Depression is something I feel people should really be talking more about. It is very common to have depression or to go through a depressive period but I feel like it’s this hush hush thing that no one wants to talk or hear about. But with so many people affected by depression it needs to be talked about. So I’m going to share my story!
I was first diagnosed with depression in middle school but I started having problems before that. I’ve been on a couple of antidepressants, seen lots of psychologists and I’ve gotten to a point where I was very suicidal. Lucky for me I’ve had a few months lately where I’ve felt really good, really normal. But I think of my depression like alcoholism. You never stop being an alcoholic even if you stop drinking. The alcoholic in the back of your mind just sits there waiting for you to have a weak moment to bring you down so every day you have to make the choice not to drink. I feel the same about my depression. There is no cure for depression only treatments to manage depression. So even when I’m having good days, weeks or months, I feel like my depression is lurking in the shadows of my mind waiting for a weak moment to strike. And sometimes it does. But I’ve found that if I am weak and give into the depression and let it take over me then I’ve lost. I’ve started to accept the depression as part of my life and to welcome it when it visits even when it’s really inconvenient. There’s a wonderful poem by Rumi to illustrate this:
This being is a guesthouse.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness.
Some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
Because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.
I can divide up my depression in a couple of stages that make it easier to talk through so here we go!
Towards the end of elementary my self-esteem was just crap so I started starving myself on and off. Mind you I am a thin person and I have always been a thin person. I would go on gum and water diets quite often but it was never serious enough that I needed to be hospitalized for it. The fat kid within has a strong voice and I am grateful for it!
Once I started middle school I started cutting myself. Not the “I want to kill myself” kind of cutting but the stress relief kind of cutting. This was what was very difficult for people to understand at the time especially my family. And it wasn’t until many years later when I saw a psychiatrist instead of a psychologist that made my cutting understandable. The psychiatrist said that when you get injured your body naturally releases endorphins to both help reduce the pain felt by the body but it also reduces the pain felt in the mind. So by inflicting pain upon myself I was activating those endorphins so I could feel less distraught about whatever was going on. I never really stopped cutting until after I turned 20 but it was more on my hip than on my arm for works sake.
When I got into high school I started taking over-the-counter pills. I started taking tons of sleeping pills to avoid interacting with my family, then I started mixing Benadryl with no-doz for when my allergies were really bad and I needed to go to school. Then I added pain killers and migraine medicines and at some point I started just taking lots of pills mixed together. It was almost like my body was so shocked and busy dealing with all the nonsense I just put into it that I was a zombie. I had no energy for expressions or movement or even hearing people when they talked. I could only exist at that point. So when I was stressed out I just took a pill, then I took another and another until I felt the numbness. A sickening numbness!
One day I had taken a bunch of pills at school and for gym class we took a walk on a trail and I just couldn’t walk. I fell to my knees and was shaking a bit, very lightheaded and nauseous. I managed to pull myself together for the last bit of the day, as miserable as it was, until the bus ride home. I definitely threw up on the bus going home and I DO NOT throw up. The bus driver was so nice and took me all the way in front of my house instead of leaving me down the street at the bus stop. And that was about the last time I messed around with pills. I really avoided any kind of pills after that because I really didn’t trust myself with them for a while but at some points later on I was really in need for some antidepressants, which have turned out to be quite unhelpful anyway.
My mom got stationed in Germany for my senior year and in Germany you can drink beer and wine when you’re 16 and alcohol when you’re 18 but the bars my friends and I went to did not check IDs so I started really drinking my senior year. This wasn’t the first time drinking though. When I was in middle school I would sneak the Blue Curacao my parents had in the cabinet and put it in some juice to take it to school with me. It wasn’t much and it wasn’t long until I realized I was becoming quite obsessed with drinking so much so that I took the bottle into the backyard and dumped the rest of it out. But in Germany I took full advantage of the drinking and this is where I met my frenemy Jägermeister! Now I don’t like Jäger for the taste even though I can drink straight out of the bottle. What I like about it is that it doesn’t take much of it to get me drunk. I am a LIGHTWEIGHT, which is part of the alcohol problem. I just don’t have a stop mechanism in my head when it comes to drinking. I get buzzed very quickly but I still want more and more drinks until I hit the wall. And by hit the wall I really mean run in a full sprint straight into the wall. It’s just not classy. I had a very unsettling experience at the hospital though so I stopped. I haven’t stopped completely but I am very careful about managing myself around alcohol. I don’t drink outside of the house, I avoid places where lots of people will be drinking, I only buy a bottle of wine if I do want to drink at the house, no liquor AND (very important) I’ve got a bottle stopper so I don’t feel the need to drink the whole bottle in one sitting!
