“You’re not sad. Why don’t you get up and stop being lazy?”
“Get a grip. There’s nothing wrong with you!”
These are just a few of the things that have been said to me over my twelve-year experience suffering from depression.
So, what is depression?
Depression is a mental illness that affects over half the population of the world. Depression can show itself in many different forms in an individual. It can make you angry and lash out at the people closest to you and it can also make you a recluse with no intention to interact with the world around you.
My journey with depression began with the latter. Today, I will do something that in all my writing history I have never done before. I am about to open up the book of my life for you and I hope that my experience will help those who are in need of guidance and understanding.
I was only thirteen years old when I first realized that I had become a victim of depression. I knew something was wrong as I was always a happy child. In my youth, I had friends; I went out and played; I laughed and I enjoyed life, but that all changed once I reached my teenage years.
Depression is so much more than a sadness. Depression is a constant feeling of sadness that does not leave those who suffer from it. Mental health professionals often say there is a reason why a person has become depressed and looking back on my time, I realize what the trigger was for my dark mental state.
First, I must clarify that I had a good childhood. My mother always ensured that she did her best to provide me with a happy and healthy childhood. With that being said, not everything was all roses for me as a child.
I witnessed domestic abuse inflicted by father against my mother, which I now know was the reason why I became depressed. My parents were never married and had a toxic relationship from the start. He often took out his anger on my mother and I was always caught in the crossfire. They would argue and it would often end in violence.
As I write this now, I realize how witnessing these events badly contributed to the onset of my depression. As I grew older, and understood what was happening between my parents, I felt as if I was an outcast among the norm. I would look at other families, see them laughing, smiling and being overall happy, and I would compare them to my own. I felt jealousy towards others and soon became angry because I wanted what they had. I just wanted a normal family.
For a long time, I grew up believing that the events that took place between my parents were normal. In a sense, they were normal to me as I witnessed this abuse often and grew accustomed to it.
But this behavior is not normal.
Domestic violence is a serious issue and one that affects the entire world. If you or anyone you know is a victim of abuse, then I urge you to seek help immediately. I cannot tell you enough that, if ignored, events will only get worse, and may result in the possible death of someone you care deeply about.
The first signs of my depression were the most common symptoms of the mental illness. I became reserved, lost interest in the things that I once loved, found myself sleeping the day away, and became very angry and hostile towards the people I loved.
Being thirteen, I was terrified and confused as to why I was feeling this way. Depression is a scary illness and when you’re that young, and don’t understand what is happening to you, it only drives you further into darkness.
I would constantly cry over things that I had no reason to cry over; I would become angry over petty things; I would throw and smash things, scream and punch. My behavior became so bad that I became a threat to my own family. I became violent to them and would often lash out at them. I began to skip school and, as a result, my grades suffered. I was always a good student, but once I became depressed, it changed the person who I was.
This behavior was not intentional.
I was scared at how I was acting, confused, and I often felt a great guilt inside of me. It was this guilt that drove me deeper into depression as I felt as no one understood me, not even my own family. My head was letting me believe that everything I said or did was wrong, and that the world was against me.
However, this was not the case…
During the beginnings of my depression, my mother did everything in her power to understand why I was slipping into is madness. I was lucky enough to have a mother who understood all too well what I was going through, as she did, and still does, suffer from depression.
Depression changes you.
It kills the innocence that you once had and turns you into a comatose, unrecognizable fiend. There are many recognizable symptoms and then there are less common indicators, but all are signs of depression. One of the main symptoms that I encountered was my loss of appetite. I found that I was not hungry and would go extreme lengths of time without eating. Another symptom of depression is overeating, which I have also encountered, and so I have battled with my weight over the twelve years of my condition.
Health professionals will tell you that if you are feeling sad for more than two weeks and it is constant, that you are most likely suffering from depression.
Statistics say that women are most likely to suffer from depression at least one time in their lives. The age range for depression can be between eighteen to twenty-four, and from forty-five to sixty-four for increased major depression. However, this does not mean that a younger person cannot suffer from depression. Depression can affect any one at any age at any point of time.
During my experience, I have seen many health care professionals about my condition and have been referred to many psychological sessions.
At first, I was skeptical when advised to seek out therapy as I had heard many unsettling stories about the sessions.
