Finding the Happy Switch

Depression. I’m willing to wager that a lot of people either cringe or scoff when they hear that word. For some people it is an excuse for others to seek attention and pity because it isn’t a real disease. For others it is the monkey on their back that no matter how hard they work at breaking free from it, they are just carrying that little bugger everywhere with them. Sometimes that little monkey takes a nap and you are free to enjoy life, but you’re kind of always aware he is still there and could wake up at any moment and wreck you all over again. Anxiety. Reread the last couple sentences, #samesies.

I grew up not fully understanding the concept, not understanding that this was an actual diagnosable mental illness, and not understanding there wasn’t some mythical switch you could flip and “just be happy” like so many people advised. It seems like such a simple thing when you’re feeling low and blue to just….be happy. Unfortunately, for all the people who believe in the just be happy approach depression and anxiety are a little different from your everyday sadness or feeling the blues.

When I am in the thick of it I feel completely isolated and alone and like the only ability I have to communicate this is by weeping. To the point I have had to call a friend to literally lay on top of me so that hopefully the actual physical pressure would slow my head down long enough to catch a breath. I can’t communicate what is wrong and why I am feeling this because….I myself do not know why. Sometimes I am slapped right in the face with a nicely seasoned cast iron skillet full of overwhelming sadness with a side of no one loves you gravy for no apparent reason. Sometimes I feel so alone that I fully believe I am a burden on any path I cross and I just stop crossing paths. I have gone through periods of my life where I would go to school or work and then lock myself in my room the rest of the time. Sometimes that would last a couple days, sometimes it would last a couple months.

Lately it has been a little harder to stay a float than normal. I love to joke about my love of naps and sleep in general, but in reality a lot of times I expend so much energy pretending that I am all good in front of people by the time I get home and sit down I physically cannot stay awake. Blah blah blah sad stuff and more sad stuff, you get the picture. I am on a daily medication to help me manage and I am using exercise and this very exciting blog to help me stay focused on positivity and healthy things.

As I started thinking about this blog and hot to approach it I thought about the really amazing connection people had with my mirror image blog because you saw different points of view across different sexes and ages. So I set out to do the same thing here. Unfortunately, there is still this horrible stigma surrounding depression and anxiety. People are still scared to share, ashamed because of public opinion, or refusing to get help because of pressure from family etc. So here are the few, the brave, the beautifully strong masterpieces of people who were willing to completely open their hearts in the hope someone else who needed to see this would know they are not alone.

“I think I’ve had anxiety pretty much my whole life. Depression has only been in spats that were, on a whole pretty, depressing. I think if I had words to call what I was going through, it would have been much easier.
I have OCD. It’s mild, but one of the things that comes with the territory is called catastrophic thinking. I remember from a young age worrying anytime anyone was late. One minute late, and my brain immediately went thinking that the person was dead or in a car wreck. It has taken years on conscious effort to train myself to call that OCD or anxiety and tell myself a more likely scenario. Faith has helped a lot too because instead of anticipating bad  things, I pray about what I am worried about and know that even if the worst happens, God won’t abandon me. I won’t be alone. When I find myself going deep into the anxiety that one day when Jonathan or one of my boys might die (statistically, it’s likely I will outlive Jonathan), I start instead to focus on the gift of having them now. Life is fluid and I can count on it changing, so rather than worry about the impossible to know future, I fight to focus on now, to cherish now because it is fleeting. If I spend now worrying about the future, then I have missed the beauty of the moment. Not that it’s easy or even something I can always do or do without medication, but that is how I choose to fight it.

Female – 35

“I can tell you it can be dreadful and exhausting to suffer from anxiety and depression.  In November 2014 I attempted suicide because I couldn’t live with myself anymore, or so I thought. Luckily, with the love and support of my husband and family I was able to get through the nightmare and face my darkest fears. It was not an easy process. I had spent years abusing alcohol and marijuana, as well as making other poor decisions. At times I felt like I was completely alone and out of touch with reality. Now that I have dealt with and faced the underlying causes of my illness and realized that genetics play a part (I needed to accept it as an illness just like someone who has diabetes or epilepsy), I am able to acknowledge my triggers and deal with them proactively. I also realize that I need to take maintenance medication to keep me in balance. Once you accept it, it does get more manageable and easier to deal with.”

