Depression Is What I Have, Not Who I Am

Jan. 18, 2019- Depression isn’t something you snap out of, and it’s not the same as simply being sad, or lazy because you don’t want to get up out of bed. It doesn’t mean you are seeking attention. I have learned I am one of 16 million adults who live with depression, and that in a sense, depression is when your mind and body decide they no longer want to work together.

I was 27 years old when I realized the things I had once found enjoyable had become a chore. The mere thought of getting out of bed seemed impossible. I went from being my normal self to being depressed in the blink of an eye. I knew I needed to ask for help before the darkness of depression consumed me.

But how do you ask for help, when you don’t even know how to explain what you’re going through to yourself? I didn’t know I was depressed; I just knew I either wanted to cry or sleep all the time. I wanted the pain I was feeling inside to end. I wanted the sensation of having the weight of the world on my shoulders to disappear.

It was the holidays, and I knew I couldn’t just put a smile on my face and pretend to be happy. Since losing my dad to suicide in 2007, the holidays have always been difficult for me. But this year the thought of having to get through another holiday felt like too much to handle. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t pretend anymore. “I’m fine, just tired.” “I’m fine, it’s just been a long day.” “I’m fine, I just didn’t sleep well.” These responses had become automatic whenever someone asked me how I was.

I had begun to feel hopeless, and worthless. I wanted to give up. I wanted to end my life.

I knew it had come down to either asking for help, or ending my life. But how do you tell the people you love most in the world that you want to end your life? I knew what I had to say; I just couldn’t find the words.

I remember the day like it was yesterday: New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013. I was standing in the kitchen when my sister and mom returned home from shopping. I was being short with my sister, and she called me out on it. Suddenly, I found myself letting go of all the pain I was feeling, and allowed everything inside to come to the surface. My mom hugged me as I cried and sobbed. The more I cried, the tighter she hugged me; and the tighter she hugged me, the more I cried. She whispered, “It’s okay, I got you. It’s going to be okay.”

In that moment, I knew there was a little bit of light in all the darkness I was feeling.

As I began to tell her everything that I was feeling, she told me how loved and cherished I was: not just to her but to our whole family. I knew I had to take the pain I was feeling, and try and turn it into strength to fight this battle. I agreed to get help.

I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I was put on medication, and began to see a therapist. The treatment wasn’t a miracle solution for me. I still had good days and bad days. I still smiled and laughed when I was supposed to, but at the end of the day, I often still laid in bed at night and cried for the pain to end. I still wanted to end my life.

After a while of not seeing improvement, I was given the decision go to intense outpatient therapy or to be hospitalized for my depression. I chose intense outpatient therapy, and that decision saved my life.

In those three months of treatment, I learned more about myself then I thought was humanly possible. I learned about my personal triggers, and how to handle them. I learned that no matter what, I would still have bad days, because I am human, and people have bad days. But I have now learned not to be so hard on myself when I’m having a bad day, and to enjoy all my good days.

I am now 32 years old and after having been diagnosed with depression for five years, I have finally learned that having depression isn’t my fault. It is a chemical imbalance in my brain. But the most important thing I’ve learned is to not be embarrassed of my story, or my struggles. I am proud to say, “Depression is what I have, but not who I am.”

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