Courtney Bridgman

@courtney-bridgman | contributor
Courtney has a major in Communications and a minor in Psychology from the University of Arizona. She is a Spiritual Life Coach, Mindfulness Teacher and a Published Writer. Courtney is a mental health advocate and her goal is to start healing the perception regarding mental health by sharing her story and bringing light to the subject. She blogs at Happiness, Love and Light. You can visit her website and Facebook page to learn more.

Message to People Who Are Tired of Being Brave Facing Depression

The other night when I was going to bed, I told my fiancee I wasn’t sure I could “do another day like today.” He quickly asked me what I meant, and I had to run away because I wasn’t brave enough to say it out loud: I can’t take pain like this again for one more day. He didn’t run after me because he knew I wanted to be alone with my tears. I had been crying all day long over this excruciating pain which I can only describe as pain over my pure existence. See, when someone does not suffer from the lowest of lows of depression, there is no way to truly describe what’s exactly “wrong” because it’s not one of those quick fix problems like, “Oh, I am sad because someone said something rude to me, or “I’m sad because the girl or boy I like doesn’t feel the same way.” It’s not something that’s easy to articulate. Really saying what’s going on in your mind is sometimes too embarrassing. It sounds a little “crazy” and doesn’t make any sense. For me, fantasizing about “going away forever” gives me a sense of comfort, like I have a choice whether or not I will endure this type of pain again. If you can tell yourself you’re not strong enough or too tired to do it anymore, that sense of admitting defeat allows you to see you can wave the white flag of surrender in a way that could have permanent consequences…but you’re only thinking about it. There is nothing pretty about depression. It’s one of the ugliest things I’ve personally ever witnessed. It’s certainly not attractive to talk about it, especially because of the stigma the majority of the population has about mental illness in general. That is why most everyone, like myself before I began writing to help heal this perception, goes into total isolation and shuts everyone they love out of their life. It’s the isolation that can kill you. The hours, days, weeks or months you spend hiding out. You can’t let anyone see you this way. Such cruel labels we fear when it’s our brains that have turned against us and not the other way around. When there’s a suicide in the news, people make comments like, “She seemed so happy” or “He was such a good father and brother,” but they are baffled at why they would take their own life before coming out and asking for help. It’s because depression and mental illness steal the joy from you and blind you from your blessings. It seems as though people who don’t struggle with depression feel as though they can relate or judge because depression is usually described as “having the blues” or “sadness lasting for weeks” when in reality, it’s much deeper than that. If I were to be 100 percent honest about what it feels like, I would tell you that it feels like a horrible nightmare you can’t wake up from. It’s like being forced to walk down the worst neighborhood in the world with people throwing knives and shooting at you but you have no protection. It’s a broken record player in your mind you are tied up to all day and night repeating the worst possible things you could ever imagine someone saying to you. I believe people can relate with sadness and desperation, but the difference is when I go to low levels of sadness, my only options appear to be “disappear and escape.” When you love someone who suffers from depression or any mental illness, you don’t need to tell them you can relate because you really can’t. Please don’t tell them to snap out of it or that they should be grateful for all the great things they have in their lives. We know that and hearing it makes it worse. What you can do is remind them that this dark place will pass, because it always does. And that you love them no matter what — their dark side as well as their light side. Follow this journey on Happiness, Love and Light. 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.