As bad as my depression got I don’t think I was ever really suicidal. It wasn’t until I got on Prozac again for the third time (It didn’t work the first 2 times and third time was NOT the charm here) that I hit my absolute lowest. I got so suicidal on Prozac that I just went to the hospital to figure out if I could just stop taking it. (I quite Effexor cold turkey and it was the HARDEST couple of days ever). Once I was off the medication the thoughts of suicide lingered. Not nearly as strong and impulsive but I was ready.
I was tired. I was tired of riding along the ups and downs of my depression. I couldn’t enjoy the good times because I was anticipating the bad times right around the corner. I felt like I was suffocating, drowning, I just didn’t care anymore. I wanted it all to stop and after 20 years I came to the conclusion that there was only one way to make it stop. What’s difficult about being this low is that you feel like you can’t really talk to anyone about it that is either going to care enough or that isn’t going to completely freak out about it and treat you like you’re super fragile. Luckily I had a person to talk about it with. A person I could plan my suicide with. That sounds horrible I know. I absolutely don’t advocate for encouraging or indulging in suicidal thoughts but I think this person knew me well enough to know I wouldn’t do it. And I didn’t so there we go!
Anyway, talking it out made me make an important decision. I decided to give myself 1 year to live while I planned on dying. For 1) I wanted to make sure I got it right. I did NOT want to do it wrong and live through it with permanent damage. 2) I wanted to make sure I saw my family again before I left. Not to tell them but to give us one more chance to be together. 3) I wanted to make sure I had left behind some kind of story that explained everything and to apologize for leaving. This was the hardest part. I started to tell my story and started writing letters to my family but I just couldn’t find the words. In all honesty there wouldn’t have been any words that would have made my suicide any less difficult to deal with. And 4) I wanted to TRAVEL! I was going to use up the rest of my money and see all the things I wanted to see. I figured if nothing else I would find myself on the trip and get myself out of whatever was causing me so much pain and live a life at peace.
So the 4 classes I was taking at the time, I failed them all. What good is stressing over getting a Bachelors degree when you’re trying to plan a suicide??? I also broke up with the hubby (boyfriend at the time), I moved out and started getting rid of my stuff. I think that mentally letting go of everything in my life just reset things for me. I lived my days not worrying or caring because I was going to die in a year anyway. There wasn’t anything weighing on my mind or suffocating me anymore. So after a few months the hubby and I got back together and I haven’t taken another antidepressant since.
From the research I’ve done getting my degree in Psychology I think I have treatment-resistant depression. I know, not good to self diagnose but it’s hardly a far off conclusion since I’ve already been diagnosed with depression. BUT I thought it was interesting because in all of my years with depression and the various antidepressants I’ve tried nothing has worked and many of the antidepressants have made my depression worse. This realization has further motivated me to take control of my depression. While medication is very helpful for some people it does not work for me so I have had to find the will within me to help myself. And now here I am at my 1 year mark, alive and well. It is incredible what can happen in just a year.
I don’t resent having depression. If nothing else it has been a very interesting learning experience and I wouldn’t trade that for anything else. I have come to learn to separate my mind from my body. My mind and what I create in it is what causes me pain. All my body wants to do is take care of me. And I know that in order for my body to take care of me, I have to take care of it. I have to love it and cherish it for everything it does for me. Causing harm to my body is just simply unfair especially after it has taken such good care of me regardless of how I’ve treated it in the past. That is some unconditional love right there! So anytime I feel the urge to cause myself pain in a stressful or upsetting situation I remind myself that my body has done nothing wrong and does not deserve to be hurt for what is happening on the outside or in my mind.