10 Ways I Know I'm Recovering From Depression

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1. You are better at blinking back the tears when they start to well up at random times, and (most of the time) they don’t start rolling down your cheeks.

2. Feelings are conflicted when people invite you to socialize. You actually want to go and participate in things you used to enjoy, but you are still too exhausted to do much.

3. The percentage of new contacts in your phone of therapists, psychiatrists and people who you’ve met in treatment is 100.

4. Your desire to show your gratitude and appreciation for those who have stood by your side and spend time with them (actually holding conversations that don’t revolve around your feelings) increases exponentially.

5. As you are composing a top 10 list like this, you recognize you shouldn’t be using the word “you” and should be sharing personal experiences with “I.”

6. I recognize when I am choosing not to use skills I have learned, and I try my hardest not to let myself feel guilty about it. I also acknowledge when I need to take a step back, plan to start using them and hold myself accountable.

7. I am working on being comfortable and proud that I’ve been working two full weeks and making it. In the past, I would have found this embarrassing to admit since I felt this was something that would not be a particular accomplishment.

8. I am a proud alumna of a recovery program when I have never before referred to myself as such or attended an alumni event in my entire life. I had a great time going to dinner with other alumni the other night. Then, I attended a social, and I had a great time!

9. I am enjoying and being a part of life with family and friends. I don’t feel like I’m faking smiles, coming home and collapsing!

10. I am writing a blog post that tells the world I am confident that I am on a path to recovery from a long, harrowing episode of major depression. Also, I am finally believing that a post on fully recovering is a future possibility.

 Image via Thinkstock.

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When My Depression Feels Like a Rainy Day

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Ever since I was little, I have always found a peace with the sun (except for sunburns). Good, warm naps in the sun. Car rides where the sun hits you just right. Spending time outdoors when the weather is just nice enough to sit directly in the sunlight. You can feel the warmth where the sun kisses your skin and you thank God for what you believe is His amazing creation.

For the past few months, I haven’t seen much sun. The sun hasn’t kissed my skin, but I’m as tan as I’ll ever be. My naps on our swing are kind of cloudy (even on a sunny day). Most days are pretty gloomy (even if it’s 85 degrees and sunny).

My husband and I have this thing. Let’s call it an “inside joke,” minus the joke. Instead of asking me daily how my depression is, he asks me how the weather is. Since my major depressive disorder got much worse, I have always explained to my husband that my depression feels like it is a rainy day with no sight of the sun coming out. So, on bad days I reply with, “It’s a rainy day”; on good days, I get to tell him how sunny it is (sometimes in a funny singing voice).

If you are dealing with depression right now, you know just how painful it is to talk about it. It does not get easy and it may never be easy, but it can be less painful. Sit down your husband, wife, boyfriend, or best friend (whoever “your person” is) and talk to them straight up. Don’t sugarcoat it, because that will allow them to sugarcoat things to you (which is another story for another day). Tell them how it makes you feel. Tell them the way the word depression makes you feel. Tell them if you feel hopeless or helpless. Tell them if you need their help. Ask them to work with you to come up with a way to talk about depression. Call it a blob, a monster, a tornado, or whatever it may be that can help you to communicate yourself better. Also, be sure to name your good days (because they are coming, I promise).

Depression is hard, and it is even harder to communicate when you are dealing with it. So if you ever see me painting a sun, just know that to me it is so much more than just a sun, because some days, I have to create my own sunshine.

Follow this journey on Hydrangeas and Honey.

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3 Things I Wish I Knew After Being Diagnosed With Depression

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Never in a million years did I think at the age of 16 I would spend the first part of my summer vacation inside a mental health hospital fighting for my own life. But that wasn’t even the worst part of it all. The worst part of my experience was the next four years after that summer, learning to live with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I didn’t know I would lose almost all of my friends, have a tarnished reputation at school and go home to a family that didn’t know how to help me.

After almost a week in a mental health care facility I was tossed back out into the real world, a world that consisted of therapy sessions, antidepressants and a society that sees mental illness as something to be ashamed of.

1. Who I am and what I struggle with are two different things.  

When I came back from the hospital newly diagnosed, all I could think was, “I am depressed,” instead of, “I struggle with major depressive disorder.” Do you see the difference? They almost sound the same, but in reality they are two completely different statements. I told myself all I was and ever would be was depressed. I convinced myself my depression was who I am. But what I believed about myself couldn’t be further from the truth. I am meant to be happy, full of life, to experience love and be loved in return. I may have depression, but that doesn’t mean I will never experience happiness. I am not my illness, and my illness does not define me.

