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If You Met Me, You Wouldn’t Know I Have Depression

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Depression.

Everyone has an opinion on it, but unless you struggle with it, you can never really understand it. I wanted to explain my story, but not for sympathy. I don’t want that. I want people to try and understand what it is, how we feel and, more importantly, I want you to recognize the signs and help someone else.

Being in your 20s is already a challenging time. You’re trying to figure out what you want to do with your life. You may be dating, and you are coming to terms with yourself as an individual. All of this with an extra, black cloud hanging over you is tough.

So you might ask how does a girl in her 20s, with a university degree, a master’s, a job and an amazing family have depression? Well it’s a bit like the chicken and the egg story. I don’t know whether I had depression first and then developed an eating disorder or the other way around. Yet, ever since I was 15 or 16, I’ve struggled with an eating disorder, something I’ve only recently admitted and started to get help with. So as you can imagine being in denial for more than 10 years messes with your head.

If you met me, then you wouldn’t know I have depression. Most people don’t know. I don’t walk around with a permanent frown. I’m bubbly. I love to laugh, but like everyone, I have good days and bad days. Sometimes, my bad days can turn into a bad week.

I can’t tell you what triggers my bad days. I don’t know myself. I could be fine one minute, and then, the next I have an overwhelming feeling I can’t cope, I’m overcome with anxiety and I feel suffocated.

Some days, I wake up with this feeling, and I struggle to bring myself to get up out of bed. All I want to do is hide away from the world and be in the quiet. If I manage to get myself out of bed, then I spend all day at my desk distracted, anxious and more often than I like, I’m reduced to tears.

The reason? I have no idea. It just happens. I lose appetite and painful headaches have become a normality.

No, I can’t just snap out of it. No, I can’t just “be happy.” I don’t have that luxury. I want to be fine. I just don’t know how to. Instead, the word “fine” has become my most used word.

“I’m fine, honestly.”

It protects myself and the ones I love from how I really feel. When you have depression, you spend 24 hours, seven days a week inside your head. You don’t shut off. You over analyze and question everything about anything.

My mind works at a million miles per hour. It makes me anxious and fidgety. Some days, I can’t concentrate and sleeping eight hours a night is now a thing of the past. I constantly have to be doing something, just to keep my mind distracted. I can’t sit down and watch television for hours on end because I can’t concentrate for that long.

This is why I go to the gym twice a day, work eight hours a day, come home and study. I’m sure running my body down to distract my mind will catch up with me one day. Until then, it’s the only way I know how to get on with each day.

Some days, I wish for anything to be “normal,” not to think the way I do, to be able to sleep, to be able to be in social situations without over analyzing everything. Dating? Well, that’s just a no go for me.

Let’s get one thing clear. Having depression doesn’t mean you hate everything about your life. It’s not that dramatic. I have a great life. I’m grateful for a lot of things, and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it. I have depression. It’s not who I am. It’s just a part of me.

I’m not ashamed of it anymore. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It makes us stronger. I’m learning to live with it. With the help of the gym and music, I have time where I’m not in my head.

For anyone reading this who feels the same, you aren’t alone. I know you may feel like no one understands, but there will always be people who do. Find enjoyment in something you love doing and stick with it.

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A Letter to My Mom: Thank You for Understanding My Depression

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Mom,

Thank you for understanding my depression. This is the single most important thing you did that helped me survive. Having someone understand, even just slightly understand that depression is a real illness, means so much. You understood I wasn’t being “lazy,” “attention seeking” or “selfish,” like many people accuse those who are struggling with depression of being. You understood all of my actions and thoughts were out of my control.

Thank you for helping me with my daughter. Not being able to take care of myself was bad enough, but I had a little human being who needed me as well. I was unable to care for her because I couldn’t care for myself. You stepped in, above and beyond, to make sure she and I were both taken care of. You put us both above yourself without accusing me of being a bad mother or not loving her. You understood I was sick and I needed help for that period of time.

Thank you for letting me stay in bed all day when I couldn’t move and for bringing me toast and crackers to force feed me when I was unable to eat. Thank you for making me get up and shower because I needed that push, even though I was angry at you at the time. I know you were just helping me to get better.

Thank you for standing up for me when family and friends didn’t quite understand “what was wrong with me.” Many people will never understand that depression is out of a person’s control, but you did your best to try and make them understand what I was going through.

Thank you for never turning your back on me, even when the depression made me turn my back on everyone, including you. I isolated myself. In my head, it was what was best for you and everyone who loved me because I didn’t want you all to see me in the condition I was in. When I came out of isolation, you brought me in with open arms and kind words. I didn’t feel like I deserve that, but you did it.