Message to People Who Are Tired of Being Brave Facing Depression

The other night when I was going to bed, I told my fiancee I wasn’t sure I could “do another day like today.” He quickly asked me what I meant, and I had to run away because I wasn’t brave enough to say it out loud: I can’t take pain like this again for one more day. He didn’t run after me because he knew I wanted to be alone with my tears. I had been crying all day long over this excruciating pain which I can only describe as pain over my pure existence. See, when someone does not suffer from the lowest of lows of depression, there is no way to truly describe what’s exactly “wrong” because it’s not one of those quick fix problems like, “Oh, I am sad because someone said something rude to me, or “I’m sad because the girl or boy I like doesn’t feel the same way.” It’s not something that’s easy to articulate. Really saying what’s going on in your mind is sometimes too embarrassing. It sounds a little “crazy” and doesn’t make any sense. For me, fantasizing about “going away forever” gives me a sense of comfort, like I have a choice whether or not I will endure this type of pain again. If you can tell yourself you’re not strong enough or too tired to do it anymore, that sense of admitting defeat allows you to see you can wave the white flag of surrender in a way that could have permanent consequences…but you’re only thinking about it. There is nothing pretty about depression. It’s one of the ugliest things I’ve personally ever witnessed. It’s certainly not attractive to talk about it, especially because of the stigma the majority of the population has about mental illness in general. That is why most everyone, like myself before I began writing to help heal this perception, goes into total isolation and shuts everyone they love out of their life. It’s the isolation that can kill you. The hours, days, weeks or months you spend hiding out. You can’t let anyone see you this way. Such cruel labels we fear when it’s our brains that have turned against us and not the other way around. When there’s a suicide in the news, people make comments like, “She seemed so happy” or “He was such a good father and brother,” but they are baffled at why they would take their own life before coming out and asking for help. It’s because depression and mental illness steal the joy from you and blind you from your blessings. It seems as though people who don’t struggle with depression feel as though they can relate or judge because depression is usually described as “having the blues” or “sadness lasting for weeks” when in reality, it’s much deeper than that. If I were to be 100 percent honest about what it feels like, I would tell you that it feels like a horrible nightmare you can’t wake up from. It’s like being forced to walk down the worst neighborhood in the world with people throwing knives and shooting at you but you have no protection. It’s a broken record player in your mind you are tied up to all day and night repeating the worst possible things you could ever imagine someone saying to you. I believe people can relate with sadness and desperation, but the difference is when I go to low levels of sadness, my only options appear to be “disappear and escape.” When you love someone who suffers from depression or any mental illness, you don’t need to tell them you can relate because you really can’t. Please don’t tell them to snap out of it or that they should be grateful for all the great things they have in their lives. We know that and hearing it makes it worse. What you can do is remind them that this dark place will pass, because it always does. And that you love them no matter what — their dark side as well as their light side. Follow this journey on Happiness, Love and Light. 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.

The 3-Step Process I Use to Nurture Myself During Depressive Episodes

When I am in a low and depressed mood, I feel very helpless and experience physical pain in my body. Through practice, I have discovered that these three steps help me tremendously and shorten the amount of time I struggle: 1. Find the place in your body where you are struggling. For me, it’s usually my heart, so I place both hands over my heart and hold myself in a gentle and tender way. We often hold pain in our hearts; our stomach and our throat when we are in emotional despair during a depressive episode or experiencing grappling anxiety. 2. Speak to the pain. While holding my heart I will say out loud, “It’s OK love, I love you and you are going to be alright, this pain will pass and you will feel free again.” Coming up with something that feels good to you will feel very natural when you speak to yourself in this loving and compassionate way. 3. Envision a healing light activating the location of the pain. Doing a visualization of a healing white light shining through your hands to the area of your pain can help lighten the heaviness you are feeling. Give yourself around two to five minutes to breath in this light and imagine it is breaking down the pain inside your body. The next time you find yourself stuck in a depressive episode or are dealing with anxiety, I invite you to give this process a try. This is one way to practice self-love and compassion when you are in the midst of struggle. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Getty image via bruniewska

Why the Hardest Part of My Depression Is Its Invisibility

For me, the scariest and saddest part about depression is how invisible it is. I have become so good at hiding and masking my pain that even my doctors are perplexed. I “want” to be OK, which, to me, is being at peace with my mind, body and spirit. But my depression does not allow that as often as I would like. Instead, I am dying of emotional pain and despair on the inside while my outside demeanor shows a different story. That “display’” is happy, outgoing, content and smiling. The conflicting parts are continually at war with being honest about the truth when my actual state of being comes into question. I was told the other day by my psychiatrist, “Courtney, you have such a happy demeanor, it’s very hard for me to tell when you are having a bad day or when you are depressed.” It really bummed me out when he said that. It made me realize that for over 20 years now, I have been a misrepresented and conflicted girl. Why is it so easy for me to mask my pain? If my pain were to show on the outside, it would look like a woman who has the worst rash you have ever seen. I envision it to look like I have poison ivy all over my body. Then it would be known that something was wrong and I would look like I need help. I don’t know if it’s my pride or my ego or my shame around the truth about what goes on deep inside my mind, but all I can tell you is that this conflict makes the struggle harder. I have set out on my own personal mission to speak my truth about struggling with major depression so that maybe I could possibly align my insides with my outsides. Today, I woke up feeling very low, and like a five-year-old child, I declared in my head, “ I don’t want this anymore! ” Like that would take it away. This has been going on since I turned 18. Little did I know, it would follow me around for the next 25 years like a loyal enemy. I know deep in my heart, the only thing that can help me is 100 percent acceptance of what is: low days, emotional pain, struggle to show up for my life, deep sadness, sickening despair, dark thoughts and unexplained dread. That is why the stigma around mental health breaks my heart. If you saw the brain image of a person with depression and an image of person without depression, you might be able to tell that this is not a choice. This is not a sign of weakness, laziness or “craziness.” I consider myself a warrior, well, more like a peaceful warrior, because I fight the fight against an illness that wants to take me down. I try to fight with grace and love because I am completely humbled by this degree of pain. I look forward to when the sunny days outweigh the cloudy ones. For now, any moment I get some inner peace and stillness in my mind, I am so grateful. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via piyapong sayduang