2. It’s OK to ask for help!

When I was finally able to go home, I was terrified to ask for help. Transitioning back into life at home was the first step in my recovery process. I needed love and support from my friends and family in ways I didn’t even know. I was so preoccupied with being embarrassed that I convinced myself asking for help would be seen as a sign of weakness. But I learned that asking for help is one of the most courageous things I can do for myself.

3. Recovery is a process (and almost always longer than anticipated!).

When I started treatment, it seemed like my whole world was flipped upside down. All of a sudden I had countless appointments with therapists and psychiatrists, I started various types of therapy and began taking medication. One of the hardest things for me was adjusting to the idea that I was sick and that it wasn’t something that was going to go away overnight.

I grew frustrated as the months went by. My medication wasn’t working and therapy didn’t seem as effective as it used to be. I started to feel like I would never get better because after all, it had been months after my hospitalization and I still was in the same dark place I was in at the time of my suicide attempt. Recovery takes time, patience and persistence. Remember to never lose hope.

With all that said, I hope you know you are not alone. There are many of us out there, fighting the same battle one day at a time. I can promise you that although it may not be easy, waking up in the morning is always worth the fight. You were meant for so much more than you think. You were made to smile, sing, dance, laugh and most importantly, experience true happiness.

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore

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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An Open Apology to Those Affected by Our Recent Lack of Small Talk

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Dear friends, family, colleagues and more,

Wow! As I am continuing to learn more and more about myself – and sharing a large percentage of what I am learning with the world (or more accurately the handful of people reading this) – I, with the help of my therapist, have had a revelation.

I have lost the ability to make small talk. There, I’ve said it. I used to be able to talk to almost anyone – asking people about their lives, pets, children, travels, etc. I was interested and involved in two way conversations.

And then I hit rock bottom.

I couldn’t see straight and became somewhat reclusive (also known as isolating). The people who saw me at my worst were there for me – all for me – and understood that I wasn’t able to think about interacting with them in any other capacity. It was all about me, or more accurately depression and anxiety battling me, and I think I got stuck in that mode. In therapy that’s what we do – talk about what we are going through. In individual therapy it is all about me. In group therapy we listen to others talking about their struggles which, as you can probably guess, we can relate to and share our thoughts about.

Since I am open and out there about my mental illness, many people I encounter genuinely ask me how I am doing and I try to honestly respond (or say “I’m fine” if I am not and I don’t feel like going into it with that person or at that time). And then, when I am really alert I will ask them “And how are you?” But often times I don’t get there. If I don’t have something specific to say I walk past colleagues in the hallways without making much of a connection. At synagogue I try to melt into the walls or hang with my children to avoid conversation. Making eye contact which might lead to a conversation has become difficult in many situations.

That was not the old me. The old me was always had to say something. My friends and family know that. If you’ve met me since the spring of 2014, please believe me. So if you have moved, had any important life cycle events or even just a really good story to tell me in the past few years and I missed it or didn’t acknowledge it the way I normally would have – I am sorry. If you want to talk, I am here. If you want to vent, celebrate or shoot the breeze (anything short of talking politics), I am here. I may even start answering the phone (but not too often). I care, I just forgot how to show that I do.

Warmly,

Devi

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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The Important Thing I Realized on a Day That Seemed to Be Against Me

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It started as one of those days when you feel something is wrong in the world, like somehow a little rock is off its place and it means you won’t live this day as blissfully as you’d wish. Yet, it wasn’t a bad day. It seemed I would be able to function, work and interact normally.

A little context first: I am a designer, an amateur writer and a freelancer. I’ve struggled with major depression disorder (MDD) since I can remember and, in the last five to six years, I’ve struggled with anxiety attacks on a regular basis. I’ve also had a problematic work path, as I have faced unemployment, getting fired or simply not being able to work properly because of my mental illness. Freelancing has become the only way I’ve been able to work within my own capacities, as it allows me to work autonomously and helps me to know myself, my own red flags and how to improve my proactivity. Unfortunately, it is hard to be a freelancer in my country because of the few opportunities, the lack of economic stability and reduced demand in the industry of design.

I had just been through a couple of numb weeks by then, and I was expecting some good news regarding a project any day. As I had two or three hard months where I didn’t get any projects, I desperately needed this new project of designing and producing a book to get back on track and to get some money so I could stop depending constantly on my parents and relatives.

