I have been wanting to talk about this topic for a while, and I have also got quite a few requests on how I cope with it. I wish I could say “overcame” it but I am still dealing with it off and on, and as I write this, I have been in a down spot so it has been difficult to even start writing about it.
Depression is such a heavy word and to people who don’t deal with it or know much about it, they may think it looks like someone who looks very sad or down. Not true! There are a lot of times I have been depressed but I have posed for photos smiling and posting acting like everything is great. Sometimes we are trying to fool even ourselves, and want the world to think everything is okay. We also don’t want to come off like we are complaining or not being grateful. People want to see the highlights on social media and want to see the happy photos, right? Although, I am learning through this journey the more open I have been about feeling depressed- I have connected on such a deeper level with people. Once I started stepping into who I am and sharing that with the world, and not being ashamed of it is when I started to get my control back and started to give myself more grace. Not saying my “identity” is being a depressed person, because no it is not. It does not DEFINE me, but it is apart of who I am and I have accepted that.
What does depression look like on me (& maybe the same for you)
- Overload on social media to get attention
- Ignoring people for days
- Not being able to talk on the phone
- Lying in bed & zoned out for days
- Hard to connect with others, but longing a deeper connection
- Wanting to go out and have a social life, but feeling too down to face other people
- Can’t focus on work, school, honestly on any daily tasks
- All over the place with emotions
- Days that are very HIGH and you feel very excited, motivated, inspired, and share a lot- but then come down off that and feel isolated and alone
- Buying things (online shopping) to make yourself feel better at that moment
- Constantly looking back at the past
- Eating fast food, or indulging a lot of food that feels good for that second-for some not eating
- Binge drinking, and going out when you are upset
- Excessive guilt and blaming yourself
- Shaming yourself and speaking badly of yourself
- Sitting in the bath and listening to very sad songs
- Thoughts of harm to get rid of the pain
- Feeling exhausted
- Feeling like a dark cloud is constantly over you and you are trapped
My depression started when I was a freshman high school but at the time, I had no idea that’s what it was. I remember always listening to sad music and watching sad movies to sit there and cry. I would actually crave this kind of sadness, almost like I started to become obsessed with being sad or down. I always longed for “more” and would get into this fantasy world, instead of being present in the world I had in front of me. There were many factors of why I was depressed, so my feelings were completely valid, but I did not channel this energy correctly at the time. What’s the correct way anyways? I would drown the pain being surrounded by the wrong crowds, smoke, pills, drinking, unhealthy relationships. I didn’t know how to process my emotions; all I knew is that I had a lot of emotions. I was always (and still am) known for being very open about my life, and to some people that can be a lot. I used to be too much for people and I used to think that was a flaw of mine, and that I needed to stop sharing so much of myself. I felt so judged and felt embarrassed about who I was. I didn’t want people knowing my mistakes or knowing that part of me that made bad decisions because she was hurting. At that young age, a lot of my friends didn’t understand this kind of deep hurt. They were just regular high school people and trying to live it up and have fun. They were worried about what college they were going to go to, and I was just hoping I made it through another day. I was so envious of this and felt jealous of their lives. I would constantly compare and get mad at myself for how my life was.
“Comparison is the theif of joy.”
I started to hold a lot in and not deal with feelings, and just act like everything was okay. I remember always feeling so exhausted every morning and not being able to talk to people. Going into work and everybody would be bubbly and talkative, and it would give me anxiety to even have conversations with people. Sometimes I would call out of work because I could not face dealing with people in general. I did not want them to see me down, and I felt like it was written all over my face. I stopped wanting to share things with people because I stopped trusting others, and started feeling like I had to be more selective. I felt like people could use it against me, and I did not want them knowing I was weak. I was always a “social butterfly” from a young age, and I wanted to keep that up but so much was going on that I was really losing myself throughout this sadness. For so long, I had to be strong and to continue to survive. I was always in survival mode and that weighed very heavy on me. This is a lot for someone in their teens and twenties to deal with, and it starts to catch up on you.
With my image, I didn’t want to feel like I always had issues or “drama” because didn’t want people to not want to be around me. I know it can be intense to hear things all the time, and you don’t want others to worry about you. I learned this from being on the other side of worrying about someone with depression and hearing about situations a lot. Depression heavily runs through my family and I have seen A LOT of hardships.
