Comfort Zone: A Letter to My Depression

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I couldn’t tell you why, but it became abundantly clear at age 10 or 11 that I was “broken.” It was like something inside of me cracked and out came depression, seeping from my mouth, my eyes, my skin. So sudden and out of nowhere. And I didn’t have the words for what was wrong with me then, for what I was feeling – all I knew was that I wasn’t the same person.

I can’t remember for the life of me, and I’m not sure I even want to. I know I was far too fresh to be so cold, too young to feel so old, too innocent to be so broken – a child bombarded with mental illness. A child so angry not knowing why and as for life, I just wanted to forfeit.

For the life of me I can’t remember — when did I become so jaded? When did my life begin to end? How have I survived so long in this purgatory and can I ever really start living?

I don’t know who I am but I know this isn’t who I want to be.

I’m talking to you. Depression – my uncomfortable comfort zone, I don’t. want. you. Loosen your grip on me please, I think I have something to live for. I think I’m just a small part of something that’s been saving me and I think I could do something more, do something good out of what you’ve done to me. If I can keep going from the words of others, the knowledge that I am not alone, perhaps my words can be that for someone. I don’t want this to have all been for nothing.

Depression, you stole me way too young, way too early in life. I wasn’t given a fair chance but I am still here. I am. still. here. That has to mean something.

Because at 12 years old, just a child, not being able to imagine life beyond the next year — how. dare. you. How dare you throw your dark blanket over my fragile body, so heavy, that all dreams and possibilities started to fade in my preteen mind? How dare you numb this young heart and dull the memories. How dare you take up all of my time. And I know now that it’s not my fault but it’s my mind and my mind has been taken over by this illness — by you.

Depression. Where I once saw vibrant colors, now muted shadows and I tried so hard to see through it. I swear I tried to see the truth but depression, you are so good at making me the fool.

I’ve had enough. Far too long, I let you win. I let you control and take and take some more and time passed and now thanks to you I can’t remember how I even got here, but I am.

And I know. I know you are not something a pill or a combination of pills can make disappear for good. You are not something a brain surgeon can cut away, but I know I can live. I’ve been surviving, merely existing for over a decade, but this time I want to live. I will not let your false comfort smother me anymore.

Depression, you’re an uninvited illness in my mind but I can and will fight back this time. In my 23 years, I’ve just been existing but I swear I’m going to learn to live with you.

I’m done being ashamed of my mental state.

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How My Mom Saved My Life From Depression

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Back rubs and loving words can be the difference between life and death. My mom saved my life in our living room one summer, when my newly-experienced haunting insomnia and debilitating depression left me unable to do anything at night but lay awake on the couch and cry. She would sit with me, her hand gently placed on my 16-year-old back, and softly say, “It will be all right.”

It all began a few months earlier, at the eye doctor, when I had my first panic attack. My heart started beating out of control and I was consumed with a dreadful confidence my heart was about to give out and I was going to die. My thoughts began to race, I started to sweat profusely, I lost my vision and I passed out. Upon coming to, I felt as good as new, almost as if my mind and body had “reset.” So, we weren’t worried. At the time it was an anomaly, a weird experience to be sure but nothing more than an interesting story … until it happened again later that day. And again. And again. The panic, the existential terror, began to grow until it consumed my entire being. I was just as anxious about the thought of my next panic attack as I was during a panic attack, and it wasn’t long until anxiety was almost the only emotion I seemed capable of. I quickly developed agoraphobia and refused to leave my home. It was as macabre as any ironic metaphor can be: I was stuck inside of my house, but I was really trapped inside of my mind.

I was in hell.

I lost more than I could handle: my mind and body, my job, my basketball team, my relationships with my friends, my dreams for my future.

The only thing that wasn’t a part of my downward spiral into the abyss was the relief I found in seemingly endless bottles of medication. The pills could reduce the panic, but not rebuild my life.

I discovered depression — “real” depression. “I can’t feel joy” depression. “I can’t imagine what hope feels like” depression. “My favorite things are so meaningless to me now that they only make me want to stop living even more” depression.