What I Do When My Major Depression Returns

I know the heaviness of major depression. The elephant on my heart and chest, the agony of facing the day, the fear of seeing people and overall sense of hopelessness. I also know the feeling of freedom, joy, energy and enthusiasm for life. That is why when I have a couple of good weeks without experiencing depression, it brings me to such a feeling of defeat and frustration when it rears its ugly head again. When it comes back I question exactly what it could be that brought it back on: Did I take my meds? Did I forget to stay away from sugar and gluten? Because for me, there is a correlation. Am I tired? Did someone say something to me that could have brought me down? All these questions run through my mind, which actually makes it worse because I have not come to the place of fully accepting this will always be part of my life. I fear my depression to be 100 percent honest. It scares me because of my thoughts of wishing I wasn’t living anymore. That’s my escape in my head; I can imagine not being here and not having to fight these demons. Feelings of being unworthy, unloving, unsafe and hopeless dance through my mind, which when my depression has a mission to take me down. So what do I do? I tell myself it will pass. I tell myself it’s a condition and not to listen to the negative voice. I tell myself that despite the amount of pain and fear I am in, the sun will come back 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 o r text “START” to 741-741 . We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here . Thinkstock photo via jarino47

Finding Moments of Relief in Life With Major Depressive Disorder

I know there’s a force within me that lures me toward the light, and yet there is a competing force that would keep me bound to darkness. When I am choosing to be in a state of fear, uncertainty or self-doubt, I am allowing the darkness to remain present. In order to get out of this fearful state, I need to ask the Universe to dissolve these unnecessary fears and then trust that the darkness will fall away. It’s hard to tell sometimes when I am in a deep depression or if I am in a state of fear due to my own negative perception of what is happening in my life. I understand that fear is a choice we make, but I also understand that depression is not a choice. I judge myself harshly when a depressive state comes on because I feel as though I must have some choice, and then I fear I am manifesting dark things my way. Everywhere you read “what you think becomes your reality” — and that can’t be so with the disease of depression. All I can do is try my best to walk through the dark abyss, the self-limiting beliefs that are haunting my mind and keeping me from living my life to the fullest. I want to live in the sunlight of the spirit every single day, and I know that is not possible. When one needs to fight the thoughts in their minds on a daily basis just to keep going and showing up in the world, it’s easy to become tired and weary and filled with fear. When darkness falls I must always keep my thoughts on the light that I know is there even if I can’t see it at the moment. The moments in the light are fleeting, wonderful and beautiful and yet don’t last long enough. My prayer is one day I may experience more of life in those moments than in the fearful state of darkness that seems to follow me like a dark cloud. I am blessed because I know light. I am blessed because I know the darkness fades. I keep the Faith that all will be OK no matter what my mind tries to make me think. We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here. Image via Thinkstock.

Inability to Accept Depression Makes It Worse

It’s one of those days. The pull to stay in bed all day and hide from the world is the only thing I can do. Nothing bad happened. No one hurt my feelings. I just want to disappear from this dread and despair. Depression. Today, it physically hurts. The anxiety I am carrying in my heart is overpowering. It’s hard to shift my focus to the gorgeous and sunny day. Then, the dreaded “should” and “should nots” start. I should be happy. I should be able to handle this dark place by now after 20 years. I shouldn’t let this steal from my ability to work. I shouldn’t allow this to isolate me from the world. Those only make it worse.  My inability to accept this darkness when it shows up creates more sadness and more despair. I have to accept this illness. I have to befriend this dark place and not run and hide from it. I know this will bring me more peace if I could just fully and completely accept this darkness as a part of me, most of me, to be brutally honest. For all the years I have struggled, I have resisted it. Feared it. Run from it. Hated it. Detached from it. Downplayed it. All that has done is make me not accept what is. In order for me to feel any sort of peace, I need to accept this ugly illness that wants to take me down most days. The truth is, I don’t need to like it to accept it. Image via Thinkstock.

