I wrote this a few years back after Robin Williams sadly too his life. In light of a recent tragedy that has affected myself and many I know, and also after having a few of my friends coming to me in distress and asking for help this week. I thought I would post it here and again.
With the death of Robin Williams yesterday, it has had me thinking a lot about my own battle with depression. Then my niece wrote a post on her wall and I started to write a reply to it, which turned into this long post, which I decided to share with everyone. I hope by sharing my story it may help at least one person
Depression is no joke…… It ruined my life for a long time….. It was a huge reason of the breakup of my marriage. I was told many times, it was “in my head” and I am “just using it as an excuse”….. Even as he walked out the door he said this. But now I understand, people just did not know enough about it, we are not educated about it and that is what many learned, the doctors even told us that at one time “it’s all in your head” I hold no bitterness now that he didn’t push me to get help, I hold no bitterness for when he said “shake out of it” I hold no bitterness now for the day he walked out the door, because he did not know better, and he did not know how to deal with it, he could not let me and this disease pull him down also. He was not strong enough to fight the fight with me. Sadly it did pull my kids down. I cry often still, thinking about how it affected them. This horrible disease made me a shell of who I once was for a very long time. I would dig out of it long enough to make sure my kids were safe, fed and sheltered. Long enough to be sure their bare necessities taken care of. Then I would slip back into it again. I made a lot of mistakes I normally would not have made. I blamed myself for many years, beat myself up and told myself the same things my ex told me repeatedly…… what a horrible mother I was. I believed him deep down and hated myself for a long time for being such a bad mother. He even tried to prove it at the court ordered shrink he insisted on, which failed and may have been the beginning point of my crawl out of that dark hole. A psychiatrist said I was a great mom, recommended the kids stay with me! It was then I stopped believing that I was useless, horrible person I was constantly told I was. Which kept me depressed (not to mention bi polar on top of it) for even longer. It is an ugly cycle.
That Doctor helped me have a ray of hope, while it was still many years before I felt I had won the fight with depression, It slowly affected me less and less because I began to do things to help myself, and I began to love myself again. It was and still is one of the toughest battles I face (once your inflicted with it, it is very easy to relapse as I have many times in the past) I survived cancer and the chronic pain I was in from that, and to me that was a piece of cake compared to defeating depression. My entire universe began to cave in around me and I stopped sleeping, eating, cooking, hobbies – everything that I needed and enjoyed. I was confused and seemingly alone and scared for my life. Many people view depression as sadness or as a reaction to a traumatic event—that is a common misconception. Depression is not a straightforward response to a tragic situation. It can affect a 6-year-old just as easily as it can affect a 90-year-old. It just, sort of, happens. When I first began battling with this illness, I had no idea what was going on. I stopped writing, I stopped singing and I stopped loving myself and others. I had no idea what I was going through and I was scared that my life would always be like this. I often found myself asking why. Why do I feel this way? Why am I sad? What do I have to be sad about? I was mad at myself for feeling like this because I was so blessed to have so many amazing things in my life, amazing husband, kids, and family friends. So why was I sad? I didn’t understand that I was suffering from a mental illness and that none of this was my fault. It is very hard for someone who is depressed to ask for help, and when they do, they feel guilty for bothering others with their problems. Someone who is depressed might feel the need to put a smile on every morning.
Over the years, I’ve spent so much time crying in my bedroom in the middle of the night so no one would hear; answering every “How are you?” with a forced smile and a “I’m fine” because I was worried that I would be bothering someone if I ever told them the truth. For the longest time, I didn’t let anyone in because I was concerned that if they knew who I actually was, they wouldn’t want me anymore. (after all my husband didn’t, or that’s how I felt at the time) I learned a lot who my real friends were, they stuck around, they were not just there for the good times and when I could give them something like they were used to. When I couldn’t babysit anymore, or buy lunch, or go out for an expensive night out….. Slowly the friends started drifting away. When I needed the hand I used to extend to everyone they were gone.
When you’re falling apart, surround yourself with the people who will help put you back together. No one needs a friend who is only around for sunny skies; everyone needs a friend with which to wait out the storm.
