It’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog post. Life has been challenging for me these past few months and I needed to take a break. To give me some time and some love. Part of what I went through these past few months isn’t easy for me to talk about. It is a topic that has been coming up more and more and there is no reason for me to feel shameful or embarrassed. This thing I’m speaking of affects more of us than you may know. I’m speaking of depression.
Depression is a serious mental illness. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America website defines depression as: Depression is a condition in which a person feels discouraged, sad, hopeless, unmotivated, or disinterested in life in general. When these feelings last for a short period of time, it may be a case of “the blues.” These feelings of discouragement or hopelessness can last longer than just a couple of weeks. If this is happening, then you may be having a major depressive episode. This was me the past few months.
Here are some statistics for you to look at from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. It states that “In 2014, around 15.7 million adults age 18 or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults. At any point in time, 3 to 5 percent of adults suffer from major depression; the lifetime risk is about 17 percent. As many as 2 out of 100 young children and 8 out of 100 teens may have serious depression.”
Depression is more common than you think. It is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. Depression is treatable.
Initially, I was diagnosed with depression back in the mid-nineties. I also have anxiety. I really didn’t understand what depression was or how it related to me. Honestly, I “felt” fine. Sure we all get down and upset at times, lose a job, break up with our significant other, but I thought all of this was a normal thing; a normal part of life. I wasn’t prescribed any medication or given any other thing to do, so I thought I was okay and continued to live life.
Throughout my life, I’ve had some short-term episodes of severe depression. Nothing as long as this episode. I learned how to not deal with it as I had too much going on in my life to deal with it. I tried running away from this. As a single mom, all I really knew was to somehow keep going. When I would try to talk to people in my “support network,” I would be told that I’m not depressed. I’m just going through a phase. So, I did my best to, as they say, let it go.
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. ~ Stephen Fry
My recent major depressive episode started this past December. I felt so alone, so disconnected from everything. I spent time thinking about my life and thought I had failed so much that there was no way I could bounce back. Those feelings and more brought me to the thoughts that I wasn’t good enough, or smart enough, or anything enough. Also, I was in the Empty Nest phase of my life. My only child had gone away to college. Please know, I was medicated during this time, but I had plateaued on my meds. I didn’t know it at the time. This was discovered in March. In other words, the current dose that I was on, wasn’t working anymore. It needed to be adjusted.
December is already a hectic month for a lot of us. We’re busy getting ready for Christmas and preparing whatever dish that was needed for Christmas parties we were scheduled to attend, but deep down didn’t want to. My daughter came home from college and I struggled to put on a brave face; the face that said that everything is alright. I didn’t want to burden her with this at all. When she wasn’t around, I would cry. I didn’t know how to break this cycle. This episode was very new to me.
The struggle continued into the New Year. All the stuff I carried through December was still very much present. This was not the New Year I had imagined for myself. As a coach, I didn’t want to share this secret with anyone including my clients. My job was to coach them. I suffered in silence like most people do. I carried this secret deep within me. No one knew. I thought I was alone.
“That is all I want in life: for this pain to seem purposeful.” ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel,
Well, I made the decision to shut everything down. I didn’t want to go anywhere. There was nothing I really wanted to do. My business was put on hold. I couldn’t deal with it. I didn’t know which direction to go. For the first time in a long time, I really felt lost.
Finally, in January, I realized that I needed help. I could no longer fight this battle on my own. Though it was hard, I made the phone call to get in to see a counselor. I didn’t tell anyone that I was going. When I went to my initial appointment, I prayed that no one I knew would see me. I didn’t want my visit to the counselor’s office to be someone else’s news story to share. I was already embarrassed and felt ashamed. If this is your feeling as well, I totally know where you are and I feel your pain.
Sharing my story with you was necessary. I know I’m not alone fighting this illness. My hope is that my story encourages you to not let this control you or your life. I hope you stick with me. In part two of this series, I will share the strategies that I used to help me start to get my life back on track. I’m not all the way there and I still have some work to do, but I’m not where I started.
Finally, if you feel that you are depressed or having anxiety, there is help available for you in your area. Call your local mental health professionals office. There is help for you.