Let Us Begin:
I have debated for many months whether or not to write about depression. I have spent many nights sweating and in tears because I also knew I had to. It’s a scary thought to become so vulnerable. I have talked about anxiety in the past in another blog, but something feels much more intimate when it comes to talking about depression. Depression is this dark cape I tend to tuck away so that everyone can only see my brightly colored clothes on the outside. That is what I choose to have everyone see. I write this to connect with someone, to let you know that depression is NOT what defines you, it’s not what determines you as a person, and, in fact, it’s a beautifully messy part of what makes you, you.
IT IS NOT THE UGLY TRUTH. Let us start peeling away from such harsh words and accusations, and discuss what it’s really like to live with depression.
The Starting Point of My Depression:
To first understand my story, I need to tell you a little bit about myself. Depression can be genetic, and it can also be caused and brought on by many things. I can remember a precise moment of sheer agonizing pain when I was 17 years old. This was when I first knew I suffered from depression. I was fortunate enough to have a support system including my family, friends, and a doctor who inspired me to do better. Now, please note that I am not a doctor (yet) and I strongly encourage you to always seek help, which is the hardest part of any treatment or struggle. I have lived with depression on and off for eight years. I have learned my triggers, warnings, and how to recognize when I am in a depressive state.
What it Feels Like:
I decided to also write this because there are so many of us struggling whose support systems may not understand how we are feeling. I wanted to share my experience to create an open conversation about this hard topic. For me, depression was this overwhelming sensation of sadness, the gut feeling of hopelessness, the darkest thoughts telling me I could not do something, that maybe I wasn’t smart enough.
For a while, I physically could not get out of bed, I was so tired all the time, and I felt like all I did was sleep. It was hard to find enjoyment out of life even when I had all these wonderful things happening around me. It was hard to tell myself that these were fun things, because going out of the house felt like a chore. I became the person who constantly cancelled on everyone and never wanted to make plans with my friends. I had a hard time going to school and work and the normality of everyday life felt like an endless nag.
Oh, the questions. This is my least favorite part: when someone asks you questions about depression when they do not understand. I would hear questions like, “why don’t you just be happy?” This was so frustrating and saddening all at the same time. I so badly wish there was a switch I could flip and choose to be happy. The biggest misunderstanding about depression is that people think it’s a choice. That you just want to sulk and be miserable and unhappy. Well it’s not a choice. It’s this uncontrollable sensation that consumes your life.
The next question I got frequently asked was “what do you have to be sad about?” This was even more frustrating for me. I had a good life. I have had many things that make me sad, but nothing that would “cause” depression. But again, it’s not something or one particular event that causes these emotions. It’s just a slow time-bomb for me that builds into intense emotions. Although, there is nothing wrong with being a “feeler.” I have come to terms with this, personally. I feel emotions deeply and strongly, I feel for other people when they hurt, and I understand pain and that is just fine.
It’s Not Forever:
When I was first told this statement at sixteen, I thought the person was crazy. At that exact moment in my life, dealing with depression felt like an eternity. It’s like hitting rock bottom with no way out. I didn’t understand at the time that it is not forever, and for me it got better.
I know that this is not the solution that everyone gets and I want to tell you that when you are in this pit where your heart hurts and you have an overwhelming heap of sadness, it WILL get better. It is not likely that you can wake up the next morning and feel like a brand-new happy person. Oh, how I wished it worked like this. But, that moment you feel a little less pain and you smile when you wake up is a sign. It is starting to get better, and you have to hold onto these moments.
One-by-one it will happen and one day the feelings of pain and sorrow can turn into beautiful, happy emotions.
How to Turn Your Frown Upside Down:
I know, I know what a cliché right? Well it works. I used to loathe the happy people at the concert, or the person who was all smiles at the restaurant. It made me feel mad I couldn’t be them, and sad that I was envious of them.
I took small steps to help work myself out of the funk and I stopped cancelling on everyone. I got myself up and I would take the time to get ready. This was a psychological thing for me. Putting myself together and spending time on myself made me feel like I was taking care of myself. Putting yourself forward is absolutely okay, and what you should be doing. Take care of yourself.
I would debate if I should hang out with my friends, or just cancel and stay at home in bed. The first few times were hard to be out of the house. It caused anxiety, I felt like I didn’t belong and that maybe other people knew I was battling with depression. A really wonderful thing happened though. The more I would accept invitations to spend time with people, the better I started to feel. I realized that exiling people made me feel worse, and a good dose of people was just what I needed.
I also asked myself what things did I used to enjoy? Why did I stop doing them? I love baking with all of my heart and stopped baking during this time. Taking a step back and looking at what used to make you happy is a good point of reflection. We can, and should, allow ourselves to do these things again.
Talking About It:
Now I sound like an infomercial. This is something I heard over and over again, but never really believed. I held in my emotions and I was worried about talking about my depression. I was worried about being judged. However, I slowly started opening up to friends around me.
Small discussions about my mental health turned into long conversations. It can be so healing to just open up and talk. I felt like most of the time I was battling conversations with myself. There is a terrible stigma around talking and sharing your feelings. But why? Why should we be afraid of sharing with one another or talking about our mental health? Guess what, we shouldn’t be! It’s a perfectly healthy and normal thing to do.
So please, if you want to reach out to someone, but you’re worried, just start talking anyway. It is extremely hard at first, but it will get easier. I took steps further to speak with a counselor, which was so refreshing. Something about talking with someone who doesn’t know all the aspects of your life is therapeutic and allows you to work through things, with the help of someone else, in a safe and inviting environment.
How to Help Your Friend or Family Member:
I often think about those around me and when they would reach out to me. After speaking with several of them, the common ground was that they didn’t know how to or were afraid to say something that I might take the wrong way. However, the worst thing you can do is not reach out. Please reach out to someone who is experiencing depression. Also, be patient. You might feel like they are mad at you, sad, or experiencing a mixture of emotions, but usually that is not the case. Even if they cancel on you constantly, still keep asking and help them work through this. Don’t take it personally, they are probably hurting and battling within themselves. Keep trying, they will thank you for it later.
The Take Away:
I hope you know that you are not alone and many of us suffer with these emotions. Never feel ashamed for having depression and know that it doesn’t last forever, even when it feels like it will. Never be afraid to seek help, and never be afraid to talk with someone, whether it be a professional, friend, or family member. You owe it to yourself. Take each day one day at a time. Time will help you heal, and there are always so many people that love and support you. We would always love to talk with you, find us on Facebook!