We have many personal stories of depression on the HealthyPlace website. Amazingly, Laura's is similar to other depression stories in this aspect - even though she suffered from the symptoms of depression, she never thought of herself as being depressed. Laura's depression story starts with this quote:
"I never considered I was depressed. I just thought I lost control." ~ Laura, age 34
Laura's Personal Depression Story
I was first diagnosed with major depression at the age of 30. The roots of the depression were multiple: a dear friend of mine died of breast cancer, I just moved to a new city to work and go to graduate school, and my marriage was falling apart. There were too many competing priorities/stresses and one can only take so much. I had extreme loss of appetite and lost a lot of weight. I would cry very easily at the most inappropriate times. I felt as though I lost my total sense of being.
Believe it or not, at the time I actually never considered that I was depressed - It was just that I was losing control of a very busy schedule and was unable to grieve for my friend properly. My life changed when I went to my school's pastoral counselor to talk about spirituality and losing my friend to cancer. At these sessions, I cried uncontrollably. It was as if a huge bubble burst from inside me and out poured this sadness that was buried deep within. The priest said to me that he thought I was experiencing depression. I just fell apart right there because I never put it all together before. He made an appointment through student health to meet with a psychiatrist that week. She confirmed my depression symptoms and made a diagnosis. It was so strange because I was slightly relieved to know that I wasn't going crazy (I felt so guilty for losing so much control), but I was also petrified because I didn't know what the future held. Was I every going to be the same person again?
Depression: A Sign of Weakness?
It took some convincing on the part of the psychiatrist, but I ended up doing a combination of depression therapy and pharmacology as my depression treatment regimen. I really had to work through the stigma of taking medications though because I thought I was deficient for taking them. Again, I was worried about losing control. I slowly began taking an antidepressant and an anti-anxiety pill whenever I felt very nervous.
My therapy sessions were once a week, and they were life-saving. Thank goodness someone was there who knew what I was going through. My therapist was non-judgmental and really helped me plan small activities to bring me back to a functional state.
Story of Overcoming Depression
Healing was a long process. I marked every day on a calendar for the first 3 weeks until the antidepressant took effect. (learn about antidepressant medications for depression) That was excruciating, but afterwards things got much better. I described it to my therapist as wearing muddy glasses that slowly were cleaned up. I started to see the colors of the world again. I could laugh at little things again, especially at my therapy sessions. Things slowly got better. I refer to the experience as my second set of baby steps because it really took about 8 months to get to the point where I was not depressed and able to continue my schooling and work.
Another important part of my healing process was reaching out to some friends. Once I got over the stigma, I disclosed to a few people that I was in crisis. Two wonderful friends told me that they too had taken meds for psychological issues. It was a relief to think that these people were okay and there to reach out to. These people are very important to me to this day.
Through the years, I have been aware of the symptoms of major depression and had one major reoccurrence about a year ago that lasted about three months. Though it felt lousy, I knew how to get help and in some ways it was easier. Now I take my antidepressant everyday and see the therapist on occasion just to check in. I can't say that my life is perfect, and I do get scared when I feel sad. At the same time, I know that we all have an emotional continuum - there is a range of experiences and our mental health is not either just good or bad. I know that if a major episode happens in the future, I'll try to deal with it like I did five years ago. Depression is a horrible thing to go through, but it did make me appreciate life.
I hope this helps someone else understand that there is hope.