Thank you for taking me to my doctor’s appointments, reminding me to take my medication and listening to me when I wanted to talk. Thank you for getting into bed with me and holding me as I cried for hours because that was exactly what I needed.

Thank you for never giving up on me, even though this depressive episode lasted 119 days. I am in recovery, and I still have “off” days, but you never gave up on me, even when I had given up on myself.

Mom, I couldn’t have survived this without you. I will be forever grateful for that. I know now to come to you as soon as I need to and not to hold everything in. I know you will always be there. I am so blessed to have you as my mom and number one supporter.

I love you.

Your daughter.

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Why It's Hard for Me to Make New Year's Resolutions as Someone With Depression

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During this time of year, all you see on social media is New Year’s resolutions. Most of the ones I see are to lose weight, exercise more, study more, eat only healthy food, to not drink soda or not eat any candy.

For me, it’s not that simple. Why is it hard? I have depression. Living with depression for me means it can be hard to see the future. At points in my life, I saw no future at all. I couldn’t see myself getting married or having children. I had no idea what I wanted to do as an adult.

I have been in this mental state for such a long time that now, even though I’m no longer suicidal, it’s hard for me to visualize a future. To many people, they think this is sad and an awful way to live, but that’s not the case with me.

Now, I’m not going to lie. It can be disappointing at times when I realize everyone else has these long lists of things they’re going to do in the future and I don’t. I just need to remind myself that it’s OK. I’m different, and I am OK with that. I have no problem living every day as a new adventure. That’s just how I have to think about it, an adventure!

So for now, my New Year’s resolution is to be happy or more simply to do one thing a day that makes me happy. I find too often I go to bed and realize I haven’t done anything that day I actually wanted to or enjoyed.

It can be difficult to find something that makes me happy when I’m in a depression funk. So I will do something I know makes me happy when I’m not in that funk. This sounds simple, but it’s hard. I am up for the challenge!

I ask that you be considerate of your friends and family with mental illnesses and consider their struggles when you ask the question, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?”

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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Celebrating My Birthday When Depression Tells Me Life Isn't Worth Celebrating

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My 24th birthday is coming up. I’m not big on birthdays. In the past I’ve brushed the day off as unimportant and continued on with life as normal; nothing about life really seemed worth celebrating. Yet this month, I’ve thought a lot about my birthday. Turning 24 marks seven years since my journey with depression began. I have mixed emotions about my birthday (joy and fear and a lot of anxiety about the next year), but I realized for the first time in years, there are some things I think are worth celebrating. They aren’t conventional, and they may seem trivial to those who have never battled depression, but for me, they are pillars of hope. As someone with depression, this is what I’m celebrating this birthday:

I’m still here.

Over the past seven years, I’ve flirted with the idea of death more times than I can count. As I struggled with depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts became my “safety net” when I felt scared or anxious. They were “a way out,” an emergency exit. With time those thought patterns ingrained themselves into my brain and turned into a well-traveled neuron pathway that works like a machine. Feelings of fear or anxiety still immediately catapult me into suicidal thoughts, regardless of whether I’m actually feeling suicidal. This is something I deal with on a daily basis.

Because of this — because of all the times I’ve considered suicide and the ongoing suicidal thoughts I face — I’m so proud that I’m still here. Some days I’m happy I’m still here, and some days I’m not, but regardless, this birthday marks one more year I’ve made it. I’ve persevered, and I’ve done the very best I could with this life I have. To me, that’s worth celebrating.

I’m still fighting.

I used to think fighting depression was a high-stakes treasure hunt, with the treasure chest containing a universal cure. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about mental illness over the years, it’s that there isn’t a quick fix. There is no magical therapy that will erase the pain, no medication that will heal everything in a heartbeat, and no doctor, counselor, mentor, friend or self-help guru who has a secret cure-all.

Yet even though there isn’t a clearcut answer or treatment, there are still ways to fight for mental health. Fighting may look like showing up at my therapist’s office for the 102nd session, or calling for an appointment with a psychiatrist, or choosing healthy foods at the grocery store, or going out for a jog when I haven’t left the couch all day. Fighting depression is less like the glamorous, action-packed combat I thought it would be and a lot more like trying to fill a well by throwing in one pebble at a time. But one pebble at a time, I can keep fighting, and I will keep fighting.

I’m not who I was before depression.

Depression has been a constant companion everywhere I’ve gone the past several years. It’s been with me as I’ve worked various jobs, traveled the world, graduated from college, and lived abroad. I wish I could have done all these things without depression, but in some ways, I’m thankful for it. Because depression has, perhaps, taught me more about who I am than all my travels and all my education. It’s taught me that I’m not defined by my health (mental, emotional, or physical). It’s taught me I’m weaker than I ever imagined and stronger than I ever imagined. It’s taught me to lay down my pride, recognize my judgment of self and others, and learn to walk in true humility. It’s taught me that it’s OK to ask for help and that we weren’t meant to do life alone. It’s taught me what it is to be human — to struggle, to love and to receive love in the midst of the struggle.