At times I would feel like a bad friend for not going and hanging out, or not calling someone. Luckily, I have found a great support system that understands me, and I have been able to tell them these things and now I don’t feel as bad. I definitely have my moments though! I do have moments of feeling crazy, like why am I feeling this way when I have a roof over my head, food, loving husband, friends, family, and I AM HEALTHY AND ALIVE. I feel like I come off ungrateful since I do have so much, and then I say well some people have it WAY worse than me, so why am I sitting here sobbing? Yes, people do have it worse, but that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid and true. Honor those feelings and acknowledge them! When you are going through something, it is very real for you and so do not feel bad for feeling that way.
My depression got really bad before I moved to Georgia and I was going out more, and using tactics to “not deal with it.” I was making bad decisions and felt so exhausted from these feelings for so long. I started to feel super depressed again while living in Georgia because I felt very alone. It always goes back to that feeling of being alone, feeling lonely, lack of connection, guilt over the past, and comparing myself to others and their progress in life. It started to get to the point where I couldn’t go to work or do normal activities. I felt like I was always looking backward and into the past and living there. I would constantly go through old photos, post old photos, and would wish things could be different. This is when I knew I needed professional help, and I was so scared to get it but I was more scared to keep living in these thoughts.
How therapy helped and gave me the tools to heal
I was actually really proud of myself for getting professional help, and for those of you listening do not be ashamed if you do! That is a sight of strength. I have learned it is okay to ask for help, and that I do not need to keep living my life this way, and it is time to rise above. Therapy is where it started and wow that has changed my life. First, I tried Cognitive behavioral therapy which is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. It focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortion’s and behaviors, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. I would go into therapy and tell her current situations going on, and she would help me change the way I think about them and the way I react. It was about training my brain to change my “usual” response and to rewire it to a healthier response. These tools helped me a lot! I started to be able to communicate my feelings more and be able to understand myself better. I realized I am not crazy, and that there are reasons why I think this way. I stopped going to that therapist and saw another and it was more basic therapy that worked better for me. I loved the tools from the first, but never be afraid to switch therapist if the one you have isn’t working for you! I love the one I have now and have seen her for three years. She has helped me understand things on such a deeper level, and it is crazy how much comes from our past, and how we are used to handling things. She has been able to really help me work through past stuff and find the strength to create boundaries and loving relationships that will last and to mainly love myself and to not be so hard on myself. My feelings and experiences were very valid and so are yours!
My therapist recommended seeing a Psychiatrist for me to get on medication and this is when a whole new world started. For those of you curious about these appointments, they are an EXPERIENCE, to say the least. I went to my first appointment, and there is a student in school who is the assistant asking me over 100 questions and to rate my feelings about topics on a 1-5 scale. This is so scary because you almost don’t want to be honest about your suicidal thoughts, so you don’t get committed on a 72-hour hold, and you also don’t know how you truly feel. It is a weird experience, and there is no in-between or being able to explain the reason you feel this way. It is based on numbers, facts, and way different than therapy. Then, I met with the nurse and talked to her about my situation, and then the Doctor came in for like 1 min and handed me my prescriptions. It is very business-like and not a “feel good” experience. I left there with 4 prescriptions, and was more terrified than ever! At the time I was planning a wedding, dealing with my husband traveling for work, personal issues, and working and school full time. I needed these meds in order to handle all of this, honestly.
My medication journey
I started my journey with anti-depressants, sleeping meds, and two different anxiety meds. It was very hard because you can’t drink on them, and not like I drink much but the occasional wine I had to be very careful about. Then the weight gain started and this really made me mad! I kept wondering why I couldn’t lose weight, and it made sense because I was on so many medications. The anti-depressant I was on was an SSRI that have fewer side effects than past anti-depressants. For those who don’t know, SSRI is Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and increase the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin by limiting its reuptake into the presynaptic cell, which increases the level of serotonin in the synaptic cleft available to bind to the receptor. Basically, it increases your level of serotonin and makes more available to pass further messages between nearby nerve cells.
I will say medication truly saved my life and helped me connect more to people again. I was able to make phone calls, hang out with people, go to work, work out, and have a healthy relationship with myself. I would highly recommend medication to anyone who thinks they need help and do not feel ashamed for doing so!