When I had finally came to grips with my problem and wanted to find help, I did reach out to my ex and he told me this “Your depression is all in your head. It is not real. You were just being selfish. And if you refuse to admit that you were simply being selfish. Snap out of it” This validated my fear that people would be angry at me for feeling the way I did. Then I reached out again to one close friend. I was terrified of being that vulnerable. However, one afternoon I summoned the courage and told them what I was going through. When I told her, she got angry. She yelled at me for not getting help earlier, and she told me that I had no reason to be so sad. At first, I was broken. My worst fears were realized and the people I reached out to had reacted in the exact way I hoped they wouldn’t. I moved on, I distanced myself from that them and found a few friends that not only stood by my side, but helped me day after day, and that is the kind of friends everyone needs. Someone who will not only listen when you just need to talk, but will also give you your space when you need that as well.
I found an amazing boyfriend, who has pushed me harder than anyone I know, in the right direction, who sees me when I slip and holds his hand out to help me back up and doesn’t let me fall when I stumble. Who never gave up on me and saw my potentials.
The saddest people are the people who work so hard to make everyone else happy first. They hate to see other people in pain because they know what it feels like. I bent over backwards for everyone who asked for my help, and even those who didn’t ask. If I saw someone struggling, I would put aside my needs to satisfy theirs. I worked so hard to make other people happy that I let my own happiness slip through the cracks. But it wasn’t my job to save the world. As amazing as it was to help others and give your time to other people, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you will never be able to give people 100% of your help. Worry about yourself first, they will forgive you. I still suffer from this somewhat, but have learned to step back and attend to myself when needed.
Depression affects every morsel of your body, every fiber of your being. It is hard to get out of bed every morning and hard to motivate yourself to do anything. Depression does take over your entire life while you are suffering from it, but it also helps you to realize and change the aspects of your life that aren’t working. Suffering from your depression can open your eyes to things you would have never seen otherwise. It really helped me see the things and people I no longer wanted in my life. My depression helped me turn my life around. I am actually grateful my marriage fell apart now, because I didn’t have a choice I had to not fall into that dark hole for my kids…… I know I slipped a lot and was depressed a long time, but I held on for them, I kept enough wits about me for them, and eventually I made it. In an essence my kids saved my life more times than once, I also found out I had cancer when I found out I was pregnant the 2nd time.
And you are not selfish. You are not a freak. You are human and that is okay.
Even now, I have my days—more like my nights—where I feel completely and utterly alone, and I feel like there is no one out there who feels the same way as me. I am wrong. There are millions of people that feel the same way I do.
There is a huge stigma surrounding depression and suicide and a lot of people are afraid to talk about it, because a lot of people don’t understand it. Many people who have survived a hardship in their lives believe they know how it feels to be depressed and therefore they think they have the right to cast judgments on those who are actually suffering.
This mental illness is so easily brushed off that a lot of teens who suffer from it don’t know what to do to find help because no one will educate them. No one helped me, no one wanted to admit I was broken, most people thought I was just irresponsible, immature, selfish, lazy……. Which is ironic because I was the polar opposite of all those things before depression hit, why didn’t they see the sudden change and realize that wasn’t me? But I understand a lot now that I have educated myself on the subject and I have made it my goal to educate others as I can. People just didn’t know or didn’t want to see it, people have their blinders on, their rose colored glasses. I am here to tell you though, if you see someone with these patterns, don’t look the other way!
Find something/someone to hold onto and hold on as tight as you can. I understand that is much easier said than done, but it is possible. I found that in my boyfriend, I thank God for him every day, he is the most amazing and incredible man and helped me out of this and helps keep me out. It is perfectly fine to have bad days. It is perfectly fine to break down. But never, ever give up. I did, and I have never regretted anything more. As much as I hate the stereotype that suicide is selfish, it has some truth to it. When you’re in that dark place and you just want all of the pain to stop, all you can think of is your situation and how much better it would be for you if it all ended. It is selfish, but it is completely understandable. Trust me, I’ve been there.