I’m not celebrating depression. But I’m still here, I’m still fighting, and I’m not who I was when I started the journey with depression. That, to me, is worth celebrating this birthday.

Happy birthday to me. And to you. These things are worth celebrating every day of our lives.

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 People Expect You to Be 'Fixed' After Mental Health Treatment

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Since I’ve been back from treatment, things have been hard — but in a different way than how I was last time I was home. While I have learned how to cope with things in a more positive way, I still have hard days. I still have those thoughts running through my head — they didn’t go away. I learned new skills on how to deal with them when they come up. However, I still have depression, and it’s still hard.

I still want to stay in bed all day and close the blinds and not leave my room or talk to anyone. Other days are better, and I’m still able to do things and leave the house. But when I come back, I collapse in my room and cry. I feel this huge pressure from people expecting so much from me. I don’t know who I can turn to. My friends and family seem to expect that magically everything is “fixed,” and that’s just not true. It’s hard for me to reach out when all that pressure is put on me.

So please, what I’m asking is that you ask me how my day went. Open the conversation so I am able to come and talk to you in the future, or when something hard comes up, or when I feel like I may be relapsing. I need help, and it’s hard to initiate with all the pressure around me. It’s not that I’m not grateful for your support, it’s just that I’m new to having an open line of communication with you. Those days when it’s hard for me to leave my room are when I need you most. It’s those days when I may just want someone to be next to me. We don’t have to talk or do anything; your presence is enough. It’s those times when it’s really important for my support system to be there for me. And for that, I thank you.

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When Shame and Guilt Start Dancing With Each Other in Life With Mental Illness

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I’ve been thinking about this word today. I have a lot of shame. Shame about who I am, some lifestyle choices, behaviors, decisions, even some of my core values and beliefs. It’s pretty fucked up. More than anything, more than who I’m attracted to, the drugs that I’ve taken, the lies I’ve told – I’m ashamed of being sick in my brain. I’m dreadfully ashamed of who I become when depression is in control of my life. Or anxiety. Or hypomania. Lots of words for symptoms that derail me from my goals and my true self. This has come from friends, family, teachers, employers, lovers and especially myself. I’ve done it to people, too. It’s sometime like as a society we’re hardwired to judge each other this way. I believe it’s how we cope with the harsh and sadness of what mental illness does to us as a whole. 

This shame has prevented me from being honest about who I am and getting the kind of help I need. We are trained to be embarrassed when we’re less than perfect and to be ashamed when we feel overwhelmed and guilty when we let each other down. So on top of this shame, I feel guilty. I carry this weight around with me now into my relationships, my career, pretty much everywhere I go needs to have room for me and my baggage. I just took it for a ride with me to get fast food at 1 a.m. When I look at me, I see someone who is Bad. A failure because of the way I know how to interact with life, a sum of the things I’ve left undone and people I’ve hurt or let down.

It’s difficult to show up to work, or to a date or to keep a promise when you’re suicidally depressed. But it’s also shameful to admit you’d prefer to lie in bed for three days straight without food than say something, so you are dishonest and “have the flu” or another “family emergency.” That’s when the shame and guilt start to dance with each other. Become intertwined like earbuds in your pocket. On top of wanting to die, you are also lying to the people that care about you or are depending on you, and continue to let them down in layers.

When I lose something — a job, or friendship or a piece of my sanity — I feel like it’s a punishment I deserve for being too weak to get better, faster. For not trying hard enough. Every time I start over, or have to admit to someone I’m not actually doing so great and here’s how I fucked up this time, I believe I deserve to be scorned. I don’t know if this is unique to my life, or if it’s common amongst anyone else. I am not saying it’s right, or wrong. It just is. As much disdain as I feel for myself right now, in the midst of some chaos that’s been created by no one but me and my brain, I have to consider no one deserves to feel like they’re bad when they’re struggling and trying.

I’m committed to being softer, gentler, with understanding and less judgment to myself and the world when it comes to guilt and shame. To not let shame destroy me more than what I’m already up against, what we’re up against as humans with mental illnesses and the people who love us and interact with us. I hope I can. I don’t have the energy to spend hiding and feeding the shame monster anymore. I don’t really have the time if I’m being realistic about the stage I’m at in my life, too. 

This is just my opinion. I wanted to share it in case it resonated with anyone else, but by no means am trying to shame anyone with these words. I think life is hard and being human is so strange and I believe most of us are trying the best we can to be OK.

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

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741

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