I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long time now. It’s not that I want to really “air all of my dirty laundry” to our dear readers, but the topic of depression seems so taboo and scary and folks are just unwilling to discuss it. But, when you start to talk about “it” and discuss depression like the real thing that it is, you realize it’s common, it’s real, and it can become more easy to deal with the big evil, scary thing that is depression. So, here we go.
I am depressed. Well, not right now, I actually feel pretty good. Kind of sleepy. My shoulders hurt. And I have a headache…but I always have a headache. But, if you go talk to my doctor and he violates privacy laws and tells you about my medical issues, he’d probably say: “Well, Tyler has high blood pressure and suffers from chronic migraines, he’s overweight – but I just keep stressing health to him and not being skinny, oh, and he suffers from depression, which is controlled by medication.” Yep, that’s right, this funny, witty, sweet, and friendly fella writing this blog takes medicine for depression. And I have taken medication for just over a year now. And I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. Let me tell you my story…
In May of 2011, my parents were in a terrible motorcycle accident that left them in the hospital for close to a week, having the same surgery, on the same day, at the same time, for the same injuries. I almost lost both of my parents that day. That July, while vacationing in Florida with Eric, my parents called to let me know that my grandmother, my Nana, was in the hospital and was at the risk of passing away very soon – she made it until the end of the month. All the while I was working in a very stressful environment, making very little money. Then I quit my job. Then I started graduate school. Then the shit hit the fan.
I didn’t know how to cope with everything that had occurred in my life. I was emotional. I was sad. I felt lost and afraid. And I wanted to end my life. The suicidal thoughts and ideations seemed to never end. Day in and day out I thought about my plan, how I could take my life, how much I wanted it to all be over. Then I started to make promises to myself and bargain with my own psyche, things like: just make it to tomorrow morning and if tomorrow is a bad day, you can end it; or, you have to just make it to the weekend and you will be okay.
It was during the fall of 2011 when I started graduate school and was working a part time graduate assistant position; but, I could barely make it to work or class. I laid in the bed or on the couch all day. I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t stay awake. I wanted to stress eat and I had no appetite. I’d play games in my head about getting out of bed or off of the couch – I’d tell myself that I would count to 10, then I had to get up. I’d lay in bed until I was forced to get up or risk pissing myself. I wouldn’t shower or shave for days on end. It was sad, and lonely, and terrifying. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I felt like a stranger living in my own body and in my own mind. And I tried to hide it all, from my friends, from my parents, from Eric, from myself.
But they knew.
I finally made the trip to my doctor and talked to him, telling him what was happening, how I was feeling, and, most of all, that I needed help. But I was afraid and embarrassed. I was mad at myself for allowing myself to get to a place where I needed help – where I had to tell someone that there was something wrong with me. I felt weak. But my doctor, and a good friend I was in school with at the time, helped me make sense of it all. They both shared with me that my depression was something out of my control. That the chemicals in my brain were out of balance and needed help getting back in the correct place.
I also learned that a combination of being out of work, being tight for money, finishing college and moving and losing friends, having to make new friends, and deal with the stress of an ever-changing world makes depression a reality for many a twenty-something. Unfortunately it’s not a rare occurrence to feel lost, alone, afraid, sad, and depressed in these years between our teens and our 30′s. I found that I’m not alone (and you aren’t either).
I learned, from my doctor and my own research, that a combination of medicine, therapy, exercise, mindfulness, and happiness-inducing activities could help me get back on track. And it has. The medication kicked in within a few weeks and I started to feel better – just a little bit. Then my energy started to come back – but just a tiny bit. Then the good feelings returned – month, by month, by month. I worked on getting outside more. I started to wake up earlier and take in the sunlight to start my day. Now I take vitamins and natural energy supplements to help me feel more energetic and able to accomplish daily tasks.
I practice mindfulness now – meaning I strive to enjoy each moment of my day, even the boring or simple tasks. I use mantras and sayings to begin and end my day and center my mind with positive thinking (my favorite is what I say when I wake up and when I go to bed: Everyday, in every way, I’m getting better and better.)
But it has taken time. It’s taken months. I lost a job in the process. I had to quit graduate school. My relationships have suffered. I’ve changed. But, I can now say a little over a year later that I’m getting back to the person I was before. I feel better about myself. I’m glad I’m here. And I enjoy the life that I’m living.
But, most of all, I’m not ashamed of my depression, of the terrible thoughts and feelings I had about myself then, and the steps I’ve taken to get to where I am now. Has it been a difficult journey? You bet it has. Has it been hard on me and the people who love me? Oh yeah. But, it’s been worth it.
Thanks for letting me share my story,