I did try to take my life 15 years ago. The only thing I remember is that I was in so much pain and I knew how much better it would be if it just all ended. I swallowed a handful of pills…. Got rushed to the ER by ambulance, drank charcoal, got chewed out by the ex, and then sent home and chewed out again. It amazes me they sent me home….. It was obvious I swallowed pills, but while I was in the ambulance, they acted like they were doing me a favor and said “Tammy, you took too many on accident right?” “that’s what we write in the report right”? “You did not swallow them on purpose right?” So of course I said yes yes and yes. So instead of watching me for 72 hours, they write it off as a “accidental overdose” , swept it under the rug. I had just had my appendix burst a week before, so I just “oops” took too many pain pills…… I saw my kids when they got home and realized how stupid I was, how much I loved them. I swore to never do that again….I swore to get better for them. It took me years, but I did it, for them and myself. This is the best piece of advice I can give you. Find something worth living for. There is always something if you look hard enough.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel.” Every single time someone said this to me I hated it. I hated hearing that it would get better when I couldn’t see that it would. When you’re in that place where all you know is your depression and you don’t even remember not being depressed, hearing that it will get better is a slap in the face. But I am finally in a place where I can tell you that it DOES get better. I’m not a stable human being by any means, and I’m not through with my depression, but I am better.
If someone would have told me a few years ago that I would be doing this, speaking openly about my depression, I would have laughed in their face. You will make it through this, and you will come out stronger on the other side.
Don’t be mad at people when they don’t understand. The fact that they have tried to understand is commendable in itself. And chances are they don’t see you as ‘that person with depression’. They see you as you; depression and all. And it’s the ‘all’ that you have to try and focus on. Because depression doesn’t, and shouldn’t, define you. I mentioned some people above who at the time treated me not so good…… it was ignorance, lack of education on the subject, it was frustration and being hurt also from it. Depression effects everyone! The only reason I mention those incidences so honestly, is to share my story, to share what happens when people are not educated and have these misconception. Not to make these people look bad, they are good people, who didn’t understand. Depression does not just affect the individual it affects the whole family. I do not fault anyone who did not understand. But I will help educate more so others are not ignorant and this happens less and less. Please pass your knowledge along to others, take the knowledge you have and help someone. Please feel free to share this is you would like.
Another Post I did the same week, which are both related:
I have suffered from depression, I am not afraid to admit this. Since then, I have tried to help others who fight this battle also. sadly Robin lost his!! Lets prevent others from losing theirs!!
Creating motivation when feeling depressed can be one of the most difficult things a person can do. An episode of DEPRESSION can be physically and emotionally draining. The simplest of tasks seem to take maximum effort, and sometimes even beyond maximum. Some may feel lethargic. It may be tough make meals, or clean up at home, or take showers, or even get out of bed.
Navigating motivation when depressed can be tough because the instinct is to wait for the energy to return. People who are depressed often fall into the trap of trying to wait it out — that if you give in to the urge to stay in bed for a few days, that you’ll be re-energized and recharged, believing you’ll have exorcised the DEPRESSION demons by just “going with it”.
Unfortunately, it’s not usually as simple as this. If everybody tried to wait out their depressive episodes, some people would be in bed for 20 years, realizing somewhere along the way that depression actually tends to breed depression if it’s not actively confronted. That’s right, catering to our depressive urges actually reinforces them.
Obviously, actively doing anything doesn’t sound so desirable when feeling depressed, let alone confronting our depressive urges head-on. While it’s important to give depressive symptoms their attention and get to understand and learn about what’s underlying the depressive episode, the concept of “mind over matter” can help create motivation when depressed. I have seen evidence with many people that creating a change in mindset with small, manageable, behavioral steps can change a whole experience of depression. For some it’s brought their symptoms entirely into remission. This doesn’t replace taking the steps to learn more about what’s causing the episodes, but these steps can help us move on with our lives while we continue to work on the underlying issues.
Let’s look at some steps that can help break an episode or a cycle of depression.
1) Opposite Action – In Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (an offshoot of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy), Opposite Action is the idea of forcing yourself to do something that you know is good for you, in order to prevent the reinforcement of a bad habit. For example, if you want to stay on the couch and watch tv all day, when realizing this only gives in to depression, opposite action would say to get up and go out, knowing it would be a healthier behavior. It’s very much a “just to the opposite of your unhealthy urge” technique. In CBT, the principle is that your behaviors can create positive changes in your emotions.
2) Set an Alarm – This isn’t only for getting out of bed. The alarm can be for anything that marks a SYMPTOM OF DEPRESSION. You might set an alarm to wake yourself up at a certain time to make sure you get out of bed in the morning; or you might set an alarm to signal a meal time if you’re missing meals, or signal time to do laundry, or run a particular set of errands, and so on. The alarm serves as a cue to draw your attention to a target area where you want to become more active in change.
