Spotlight on Recovery: An Introductory Story on Depression
Every person in the world, at one point or another, will feel sadness or despair. It is just a fact of life. But only a percentage of the world’s population will ever feel the true depths of depression. Depression and sadness are two different feelings, two different emotions.
The same goes for intense feelings of anger. Anger is normal, and it isn’t a “bad” emotion. Unfortunately, we are taught that if we express our anger, we are behaving poorly. That isn’t necessarily true. It can be healthy to express anger, just as healthy as expressing any other emotion. But for some people, their emotional expression is largely unproportionate to the situation at hand.
Yes, it’s true that as you feel depression, you are burdened with a veil of sadness. But that isn’t the only feeling involved. Confusion, anger, hopelessness, disgust, exhaustion and so much more. The dread that this is your life forever sets over at some point as you lie around and wish that you could just blink and feel better.
I think for me, the worst part was knowing that I was reacting innapropriately in certain situations, but I didn’t know how to control my intense emotions. You see, I’ve had symptoms of mental illness for a good portion of my life. I just never thought that my situation was bad enough to seek treatment.
I always had this deep-rooted voice telling me that there are people out there going through worse. Buck up and move on. But it just doesn’t work like that.
The Spotlight on Recovery Series
This series is one of the reasons I started Lessons From a Student Mom. I’ve dedicated my life to helping those with mental illness and spreading stories of hope and recovery. I have always felt that a story shared can help others battling the same illness and lead them to a life of recovery as well.
Monthly, I will bring you a recovery story from a reader, friend, or just a stranger I met online (that means you can submit your story too!). With their story, I’ll also give you background on the mental illness they’ve battled to recover from.
To start the series, I decided to share more of my own story and how I’ve come to a place of recovery from a place of despair and hopelessness.
Depression is only a part of my illness. I’ve been diagnosed, after finding a much better counselor and psychiatrist, with Borderline Personality Disorder and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder. Only recently have I realized that I am recovering, and I am doing the best that I can.
Today I just want to give you a look at how I’ve reached this point in my life and how the depressive symptoms of my illness have impacted my life.
The Truth about Depression
Depression takes many forms and looks different on all people. While I may pour my time into laying in bed and ignoring my responsibilities for days, you may use it as a fuel to clean your house, or power through that 2 miles on the treadmill.
I like to think of depression as that bully your parents warned you may be at school. The one who says nothing but hurtful things until you feel like they are all true.
“You’ll never succeed.”
“You’re not good enough to get into that college.”
“You’re ugly and disgusting.”
And the thoughts just keep coming. I was bullied in school, but nothing was worse than the voice in my own head.
Major Depressive Disorder
Depression is marked by depressed mood on most days, disinterest in normally pleasurable activities, insomnia or sleeping too much, restlessness, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness and/or guilt, inability to think or concentrate and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.
The highest prevalence of the disorder is seen in individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, with females having a higher rate of Major Depressive Disorder than males (DMS V).
Individuals battling Major Depressive Disorder have a high mortality rate as well.
But that doesn’t mean hope has to be lost.
My Recovery Story
Losing my father when I was just 8 years old took a huge toll on not only my childhood, my emotional development as well. Before he passed, life wasn’t all sunshine and roses either. Living in a home with chemical dependency and domestic violence takes a toll on a child. It almost feels as though my childhood was taken from me. I still, to this day, wonder what my life would have looked like had recovery been more open in the past.
If people sought help instead of kept everything inside, the family secret that should never be told.
You see, I understand that my father made bad choices. I also understand that while he was making these bad choices, he was battling demons of his own from his childhood. But that didn’t mean that I knew how to combat my own.
Between the ages of 13 and 16, I was at my lowest of lows.
A girl I knew in my HS lost her mother tragically after an incident involving domestic violence and everything I had been burying deep down inside rushed to the surface.
I remember my father’s own attempts at taking his life and taking my mother with him. And to watch another girl go through such a difficult loss and be unable to help her tore me apart.
After the funeral, my depression symptoms reached an all-time high. I had never received treatment or grief counseling for my own loss, and I feel that this made it difficult for me to handle such a similar situation to one that I nearly was in myself.
My depression reached a point where I was having hallucinations. Vivid visual hallucinations that terrified me to my core and give me chills when I think back to them to this day. These are images that I will never forget, no matter how bad I’d like to.
It wasn’t until I met the man I’m with today, only a few short months after this happened, that I began to feel again. To feel anything but the urge to die and the hopelessness and despair I waded through each and every day.
A Few Steps Forward
I moved out of what I consider to be an unhealthy environment for myself and in with my boyfriend when I turned 18. He was my light and gave me hope for the future and the will to live on a daily basis.
It’s hard to say, but I honestly don’t know that I’d be here to share my story had it not been for him.
We began to form a life together and I felt as though I was moving past my depression and finally healing.
Shortly after turning 19, I gave birth to my oldest son. It wasn’t easy, but I was grateful that I had him.
Not long after giving birth to him I was diagnosed with endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, cervical dysplasia, and HPV.
I was told that my chances of having children were extremely low and the doctor was surprised I was able to conceive my son in the first place.
It was a joyful time, but it wasn’t without stress. My emotional breakdown, in my opinion, began at this point. Although it was a slow process that simmered just under the surface.
