I’ve been doing this series for a while now. Over these weeks you’ve come to learn several things that I hide: Why I Write, My Eating Disorder, A Lost Mother, Another Lost Mother, and Anxiety. I’m trying to be more open with myself and my readers. I’m trying to be a little more transparent like Nikki over at View From In Here. This post is one that I’ve been putting off because it’s hard for me to write. Seeing it in print makes it real and inescapable. Not many people know this about me. It’s something that I hide very well. So, here’s my story.
As a Teen
How It Happened
I don’t remember suffering from depression much as a child. What I remember is when it started in my teen years. Actually, I didn’t think that I could make it to 15. I was in ninth grade that year and it was one of the hardest years of my life. I remember: being withdrawn, anger, being fatigued, having difficulty concentrating, my grades slipping, feeling hopeless, being withdrawn from my peers, and almost constant thoughts of suicide (WebMd). The transition to high school can be hard for any child, but I had just transferred from my private Catholic school the year before (in eighth grade). I still didn’t have many friends. The friends I did have from my old school became few and far between. I retreated into myself and remember everything seeming dark. At that time, I had one amazing friend. I’ve told her many times that she is the reason I’m still alive today. In the afternoons after school I would get on AIM chat and talk to her. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I wanted my life to end. I wanted it to be over with. I wanted this so badly that I had a plan to do it. She talked me down from it every single day. She was always there to stop me and remind me why life was worth living. I’m always going to be grateful to her.
How I Overcame It
This continued for nearly the entire year. I actually received my first F in school that year. My grandma was always very attentive and like I wrote before she became very involved in my life after my mom died. She started to notice these things. I don’t come from what you might consider a “traditional” family. My sibling moved out three different times while we were in grade school. The first time they lived with our grandparents, the other two times with a family friend. The only answer I could think of to help me was to move out too. I talked to my grandparents about it. Actually what I said to them was: “If you don’t get me out of that house, you’re going to find me floating in a river somewhere.” Looking back I can only imagine the horror that I must have caused my grandparents. My grandma suggested that I talk to my dad first to see if he would let me move out like my sibling did years earlier. He refused. Within a couple of weeks, I was living with my grandparents. They tried so hard to give me the room and home that I needed. My grandma and I spent hours decorating my room and they were always around if I needed them. We’ve always had a good relationship. After moving in with my grandparents, I was mandated to get therapy. The therapy combined with the change of environment helped me have a complete turnaround. I was on the honor roll for the final three years of high school. My Senior year I even took college classes! My depression faded and I hardly thought about suicide. Any and all extra-curricular activities were on my list. I joined: National Honor Society, Key Club, Soccer Team (for only one year), Setting Stone (the liberal arts magazine), Drama Club (I was in several plays), Clog dancing (I continued my clog dancing for one more year). I even started taking piano lessons again. I look back on those years fondly. My Dad and I get along just fine now. At that time I think that it was just best for us each to have a little space. He’s my number one fan on here and reads all of my posts. Hi, Dad! 😉
As an Adult
In the years since high school, there have been periods of time when I felt the familiar symptoms of depression. However, for the most part they wouldn’t last more than a few days or even hours. I was always able to handle it with the help of MMR and my grandma. Then something happened.
What Spurred My Depressive Episode
My grandma’s death was something that took our whole family by surprise. I had told her repeatedly “you have to live forever, you’re never allowed to die.” I was not joking. So, when it happened I disconnected and didn’t face my emotions. If you do something like that, it doesn’t make them go away. It’s like you’re this corked bottle just waiting to explode. That’s exactly what happened. Last week I talked about my anxiety and panic attacks that became really bad after my grandma’s death. Depression also joined the mix. I couldn’t do anything. Not only was I unable to do anything other than watch TV without panic rising, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything. I didn’t want to talk to my friends. I didn’t want to coupon. I didn’t want to make crafts or write or even eat. In fact, I slept 10 hours or more a night more often than not. Sometimes I would just break out in tears and not understand why. I couldn’t even talk about my grandma because my throat would tighten in an attempt to keep those emotions bottled. Then, things got worse. I started having those thoughts again. Those thoughts about ending it all and how much easier that would be. Swerving off the road looked more and more tempting every day. It seemed like the answer. That was when I knew I needed help.
How I Overcame It
I mentioned last week that I went to see a therapist and a psychiatrist to help with my anxiety. The other reason I went was to help with my depression and suicidal thoughts. I was incapable to do anything because not only would I panic, I would start crying uncontrollably. It seemed that I was constantly on the brink of tears. All I wanted to do was lay in bed all day and sleep. My therapist gave me tools to help me deal with the depression. I only received outpatient treatment because even though I had suicidal thoughts, I didn’t have a plan. MMR was a huge help and they deemed that I wasn’t a risk to myself. Also, I was prescribed antidepressants. It’s something that I’ve been hiding from some of my friends and family. But, it’s the truth. I take one every day and I’ve noticed that I’m considerably more level in mood than before. MMR has noticed the difference too. I still have times when things seem hard and I can feel the depression flaring up. But, I’m much more capable of handling it now with these tools.
How It Has Affected My Life
I’ve missed out on events, lost touch with friends, and lost weight. I actually noticed in November at my first psychiatrist appointment that I was nearly in the “danger zone” that I wrote about in my eating disorder post. That was my real wake up call. I had a long talk with MMR and he’s been so supportive in my recovery. Another thing that’s been a remnant since my teenage depression is that I don’t like knives. Or veins. Or wrists. Or blood. I know that I subconsciously implanted those fears when I first became depressed because I knew what would happen if I didn’t. I don’t remember having those fears as a kid. If those things weren’t scary to me, then it would have been a lot easier to kill myself. I’d heard about “cutting” and knew what it could lead to. To this day I still fear those things because I know what could happen to me if I ever stop. Depression is something that you don’t cure. You can recover and learn to live with it. But, there will always be a depressive episode on your horizon. I’m hoping that now it will be like they used to be. I hope that they only last a few hours and I can handle them myself. I haven’t thought about suicide in a few months now. That leads me to believe that my recovery is going well.
What To Take Away
My hope in sharing this story with you is that it will make you better able to recognize the symptoms in yourself or a loved one. This past fall when my depression spiraled out of control and led to suicidal thoughts, it went on for far too long. I was in a very dark place, a familiar dark place. I don’t like going there. If you notice these symptoms then say something or make an appointment with a doctor. I had a panic attack the entire time I made my appointment and the whole ride to the clinic. Today, I’m so glad that I went anyway. It was hard. It was painful. But, it was necessary. Get yourself or your loved ones the help you deserve. Don’t try to “take care of it” yourself like I did for so long. It might be something much larger than “the blues.”
Do you know someone with these symptoms? Have you ever helped a friend with their depression?