I have never been shy about my struggles with depression and anxiety. When I was finally diagnosed as a junior in college as having severe major depressive disorder, it was like a light had been shed on my life. The emotions, the fear, the sadness. It all made sense. At times throughout my life, it was crippling. I couldn't see happiness in anything. It was hard to get out of bed in the morning. Actually, it was hard to find motivation to do anything at all. I was in a pit of despair that I just had no clue how to get out of on my own. With the amazing support of my family, friends, and husband, I realized that those feelings weren't normal. They weren't how normal people felt, and that I had the power to make those feelings go away. So, I started taking medications, which worked for a little while, but ultimately they stopped working so I stopped taking them. The side effects for that specific medication made me almost more miserable than I was before when I wasn't medicated. I spun back into my depression and bad habits. I was self-medicating with alcohol and pretty much just ignoring the signs that I had gotten myself right back into the same situation I was in before. It took some pretty heavy stuff happening in my life to open my eyes and realize it was time to get help again. I found a therapist and a psychiatrist who I liked, trusted, and respected, and we came up with a plan to help me get back on track. After testing out medications and talking about my problems, I finally had a regimen in my life that put me back on the path to recovery. I work hard to stay attuned to my feelings and those little nagging thoughts so that I can inform my doctor and we can make adjustments when needed. I've been properly medicated for two years, and this is probably the most normal I have ever felt. I know how to deal with my emotions, and they aren't keeping me from doing things I love or trying new things. With proper guidance and a lot of support, you will get yourself on the road to recovery. If you're like me, though, this may be something you have to monitor for the rest of your life. For many others, though, this won't be a life-long battle. Don't lose hope that you can live a normal life.
Here are the five most important things that I've learned throughout my battle with depression:
- You're not a failure if you ask for help. Sometimes you can't work through things by yourself. Sometimes you have to ask for a hand to pull you out of the darkness, and that is ok. You are not failing yourself if you ask for help.
- Depression Lies. Those thoughts in your head are wrong. They're lying to you. You are loved. You are important. You do have worth. Even in your lowest moment, try to keep in mind that you are loved and people do care about you and your well-being.
- One medication doesn't fit all. If you decide that you want to take the route of medication, you definitely need to know that not one medication will work for everyone. We all have different chemical interactions in our brains, and each medication is designed to focus on different things. If after two to three weeks you feel like the medicine you're on doesn't feel to be working, go back to your doctor and tell him. It may be that you need to get on a different medication all together or he may need to adjust your dosages. It is essential to keep the line of communication open with your doctor.
- Just because something works for someone else doesn't mean it will work for you. You need to focus on your own recovery. People love to be armchair therapists, but no one really knows what you're going through but you. If you feel like you need medications to help you, then set up an appointment with a doctor to discuss those options. If you feel like you need a licensed therapist to help you talk through your problems, ask around to see if anyone has someone they know, trust, and like. If you think that it's only temporary and that exercising and focusing on taking care of yourself will be the best option, then do that!
- If you are the loved-one of someone who is battling depression, support them. Don't leave them when they need you most. Realize that this isn't something we can control. You may see our actions and behavior as self-sabotage and that we choose not to get help. No. That is not really how it works. A person who is depressed has to come to the realization that they need help on their own. Don't push them into making any decisions, but also don't walk away from them when they don't do what you think is the correct course of action. Sometimes, we are so in our own heads that we don't realize how our depression affects those around us. Just know that your support does help and it does matter. It is not looked on with a blind eye.
And because I really want to get awareness out there, I have asked Lynnderella to help me raise funds and support a group that helps with depression education and suicide prevention of children and young adults - I Need a Lighthouse. Lynn generously created a beautiful custom called the Mindful Heart to auction with the money going to INaL. If you would like to bid on it, you can do so here. She also provided a bottle for me to giveaway to one of you lucky readers. The giveaway will start next Monday and entries will only be accepted if you donate at least $10 to help I Need a Lighthouse. I will be contacting them to verify your donations. To make my life easier, I will be setting up a Rafflecopter form where you can tell me how much you donated and the name you donated under for verification purposes. Don't worry, I'll get into more details on Monday, but here's a sneak peak at the grand prize.
I'm really hoping this fundraising effort will help them fund more programs so that they can expand to more areas and help more people. For more information about depression check out the International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression.