Coping with Severe Depression

I usually don’t share anything personal about myself online. I have always been that way. It can be very easy to “hide” behind the computer.

This is really, really hard to write this post because I have always appeared to so many that I “have it together”. However for almost ten years I have been trying to deal and cope with having a mental illness.  I have “Major Depressive Disorder“.  You might be reading this and might think being depressed every once in awhile is normal. Yes, it is, but being severely depressed most of the time is not.

Towards my late twenties the depression set in. I self-medicated with alcohol and hence I developed another problem-alcoholism and I lost my first marriage due to my behaviors. Thankfully I have been sober for over 7 years through the grace of God.

So what is “Major Depressive Disorder”? Wikipedia’s definition: “Major depressive disorder (MDD) (also known as recurrent depressive disorder, clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder) is a mental disorder characterized by an all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem, and by loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Major depressive disorder is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person’s family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. Depressed individuals have shorter life expectancies than those without depression, in part because of greater susceptibility to medical illnesses and suicide.”

This summer has been the hardest time of my life. My depression peaked to the point where I was suicidal and had to be hospitalized. I know that my depression this time was not only a severe chemical imbalance but also due to some serious personal issues that I have been going through. My hospitalization lasted for almost two weeks. In the past ten years I have been hospitalized three times. Most of my friends don’t even know this; I was ashamed and embarrassed to tell.

In the depths of my depression I isolate. Isolate to the point where I am almost hiding out; literally my friends, especially one of my closest friends say: “You are falling off my radar”. Sometimes I push away the people that care and love me the most. Sometimes I feel so absolutely horrible that I want to crawl in a closet and never open the door.  If you have never experienced severe depression it might be hard for you to understand this. Many friends and loved ones have told me that I am a “mystery” or “I just don’t get you” or “You can be so warm and loving and then so cold and distant.”

So many people also tell me that I just need to “snap out of it“, “you have everything going for you“, “just get down on your knees and pray“. Honestly I wish it was that easy- I have learned there is no quick fix.

So what am I doing now to cope?

  1. Realizing the importance of having God in my life. I am not writing this to preach to you but just sharing what has worked. I became a born-again Christian in my teens and for 25 years have “back-slidden” (as Christians may say) and have “come back to God” several times. This past Tuesday night everything came crashing down. Reviewing the past year of my life I realized that even though I had voiced that my relationship with God was closer in fact I had moved further away from it. I cried and prayed almost all night. I prayed for God to help me, forgive me, to show me how to make amends, to ask him to comfort those who I have hurt, to ask for His help through this dark time in my life, to help me overcome my depression. Even though I have been crying for almost four days I do feel closer to God than I ever had. My depression improves when I am in constant contact with God.
  2. I found a doctor who has really helped me. I really, really don’t like taking medication and have been on several types over the years and have also gone without taking medication. This past year has been a roller-coaster of medication alterations. I wouldn’t say I am completely satisfied with my current medication regimen but I feel like it is better than it used to be and I am thankful for that.
  3. Realizing that my children have been my rock. I love my kids. They mean the world to me. Both my boys have showed me so much love this summer. My daughter has helped me so much with my little one. She is almost like a Mom to him. I am so very thankful for them.
  4. Leaning on my friends. I love you. I love you all. Please know I appreciate you and all you have done for me and my family. I know some of you don’t understand me and perhaps reading this post might help you. I know I have pushed some of you away, some very very far to the point that I don’t know if I can regain your friendship. I am truly sorry for any pain or hurt I have caused and regret pushing you away. I hope to be more able and willing to accept help from you.
  5. Forgive yourself and forgive others. I have made many mistakes and have hurt some very special people in my life. I asked God to forgive me for what I have done to others. I also just learned today from a dear friend that I also need to forgive others.

I am not writing this post to gain sympathy or to portray myself as a victim.  I am writing this in the hopes that if there is one person that I can help by reading this post it will be worth opening up to the public about my mental illness. I know for me that I need to be vigil and constant in knowing what helps me. (In fact I think I am going to print out the above 5 things I wrote about above, laminate it, and put a copy in my purse.)