I'm writing this post because I feel like a little bit of background needs to be laid, and it has taken me a while to get up the nerve to write it, but being a little transparent about your struggles is okay, and actually helps other people too. So I'm hoping that this could help someone else who has experienced anything like this before, or even is currently. I never thought I would be posting something like this for everyone I know and even strangers to see, and for anyone who knows me I'm not really the type of person to broadcast my life or bask in attention (but let's be real everyone likes normal or even small amounts of good attention). I just feel like it's time to let a little of my experience out, and to be honest and open about what mental illness really is and how it's affected me.
If I had gone to see a psychiatrist as soon as I had been experiencing symptoms, I would've been diagnosed when I was 15, or maybe even younger. That seems really early to be able to tell, but if you ask anyone who knew me at that age, it's true. It was my "rebel phase", a period in which I cared about literally nothing. I acted impulsively and put myself in danger more times than I'd like my family reading this to be aware of. I was a complete and total mess and I had no idea what was really going on with me.
For this post, I will completely skip through most of high school and my first year of college, and cut to when I first moved. I had been managing pretty well at first, but slowly I noticed the signs and became unable to ignore what was going on. I had been seeing a therapist (reasons unrelated and not explained in this post), and was prompted by people close to me that I should talk with a psychiatrist. At first I was very against it, I have always been a mental health advocate I would say, but actually having a mental illness myself just seemed impossible and frustrating. I finally went to see the doctor, and left with a diagnosis.
I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. She was reluctant to not diagnose me with Chronic Depression, but she hasn't known me very long and it seems as if more of my symptoms come in waves than a steady mood all the time. I was diagnosed later with another mental illness, but that topic of discussion will be saved for another time. Surprisingly I was relieved, there finally was a reason that I felt the things and moods that I did, and although treatment seemed hard, I was just so happy to finally be aware of what was going on with me.
I'm not getting into very much detail here (because boy do I have some stories I could tell), but I will when I release my full story in a couple weeks/months. That will be packed full of my stories and experiences (and I'm thinking even some personal writing during that time), but for now with this open piece of information about me, I will feel good about being honest. Depression isn't talked about enough, and there are estimated to be 350 million people with the disorder. It's not choosing to be negative, it's not a lack of optimism and positivism, and it's not being too lazy to just get up and get some fresh air or do something to cheer yourself up. Depression isn't just being sad. I have a family history of mental illness, some more severe than others, and so if I had known that and really paid attention to it, I could've been more active in my self-care. But while I was suffering through without any knowledge of what was wrong with me, I felt like couldn't breathe.
There were so many nights I would lay on the ground and just stare at something for hours, until I could finally get a few tears out. If you have depression, you might've experienced this before; waiting until your body let's you cry so you can at least feel like you're experiencing a real emotion rather than feeling a vague nothing and a vague everything at the same time. I would cancel plans or just refuse to make any, and my eating habits were very random and unhealthy. I felt like I was always anxious but had no energy at the same time (a common symptom I've actually learned) and it was affecting my schoolwork and decision-making skills. My first form of treatment didn't work- I had really bad side effects and I felt like it was pointless to even be trying it, but after a while and a lot of progressive adjustments, I finally found treatment that has kept me stable and content.
Seeking help when I should have would have saved me a lot of trouble and heartache. People close to me didn't know what to do, and I was embarrassed to tell people around me what I was feeling. Depression makes you feel very isolated, and in turn that can make you isolate yourself even more. I had developed a learned helplessness (a psychology term for a passive acceptance of anything that happens to you because you feel like you have no control over your life anymore). This was dangerous and my thoughts were darker than I will even admit. Many people can't picture me having "dark thoughts" or not being positive, but the saying is true: don't judge a book by its cover. I will show you some of the pictures from the time periods my depression was at its worst, and you will see there maybe is a small hint I was faking it, but for the most part you can't really tell that I was going through one of the worst times in my life.
I can show you a few of the pictures from while I was slowly getting better and to now. I want to make it clear, I still have depression. I will always or most likely always struggle with depression, but the treatment I get and the information I know now, plus the support system I have helps me live a (mostly) normal and happy life!
Depression lowered my self-esteem, completely terminated my self-compassion, and made me feel like life would be better if I just wasn't in it. Now I feel like my mind is clear and mine again, and I feel like my decisions, actions, and thoughts I have clear control over and can get through the times when my depression creeps back up. I'm not ashamed anymore of my mental health and I want to help anyone else who has been in my shoes, or who isn't sure they're feeling like themselves. Not everyone who feels disassociated has depression, but if you feel like it's been a while since you have felt okay, then I would definitely talk to a professional. I'd love any questions or comments anyone may have, but also I am just a psychology major, *I am not a professional and I seek professional help myself*.
Again, I'd love any comments, feedback, or questions you may have! You can contact me here. It's not very easy to just spill this big part of my life to everyone, so please no negative or hurtful comments! Thanks for reading this and understanding what I felt I needed to say.