Struggling to Find Antidepressants That Work

When I am in a low of my depression, my world becomes small, dark and extremely desperate. In this place, I wish I was “not around.” I want to take my life or have life to just take me out. It’s morbid to think that, I know. Trust me, I have been carrying this debate of “to stay or not to stay” for over 20 years, and it feels morbid each time I feel it. The toughest part is, before my depression I was one of the happiest girls. You could find me socializing or dancing around without a care in the world. If anyone was to describe me, “bubbly” was usually one of the top three descriptors. So when I turned 18 and was diagnosed with major depression, it was a shock to everyone in my family and almost harder for them to take because they no longer recognized the girl I had become. A few years in, I went on two different types of antidepressants that allowed to me to have moments of that bubbly girl. Not all the time, but I would say about 50 percent of the time, which is great odd for someone who was in major depressive episodes so often. Within the last four years or so, my medication stopped working. I couldn’t leave my house, I couldn’t stop crying, my suicidal thoughts were increasing and I needed help quickly. My psychiatrist told me to try a third medicine. I was hesitant because, well, to be honest, of the shame — I didn’t want to be the girl who needed three medications to make it through life because it still embarrassed me and hindered my pride. After a few months I said OK and was told about the side effects: w eight gain (that’s a fun one), muscle stiffness (hmm), twitching (embarrassing), along with 10 or so other ones. I felt like I had to make an impossible choice between taking the meds and having the horrible side effects or not taking the meds and maybe takingmy life. Seems obvious to most, but this decision really isn’t fun. I am choosing to live yet have to endure odd side effects. On these medications, one side effect seems to stick out. “You seem withdrawn, like you care about a conversation, but not really.” “You don’t seem rockbottom depressed, but you don’t seem happy.” “You are definitely not who you used to be, the girl with energy and the sunny disposition.” “I hope we get that girl back but if not, at least you want to be around.” Ouch. I know my loved ones are only trying to tell me the truth, but for me, this is the reality of taking antidepressants. The drugs want to alter chemicals in my brain causing me to be suicidal, and yes, they’ve done that, but they’ve also affected my zest and apparently my ability to engage in an energetic way in conversations. This is my life on meds. If you are going through this too, my heart goes out to you. I want you to know I get it, and I understand. 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 . Editor’s note: Please see a medical professional before starting or stopping medication.

When Depression and Alcoholism Collide

I believe my lack of formal education regarding the subject of depression or alcoholism in school led me down a more destructive path than if I had been properly educated. Our health guidance courses may have touched on the subjects, but only a small paragraph and never anything we were tested on. When my first major depressive episode hit, I was a sophomore at The University of Arizona. This school happened to be known as a big party school. When the darkness overcame me and my brain all of a sudden turned against me, I had absolutely no idea what was happening. All I knew was that my bright and promising life was now dark and filled with hopelessness and despair. The only escape from all this pain was to engage in binge-drinking, which lead to many blackouts and too many incidents of me putting myself in harm’s way. I could not articulate what was happening to me due to my lack of formal education. I felt it was just what life was throwing my way and the medicine was the alcohol. Since alcohol is a depressant, after many nights blacking out, not remembering what had happened the night before, I fell into a deeper hole. This hole was now not only darkness and despair, but massive shame and guilt for acting so destructively. This combination of depression and alcohol made my suicidal tendencies way more frequent. Since everyone else around me was partying, no one could see I was drowning and wanted to die. Attending a dual diagnosis rehab saved my life because I was able to have both major issues addressed. There at the age of 36, 17 years after trying to self-medicate with unhealthy mind altering chemicals, I learned both depression and alcohol were diseases. They were the types of diseases that wanted to take me down and out of this life. My wish and hope is for more people to talk about these things. It’s too easy for young people who don’t know about their own depression to engage in binge-drinking and drugs. People can be young when alcohol shows up in their lives, and peer pressure comes into play. We need to talk about depression and other mental health issues. When a young person starts to see the symptoms of any type of mental illness, they then can reach out and get the necessary help from their parents and doctors before they reach for something recreational. I am here to share my story because I don’t want others to travel down the same dark and self-destructive path I did. 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.  

Wanting a Break From Deep Depression

There is nothing much different today. The only difference is I don’t want to be inside my head. Is it because I’m without my meds? The clouds are back? My fear? This shift is typical, but never welcome. It invades my insides, mainly my mind and heart. It’s all gray, there is no color. I am ugly. I am tired. I want to just give up. I see my children’s love that is filled with realness, but I can’t feel it because my soul feels like steel. I don’t want my family to ask me. Please, please just leave me alone. I feel like a circus animal when people watch me. Up and down and down and down. What can they do? They only stare. Watch me fumble and change and it’s fast. People want explanations and I can’t tell you one. I. Just. Want. Out. What’s the point if this point is always revisited? No matter what, my mind takes me back here. It’s not fun, it’s not fair, it’s not me and the hate exceeds the love by a long shot. Just please disappear into the fog and no one will see me. I feel like no one will care because my disappearance would be healing. They would want normalcy if they didn’t have it. They would want to be able to look in the mirror and not see the ugly, vacant eyes looking back at them. What’s this beauty people speak of? I have prayed to see it and still only see dread and despair and faults. Would be better if. Should feel grateful. Could try to fight this. I’m tired. Tired beyond the exhaustion of a person running around their day. Tired beyond anything I have ever felt. Life feels too heavy. I’m too weak. That’s my truth, at least for today. 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. The Mighty is asking the following: For someone who doesn’t understand what it’s like to have your mental illness, describe what it’s like to be in your head for a day. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.