Getting off anti-depressants
A few years later, I got to a point where I wanted my body to be more natural and to let go of all the meds. I felt happy and in a better place so thought I could do it. You are supposed to slowly wing of anti-depressants and I did and followed all orders. Although, it was one of the hardest things I ever went through last year. I was having brain zaps, out-of-body experiences, depression, anxiety, fatigue, hard to connect with others, and basically, all my symptoms came back. I thought I was never going to be the same and thought this would never end. During this time, I highly suggest you eat really healthy, get a lot of sleep, and make sure to have people you trust to watch you and support you. Continue therapy because I think that is one of the main things that got me through it. I still take meds to help me sleep, because at night is when I get super anxious and start thinking about so many different topics. I think of things I need to get done, things I have been lacking on, and just things in general. My mind races and I can’t turn it off, and so the sleeping meds and have helped me so much. When I get good sleep then I can be functional the next day, and it also helps me with my depression. After a very LONG 5 months winging off these meds, I started to feel back to normal. Although, I still have very big highs and low lows so I am never against going back on them if I need them.
The Silver Lining
I started being more grateful for my flaws, and for my journey. My heartaches, setbacks, and pain are what has made me a stronger person, and someone who has a story to tell. Through my stories I have been able to help others, and that is something I have always wanted to do but didn’t know-how. I would try to help others see the good in them because I saw their potential, even when they didn’t. That can be very draining and exhausting! This also put me in very toxic relationships of trying to be a “fixer,” when really, that person needs to work on themselves and I can support and love them for who they are. The real energy needs to go into me and worrying about that. It doesn’t mean you are being a bad person, and it is okay to be selfish. Selfish always sounds like a bad word, but YOU NEED TO BE. You need to put yourself first, because if you don’t take care of you then you can’t have loving relationships with others. I am still working on this, but I can say that I have overcome a lot. I have found healthier ways to cope with and actually deal with my emotions. I try not to avoid what I am feeling, but the most important lesson I can give you from my experience is…..
“It is OKAY to feel down, feel your feelings, but do not stay in them”
This was a very hard lesson for me to learn, and I still struggle with it. I think when I would sulk for too long, and continue that sad playlist then I would stay down and in this endless cycle that I could not pull myself out of. I have to put on upbeat music and have to do more things that light my soul on fire, and that inspires me. I have to do more things for me, and do things that make me feel confident, happy, and alive! Your feelings are valid and I hope this post makes you feel less crazy and less alone in your feelings.
“Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness”
What has helped me fight the darkness
- Don’t do things you don’t wanna do & don’t feel GUILTY for not going
- When you are exhausted learn to rest and not be hard on yourself for doing so
- Do activities that make you feel happy
- Therapy: CBT, DBT, or regular mental health help
- DBT workbook: From Amazon, it is a workbook that gives you exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation & distress tolerance
- Getting out into nature
- Medication(Seek out professional help for this and do research)
- Showering, washing my face, brushing my teeth! (These simple tasks can even be difficult when feeling down)
- Less drinking and going out. Alcohol is a depressant and it is easy to drink the worries away, but it can end up bad if you go out in that mindset
- More me time (Self-care)
- Opening up about my depression and talking about it, and to talk to people when I feel down and get support
- Having people you can trust and talk to
- Creating boundaries
- Vitamins and herbal supplements
- Don’t look back at the past, use it as a learning experience and make peace with it.
- Focus on the PRESENT 🙂
- Essential oils: Lavender and Frankincense oil are amazing combos! (I always have a diffuser by my bed and in my office) I also spray lavender on my pillow before bed to help me calm down and relax before sleeping
- Meditation: Apps I use are; Headspace, Insight Timer, Simple Habit, & Mindbliss
- Journaling: This is very healing and feels good to let things out and down on paper
- Having my dog helps me get out of bed and forces me to get outside for walks- which can be difficult but ends up helping my mood overall
- Eating healthier: The body and mind are connected and we store a lot of stress in our gut, and that can lead to stomach issues and more.
- Connecting with other like-minded people
- Self Help Books: *The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer, *YOU ARE A BADASS by Sincero, *10% Happier by Dan Harris, *Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
- A fun/uplifting playlist (Spotify has ones based on mood)
- Allowing yourself to feel sad and acknowledging the emotions, working through them, but not staying in that down mindset
- Forgiveness (Forgive yourself and others)
- Have compassion for yourself and be thankful for all you’ve overcome
- My grandma Duffy taught me to put makeup on and get dressed because when you look good you feel good- and feel more confident
You got this
I just want to say if you are struggling right now with depression you are not alone, and you will overcome this. I hope these tools will help and I hope my story will help you feel less alone. There are so many resources so do not go through this on your own. You are loved, valued, and seen. By the way, I am not a professional so this is all based on personal experience and what I have learned along the way.
Sending love and light