And so I paced around my house all day. I took long, scalding hot showers until the hot water was exhausted and could no longer burn my skin. I sat in dark rooms and sobbed. I prayed. God, did I pray. I yelled at my parents and sister. I argued with myself and covered my helplessness with a sense of weakness, shame and blame. And at night, I did my best to lie on the couch instead of pacing around the house endlessly like a scene out of a horror movie. Days were unbearable, but nights were still somehow worse. So I laid on the couch with my face buried into the back seat cushion and I cried quietly. My mom would come in periodically throughout the night, pat my back and whisper words of love in a calm and confident voice that perhaps only a mother can summon.

I know she was in as much hell as I was. I can’t imagine watching my child go through that amount of struggle without the ability to help. She was there at my side because she loved me, but who knows what else was going through her mind. Maybe she got up throughout the night to make sure I hadn’t hurt myself (hell, she probably couldn’t sleep herself). Maybe she patted my back and encouraged me as a way to try and convince herself things truly would be alright. I don’t know. But there are not many memories I can re-experience as powerfully as her loving presence, a gentle back rub, and a prophetic, “It will be all right.”

It’s been over a decade since that summer. I’ve been on more medications than I can name and seen more doctors than I can remember and paid more medical bills than I can afford. I still struggle with anxiety and depression, but my mom was right. I am all right, it is all right, and it will be all right. As I write this, I can’t help but wonder if it was her motherly love that forcefully willed into existence my long but steady recovery. The right medications, therapy, diet and exercise routines, mindfulness practices and relationships help me lead a satisfying and meaningful life. But the dark nights do occasionally return. And when they do, my mom saves my life again with the memory of a lesson taught, experienced and learned.

“It will be all right.”

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via Highwaystarz-Photography

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The Honest Truth About Depression and Anxiety

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It’s waking up each day and feeling a wave of dread, wishing you weren’t here. So you just lie there while your mind tells you how useless you are and how pointless everything is.

It’s feeling guilty because you don’t have the strength to do even the simplest of tasks such as showering.

It’s looking at your messy, dirty house, thinking about how much you need to clean and tidy — but you freeze, because how can you look after a house when you can’t even muster the strength to get off the couch.

It’s looking in the mirror and hating what you see.

It’s feeling like a failure because you had to quit your job and everyone asks why or when you’re going to look for another job.

It’s feeling like a nuisance every time you reach out for help.

It’s a battle with your mind about the little things every day — things “normal,” functioning people have no issues with.

It’s like being stuck in this deep, dark hole and no matter how loud you scream, no one is listening.

It’s avoiding every social event or communication with people because you feel like everyone is better off without you, or that your input is unimportant.

It’s knowing all your fears and feelings are completely silly and irrational but you still feel them so strongly and wish you could just turn it off.

It’s also a teacher: the cruelest, and soul-sucking teacher you could ever have. You’re being forced to learn about yourself and what it is that brought you here.

It is being exhausted every single day but trying to muster the courage to stay here, despite what your mind is telling you.

It’s trying to explain to people how much harder life is, even though they don’t understand and you “know” you’re being judged.

It’s feeling lost and stuck and alone.

But with the right support systems in place and medication for some, it can get better. And for me, it has once before and I know one day it will again.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via kieferpix

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The Despair and Hope Depression Brings Me

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We all know what depression is, but there’s still misconception about it. Depression isn’t just feeling sad all the time. It’s not just losing interest in things that once made you happy. It’s not just struggling to get out of bed because nothing feels worth the effort. It’s not just…

It’s not just depression.

It’s being wide awake until you’re supposed to be getting up, and not feeling tired.

It’s making excuses because you just can’t socialize, no matter how much you want to.

It’s waking up in the morning (if you slept at all) and dreading the day.

It’s opening your favorite website a million times, wanting to participate and closing it again because you just can’t get the energy to.

It’s being angry at everything and nothing, all at once.

It’s strained relationships.