Female – 33

Depression is a strange thing. Sometimes you go weeks on end and you don’t have a “bad day”, but then all of a sudden there it is. This weight that you can’t explain. It makes you not want to do anything at all. It makes it hard to even get and go to the bathroom, much less get a shower and taken on the world. People are so quick to judge and not understand depression. When your depressed, it’s not that you are lazy or a flake, you literally lack the strength to get up and keep going. Your motivation is 0. On those “bad days”, what I personally do is start talking to God. I know, I know, here we go with the Jesus stuff, lol. Seriously though, I’m hear to tell you without the peace that God gives, I wouldn’t be here. There have been times where I have wrote a suicide note and walked out the door ready to end it all only to hear a voice say, “You are worth more”. Call it what you will, but personally I know it was God telling me that this to shall pass. Don’t let the depression win. In resent years, months and days, I’ve come to see why I’m here. There are so many people I’m able to relate to and empathize with people who are struggling. I’m able to look into their eyes and see the pain that is hid inside. The pain they keep away from everyone and I’m able to tell them that I love them and give a hug. It may not seem like a lot, but to someone who is on the edge of that ledge, it means the world. So the next time a buddy or acquaintance cancels on you or is distant from you, call or text them and tell them how much they mean to you and how much you miss them. You never know when you might save a life.

Male – 30

“I first had a “diagnosed” bout of depression at age 18 when I first was in college. Transition to college was tough–really tough, tougher than it “should” have been given my blessed, easy high school career and position in life. I ended up being hospitalized numerous times for my depression, seeing multiple doctors, being medicated beyond coherency, being told I couldn’t function in life ever without my therapist…having panic attacks in class to the point of it taking 6 years to complete my undergraduate degree. My brother and I aren’t close anymore…I guess it was too traumatic for him to see his older sister be hospitalized in and out and not know exactly what was going on. I wish we were closer. I got through it though…the persistent part of me kept believing there was hope, even when I had a doctor tell me at age 19 I should consider electric shock treatment because medications aren’t working. Perhaps the thing that kept me hoping were the friends and family that supported me. I may not be the best friend at times, but I do remember those friends who were there for me then, and that kept me going. I wish I could tell them how grateful I am for them now…because now, after a decade that has included numerous hospitalizations, over a dozen different medications, so many tears, multiple “withdrawals” in college, I am now about to get my own medical degree…people will call me “doctor.” But hardly anyone knows my history of depression in this new world, because I fear that if they knew they wouldn’t deem me capable of what I am currently doing in life and what I want to achieve. I still don’t share my story out loud because stigma is so great. But I do think that dark period in my life will make me a better doctor that could ever be.

Female  – 29

I have depression which I can usually tell when it is coming on and start taking my lexapro for 6-8 weeks.  After 6-8 weeks on it I’m usually good for a year to 19 months.  When I’m depressed I don’t want to be around ppl or even myself.  All I want to do is sleep and not adult. The depression increases if I’m stressed over any situation that I can’t control.  Basically I always need to know there is a plan b or c or if I’m in a depressed state it magnifies it x 100.    I’ve always had anxiety but never to the point I needed medication for it until recently.  I started having full blown cluster panic attacks and started taking vistaril when I need it.  I’ve always thought of myself as weak due to having depression and anxiety. Most days I just try to put up a brave front so no one knows.  I feel like if ppl know I suffer from both that I will lose my job or have my competency (at a career I worked my ass of to get) put into question

Female – 45

Thankfully my depression is more managed today than it has been in years past. It developed in my late teens but didn’t really manifest itself around 21 or 22. It got worse, like a lot worse, like I almost drove my car off the side of a mountain worse. And almost swallowed a bottle of pills worse. It wasn’t easy, but through a LOT of trial and error with doctors and meds, I was finally able to find the medication that keeps me most balanced. It doesn’t mean it’s gone; there will be waves that come that I can’t avoid and that will put me in bed for a couple of days. But I know now that those days will come, and they will also pass.”

Male – 28

Depression and anxiety can manifest in different people, different ways, and it’s very real. Do not be afraid to ask for help, do not be afraid to talk about it, and do not be ashamed. There are so many other people out there going through what you are and you’re only alone if you suffer in silence. Reach out, talk to someone, ask for help. You are normal and beautiful and complex. you are not alone.

Smooches,

Liz

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