How I Pulled Myself Out of a Year-Long Devastating Depression
Looking back now it’s so easy to point to the things I did during my year-long devastating depression, which in turn lead to my recovery. But in the moment, my husband, my parents and I, we had no clue what would work. We were just trying so hard to get the “old Jenn” back.
Why is it so hard to look forward when you live with depression? Because you’re just trying to make it through the day you’re in. Tomorrow feels impossible, too heavy and suffocating to entertain even a thought of it. So you stay in the here and now and try not to let the anxiety about what’s coming next crush you.
That’s how it felt for me, anyway. When I thought about my life and what the future might look like after two hospitalizations for mania and a diagnosis of Bipolar type 1, I wasn’t able to fill my lungs with air. Every day felt impossible to bear, like I was drowning. So instead of thinking too far ahead, I sipped the air in gulps and lived my life in moments.
Like the moment I realized I was experiencing suicidal thoughts for the first time.
And the moment I realized I had to tell my husband but was terrified because I didn’t want to hurt or scare him. He had been through enough already.
Or the moment I realized the pulsing anxiety making me so nauseous I could barely eat from day to day was the reason I suddenly had to shop for a size smaller.
This realization was soon followed by the moment I admitted to myself that I didn’t want to go on like this. That I had had enough. That I wanted to get well already, for the love of God. I was done being sick.
I didn’t want another sun to set while my anxious mind paralyzed my dreams, didn’t want to be forever consumed by this sadness. I knew I was the only person who could make the decision to change my outcome.
I wanted to come out on the other side of a mental illness diagnosis smiling and happy, despite it all. I wanted to enjoy life. I wanted a family. I wanted to build a future.
So this is what I did at my pivotal moment at the end of 2006, the most draining year of my life.
I advocated for myself.
I decided to try the medication my doctors had been encouraging me to try for many months. I stayed on top of side effects and my symptoms by keeping a detailed journal so I could share my concerns with my doctor between appointments. And I came to terms with my illness, this lifelong condition I face each and every day.
I am extremely fortunate to have good doctors and the most loving, supportive people around me who care deeply about my well-being. I realize it’s not always as simple as trying a new med and communicating with your doctor. But this acceptance thing — the point in my life when I decided to embrace my sometimes malfunctioning brain so that I could move on and make progress was my turning point.
It’s what sparked the fire in my belly to advocate for mental health. It’s what told me that sharing my story could help other people. It’s my way of saying that if I could do it, you can do it, too.
Last week’s tragic news of the passing of Robin Williams occurred while we were traveling on the West Coast. I, like the entire world, was deeply saddened by this tremendous loss, but we need to remember that suicide claims the lives of more than 39,000 people a year. It’s time we start talking about mental illness and how to prevent suicide. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a great place to start. Also, if you are struggling, please reach out for help. Talk with a family member or friend. Or contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
This post originally appeared on Bipolar Mom Life.