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Sharing my depression recovery story has been in the back of my mind for years, but I've always found an excuse to push it back and convince myself it's not worth telling.
The loudest excuse—I've been ashamed. I didn't want to be reminded of my shortcomings or the dark places that consumed most of my life.
But the absolute worst thing is to feel like you are alone, which is why it's time to break my silence. So many struggle with mental illness. Either you fight the battle yourself, or you know someone close to you who does. 16.1 million American adults suffer from depression and it's so much more than the “winter blues”!
My friend, if you're one of us, you are in good company. You are safe here. And while it might seem like there's no light at the end of the tunnel, I'm here to tell you there is hope.
There is hope not because I'm “cured” of my depression, or because I've found a way to “snap out of it.” Neither of those things are true. The truth is, I've found a way to cope. And not just cope, but move forward with purpose.
This is my story.
The Beginning of My Depression Recovery Story
In the middle of Junior High, some odd behavior began. Behavior that might seem typical of a teenage girl. But my parents knew it wasn't.
I began spending hours in front of the mirror, redoing my hair, over and over and over and over and over and over again. I could never seem to get it “right,” so I kept redoing it in an attempt to achieve perfection. Except I never found it.
So I was late to school almost every morning, and between classes, I would spend a ridiculous amount of time in the bathroom redoing my hair…again.
In a way, it was soothing to me. A balm of constancy during a hormonal and emotionally charged time.
This compulsive behavior continued to get worse, until eventually, the darkness of my depression started to emerge. My parents finally took me to see a doctor, where I was diagnosed with OCD—Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Depression was part of this diagnosis.
Let me be clear—a lot of people think OCD is a condition super-organized people have. They enjoy things lined up, organized, alphabetized, clean, and in order, and this is laughed at as just another personality quirk. But real OCD is far from laughable.
OCD is actually a mental condition where one thing, and one thing only, gets stuck inside your brain on repeat. You can't escape those thoughts. They are there, racing and constantly torturing you. Screaming at you inside to do “it,” whatever “it” is, one more time because it's wasn't good enough before. And so you give in, because you can't not.
It's like you're stuck in a mental prison where the tape player loops again and again and again.
If I could have gotten rid of the thoughts, I would have in a heartbeat!
But I couldn't.
No Way Out
I began medication, and my parents tried to send me to a therapist. I made it through about 3 sessions before my mom finally gave in to me screaming and pleading not to go. I was given books, pamphlets, and all sorts of reading material that, in my mind, only explained how damaged I was.
I felt worthless and very depressed. Less of a person. I was wrecked and felt there was no way out. I started hurting myself so I could feel something…anything. Even if it was pain.
Suicide became the next loop on my mental tape player.
My mom spent many sleepless nights on the couch outside my room because she was terrified of what I would do. Thankfully, I never followed through. Those years became one of the many times God's grace saved me from myself.
Get Help or Give In
As the months passed, my life sped up. It seemed there was always a brand new experience to distract me around every corner. I worked my first job, Joseph and I began dating, I started college, we got married, I graduated, and we bought our first home.
Life didn't get worse; it just didn't get better.
Every life change was just another band-aid applied on top of all the others, preventing me from dealing with the real issue at hand. With something else to focus on other than myself, I simply pretended my OCD and my depression weren't there.
And on the good days, I was very successful.
But on the bad days, I spent most of them on the couch watching TV, immersing myself in a fictional story, or sleeping the hours away, all in an attempt to escape reality.
Slowly, but surely, the bad days began overshadowing the good, my depression grew exceedingly worse, and one night, I spiraled into such a terrifying breakdown that it triggered my very first panic attack.
It was that night that I decided I didn't want to exist like this anymore. I couldn't.
It was either get help or give in.
So with Joseph holding me tight and tears streaming down my face, we called a psychologist. I had been given the name by my primary doctor weeks before, but my pride and previous experiences kept me from picking up the phone.
The psychologist became my lifeline that night and made me promise not to do anything until we could talk in person. It was when I made that promise, that I realized not only did I truly want help, I also wanted to truly live.
In Part 2, I'll share more details about my depression recovery story and healing process, as well as all the practical things I do to fight my depression and manage my symptoms today.
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