Today I want to talk about something that is deeply personal and rather difficult to discuss. Today I want to talk about depression.
I was officially diagnosed with clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder or major depression, when I was seventeen. I had been treated for depressive moods long before my official diagnosis, as early as age four. I have since been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, heavy on the social anxiety and panic disorder, and mild obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Major depression is “a constant sense of hopelessness and despair” (WebMD). It’s not just feeling sad, but a constant feeling of dread, a weight of emotional and physical pain. That said, depression is different for everyone, and can change throughout a person’s life. In my late teens and early twenties, my depression was expressed with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness, despair, and resignation that my life would never be better. (It was pretty hellish at the time – depression made me think I deserved it.) More recently my depression is frustration, irritation, and a sense of loss akin to grief.
Jenny Lawson posted a video earlier this week (“Depression lies“) in which she talks about her own struggles with depression and its delightful cousins anxiety and self-harm. I know I talk about her a lot here, but she truly is an inspiration to me. It’s hard to talk about something you are currently dealing with, and that she does it candidly is admirable.
Her video made me think about all the lies depression has told me in the past, and the ones it’s telling me now. While my ex-husband was mentally and emotionally abusing me, depression was telling me he was right – no one would ever love me like he did; I was damaged and crazy, no one would want me; my parents didn’t love me and didn’t want to see me because I was so screwed up. My all-time favorite is depression making me believe that he really loved me, and that his behavior was what love truly is.
The years it took me to recover, to be able to see through those lies, taught me valuable lessons. I can see through depression’s lies a bit easier now, a bit quicker than before. I’m a little better at anticipating depression’s moves. But I’m not cured. I will always have depression. I will always live in fear of that out-of-the-blue gut punch that sends me into isolation. I wait for the day when I can’t convince myself I don’t need to cut. I keep my anxiety pills with me wherever I go, and have taught my family the warning signs of a panic attack and what to do if I have one. I’m not cured, but I’m prepared.
If you or a loved one is suffering from mental illness, please seek treatment. There is no shame in getting help. You are not crazy. You are sick, in the same way someone with heart disease or diabetes or lupus is sick. It is not your fault, nor something you can control. You deserve treatment. You deserve a full, rich, and yes, happy life. You deserve to have adventures and to see where this journey takes you.