When I was 14, my parents divorced.
At the time, it didn’t seem very traumatic, but before I knew it, I slept for hours yet was still exhausted, lost motivation and felt hopeless and worthless.
I barely ate or showered.
Eventually, I saw a doctor and was diagnosed with depression at age 15.
For the next few years, I continued to have symptoms of depression but I got pretty good at ignoring it.
I always felt restless, and like I didn’t fit in, but I managed to keep on trucking enough to stay employed, maintain relationships and even go to college.
When I was 19, my dad passed away.
I experienced it, but I didn’t feel it. Not as much as I should have, at least.
I took about 2 weeks to be catatonic, but then I soldiered on. I didn’t have time for depression. I had a kind, handsome boyfriend. I got accepted to university.
Good things were happening to me, I couldn’t be sad.
University was one of the happiest times of my life. The classes themselves, I mean. I loved going to school. I was good at what I did, and I was making friends and using my brain and thinking about the future.
Then, due to all of the repressed emotions, my depression slowly got worse and worse.
My boyfriend and I broke up, and I managed to get myself settled into my new apartment before depression saw its chance and pounced.
Again, it took me a few months to realize it.
I kept skipping class, and barely phoning it in when I did show up, and I dropped one class… and then two… and when I flunked an essay that I normally would have aced, I knew I should drop out for real.
I could barely get myself out of bed.
I barely ate.
I couldn’t handle being around people.
I kept missing appointments and work and staying in my apartment for days on end.
Same old shit.
It was then that I decided to go back on medication. This would be in November 2014. I went to a doctor and told him that I was depressed, and without question, he wrote me a prescription for Prozac again, the same dosage.
Before it had a chance to really kick in, I made the decision to move back home. I felt lost and hopeless and helpless. I needed love and support from my friends and my mom.
It definitely got worse before it got better.
I had to increase my dosage, and for the first few months I barely left my room, but then everything got a million times better once I met my best friend TimTam (a black cat who had been living rough) and we enjoyed taking care of each other.
Fast forward a couple of years of wandering (and an additional cat) and I moved to the city with a new partner and a yearning for a fresh start.
Unwisely, I decided that I’d had enough of my medication so I stopped taking it.
After 2 years of being on it.
Yes, it was a great decision, I know. You don’t have to tell me.
Anyways, things seemed fine for the next 6 months or so. I started college. I got good grades, but I felt like I had trouble connecting with my peers. I convinced myself that they all thought that I was weird and awkward, and eventually, my hygiene slipped. I wore baggy sweatpants and a hoodie every single day, and rarely washed my hair, face or brushed my teeth.
After about 3 months, I dropped out.
If I thought 2014 was bad, it was nothing compared to the first half of 2018.
Man, that was rough.
Shortly after dropping out of college, I started having panic attacks.
Like, bad panic attacks.
Before then, I had no idea what people meant when they said they felt like they were dying during a panic attack. By the end of January, I was fully acquainted with the feeling. I had roughly two panic attacks per week for the entirety of January.
Full on panic attacks where my heart was beating out of my chest, I was short of breath, and I was so nauseous and dizzy that I thought any movement would cause me to hurl violently. I shook all over and sweated, and I was convinced that my heart would stop and I would keel over immediately.
They lasted for hours.
At this point, I was unemployed, a two-time-post-secondary-drop-out, broke as fuck and obviously mentally unhinged.
I felt like the biggest failure to ever walk the Earth.
Whenever I attempted to apply for a job my heart started to race and my vision started to blur. I did a job interview mid-panic-attack.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.
This kept up for months. All I could do was sit on my ass all day, paralyzed by fear, anxiety and apathy.
The whole time, I objected to going back on medication.
I convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad and that I could handle it.
However, I developed anxiety-related IBS and my heart was constantly a-pitter-pattering in my chest and I got scared for my health. My doctor promptly put me back on Prozac, with some Lorazepam just in case.
Since then, I’ve been on the road to recovery…ish.
It’s hard, but I don’t have to tell you this. You know what it’s like.
All we can do is learn from our experiences and hope we actually take our own advice.
That’s why I’ve compiled this list! Hopefully, you can learn from my experiences as well.
Persevere, But Listen to Yourself
When you have depression, life can seem completely hopeless.
Depression makes you feel like you can’t do it – like you can’t handle life or exist in the world like a normal damn human being.
It can be frustrating, I know, but trust me when I say that you can.
Just try for one more minute, one more hour, one more day.
Sometimes you have to push yourself past where you think you can go, but once you get there, you’ve gone a little further than before.
Congratulations, you got a new high score!
Pushing yourself just a little bit further every day is important, but everyone still has limits. You’ll know when you hit them.
Listen to yourself and give yourself a break, and then try again tomorrow.
Take Your Meds
If you and your doctor have thoroughly discussed medication and decided that it is right for you, then
MAKE. SURE. YOU. TAKE. IT.
Especially once your brain gets used to it.
Medication is designed to reconfigure and optimize the mood chemicals in your brain so stopping it can be like someone kicking your crutches out from underneath you: you’ll go tumbling down and hurt yourself even more.
Trust me, I know from experience.
So just take them, okay? Give them a couple of months to work.
If you’re opposed to medication then do your own research and find a doctor who listens to you. I promise the Doc and the meds only want to help, so let them.
You don’t realize how cathartic it can be to talk about things until you actually do.
I recently started seeing my therapist again and after I left that first session I felt a huge weight lifted off of me.
Even if you just treat your journal as your therapist it can be extremely beneficial to get the thoughts out instead of having them rattling around all willy-nilly in your skull cavity.
Therapists act as an unbiased sounding board who you can talk to without fear of judgement. Chances are they’ve talked to and helped lots of other people like you, so most of the time you can trust their professional opinion and get a little perspective on what’s going on in your life – and in your brain.
Be Nice To Yourself
Look, your brain is doing the best it can with what it’s got, okay?
You’re not broken.
Your friends and family still love you.
You’re not worthless.
I know that the throes of depression are the last time you would think to be nice to yourself, but it’s the time you most need it.
Take a moment to think of at least one thing that you like about yourself. I have fun heart-shaped sticky notes that I write affirmations or good experiences on and stick them to the wall near my computer where I will see it every day.
I know it’s hard but just try.
It’s worth it.
You’re worth it.