Depression is more common
This is a memoir of my life journey with depression and anxiety. Mental health has been receiving a lot of attention for a few years now. I could not be any more excited about this surge of awareness. While there is a high level social attention on the topic I noticed that the conversation is still pretty taboo in common society.
Many have shared their story with me and let me know that I am the only one who knows of their condition. This has encouraged me to share my journey more freely. It is my hope that mt openness allows others to feel comfortable enough to share and seek the necessary help that they need, without shame!
When did depression and anxiety become prevalent?
During my college days my friends had this tradition where everyone would go around the table to share what they loved/enjoyed about you. While at my 20th birthday dinner each person at the table spoke amazing words of affirmation. All I could hear was “you are always so happy” “you are always so loving” “your positivity is amazing” “you are so confident” and I could not be more grateful that these are the feelings and thoughts that my friends had for me. However, that wasn’t what I truly felt or experienced inside.
Once the last person shared their encouraging words I had to take a moment to thank them, but also felt obligated to share my truth. After that night I decided to stop masking my depression and anxiety with the outer casing of happiness. It was a bad habit I’d learned and speaking up about it was certainly the most monumental moment of my life.
How did I cope? Well…
While living with depression and anxiety, my coping mechanisms were “positive” in the sense that I would neglect my disability with a mask of bubbliness, consistent compliments, and an endless supply of jokes. Do not get me wrong, I am truly a bubbly person who loves to give other people compliments and I’m always down to have a good laugh. But the issue here is that I was dishonest about the thoughts and feelings that I lived with. The dinner party was August of 2014 and to this day I have difficulty fully disclosing the truth of my mind to anyone. Even my own counselor (which is an entirely different story for another time). I have a much better support system than I did at that time – because they are now aware and ready to provide any help needed. But I still have a lot of layering to peel through.
Bit of advice
As I share my journey below, please note that I do not encourage you to follow in my footsteps. But if you happen to be on the same path that I ventured through, know that you have my support and I fully believe in your ability to come out on the other side. With that said, the only way I could function with living in my truth was by diving head first into my depressive and anxious shell. Honesty is the best policy in my book. So whenever “an episode” came around I would distance myself from everyone to work through my own emotions. And boy were my episodes frequent! That was the only way I knew how to cope, and I did not enjoy knowing (or feeling like) I was the reason that the joy in the room had disappeared.
The impact of my aha moment
Inevitably, I lost a lot of friends and participated in a lot of negative self-talk and self-blame for the demise of those friendships. Anyone that knows me knows that I am not one to easily sever a relationship. My door is always open no matter what. However, I value someone’s decision to walk away from me enough not to beg them to return. The reason is simple: no one is responsible for healing me. That is work I must do on my own and I can not place that on anyone, no matter the function of our relationship.
At the same time, while I know this is a journey of self-growth and introspection that does not mean that I can get through all things on my own. So I truly value the family and friends who have stuck it through with me as I have been down the rabbit hole and back to earth again. These people know who they are. They heard my truth, respected my needs, and made sure I knew when and where I crossed the line for them.
Depression is no excuse to be a crappy friend, daughter, sibling, partner, etc., but it happens nonetheless. I’m a living witness as I had difficulty simply leaving my bed for two years. Majority of the time I worked from home and only left my room to travel for client cases, go to class, seldom buy food, or work out. The fact that people still loved me through this and actively worked to be in my life is… Quite baffling. In my eyes, I was completely unstable and not enjoyable at this time.
The silver lining
As friends began to disappear I just told myself I deserved it because of my behavior. I am telling you all this because that’s what depression does. It lies to you, tells you you’re undeserving of good things, and tells you that you’re the problem. This is why having a strong will to overcome difficulties or having a support system that will fight my battles when I can’t fight for myself is vital to my healing. And even more than that, letting those people in that want to lift me up when I’m down has been essential.
Granted, there are no other factors that have assisted me more in coping with depression than my relationship with Jesus.
Healing is an ongoing journey
Final point I want to make is that even with all this growth, healing, and support I have been so blessed to achieve and receive, I have yet to experience a life without depression or anxiety. So please don’t read my word “heal” and think I mean this condition will disappear. It is possible and I am hopeful that one day I will be mentally free. I have this hope because I can now recognize when depression is taking over my emotions and when anxiety is holding me back from properly functioning.
It has taken years of introspection to learn the difference between being sad over a situation vs being depressed as well as being nervous over something vs being anxious. Sadness is not depression. Nerves are not anxiety. This has been a tremendously difficult journey, but thankfully I have come out on the sunny side. I just have to remember to water the grass and take shelter in the rain.
A piece of hope
This blog post was not to offer more steps on how to cope with depression and how to be social. This was a memoir to showcase that I am in constant healing, and I am forever grateful for my support system and my God who has loved me through my worst. If this can be done for little ol’ me, I have faith that your time is coming if you are in need. For many reading this, you already possess everything you need to begin the healing. The only thing you have to do is self-check your own actions and open your eyes to who is there for your now, who are you forcing to be there, and what is your faith looking like. As it was with me, the work is on you to get better. If you need help starting the process, I have a few tips on how to cope with your depression.
As always, I believe in you, this is something that is in your reach. Do not allow your state of mind to overtake your will to survive and thrive. Show me your resolve. You’ve got this! With all my love, go forth and be great!