight for years as a TV health reporter and model wanted to hide from the world. I couldn’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. I felt hideous and hated myself. I thought this would never stop. That I would never feel good. That the only way to stop hurting was to sleep so deeply I wouldn’t wake up. I had fleeting thoughts of suicide.

I finally found the strength to get help. It was a long tough climb for me out of that dark hole. I kept slipping back down. After months of raw excruciating work in therapy, I was feeling better, but still very vulnerable.

Then came November 2013. I was living in Ohio at the time, and winter was the hardest time of the year for me. Once the days get darker, the temperatures drop and the snow falls, I struggle to keep going. My therapist suggested I try to focus on the beauty in something every day to help me get through the next few months. He told me how positive psychology researchers have found people who notice and appreciate beauty are more likely to find joy and meaning in everyday life. I was skeptical, but decided to give it a try. Anything to ease the brunt of a brutal Ohio winter.

I’m a visual person, so I decided I would document the beauty I saw each day with a picture. I posted my images on Instagram using the hashtag #IChooseBeauty to keep them all in one place. After only a week, I noticed a difference — I started feeling hopeful. A few more days went by, and I was hooked. So much so that I didn’t quit when winter was over. I kept going. And haven’t stopped since. Just recently, I hit a huge milestone — my 1,000th day in a row (almost three years).

Taking a picture every day has helped shift my focus from the dreary times, to just noticing the little things every day — whether it’s a flower, a phone call from a good friend, a good hot cup of tea. I was noticing beauty everywhere I had overlooked before.

The amazing thing that has come out of this project, besides my healing, is that it has inspired so many people who are struggling in life. Dozens have joined the movement, posting their own #IChooseBeauty images and sharing how this process helps them, too.

But I’m not going to lie. I still have depressive episodes, and will probably have more of them — it’s in my genes. There are still tough days when I can barely get out of bed and can’t stand the thought of looking for beauty, but I make myself do it anyway. I’m honestly afraid if I don’t, I’ll slip back into that dark hole.

#IChooseBeauty has become my life preserver, and my daily images keep me afloat. It’s proof that happiness can be right in front of us, all around us. We just have to see it.

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

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

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When My Doctor Was Too Uncomfortable to Talk About My Depression

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Yesterday, I went to the doctor. I was feeling miserable for a few weeks. Runny nose, hacking cough, stuffy ears and random chills. I put my things on the chair and lifted myself onto the bed covered with wrinkly paper. No matter how old I am, I always feel little when I sit up there. I’m back to the space in my head where I’m nervous about saying or doing something weird on that strange little pedestal.

I play with the paper next to my thighs and wait for the doctor. He walks in the room after a quick knock and holds out his hand to introduce himself.

“Hi I’m Doctor ______.  I understand you aren’t feeling well!”

I tell him I have two things I need to talk about. My atrocious cold and my depression. He says OK and jumps straight into asking about my cold symptoms. He feels my throat and checks my lungs, my ears and nose.

He asks how long it’s been going on and if it started in my sinuses or in my chest. He asks if I am taking any cold medicine currently and if I have tried anything like extra vitamin C. I answer all of his questions and he says, “Great, I’ll get you a prescription for antibiotics. Make sure to take two the first day and one after that just like the box says. I’ll also give you a prescription for a cough syrup to let you sleep through the night. And finally a prescription for Celexa.”

I was confused. He had just spent five minutes checking me out for a common cold and is prescribing me an antidepressant. I asked him if I should take the whole dosage right away because I read that I should start slow. He told me to do what I think is best.

“If you’re sensitive to medications, then you can start with half. I’m going to go wash my hands and call these in. What’s your preferred pharmacy?”

Half of me is grateful. There was no embarrassment when talking about my depression and admitting after two years off medication that I need to be on it again. There was no feeling of weakness. It was great.

The other half of me is indignant. This man just spent the entire appointment asking me questions about something that will pass. I was glad he was thorough with my cold symptoms, but I was shocked that in 10 minutes he handed me a prescription for an antidepressant without any direction or warning of side-effects.

No asking about how long I’ve lived with depression. No asking about why I’ve come to this decision. No warning that this may not work, but there are many options and we can keep trying.

I understand depression is a difficult subject. I understand it makes people uncomfortable. I do not understand how my doctor can be one of these people.

Image via Thinkstock.

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