It’s the crushing, suffocating feeling of being alone, even if you know you aren’t.

It’s being in a quiet room and the room still being too loud.

It’s trying to hush the voices in your head, telling you all your worst fears.

It’s hearing the voices of your loved ones, deep into the night and hearing them say the things you know aren’t true.

It’s downplaying your own existence, your own problems, so you don’t seem selfish.

It’s doing everything in your power to not be a burden, but still feeling like one.

It’s plastering a smile on your face, and reciting your lines like an actor in a play.

It’s the lies you tell people, so you don’t sound whiny.

It’s, “I’m OK.”

“I’m just tired.”

“I’m just stressed.”

“I’m alright.”

“I’m super busy, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry I missed it, I got swamped at work.”

It’s placing your mask, ever so carefully, back onto your face every morning. And feeling disgusting every night when you take it off.

It’s feeling your security blanket, your mask, falling to pieces. And desperately trying to glue it back together before someone notices.

It’s people noticing.

It’s the, “You look drained.”

The, “Have you eaten lately?” (No)

The, “We haven’t seen you in awhile! Are you OK?” (Hardly)

The, “Are you sure you’re OK? Is there anything I can do?”

The, “Maybe you need to take a break from ___”

It’s so much. And it’s nothing all at once. It’s feeling like you’re suffocating, but hating yourself for it. Berating yourself because your problems aren’t that bad. Frantically trying to push through one more day of faking. One more day of lying. One more day of hiding your pain. Because your pain is nothing compared to other’s. It’s having a big heart, but not knowing how to share it without feeling hurt. It’s pretending to not care, not because you actually don’t care, but because you care far too much and it hurts you even more.

It’s slipping up.

Showing your true face.

And it’s the reactions.

“See a doctor.”

“Get some medication.”

“We’re worried about you.”

“We want to help.”

“It’s all in your head.”

“You just have to be happy!”

“Why are you such a downer all the time?”

“Depression isn’t an illness. Everyone gets depressed sometimes! You’ll pull out of it soon!”

“Stop using your depression as an excuse! I get depressed and I still hang out with my friends!”

“Just take a shower! Read a book! Do (insert loved hobby here)!”

It’s losing friends. And it’s feeling like an outcast. It’s people’s judgement solidifying the one thing you try to convince yourself otherwise. That you are broken. Defective. Not Worthy. You are a burden. It’s people trying to help by rattling off statistics, or telling you to see a doctor. And no matter how sincere their suggestion, it’s knowing it won’t help. You’ve tried it all before. You don’t do the things you used to, because they no longer hold appeal. You don’t socialize because it takes too much out of you. You’ve seen doctor after doctor, taken pill after pill. You’ve turned to homeopathy, herbology, Chinese medicine, anything that promises to take it away.

And

Nothing

Works.

 

Depression is a dark and cold mistress. She takes what she wants, and leaves you with little. She twists words in your mind. Even though you know they mean well, you can’t help but get agitated. They don’t understand. They don’t understand. They don’t understandtheydontunderstandtheydontunderstandTHEYDONTUNDERSTAND!!!!!

They will never understand.

But, depression is also seeing the beauty in everything. It’s relishing the days you feel alright, because you know how few and far between they are.

It’s finding the beauty when everyone else sees the ugly.

It’s understanding, compassion, kindness.

It’s reaching out when no one else will, because you know how it feels to be alone.

It’s the hope that you won’t be like this forever.

It’s expanding your interests because old ones don’t hold appeal anymore.

It’s meeting new people. New friends.

And it’s waiting for tomorrow, both in fear and in hope.

Hope that tomorrow will be better.

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Why Depression Is My Parasite

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Depression is a parasite. Depression sucks the life energy out of me. The energy I can use on so much, like getting out of bed. Sometimes it gets so bad that I don’t want to move. It fills my mind with untrue thoughts, like how nobody would care if I was gone. This parasite is tired of me as soon as it gets to me. It wants to make me feel pain, pain it alone cannot give me. It revels in sucking up serotonin, taking all my interests with it. It asks me kindly to not move, to never move again. The only way I seem able to move is when I have someone to move for.

