When I went to write this post, I had a different concept in mind. However, as the words I couldn’t say finally find their way to the surface, I want to split my reflection on 2012 into two different post. This one will deal with my depression. As another disclaimer, I want to say this post may be a trigger for some.
Before I started writing this post, I looked over some photos I’d taken throughout the year and read my thoughts about the end of 2011. In that post, I speak of growing up and how it is something one can never plan, it just happens. I should have known then that I wasn’t as grown up as I wanted to be. I still had a lot of learning to do.
When this year began, I was wrestling with a very difficult decision. I moved to Tampa, Florida to pursue a career in criminal justice. I had hoped to be a police officer one day and work in a homicide department for some major city—Chicago, New York City, Miami, D.C. It didn’t matter. I wanted to fight crime and get bad guys off the streets. I wanted to keep my city—and my family—safe. A part of me still wants to do that. Whenever a mass shooting happens or a child goes missing, my heart aches for my lost life in criminal justice.
And then I remember exactly why I walked away. Why I changed schools. Why I changed degrees.
Above all, I remember why I came home and realized what I need to do.
If you’ve been reading my blog since I restored it this summer, then you know that I was officially diagnosed with depression in May. I say "officially," because I have been dealing with it on my own since November of 2011. I’ve mentioned it briefly in other posts—always say that I would come back to it at another time. Well, it's finally “that time” and I’m ready to talk about what happened.
Earlier this year, I felt a lot of shame over being diagnosed with depression. I saw it as a weakness and believed no one would ever see me the same again. If I told people that I had depression, then I would become just another “attention seeker”. I was fifteen when I was first told I would be a likely candidate for developing depression in my early adulthood. I heard those words five years ago, but I never believed that illness would befall me. Even after it was happening to me, I denied it. Like most people, I would use the “I’m fine” phrase to sum of my feelings.
My depression started in November and rapidly grew. By the middle of February, I had a massive anxiety attack that left me bedridden, except when I convinced myself to go to class. On weekends, I would stay in my pajamas and refused to leave my dorm room.
As February turned into March, I had to make deals with myself in order to leave my dorm. If I went to such and such class, I could go home and sleep until morning. If I did such and such assignment, I could crawl into bed and cry for the rest of the night. If I visited with my friends, then I could be a recluse for a few days and not speak to anyone. Last semester, for the first time in my life, I started skipping classes.
Part of my depression stemmed from how much I despised Tampa. It wasn’t what I expected it to be—it wasn’t what I needed it to be. And though I was looking forward to the independence I got from being so far away from my family, I now know it was a mistake to go that far away so quickly.
A mistake I had to make, but one nonetheless.
When April came, I had already submitted my application to my new university. I wasn’t completely sold on going there back then, but I knew, that if I had to return to Tampa in the fall, I would break even further. I remember very clearly, a day I sat in class and stared vacantly at the wall until I was allowed to leave. I headed back to my dorm and sat down on my bed. I just laid there in the darkness, staring at the wall. I fell in and out of sleep, until eleven came around and I decided I needed to get up, brush my teeth, put on my pajamas, and actually go to bed. It took five hours of convincing before that was able to happen.
I’ve always said that writing about my depression is a trigger for my depression. I know how badly I need to be honest with myself and I know the only way for me to do that is by seeing my own words, my own thoughts on a page. For my composition class last fall, I spent two months researching depression. Doing those essays was the most difficult and rewarding thing I have ever done. I spent some nights crying, because of how difficult it was for me to remember what I had been through in the past. My coping mechanism for depression has never been cutting—for some reason that is one thing I cannot do. Instead, I purge. When my depression hit its peak in mid-April, I purged one weekend until I was too weak to move.
Together, depression and anxiety worked its way through my mind. I could never tell anyone any of this. If I did, I would lose everyone close to me. This is when the shame was most prominent. I had a couple of friends telling me to get help—even my mom believed I needed help before I lost myself forever. Spring of 2012 was a dark time for me and there were some days in which I wished the depression would just win and stop my suffering. I wrote about some of my experiences with depression in my essay for class, and when I was able to read it aloud to my professor without crying, I knew I had hit an incredible milestone with my recovery.
If you’ve never dealt with depression, it's difficult to explain what it's like. Some people think it’s just being “really, really sad” and to a degree, it is. But, it’s more than that. It’s a poison working its way through your mind. Controlling your every thought and telling you that you are nothing. Depression leads you to believe things cannot nor will they be okay. A darkness is unleashed and if you’re not careful, it will take over completely. It leaves you weak. Vulnerable. Alone. There are no “good” days when you are dealing with depression. They’re all based on how challenging they are. Some days a “better” than others, but when your depression is at its worse, it’s all the same.
There wasn’t one thing that snapped me out of this or made me realize there are brighter days ahead. When I came home for the summer, family and friends helped me get better, but the battle against my depression was something I had to fight within my mind. When I was driving home from Tampa, I found out about my acceptance to Colorado State. For the first time in months, I cried tears of joy instead sorrow. I was experiencing a feeling I had forgotten existed: Relief.
I’m scared to post this—I’m scared to open myself up so much. However, I know, that this post will help me heal. I hope this post reaches out to someone else as well. I hope people suffering from depression are reading my words and realize that it’s okay to have depression and anxiety. It’s okay to admit that you need help. It’s okay to admit that you cannot do this on your own—I cannot do this on my own. I need my support system. There is no shame in having depression—there is bravery in saying that you have it, but you are battling it. There is bravery in saying that you want to get better, but you need the help of those closest to you.
That’s why I came home. I could not return to Tampa so long as my depression was not under control. I needed to be with my support system. I had to get better. I knew, deep in my heart, it would take more than two and a half months to recover from depression. It is a lifelong battle.
I still have bad days, and I still have days in which I don’t want to leave my bed, but they are few and far between. I started therapy again when I came home for the summer and am on medications. There is one important thing I was taught when I was battling my depression and that is Depression Lies. Depression is not telling you the truth, so never believe its words, no matter how sweet they may seem.
I want to use my life to speak against depression. No one should have to suffer from this and no one should ever have to feel as if they are alone.
So, please. If you have depression, get help for yourself just as I sought help for myself. You are never alone, no matter how dark and overbearing the power of depression may seem.
And, every single one of you, is worth this fight.