In December of 2013, I began seeking weekly treatment for cognitive behavioral therapy, known as CBT, in order to regain control over my life. Up until that point, my depression had ruled my life, and I was now ready to begin seeking help in order to get better.
How I found therapy was pretty simple…
Throughout my adolescence, I became victim to many self-harm attempts. I would cut myself with razor blades, using my grandad’s old discarded razors. I would sneak them from view and take them to the bathroom where I would proceed to cut myself.
Although the cuts on the surface were never really that deep, it was the mental scars that ran the deepest. Each time I put razor to flesh and drew the sharp edge over my arms, I felt a sense of euphoria. To me, I felt that with each cut I made, a little more of my pain would bleed out and leave me alone. Though in reality, self-harm does not work that way and it’s very dangerous to the harmer and to the people around them.
I was not on any medication throughout my adolescence for my depression and it often felt as if I was ok.
I would constantly lie to myself that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was fine, and that everything would be ok. I kept my pain away from my mother—I would write in notebooks how I was feeling.
My diaries were a journey into the dark and terrified mind of a teenage depressive. I still have those diaries to this day. I keep them so that I can look over just how much my life has changed, how much better I have become, and how many obstacles that I have overcome.
It was only in 2013 that I began taking medication for my condition.
Not only did I have to contend with my depression, but I was faced with a new mental challenge. I began suffering from severe anxiety.
For two weeks straight, I was bed-ridden due to constant panic attacks. I experienced heart palpitations, blurred vision, hyperventilation, nausea, jelly legs and the feeling of wanting to run away and flee my body. My head felt as if I was floating and I would experience a heightened sensation of disorientation. These attacks often led me to believe that I was having a heart attack which resulted in many trips to Accident & Emergency.
Coping with these combined illnesses made me feel as if I should give up on life…
I felt broken, as if I didn’t want to live anymore. I felt numb and frightened, terrified even. I was placed on medication for my anxiety which I found helped me after a certain amount of tries.
In order to find which medication was the one that suited me, I had to go through two different tablets, increasing and decreasing in strength to find the right one for me. In the end, I settled and still take Sertraline. My required dose is 200 milligrams, which is the highest dosage for this tablet. I have been taking it for four years and have noticed a great change within my condition. This is not to say that I am no longer depressed—I still have my bad days and I still suffer panic attacks, although they occur less often now.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, then it is important to have patience and try to understand why that person is struggling with life…
How I managed to cope through a single day or even an hour still surprises me, but the most important thing that I remember is that I made it through. If you are new to depression, then the number one rule to overcoming the illness is to accept it.
How I learnt to cope with my condition was to find a distraction. Now, this can be hard as the illness makes you feel as if you don’t want to function or take part in daily activities. If you suffer like I did with this symptom, then all I can say is that you must try your hardest to find something you enjoy and to take part in it. Even if it is as simple as making a cup of tea—you would be surprised at how good accomplishing something makes you feel when suffering from depression.
My distraction was writing.
Writing is my passion and when I got sick, I felt horrible because I lost my drive for the one thing I loved the most.
During my therapy sessions, I was encouraged to start writing again. This helped me greatly rekindle the passion that I had. My therapist suggested that I write a mood journal. Each day I had to write down how I was feeling, what my symptoms were, the activities I did that day, and the distractions used in order to overcome my panic.
At first I was skeptical about the process, but as the months ticked on, I found that the process helped me more and more. I began noticing how my love for writing reawakened and I often spent many an hour simply sitting and writing in a notepad little things—things that made sense and sometimes things that didn’t. I would write poetry, ideas for stories, and in time I turned these ideas into actual fiction.
In 2015, I had my first short story published in a magazine and it lifted my spirits so high!
Finding something that you love and using it to your advantage can help you greatly in your time of vulnerability. Learning to cope with your illness is the first step to recovery.
It is a long process, but it is worth it in the end. Even though I have managed to regain control over my life, I still have bad days where I want to stay in bed and hide away from the world. Finding motivation can be hard, but remember that there are always people around you who are willing to help and understand your condition and the troubled times that you are going through.
Believe in yourself and you will find that you can beat depression. Don’t give up. Seek help and take whatever steps you need in order to make yourself healthy again. Remember, if I can overcome it, so can you!