Depression wants to move on more than I do. When I take medicine, it may get frantic, trying to get out and have its voice heard. I believe it is not “curable” for me, unless it leaves on its own. It may do that, but sometimes it will see how much damage it can do first.

It is attached. It doesn’t want to let go, until it knows it will be permanently remembered.

Depression may sometimes have an accomplice. When they say, “opposites attract,” I believe they are talking about this. Depression’s accomplice is Anxiety. Anxiety resides in my brain, but sometimes it can get so big it changes my actions, causing me to sweat, and maybe even make me nauseous. It twists and turns in my stomach, until I feel like I have the stomach flu. It may be accompanied by clammy hands, shortness of breath and thoughts that everything matters except me. It tells me I can’t mess up.

When Depression and Anxiety work together, I feel like I am living in a nightmare. I need to remind myself my feelings are valid. I need to remind myself these feelings aren’t truly me.

This is what it feels like for me to live with anxiety and depression. Everything matters — every action, word and even look. But they tell me I don’t matter and not to be a burden for everyone else.

The “what if’s” and “you’re not worth it’s” fill my mind. I remind myself it’s them, not me. It’s alway them — every action, fear and thought. I must blame them, my parasites.

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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Thinkstock photo via Maria Kuznetsova.

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Why The Church Should Not Overlook Depression

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I have attended church pretty much all my life, and in some Christian circles, the word “depression” appears to be nonexistent. It’s as if Christians are supposed to be immune to such deep, lonely and sometimes dark emotions and thoughts. We gather together, week after week, and put on a façade that says “We are just so joyful in Christ! Praise the Lord!” yet many people leave to go to their homes and are broken and the very opposite of the character they portray on a Sunday. I believe this should not be the case. I believe no one should have to pretend to be happy in the very place where they should be receiving support, love and encouragement.

I speak from experience, as I was struck by depression at the age of 15. I became so tangled up in darkness and such deeply sad and lonely thoughts. I felt unable to speak about the issue with anyone at church when I was hearing things like, “God is good. Be grateful for life. In Him there is Joy.” In truth, I was feeling the complete opposite. Depression was not commonly spoken about and because of this, it was a difficult topic to bring up. I became more and more entangled in depression which carried on for about five years. I became suicidal during this time. At the lowest points, on two separate occasions, I overdosed. I did eventually find healing and restoration in Christ, upon meeting a mentor who actually addressed and spoke about the issue and helped me to address it. As I speak now, there are occasional days or periods of time when I do feel depression, but nothing near to the previous severity.

Depression is something that can happen to anyone regardless of race, gender, age, upbringing or occupation. When it is not spoken about, it creates such a stigma that anyone who does feel that way cannot open up and speak about what they are going through. This just leads to the depression worsening with the possibility of suicide. This means we could lose people who could have been saved if they could merely talk to someone. I do not say depression should be spoken about so it can be glorified in any way or seen as something that is impossible to conquer. I say it should be spoken about so that it can be exposed and dealt with.

Having been through the worst of it and come out the other side, I began to realize even more how unspoken it is. I find when I open up about what I went through — and occasionally still do — it helps other people feel like they can open up, too. It helps take away any type of shame or guilt attached to feeling depressed. The Bible tells us to pray for one another and also to encourage and comfort one another, and I believe this cannot be done if we are not completely truthful with one another.

I believe the Church has a huge role to play in dealing with depression. People often come to church looking for something — be it hope or wholeness or comfort. If the church cannot speak about such common issues, people will not want to stay, and so many people can be left dealing with the complexities of depression alone when it does not have to be that way.

I encourage anyone (Christian or not) struggling with depression to speak up about it. You can make a difference in the topic being spoken about. Through sharing your story and struggle, you encourage someone to be open about theirs. This is how the battle with depression can be won. Don’t hide it – expose it!

Follow this journey on Finding His Light.

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.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Unsplash photo via Daniel Tseng.

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