This is my story. It is a bit raw but real. I never used to talk about my depression, I was ashamed and hid it from everyone. Until I hit rock bottom and had no choice in the matter when I ended up in the hospital after an attempt to take my own life. After that, I was diagnosed with severe chronic depression (a bit of a scary name). Now I am fairly open about the basics and believe that if I had heard more real-life stories when I was at my worst, it may have helped me see that I wasn’t alone. So I am sharing mine in the hopes that someone sees this and realises they are not alone.
Please note that this story may be hard to read in parts (but it has a happy ending, promise). If you want to read about this from my Ma’s perspective, she wrote a post for me a while ago.
A short history
I have been suffering from chronic depression in varying degrees since my early teens.
I’m very open about the basics of my experience with depression, but I don’t tend to discuss it in great detail. I’m used to talking about the fact that people bullied me. And the fact that there’s a large history of chronic depression in my family. But there’s much more to it than that.
Bullying led to many scars that I still carry with me to this day. Lack of self-worth, self-esteem, and confidence are some, along with the core belief that I don’t deserve anything. I’ve fought hard to change these beliefs, and they don’t inhibit my life as much as they used to, but they’re still there, lurking like some creepy stalker hiding in the bushes, waiting to approach. Bullying is evil and cowardly, and children can be so cruel, not realizing the long-lasting effects their actions can have on someone.
I’m glad we now live in a time where we talk about mental health. Even if there is still a stigma, we don’t brush it under the carpet as much as we used to.
When I was at my worst a few years ago, the inside of my mind was a hell I couldn’t escape.
There was this large back hole constantly hanging over me that sucked the joy out of everything. There was an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness and despair. Nothing could lift the fog I was living in– I was drowning and saw no way out. The worst feeling was the emptiness– I felt like a shell of myself, not really participating in life. My chest felt heavy all the time, I was constantly having irrational thoughts, and my motivation was at rock bottom. Even eating seemed too much effort. My only way of coping was to sleep. It was an escape from reality, and if I slept, the next day would be closer. One step closer to the end where I could finally free myself of this awful burden I carried.
One day, I’d had enough.
The strange thing is, I don’t exactly know what led to that decision. Nothing out of the ordinary happened that day; I was just tired. Tired of living, tired of even existing, tired of being tired. So, I took matters into my own hands.
I took pill after pill hoping each one would make more of the hurt, more of the despair, everything, go away. I thought I was a burden to everyone around me, too. To me, it seemed everyone would be better off without this moody, irrational, empty shell of a person sucking the happiness out of their lives. I was texting a friend as I took the pills and with each message, my words were more and more jumbled. I don’t remember much of what happened next, but I was told he broke the speed limit driving through town to reach me. He got me to the hospital and had to carry me through the doors. They took me straight in and put me on a drip. Apparently, I’d gone blue.
When I woke up the next day, I saw my parents. They lived six hours away, and they’d driven the journey to be by my side and I felt so ashamed that I’d made them worry. Lying in that hospital bed, taking in the things people had done to save me and support me, was a turning point. No one realized how low I’d sunk because I never talked about it with anyone. Now that I had the support of my family, friends, and therapy, I could begin the long, hard road to recovery.
I started taking a cocktail of pills.
Often, I felt worse, and they’d change the medication. About a year of that, and I once again decided that I’d had enough. Only this time, instead of having had enough of life, I wanted to take it back again. All the pills made me lethargic, nauseous, irritable, and a whole host of other unpleasant things. Through sheer bloody-mindedness and against my therapist’s advice, I threw all my pills in the bin. As I was on at least seven a day, and I didn’t wean off of them, I went through withdrawals. I was sensitive to light, had constant headaches, was even more irritable, nausea increased, and my body ached. Honestly, I don’t recommend that method at all. But, I got through it.
Eventually, I found myself again.
I found myself through friendship, exercise, and proper nutrition. Not long after I came off the meds, I found roller derby, and it saved my soul (just like the song says). Through derby, I formed those positive relationships, found an exercise I enjoyed and found a release for my emotions. I gained confidence in myself because I was able to see that I am capable and can push myself beyond my limits. My suffering from chronic depression is one of the main reasons I am so passionate about friendships. Without my friends, I don’t know where I’d be now. And laughter really is the best medicine. Talking things over with someone close is invaluable, and that’s something I have only learnt in the past few years.
I will always have chronic depression floating in the background. But as long as I look after myself, and am aware of my warning signs, I can keep it under control.
Combating my chronic depression
Some things that helped me when I was at my worst was:
- Exercise – this is a big one. It releases endorphins, gets you out of the house, gets you out of your head and gives you a focus
- Eating properly – good foods help keep your mind healthy. Sugary, processed food often makes us feel gluggy and worse
- Friends – having a good friend to talk to, to laugh with and to distract me was one of my biggest recovery factors
- Writing – writing regularly helps me to organise my thoughts and gets them out of my head
Things you can do when you are in a slump:
Some of these things may look small and insignificant but when you are in a slump, they can feel like climbing a mountain.
- Same as above plus –
- Listening to music
- Watching a movie
- Getting out the house (even for a walk around the block)
- Having a shower
- Setting an alarm and getting out of bed (don’t get back in again until bedtime)
- Eating breakfast
- Making a to-do list for the day (start off small so you don’t feel overwhelmed)
- Cat videos on YouTube (true story, how can you be sad when you are watching cats falling off ledges?)
- Go for a drive
- Turn off the phone and computer (and tablet, no cheating)
If you think of any more, leave a note in the comments so other people can add to their list
If you need help, please, please reach out
There are a tonne of resources out there to help you if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know. There are anonymous helplines, your doctor, therapists, websites and so many other resources. Please don’t ever feel you are alone.
Reach out to a friend. Often we keep so much inside that other people don’t realise what we are going through. Sometimes, it feels good to get things off our chest, even if it is only to get it out of your head. Or to have a good cry. A good friend is an excellent resource.
- Mental Health Foundation (NZ based)
- Health Education (NZ based)
- Who can help? (NZ based)
- World Health Organisation (worldwide)
- Online Counselling (worldwide)
- Mind – seeking help (UK based)
- Mental Health America (US based)
If you or anyone you know is living with chronic depression or any other mental illness, please know, you are not alone. If you would like to share your story with other readers, I would be honoured to feature you on the blog. Who knows who you could help? Get in touch with me via the contact page and I will get back to you as soon as I can. If you want to share your story with someone who has been there and you don’t want it published then I am here to listen.
As High School Musical wisely sings, “We are all in this together”
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