Many people brush off depression as if it’s something you can just “get over.” While a physical injury or illness is treated with the utmost care and attention, it’s sad that something as detrimental as mental health is often overlooked.
Here’s the truth: Depression is an illness.
- It doesn’t discriminate
- It’s unpredictable
- It’s real
Ranging from postpartum to chronic, depression is far beyond basic feelings of sadness. Emotions are temporary, and change frequently, depending on the circumstance and influence. The National Institute of Mental Health explains that depression does not work that way. Feeling sad and disinterested in life for long periods of time is a warning sign.
Hey, life happens. Trust me, I know. We go through some tough times: Death of a loved one, financial struggles, trauma, abuse, divorce, and more. Dealing with hardships and mourning are a part of life, but life goes on. Time heals, and many people are able to pull themselves together and get back on track.
For others, not so easy.
I was one of them.
A few years ago, I experienced a devastating season in my life where I could not seem to pull myself back together. Within the same month, about a week apart from one another , there were multiple deaths in my family, death of my friend’s parent, and death of an infant I cared for as a daycare teacher. I literally found myself attending funerals back-to-back that entire month, and the emotional strain was unbearable.
To add to the chaos, I received news early the following month that a close friend of mine was rushed to the ICU. He almost lost his life to undetected brain tumors and was preparing for brain surgery. I immediately began visiting him almost every evening after getting off of work, spending hours in the ICU. I realized I didn’t rest, or have the proper time to finish grieving. At my job, all I could think about was the infant. And at home, all I could think about was my family and friend. And even though I was grounded in my faith, going to church became a struggle. I didn’t want to hear the “I’m praying for you.” I was angry at God, angry at the world, and felt helpless that I couldn’t do anything.
Going to church became a struggle. I was too angry at God. . .
I’m being honest.
It’s like a switch in my brain turned off and everything shut down, like I was operating on autopilot. I felt numb, all day long. I soon began experiencing physical side effects: loss of appetite, inability to sleep, irritability with people, and broke out in hives. Everyone I encountered would mention that I was looking thinner, although I couldn’t tell. When I finally decided to get on a scale, I discovered that I dropped almost 20 pounds in less than a month. I stopped hanging out with friends. I stopped visiting my family. I quit my job. Everything just felt. . .broken.
So, how did I get out of it? I could lie and say that a few hugs and kindhearted people checking on my wellbeing played a part, but that never happened. No one knew I felt this way. It was something that I dealt with and didn’t speak on for over a year. . .OVER A YEAR.
No one wants to admit, or even believe that they’re depressed. It’s like admitting you’re weak or unable to take care of yourself. But trust when I say, depression will sneak up on you and consume your life.
Thankfully, a gut feeling (which I believe came from God) told me to seek therapy. I did, and it was the best decision I ever made. Was it an easy process? Absolutely not. It took joint effort, on both my part and my counselor’s, to reach a breakthrough: cognitive-behavior techniques, recounting childhood dilemmas, examining stress triggers, and more. After four months of sessions, one hour, once a week (and a few boxes of tissues), I started feeling like myself again. Sometimes it takes a trained individual, outside of your family and friend circle, to really get through to you. Therapists understand how the mind functions and can strategically explain to you how and why you feel the way do.
See, the powerful thing about transparency is that it reminds us that we’re human and shows we’re all more alike than we think. No one wants to go through something alone. It’s always good to know that someone else has experienced what you’ve experienced and can relate. One thing’s for sure: self-denial is dangerous. We’ve all heard of far too many individuals, especially celebrities, who took another route to “alleviate” this intangible pain. Drug abuse, alcoholism, and suicide are far too common in our society, even among the wealthy.
So, if you or someone you know is experiencing similar symptoms, I encourage you to seek help. There are people out there who love you and need you. It’s time to take back control of your life.
** Title image photo credit by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash.com