My Journey: Living with and surviving depression

Depression is a sneaky little creature. It often creeps up out of no where and what you thought depression looked like is totally different than what you, a friend, or a loved one is experiencing. And that makes it even harder to determine.

Round 1: My aunt’s passing

My depression story started years ago. It was the summer between my 7th and 8th grade year, and I lost the first close person to me, my aunt. This was REALLY hard. Initially, I didn’t think I was affected at all. But then the symptoms began to arise. I began to cry all the time. I didn’t want to hang with my friends. And I was super afraid of dying. This had become my number one fear. I’m sure being the recipient of the call stating she died and suppressing my feelings didn’t help. Add to that hearing the details of her final moments at the age of 12 wasn’t easy either.

Her final moments passed through my head constantly, and at night I was sure I was having shortness of breath and about to see my last day. I often stood at the brink of my parents’ bedroom door telling my mom how scared I was and how I thought I was having shortness of breath. It was a very traumatizing experience.

I remember my dad coming to offer me comfort, but nothing really worked. He offered to take me to her grave site. I didn’t want to go. And yet, I just couldn’t snap out of it.

Then one day my mom suggested I go visit my best friend. She was my next door neighbor. She had no clue what was going on, but it was the best medicine ever. Simply being with someone – and in this case faking like there was nothing wrong was the beginning of a cure. In fact, it was almost an instant cure.

The pain and depression didn’t go away instantly. The beginning of my eight grade year still saw sorrow, but somehow, I snapped out of it. It was like the time heals all things thing. But did it?

Round 2: College days

My days at Michigan State were great. Fake the funk. Showtime at the Aud. Gospel choir. Great roommates and floormates. And yes, even the partied. And on top of this, I was at the top of the class. I pulled a 3.89 my first semester, and didn’t drop below a 3.5 GPA per semester. Well, that was until depression reared it’s ugly head again.

It all started with a thought that freaked me out. I mean seriously freaked me out.

It was during Winter break. I think I was in the shower when I had the thought. And even though I knew it wasn’t true, I couldn’t shake it.

That was the beginning of my anxiety. It scared me. I would be an outcast if anyone ever knew that I had this thought. I told one person – my mom, my one and only confidante to that degree. She was there for me. Patient with me. That was the moment that I knew that if I didn’t trust anyone else in life, I could trust my mom – and that was for anything. We may not always agree, but she would ALWAYS have my best interest in mind (even if that’s slightly obscured with what she THINKs may be my best interest, but I digress.)

Though my mom was there and would be there consistently – and we knew my thoughts were a lie, it didn’t go away. Instead, the anxiety got worse, resulting in OCD, panic and anxiety attacks, and loss of focus. I couldn’t focus on my work. Getting out of bed was hard at days. In fact, making decisions was just downright painful. And with this dreadful sickness came a quick plummet to my grades to the point that simply by looking at my report cards, you can tell the EXACT semester the depression kicked in.

Mental Illness aren’t the Same as Physical, Right?

I didn’t want to go to the doctor. I didn’t want to see what was wrong with me. I thought it was against God’s will. Mental issues aren’t the same as physical, right? You know if you don’t feel good physically to go to the doctor. But if you are potentially suffering from a mental illness, many often discourage going to the doctor. This can be one of biggest mistakes and can truly mean the different between life and death.

Mental illnesses can kill you just as much as high blood pressure can. In fact, stress can lead to high blood pressure, cancer, and suicide – all things that can lead to death. People don’t cut just for the sake of it. People don’t jump off buildings because they thought they could fly. And they don’t slit wrists because they want to sport a war wound.

No. They want the pain and agony to go away. If they thought they had another option, maybe they would think again, but they feel hopeless. Anxiety day after day, month after month, and year after year is not the life I envisioned. If you’ve never had a panic attack before, you’d never know how debilitating something like that can be. In fact, I got so good at them, I had the ability have silent attacks right in front of people and they had no clue it was happening.

…But I Survived

The diagnosis & Prescriptions

Though I didn’t want to go to the doctor, there was a point it became a bit too much. The school therapist was a flop. My trip to a different doctor was almost a joke, mainly because on that day I didn’t “look” like I was depressed. Then she gave me the test. To her surprise only, the results stated I was in fact depressed.

Now what?

Pills. The ones that zoned me out. Not like Xanax or anything. I can’t really describe how I felt. All I know is that one day I didn’t take them, and I felt better. I felt happy. So I said to heck with these pills. But just like other times, the happiness was only temporary.

The depression read it’s head again, and I really needed hep.

It took a while for me to see a doc again, but during the summer after my senior year, I walked back into the doctor’s office ready to get better. And he diagnosed me with what I thought was the cure all to everything, Paxil.

You Have to Work with Your Doctor

Paxil worked great for years. However, due to side effects, I chose to try different meds. Many didn’t work. I became sick from some. One gave me the hiccups and zoned me out. One even had a side effect of anxiousness. Ummm….isn’t that what I was being treated for. Duh?!I’ve had a diagnosis that I didn’t agree with and more. (Please know yourself before you just tell the doctor, “no I don’t agree with this).
While I know I’m not perfect today I’ve found a treatment that sustains. Add that to the will to not let the disease overcome me, and I do pretty good. Not as good as on Paxil, but since I don’t want that Paxil weight (a 60 lb. gain)…I’ll make the sacrifice.

Having the Will to Live & Taking Control

Living with and surviving depression is not an easy thing. In fact, I live with it AND survive it every day. Anxiety is present often. I get tired A LOT. And there are days where the alternative seems like it may be better. However, I have the will to live.

I know depression, anxiety, fear and panic are all lies from Satan. And though I may be on meds, I know where my REAL strength comes from. I know who will never leave me nor forsake me. I know who blesses me with wisdom telling me it’s time to sit/slow down, ensuring I don’t become too overwhlemed.

God has blessed me to have this story. To tell it to others. And to inspire those who may feel downtrodden. I’m confident this journey wasn’t just for me. I know there are others who have been and will continue to be blessed by my words…but not my words, but by the words of the One who lives in me.

While I’m not thankful for the sickness (being real), I am thankful for the opportunity to help, to inspire and to use my story to draw others closer to Christ. While some may say it’s brutal He allows me to go through it, I’ll say His grace is sufficient. He DIED for me. DIED…stabbed, ridiculed, whipped, crowned with thorns. I only have a little mental distress in comparison. So even in the midst, I thank and appreciate God for this challenge, growth, and the ability to use it for HIS good. I am and will continue to be HIS child. And for that I praise him. (Praise break…lol)

Conclusion

Depression sucks. It really does. However, having a relationship with Christ and taking appropriate steps to manage/alleviate it are both essential for survival. The Bible says we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against power and principalities in high places. While medicine is a physical step for me, I NEVER forget the spiritual medicine and strength either.

Until next time, I wish you much spiritual prosperity.

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