How My Depression Has Changed Since My First Experience
Like most things, depression can change.
When I was first diagnosed, I was 15 and a freshman in high school. What my depression looked like then is a lot different than what it looks like now. I couldn’t get out of bed, I zoned out a lot, I never willingly left the house and I couldn’t hold a conversation. I either couldn’t sleep or I slept too much. I forgot to eat. My emotions were all over the place. Now reading this seems like I was just being like every other lazy teenager with a messed up sleep schedule due to binge-watching Netflix, right? Wrong.
There’s a difference between not wanting to get ready for school and my parents having to force me out of bed. When I zoned out, it was near impossible to get me to focus again. When I say I didn’t willingly leave the house, I mean my mom bribed me to go out and I’m pretty sure my body shape was molded onto the couch and my bed. I never had the energy to talk, let alone start conversations. If I wasn’t awake for 4-5 days straight, I was sleeping right after school and not waking up until the next morning. As someone who loves food, it became quite noticeable to those around me that I’d forget to feed myself. I had to keep food in my locker and my parents checked my lunch account to make sure I was buying lunch. I cried in the shower. I cried in the car. I cried at school and I cried at home. I just cried. A lot. If I wasn’t crying, I was angry or I felt nothing at all. I was a complete mess. This is what my depression looked like — this was my truth — but after getting help from my doctors and therapist, I can gladly say my life is different.
Now I am 20 years old and I’m still living with depression, but I’m not always depressed. The saying, “it comes and goes in waves,” is very true for me. At 15, I was used to being depressed every moment of every day and that’s just how it was. Now I can go out, hold conversations, laugh, sleep and eat without having to force myself to do so.
I do have “episodes” where my depression makes it very apparent to me that it’s still around. Sometimes these episodes are a day and sometimes they last for two weeks, but my mental health is extremely important to me, as it should be for everyone, so I try my best to practice self-care. That doesn’t solve my problems, but it’s the best way for me to be honest with myself and others that I need a little extra help.
I have had people ask me if, because my depression took over my life for so long, that maybe I’m fixed and I just don’t realize it. That maybe I’m experiencing “normal” emotions and are just too quick to call it depression.
These are things I have thought about, but dismiss because:
1. I don’t like the use of the word “fixed” in relation to mental illness.
The word “fixed” is tied to a feeling of shame for me. When I go a significant amount of time without feeling depressed, I always think the last time was the last time. But when depression rears its ugly head at me again, I feel a sense of shame and stupidity, thinking I could get away from it.
Demi Lovato once said, “I don’t think I’m fixed. People think you’re like a car in a body shop. You go in, they fix you and you’re out. And you work like brand new. It doesn’t work like that. It takes constant fixing.”
2. Depression and sadness are different.
This isn’t true for everyone, but I am extremely aware of the differences between my everyday emotions and my mental illness. It wasn’t always this way and I sometimes can’t tell until after I start to feel better, but I can.
3. I hate the word “normal.”
It is extremely irritating for people to say what I’m feeling isn’t normal. Having a mental illness isn’t ideal, I get it, but being told there’s something wrong with you sucks. I always feel a sense of “you versus them.” The wrong versus right. The mentally ill versus the rest of the world.
That isn’t right. We’re all in this together. You aren’t alone in this.
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Thinkstock photo via a-wrangler