“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”
What a great time for me to start this blog! I’m thrilled to be a participant in a cause like this. As part of this pledge and for the sake of this blog…I will tell you the short version of my battle with depression. As the blog goes on, I will share more details and individualized experiences.
I finally allowed myself to believe I was depressed when I was 24. I had an apartment by myself and one evening after an exhausting shift at work, I dared to Google “depression”. I suppose I wasn’t really afraid of it, but I knew if it was what I was actually going through I wouldn’t be able to tell anybody.
When I was 27, I responded to an email from a friend from college with a “life update”. She’s an articulate, sarcastic, intelligent (aspiring) writer. I admired her for her no-bullshit attitude and ability to (mostly) refrain from conforming to societal expectations. In the email, I hesitantly told her that I had been going through a deep depression. This was a few months after beginning grad school. Perhaps my email was sappy or pathetic or whiny…in her eyes. Because I was so engrossed in sadness, it probably was. She told me to “drop the capital D in depression and move on”. I was negatively struck by this for two reasons. Firstly, I was in grad school for mental health counseling and was planning to make a career out of working with and diagnosing depressed people. Secondly, those words invalidated all of the emotions I was experiencing and basically we’re saying, “stop feeling sorry for yourself. Take some accountability and stop blaming a questionable disease”.
One of my downfalls is that I’ve always tended to be easily persuaded. I held tight to my morals, but when somebody I respect holds a strongly differing opinion, I seem to give my beliefs a second thought. In some cases this characteristic has helped me to keep an open mind, but sometimes I’ve lost myself a bit “going with the flow”. At the time, this made me question everything, especially my career choice. IS depression real? If it is, can it EVER be relieved? Is therapy ACTUALLY going to help people learn to cope? Would therapy even help me? (I had only a brief experience with a therapist a couple years prior). After learning about some of the mechanics behind therapy, did I still believe in it? Honestly, I didn’t believe in much of anything.
Within that year, I had to stop taking classes as I could no longer focus on…anything. I lost a job because I put in very little effort. The supervisors sugar-coated it for me when they let me go, but I knew better than anybody what was happening. I was drinking alone a lot with my main goal being to eventually pass out. I ran out of money and couldn’t afford my rent. I remember I was at a point where I was eating walnuts as meals because I couldn’t afford food. At one of my lowest points and after having drank a few beers, I contemplated prostitution. I lived in an urban area where I could’ve found a customer quickly. I REALLY thought about it. As I sit here now, I can’t believe how little I respected myself. Fortunately, it was never anything more than a thought.
I was killing myself, chiseling away any dignity I had left as I went on dates with strangers I met online. A few of them I slept with. I’d get stupid drunk on these dates and convince myself I was having fun. Ultimately, I didn’t care about what the guys thought about me. If they didn’t like being out with me, then they didn’t have to see me again. I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship anyway and I didn’t blame them if they thought I was a wreck! I had moved from having a broken heart to having an empty heart and when you’re empty inside there is nothing to give. There were a few people I met who made an effort to become friends with me but the more they called the more I secluded myself. I no longer felt comfortable around people. When they’d ask me questions about myself, I’d draw a blank. I didn’t know how to talk about myself anymore, I didn’t have anything positive to say. Being around people became intimidating, so I tended to stay within the safety of my own bedroom. I even secluded myself from my family. I believed I was poison.
It brings tears to my eyes to think back to this. I’ve dealt with depression since a teenager, but that was the deepest bout. I’ve come a long way from that point, but some of the damage from that time has been difficult to overcome. Not only was I damaging myself, but I was hurting some of the important people in my life. Sometimes I think back and feel disgusted with myself. I cringe and shudder remembering some of the choices I made and situations I put myself in. However, when I was in grad school, I had a few conversations with one of the clinical psychology Ph.D. students. She was a 35 year old recovered alcoholic. She openly admitted this to me, which at the time I found flattering. I later came to understand that she had reached a point in her life where there was no room for denial or shame. Her past tumultuous lifestyle was just that, her past. I opened up to her about some of my problems and she judged me not one bit. She told me, “it’s important that you have compassion toward yourself. Show yourself the same care as you would for a close friend.” The word compassion, in the form of a foreign substance, filtered through my tough skin and penetrated my being. I had NEVER held compassion for myself.
Sometimes I sink into a dark memory I wish would just leave me be. I feel my cheeks flush with humiliation and experience a few seconds of anxious discomfort. But I tell myself this: You cannot change the past. It is over. It cannot happen again therefore you should not let it rouse fear in you. You are trying be a better person now. You are in the PRESENT. You are changing and you are allowed to look back at that version of you with COMPASSION. Don’t be angry. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be sad. Just let it be and move forward. This helps me to calm down more often than not and it helps me to be mindful to take each day as it comes.
Depression is something I’m living with and probably always will. Some days are more difficult than others but whether or not they’re difficult, I must keep trying. I still struggle with accepting myself. Not every day is a productive one. I’m not always able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll always have work to do being that I live with this, but now I’m able to share my version of depression with all of you. I will be honest, as I feel that it’s an important part of the healing process – being honest with yourself. Sometimes it’s difficult to type the words to explain these memories, but I can’t punish myself any longer. None of us should.
If you’re interested in participating in the Blog For Mental Health 2014, feel free to click the link to the original post on A Canvas Of The Minds for detailed instructions. Thanks for reading 🙂