I used to think life’s greatest achievements came solely from scholastic success, winning in sports, a financially stable career, or things of the like. After battling major depression, I now know there are far greater achievements in this life than I could have dreamed possible. These are the achievements you must fight with your whole life for. I’d like to tell you the story of my greatest achievement: overcoming depression.
I’m not talking about the kind of depression that every human feels that from time to time and that passes within a day or two. I’m talking about major depression. The definition of major depression is a medical illness “characterized by a persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life” (Mayo Clinic) lasting for at least 2 weeks.
“You don’t look depressed.”
I sometimes forget about my depression when I’m feeling stable. It’s almost as if my mind blocks it out purposefully to protect my current state. But I’d like to reflect back on it because I don’t think depression is discussed enough. It’s time we talked more about the hard stuff so that we feel less alone. Alone is how I felt when I first started dealing with depression. When I opened up to coworkers or loved one about how I struggled with it, they told me they’d never imagine the girl who always has a smile on could possibly feel that way…that I didn’t look depressed. Behind closed doors, there was a girl most of the world had never seen.
When it hit me, it hit me. The best way I could describe major depression is it felt like carrying around a 100 lb. sack of rocks at all times. It was visceral. It was like gravity had an extra pull on me. Like I had a fever I couldn’t sweat out. All I wanted to do was lay down and cry but I logically knew this was not productive so I felt even worse for having those desires. I’d make myself get up and go to the kitchen to feed our animals. That was hard to do. I barely made it to work, called out sick almost weekly. I was constantly tearful and irritable toward my loved ones. I felt as if the world hated me because I hated myself for being such a drag. I knew I was being a drag but didn’t know how to pull myself up. I started isolating myself and eventually got to a point where life did not feel worth living.
I asked for help
Finally I spoke with my psychiatrist about this and she recognized what I said and my overall demeanor as major depression. She recommended I try a different medicine, and that I put a pause on work to attend an intensive outpatient program at Johns Hopkins. After that appointment, I ran to the bathroom and broke down crying. Rather than feeling hopeful, I felt absolutely defeated. I felt like I was a failure; how could I not be able to help myself? How could my current medicine all the sudden not be working? But something in me knew, deep down, that I had to make a radical change and take these steps.
I took action
So I followed the doctor‘s orders, took off of work for six weeks and attended the intensive outpatient program at Hopkins. In combination with taking a new medicine, I also became completely sober. When I say these steps were life-changing I mean they saved my life. I was heading in a dangerous direction far too quickly and the doctors and therapists at Hopkins helped lead me back to me. They supported me, listened to me, and helped me create action plans every single week. My family, boyfriend, and friends all supported me. The new medicine that the doctor prescribed was my missing vitamin. It’s a mood stabilizer and it helped bring me out of my depression and my depressive symptoms. I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to have both medicine and therapy combined.
I fought and I won
After six weeks I was back at work, exercising regularly and feeling more and more myself. This was such a pivotal time in my life because I conquered something that was beyond my control and I accepted a part of me that I originally thought was unacceptable. Now I view it as a war I fought and won. The sobriety allowed me to see I was using alcohol and weed to cover up the depression, when what I needed all along was to face it head on. I started writing more, talking about it more, and finally felt able to start this blog. I couldn’t contain these feelings any longer, almost felt and continue to feel like it’s my obligation to write about it. My hope is that if you’re reading this, you can help yourself or others who are going through this. I want to help others understand how depression is a medical illness that needs medical attention, just like asthma or heart disease.
Life is worth living
I have bipolar so it is likely possible that depression will show it’s ugly face again in my life, but I know I have defeated it before and that gives me hope. So to those of you out there who are dealing with depression, I stand with you and you are not alone. There is help out there, but you have to make that first step. We cannot battle anything by ourselves; ask for help from friends, family, and a doctor. People want to help you succeed, and once you start on the road to recovery your depressing days will feel like a distant dream.