Dealing with chronic physical pain is hard for anyone to bear. But I struggled with the numerous surgeries and the mix of emotions every new mother feels. And at a young age, and without adequate coping mechanisms to push me through this time, it was extremely difficult.
I remember quite often sitting there with my new baby and wondering what I’d done to deserve such a gift. I didn’t feel worthy to receive the love of this child, or anyone else for that matter.
I felt like a failure, yet I’d already done so much for myself and my newly formed family. I didn’t know what I failed at, but I did.
Fast-forward four years, I was lucky enough to be blessed with another beautiful baby boy. But this also brought my depressive emotions screaming back to me like a bat out of hell.
Due to the extent of surgeries and difficulty with the pain I had been dealing with, my financial situation was in ruins. I was just 22 years old, and I was already fearful of what my future would be like. I didn’t know how I was going to help support my family and we truly struggled.
In those four years, I had already moved from job to job, moved out of state and back, and had to leave a job due to my chronic pain more than once.
I didn’t know how to cope. The depression continued to simmer and worsen through the years. But other symptoms also began to surface. Symptoms that I would only discover years later were a part of something bigger.
The slightest sound can turn my mood upside down in a heartbeat and I have no way to stop it.
I just don’t recognize it until it implodes and I’m screaming at the top of my lungs all while hating myself for my behavior.
I know, in the moment, that I have no rational reason to be upset, but I just can’t control it.
In comes my personality disorder. The two tend to feed each other, and I’ve since noticed the pattern. In a low state, or a depressive episode, my borderline seems to act at it’s highest. While in a high state, or mild manic state, I am highly functional and overly productive.
The Turning Point in My Depression and My Life
In January of 2017, I had one of my worst meltdowns yet. I’d been forced to move back in with family after another financial setback and it finally got to me.
I failed my children and I didn’t know how to fix it.
I can’t even remember what led up to my outburst that day, all I knew was that I was pissed and I wanted my life to change immediately.
One of my boys had been misbehaving all day and it just pushed me over the edge. I sent them both to bed, my throat burning from the strength of my own voice.
I proceeded to tear my bedroom apart in a rage. I could never direct these feelings toward my children, but I had to get them out. I knew they could hear me and I know that I scared them.
I scared myself, terrified myself.
That was it, the rage turned into deep-seeded depression and I sunk into the couch in the basement, bawling my eyes out wishing for a way out.
If you’ve ever had suicidal ideations, you know that they can come at a moments notice and be the most outrageous things you’ve ever thought in your life.
At this very moment, I realized how deep I had gone down the rabbit hole. I wasn’t going to be able to get myself out of this one. Having glanced at an ordinary object and imagined the ways I could use it to take my own life horrified me.
I could never leave my children the way my father left me. I could never pass this burden onto them.
The next morning I made an appointment with my doctor and begged her for help. I knew that I couldn’t continue to live that way.
Diagnoses & The Pills I Swore I Didn’t Want
At the age of 26, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. The physician also noted mood regulation concerns, which we’re still in the process of working out.
My most fearful symptom is my episodes of intense irritability that occur without warning. Unfortunately, I’ve been working to switch to a new provider because I don’t feel like I was getting the help I needed.
But that’s okay. Not every therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist will be the right fit for every client/patient.
Having switched providers a few months ago, I have since been given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder. And to be honest (as someone with an educational background in mental illness) it made sense.
It was like putting a puzzle together and finally finding the right piece.
I know that there is a good possibility that I’ll need to be on medication to keep the most extreme symptoms at bay. But that is something that I will learn acceptance for in time. Right now I’m just trying to do the best I can do to control what I can control.
My Diagnosis & My Identity
I think that finally having a diagnosis after so many years of emotional torment was a relief. It meant that I was finally getting the help that I needed 19 years ago.
I know that some people feel shame by their diagnosis, I felt comfort in knowing that none of this was just in my head. That what I was feeling was relevant.
The Beginning of Treatment
I’ve only been in therapy for a few months now, not even a year. It’s been a big up and down battle for me.
Some days I find it hard to cope with the fact that I go to my appointments every week and aren’t seeing the results I’d like. Although I know that many of my concerns are so deeply rooted in who I am today that they’ll take some time to be sorted through.
I still have hope for the future and I am still pursuing my treatment actively because I know that I can be so much better than I am today.
Motivation & The Future
Treatment is hard. It’s a long process, sometimes lifelong. It takes a lot of motivation to continue when the results are hard to come by. Especially in the beginning stages of treatment.
My babies and my incredible (future) husband are my biggest motivators. I know that it is difficult for them to watch me go through my emotional breakdowns.
I want them to see me get better and I want to be happier than we already are as a family.
Advice for Others with Depression
Depression is not a road that needs to be traveled alone. Don’t ever be fearful of opening up about your emotions, your thoughts, or your needs especially. If you’re feeling thoughts of hopelessness or even suicidal ideations, it is important to your health and safety of yourself, but also your family, that you find a good therapist near you.
Don’t get discouraged if the first therapist you see isn’t working for you. And remember that traditional anti-depressant medications can take some time to take effect. But management of symptoms is 100% possible. You just have to put a little work in.
I urge you to find one person that you can speak openly with about. And remember that person whenever you feel yourself sliding backward again.
Depression is difficult, but there is someone who cares. I care.
If you’re truly struggling and feel as though you have no one to turn to. I want you to think of me. I beg you to reach out to me, don’t give up because I want everyone to experience recovery and a changed life.