Her Story: Dealing With Depression

“Depression.” Such a small, simple word for something that can cause so much havoc.

Dealing with depression is like pulling teeth: a total bitch, painful, and completely necessary for some of us. It’s an unfortunate thing, but it can’t be helped. For those of you who say: “just be happy,” I would like to counter: “Just f*** off.” Apparently impossible, right?

I apologize if I have injured you from this statement. I’m trying to be honest with you, because if you’re reading this you clearly want to UNDERSTAND. If I seem irritable and abrasive, it’s because I am. I’m tired. I’m tired of explaining myself, of trying to make people understand. Because they don’t, and they couldn’t possibly; if you don’t live it, you don’t get it. Period.

Those of us who deal with mental illness deal with the ignorance of others every day. We’re told to “be happy”, “shake it off”, “let it go”, or (my personal favorite) “you bring it on yourself”/”you’re such a drama queen”.

If only it were that simple.

Although I may be tired, I’m here to TRY to explain. One more time. Whether, like me, you have a mental disability (because, yes, it IS a disability), or you just want to learn more, because you know someone who suffers or are just interested in the complexities of mental health, I am here to give a little more insight into one of the biggest puzzles in life: the human mind.

For every person, the illness is different; I can’t pretend to understand another person’s torment, but we all are tormented. To put it bluntly, we’re trying to force our bodies to live when our minds are trying to die. It’s complete misery.

That isn’t to say that everyone struggling with depression is suicidal. We’re not. That’s just how depression feels, at least to me: like your mind is dead, rotting away bit by bit. It’s like cancer, but you can’t see it; and it’s hard to fight what you cannot see.

Depression is especially complex, in that (from what we currently know) it isn’t solely a chemical imbalance, nor is it purely situational. It varies from person to person, and is often an intriguing combination of both.

I suffer from what I have heard called chronic clinical depression. That means it doesn’t go away. It hasn’t in a long time, and it can’t just be pinpointed to one event or a singular trigger. There’s no real pattern to my “events” and that makes it really hard to control.

The way one psychologist put it, “It’s amazing that you’re still such a high functioning individual. I’ve never met someone at your depth of illness that can still carry a full conversation, let alone DO anything.”

THAT was an eye opener. What he didn’t know, though, was that I wasn’t really a high functioning individual. By the time I finally caved and sought help, it was BECAUSE I couldn’t really function any more. Thereby, I couldn’t pretend that I was okay anymore...and I needed to pretend.

The first step, for me, was accepting that I was sick. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, because I have an immense sense of pride; as the eldest child, I was the example. There wasn’t supposed to be anything “wrong” with me. And this...this I couldn’t fix. There was something undeniably wrong about it.

To make it easier on myself, I first started facing myself in the mirror every morning and introducing the real me to my image. I still sometimes have to do this, because it’s how I cope when things get bad and I feel stupid for my feelings.

 

“My name is Dakota, and I have suffered from chronic depression since I was a Freshman in high school. I am not my illness, but I am ill, and things aren’t always as easy for me. It’s been eight long years, but I’ve made it; and if I can make it that long, I can make it through today.”

 

It may seem silly and extreme that I have to do this, but I do. It also helps to tell people. I am not my illness, but my illness IS part of me. And until it’s no longer a faux pas to acknowledge mental illness, I feel that it is important to make it a common part of conversation. I’ve found that it helps others, because mental illness is so often swept under the rug and ignored that it makes it hard for those who suffer to seek the help they need.

Even in writing this, I am facing a new challenge; not everyone I know and love knows that I have been diagnosed, or for how long I have been sick. They will quite probably read this, and I don’t want them to blame themselves.

I want my fellow depression survivors to know that they are not alone. This is hard. It is. And no, it doesn’t really get any easier; you still have to fight the fight every day. But, you know what? It’s worth it. There are so many experiences that you wouldn’t get if you just gave up and became a hermit!

While the world can be a little too “loud” sometimes, I still get up everyday. I put on “my face,” I take my dog for a walk, I cuddle my grumpy hedgehog. I spend time with friends. I have a long-term, stable relationship. I go to work. I run errands. In other words, I’m your regular 20-something who is trying to make a name for herself.

Sometimes, though, I have to take a mental health day. Rarely does this interfere with my planned activities, but when it does, I don’t let myself get too upset. If I did that, things would only be worse. I take my day, I get “better,” and I go on.

This is my life. I manage my illness as best as I can, and most of the time, you’d never know I have one...but I do. So NEVER belittle a person when they say that something is wrong...odds are, they’re trying to share something hard with you, and they need your support. I know I did.