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3 Things I Wish I Knew After Being Diagnosed With Depression

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Never in a million years did I think at the age of 16 I would spend the first part of my summer vacation inside a mental health hospital fighting for my own life. But that wasn’t even the worst part of it all. The worst part of my experience was the next four years after that summer, learning to live with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I didn’t know I would lose almost all of my friends, have a tarnished reputation at school and go home to a family that didn’t know how to help me.

After almost a week in a mental health care facility I was tossed back out into the real world, a world that consisted of therapy sessions, antidepressants and a society that sees mental illness as something to be ashamed of.

1. Who I am and what I struggle with are two different things.  

When I came back from the hospital newly diagnosed, all I could think was, “I am depressed,” instead of, “I struggle with major depressive disorder.” Do you see the difference? They almost sound the same, but in reality they are two completely different statements. I told myself all I was and ever would be was depressed. I convinced myself my depression was who I am. But what I believed about myself couldn’t be further from the truth. I am meant to be happy, full of life, to experience love and be loved in return. I may have depression, but that doesn’t mean I will never experience happiness. I am not my illness, and my illness does not define me.

2. It’s OK to ask for help!

When I was finally able to go home, I was terrified to ask for help. Transitioning back into life at home was the first step in my recovery process. I needed love and support from my friends and family in ways I didn’t even know. I was so preoccupied with being embarrassed that I convinced myself asking for help would be seen as a sign of weakness. But I learned that asking for help is one of the most courageous things I can do for myself.

3. Recovery is a process (and almost always longer than anticipated!).

When I started treatment, it seemed like my whole world was flipped upside down. All of a sudden I had countless appointments with therapists and psychiatrists, I started various types of therapy and began taking medication. One of the hardest things for me was adjusting to the idea that I was sick and that it wasn’t something that was going to go away overnight.

I grew frustrated as the months went by. My medication wasn’t working and therapy didn’t seem as effective as it used to be. I started to feel like I would never get better because after all, it had been months after my hospitalization and I still was in the same dark place I was in at the time of my suicide attempt. Recovery takes time, patience and persistence. Remember to never lose hope.

With all that said, I hope you know you are not alone. There are many of us out there, fighting the same battle one day at a time. I can promise you that although it may not be easy, waking up in the morning is always worth the fight. You were meant for so much more than you think. You were made to smile, sing, dance, laugh and most importantly, experience true happiness.

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore

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

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: October 12, 2016
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