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Rediscovering Who You Are After a Severe Depressive Episode

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There are some things in life that can leave a person imprisoned in their own mind — depression is one of them.

Since the beginning of this year, depression has had its gnarly grip on me and refused to let go. It got so bad I made a serious attempt on my life and soon after was sectioned and admitted to a psychiatric ward. I was a patient there for around 12 to 14 weeks including a couple of weeks preparing for discharge leave. Although one day I will write about my admission, I want to focus now on what it’s like to completely lose yourself to depression — and how it feels trying to put everything back together again.

I think the hardest part of this depressive episode has been when I’ve slightly come out of it and realized where I’ve been and what I’ve lost. Don’t get me wrong, being at the bottom of the deepest darkest pit wasn’t a joyful walk in the park, but to me, giving up felt so much easier than fighting. Giving up wasn’t an option though. While I had given up on myself, others hadn’t and were fighting to keep me alive until I could fight for myself. And that’s the point I’m at now, back in the community and taking control of my life again — at least trying to anyway.

Unfortunately being well enough to return home doesn’t automatically mean everything is back to normal and I’m cured. In fact I’m still very low and struggling with many aspects of daily living. Who knew emptying the dishwasher could be so overwhelming? Don’t even get me started on cooking or showering…

But what I’m finding even harder than mundane tasks is rediscovering who I am. Depression stole my identity and my joy. Trying to find myself again while still feeling exhausted, low and riddled with anxiety is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Everything I knew and enjoyed feels like a distant memory and building myself back up feels like an impossible task. I can’t remember what genuine happiness feels like. I’ve had glimpses of it, but the feeling doesn’t stick around. I can’t remember how to socialize, even texting friends is difficult. I used to enjoy coloring, church, volunteering, reading, driving with tunes blasting and singing at the top of my voice (even in traffic), going out with friends, going for meals out, long walks with the dogs, my partner and seeing family. All these things are incredibly hard to do now. I either can’t remember how to do them, get too anxious and overwhelmed to do them or physically can’t do them.

But I am trying. Each day I get up, even when everything within me wants to stay under my duvet. I take my medication, engage with mental health professionals and I make sure I eat three meals a day. I set myself one to three daily tasks such as emptying the dishwasher, vacuuming, posting to my mental health mission Facebook page, reading my emails, sorting appointments, showering, sitting outside for five minutes, watching some TV, etc. I don’t always manage them, but I’m trying to be compassionate with myself and listen to loved ones when they say these things will take time and the only person who is pressuring me — is me.

Each day I’m trying to do little things I used to do with the hope that one day, I’ll rediscover Joy.

So to those who have been through this and have come out the other side — I admire you because it isn’t easy, but you’ve shown me it’s worth it.

For those who are at the bottom of the pit with no hope — please hold on and reach out for help.

And for those of you who are trying to fight your way out of depression, like me, be kind to yourself, take things a day at a time and remember — it isn’t a race, it’s a journey.

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

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Originally published: June 15, 2016
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