Over the past few weeks, I’ve debated as to whether or not I should address my former struggle with depression. In the end, I figured that I had to, if this encourages even one person then it’s well worth opening up about.
I struggled with depression from a young age. I won’t go into the details about why because I don’t feel like the “why” matters anymore. I do want to speak up about it because I know what it’s like. Feeling hopeless, feeling down, lonely even when you’re not alone, misunderstood, not understanding your own feelings, feeling sorry for yourself, feeling sorry for feeling sorry, emptiness, numbness, worthlessness, not good enough. Battling these feelings was exhausting and I fantasized about death on many occasions. I wondered what the point of life was. What was the point of having suffered so much, to just grow up and be a slave to the system of society and eventually die never having enjoyed life. Sure there were good times or good days scattered throughout but was that really living? Yes, I’ve been there, in fact lived there for the better part of my adult life.
For so long I only saw the negative side of things, made excuses for and about myself, didn’t accept responsibility for my actions and behavior, was in a constant state of woe is me. The people around me became less and less. I don’t blame them, who’d want to be around someone so negative all of the time? I wish I could say that I found a magic pill- I didn’t, or that I found the perfect treatment- didn’t find that either. What I can say is that I found my way out- and that feels even better! After I had a breakdown (for lack of a better term) going on 3 years ago, things changed.
I realized just how broken I was and how bad things had gotten. From the outside looking in you’d think I would have noticed that several years back. It’s kind of like looking in the mirror. You look at yourself and you think “sure, I could lose some weight but I don’t look that bad”. Then you see yourself in a picture and think the mirror has been lying to you! That’s what it was like, seeing my interior in a picture. I didn’t want to be that person anymore. I didn’t want my daughter to grow up and look back on her childhood with a hollow mom that spent her spare time in bed. I needed to take control of my life and my happiness.
I didn’t want to let the negative situations from my past continue to rob me of not only my future but of my present.
I started journaling again, something I did often growing up and did less and less as I got older. I’ve always had a journal but as life got more hectic and busy I used it less. My husband knew when I had a really bad day whenever I’d reach for my journal. Most of the time nothing happened there was just a lot of torment going on in my mind and I needed to drain it somehow. I made a decision not to focus on the negative anymore. I wasn’t going to fuel it any longer. It had been consuming my mind long enough. Nothing good was coming from it. It didn’t make me feel better. It didn’t help me get over the past. It did nothing but keep me down and adding wood to its overwhelming fire.
I started looking for motivational quotes. I’d read them, write them and repeat them over and over until I started to believe them. I listened to music that made me feel good. I’d sing in my car on the way to work and have a good half hour to cry as I belted the words out with strangers staring at me in rush hour traffic wondering what had me in such a state so early in the morning. I’d go into the job I hated and put my makeup on in the bathroom, act like my drive to work was nothing but clear roads and green lights, and go sit at my desk. I’d make myself be so positive the consuming fire within me was struggling to be a spark. I printed quotes and scattered them throughout my cubicle in places that I needed to see them. By the computer screen, the phone receiver, the picture of my daughter, a shelf at eye level that I’d see as I turned to talk to anyone that came to see me.
I started going for walks at lunch time. This was a turning point for me. Up until then, I would sit in the lunchroom, browse the web from my desk, or sleep in my car for my hour break. Once I started going for walks during lunch is when I started to feel different. I’d enjoy the sunshine, listen to the birds, people watch, be alone with my thoughts and I found it really hard to be anything but positive on such beautiful days. I felt good because I was getting some exercise in and working a 45-minute walk into my otherwise sedentary day. I felt recharged and it gave me the energy and clarity of mind to make it through the second half of the day. It was a sacrifice as I lived in Phoenix at that time and the heat at noon was no joke! But it was worth it so I continued to pack my tennis shoes and went for a walk most days for the rest of that year.
Things started to pick up for me. I started feeling better, I laughed more, I enjoyed my weekends, I started going for walks when my daughter was in gymnastics, and I started reading again. I came across a book that was very handy and helped me continue to embrace my new-found perspective called Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff. I’d read just a couple of short chapters a day. Soaking them up, reading them often throughout the day. Writing the take away points down and keeping the list within view at my job and on my phone. Eventually, I started dreaming again. I’ve always been ambitious and pushed myself but started to talk myself out of things and let self-doubt take over somewhere along the way. I made lists of things that I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, and goals that I wanted to reach.
It was through this transition that I eventually decided to quit my job. With all of the benefits and financial security that it afforded me, it did nothing for my fulfillment and I was in an environment that was toxic for my emotional state that I exposed myself to for far too long. In December, I gave my two-week notice and by Christmas, I was done. I set off to start a business from home, spend more time with my kindergartener, and make up for lost time. Has it been happily ever after? No. I’ve had bad days, challenges and regular life situations but they don’t keep me down. That’s how I knew that I was on my road to recovery. What would ordinarily have made me just want to crawl in bed for the rest of the day I saw it for what it was and didn’t dwell on it.
A few months later, we fell upon hard times and had to find our way out of a difficult situation. It was unexpected and unfortunate and terrible timing considering we had just found out I was finally pregnant after years of trying. But it didn’t break me as an individual and it didn’t break us as a couple or a family. We had to make some changes and adjustments but it led to an adventure and a journey I wouldn’t have embarked on otherwise. It’s only been three years since I started my road to recovery and I seldom think of the voyage I was on before that lead me nowhere. I’m so thankful that my husband and mom put up with me through it all. I can’t imagine the patience and faith it took for them to stand by me when it seemed like there was no way out and when I didn’t even believe in myself.
This isn’t a fun part of my life to revisit or talk about but I think it’s important. There is good that can come from my struggle with depression. If even one person sees this and feels hopeful or inspired to find their way out, then that confirms the necessity of talking about life after depression. Some people might not have realized I was depressed back then. I smiled a lot but my attitude and perspective was terrible. If you know me now, you’ll know that I’m not that person anymore. Do unexpected things still come up? Of course. Do I still have bad days? Yes! But I’m better equipped to handle them and I don’t live in them anymore.
I think that’s the difference. A bad moment is just that a moment! A bad situation no longer festers and drags along from one week to the next. I live in the moment, embrace the little things, search for the silver lining, do things that bring me joy and allow myself to own, accept and release anything that doesn’t help me get better. I’ve put out the fire that consumed me from within. At first, it was a constant battle that exhausted me having me run a hose from the ocean to put it out. Now I toss a teacup of water on the embers every so often so they don’t catch ablaze.