3) Make Your Bed – Getting out of bed can be very tough with DEPRESSION. The first step to take is to sit up on the bed, put your feet on the floor, and visualize leaving all of your troubles and thoughts behind you in the bed. Then, get up and nicely make your bed, leaving the troubles behind for the day. Making the bed is essential in this process, as it signals to your brain that there isn’t an option to get back in the bed for the day. As you make your bed, it can also be helpful to imagine the troubles you’re left behind dissipating as the covers are pulled up.
4) Wash Up – The more routine-setting steps you’re able to add on after you make your bed, the better. Try washing your face and brushing your teeth to help wake you up. With these kind of steps you’re training your brain to understand that you’re getting ready for “something,” rather than simply a day laying around.
5) Get Dressed – This is a crucial step in separating from the bed to the day. Sitting around in pajamas on the couch is still possible, even if you escape the bedroom. Getting dressed decreases the urge to lounge, because again you’re reinforcing in your brain that you’re getting ready for something.
6) Go Outside – This can be one of the toughest steps for people who struggle with depression — actually leaving the house. One of the problems with this step is that people are easily held back by not having a place to go. “Okay, I can go outside…..but then what?” So for this step, the idea is to not have a place to go. The goal is going outside, not the particular place you go once you’re outside. Go outside, close the door behind you, and do whatever comes to mind — a walk around the block, down the street, pacing in front of your house, getting in your car and driving on an errand, and so on. It can be anything or nothing at all, but the goal is to spend at least ten minutes outside before going back in.
7) Choose One Exercise – Getting your body moving is a good way to start feeling better. Choose an exercise that works for you: walking, running, swimming, jump-roping, etc. Whatever you choose to do, make it a point to do it every day when you go outside. And if it’s an indoor exercise (like a treadmill), do it before you go outside.
8) Make a List of Activities – Brainstorm activities that you’d enjoy doing. Include things to do at home and out with people. Try to generate a list of things that includes others and that gives you some time to yourself. The activities can be a mix of productive (e.g. work-related) activities, and hobbies, and self-care.
9) Schedule Activities – Schedule the activities throughout the week. Try to plan out either one or two weeks ahead of time and actually write the activities into your calendar with specific days and times. Spread them out as much as possible and make sure to stick to the schedule.
10) Daily Necessity Schedule — This schedule is if you’re having trouble getting motivated to do your daily activities — such as eating, cooking, showering, or other household chores. For this, you’re creating a daily home schedule. Choose the specific times you’re going to do each activity every day. It can be as specific as you feel you need: time to get dressed, brush your teeth, start cooking, eating, showering, turning off the tv before bed, and so on. This is to help you get your daily necessities actually functioning on a daily basis.
11) See Family and Friends – This one is more about the people than the activity. Being around other people is often helpful for mood improvement. Schedule specific dates and times with friends and family, outside of the house. The more you can remove yourself from the environment of DEPRESSION (usually the home and bedroom), the better chance of overcoming it.
12) Psychotherapy – It’s important to keep in mind that the desire to stay inside and and lay around isn’t what causes depression — it is a symptom of depression. Psychotherapy remains a necessary step throughout the process of dealing with depression in order to prevent further episodes, reduce severity, and hopefully be rid of depression altogether. Even if we can resolve some of the motivational issues through pushing ourselves to take behavioral steps, the internal issues that are causing the depression still need to be addressed. Otherwise, when our motivation drops, the depression may return if we don’t have a handle on the underlying issues.
What’s most important to keep in mind is that you’re not going to feel like doing anything discussed above. If you’re going to wait to “feel like it”, then it may not happen. Using opposite action will be the necessary first step to conquering DEPRESSION — knowing in your mind that it will be good for you to take the steps to move forward, and just doing it. By also engaging in psychotherapy, you’re still able to give appropriate attention to what’s happening inside of you, including if medication therapy may (or may not) also be helpful. You do have the power to increase your motivation and to break out of depression. It may take some effort, but the opportunity is there for you to reclaim your life.
Please see and use the following info if you or someone you know needs help.
No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.