It seemed the day was against me. It’s usually hard for me to get out of bed, to take a shower and to get some breakfast. Yet, this day, I tried hard to get up, to shower and to eat. Unfortunately, I couldn’t shower because my shower wouldn’t work, and someone had eaten what I was supposed to have for breakfast. I sat in my bed, breathing in and out trying to stay strong and to resist the voice that wanted me to lay down and let another day go by without living it.

Then, my cellphone vibrated. It was a message from my best friend, who was trying to get the project approved. This project, that was certainly going to happen, was suddenly rejected because of budget issues. Every thing that dark voice told me during those weeks, every moment of self-pity, every thought of being unworthy came back to me.

Once more, I lost a chance to climb out of the abyss. Once more, I was unemployed and without any sign of getting out of it. Once more, I had nothing to do that day. The first thing I thought was even if I succeed in getting out of bed, it would be another day where nothing happened. I couldn’t let that happen. I could not have another “unlived” day. Even as job opportunities seem to be more scarce every day, I had to get to the next one.

You see, it is hard to acknowledge your own value when you’re rejected. When for some reason things don’t happen for you, it’s the perfect environment for depression and anxiety to attack you, to get in charge of your mind, to tell you you’re a failure, a disappointment and you didn’t deserve the opportunity anyway. It rings painfully true in that brief moment of the day because any doubts you had seem to be verified by the opportunity that just went by.

I couldn’t let that happen. Yes, I had those evil voices in my head. They spoke to me, and they reminded me of every time I felt I didn’t deserve what I had gotten. I felt frustrated and angry with myself, disgusted with my work and cheated with the lousy luck I got in life. I felt betrayed and wanted to yell at my best friend, to blame him for this failure and to demand another chance at the job. But why would I? Why would I attack someone who showed me love, who tried his best to help me?

I understood something important that day: Even if it wasn’t my best friend, even if it was someone who I just met during an interview, a person had just given me their best gift. They had given me their time. The same time that is precious to me because every minute of my day can be the last I get to function “normally.” My best friend, my girlfriend, my family, they all offer me their time, their hands when I need help, their attention when I want to talk and their company when I can’t keep it together anymore.

They are a reminder that I am worthy. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to help them, to give them company and to save them if they need to be saved. If they make an effort, even a little one, trying to help me, then they sure deserve me to keep trying my best. They deserve for me to try to get to the next opportunity and the one after that. They deserve for me to get out the bed that day.

Image via Thinkstock.

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The Importance of Educating Ourselves About the 'Touchy Subject' of Mental Illness

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When we are diagnosed with a mental illness our first thought might be something like, “How long will this last?” or “What can I do or take to get better?” Many professionals in the mental health community will tell you to not immediately read about side effects of medications or symptoms of the illness, which is true.

However, educating yourself on your illness is helpful and can aid in communication with family and friends. When we learn more about our condition, we can learn not only about ourselves but a lot about other people who are experiencing the same thing. This can greatly reduce the feeling of being alone.

I was 12 years old, scared and confused when I was first diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It had been a year in hell leading up to my first psychiatrist appointment, which was the day of my first panic attack. I had just beaten myself up in my head for “not singing well enough” in front of peers. I was in my mother’s car, screaming and crying, absolutely feeling completely defeated. I was embarrassed at myself, not because I cared about the other people, but more so because I let myself down.

My mom told me the next day about panic attacks, and that the horrible experience I had the day before had been one. What is that? For me, it was crying, screaming, my throat feeling like it was closing and my chest feeling like a rock was placed on it all at the same time. It also left me feeling dizzy and lightheaded, with my eyes blurring and my breathing too fast.

Was I abnormal? I had never heard of or encountered anyone doing this before. I assumed it was just me. After reading about them a few months into my therapy, I realized a lot of people experience similar things and a lot were teenagers. Not only did I feel like I had a place to talk to others about the experience, but I also could communicate ways I cope during one and learn from them.

I learned to embrace my flaws in my illness, using them in my favor and helping me learn more about myself every day. Now, it’s just another unique trait about me. Yet, going through four years now of therapy, psychiatry visits and reading online, you begin to develop a lot of knowledge on subjects from medication interactions, to symptoms and even different treatment methods.

This is what we need in our society, to be educated on these “touchy” subjects, to speak out about things people are uncomfortable with or things we keep quiet. With mental illness being such a common problem for so many people, talking about the issues and what others can do to help out can only do good for the community. Whether it’s a loved one who is worried about you or a friend who asked about how your day was, talk to them about it. Mental illness is not scary and it is not something to be ashamed of.

Do not blame yourself. Be proud of yourself. You are unique, and your flaws make you stronger. Nothing can change who you are, and the world should know that too.

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