Day Thirteen: Try (Another) Blogging Event

#DearDepression

Ten years ago, just after my 40th birthday, I experienced my first bout with depression. Almost every day, I would “cheerfully” bring my children to school, take the bus home and break down in floods of tears as soon as I was alone in our house. I remember the moment I decided to make an appointment with my GP ~ I brought my kids to school, walked to the bus stop and sat there waiting for the bus, crying. That I didn’t care who saw me crying was enough to convince me to ask for help.

Why was I depressed? My marriage had been over long before I uttered the word “divorce”. For years, I felt “emotionally” divorced from him, due to a long history of abusive, controlling behavior. Life with my ex-husband was exhausting, to say the least; the sleep deprivation {purposely caused by him constantly interrupting my attempts to get a good night’s rest} didn’t help.

The abuse escalated when I told him I wanted a divorce. I couldn’t move out because I had no money, nowhere to go (my family and friends lived thousands of miles away). When he accepted that our marriage was over, he decided that I was his worst enemy and treated me as such. I hasten to add that my abuser was a highly intelligent man who knew just how far he could go without the risk of facing criminal charges. He knew ~ and exploited ~ my weaknesses and he made it very clear that he would not easily let me go. I felt trapped in my situation, with no idea how I was going to escape.

When I saw my doctor, I explained my circumstances to give him an idea of why I felt depressed and requested a referral for counseling. Before he did anything, he asked me if I wanted a prescription for anti-depressants. Without hesitation, I declined and explained that I knew I wasn’t experiencing a chemical imbalance; the cure for my depression meant me divorcing my husband and moving on with my life. It was almost as if he didn’t really hear anything I’d told him; if he had listened, he’d have known that anti-depressants weren’t the answer to my problem. Medicines wouldn’t make my situation better; I needed a clear mind to deal with my abusive situation.

Initially, he referred me to a counseling service which catered exclusively to women. There, I saw two female counselors (separate phases) over a two-year period. During my sessions with each counselor, I openly detailed what was going on in my marriage but neither ever mentioned the possibility of abuse. Both counselors suggested that I was to blame because I wasn’t “assertive enough”. The second counselor made me feel as though she was most certainly in agreement with my abuser on several issues I brought up in our sessions. Once I completed that phase with her, I took a break from counseling, convinced that I was beating my head against a brick wall. How could I get help if everyone blamed me for what was going on?

My next phase of counseling took place with a different organization. Shortly after my assessment, I was given a male counselor who became an integral part of my healing and empowerment. Best. Counselor. Ever.

I’m writing this post because I want to share what I learned from my experiences with depression and counseling. I am happy to say that I successfully escaped the abusive situation. My abuser has since passed away; he can’t cause any further pain for my children or me, but it hasn’t been easy to deal with the aftermath of the abuse. Additionally, I lost my mom in March 2014, so there are times when I still struggle with staying out of the “black hole”. I have good days and bad, but I simply take one day at a time.

So without further ado, here’s what I learned/realized about depression in the past decade:

  • The right counselor makes all the difference in the world. It may be difficult to request another counselor, but it’s worth remembering that you’re entrusting your mental health to someone; please make sure that it’s going to help, not hinder the healing process. Keep searching until you find the right one.
  • Before consenting to any medication, consider whether your depression would lessen or disappear completely if your circumstances/situation were different. Don’t just accept medication because it’s offered. Medication does not come without potentially serious side effects (including suicidal thoughts(!!)).
  • Counseling sessions are important but so too is the time spent preparing for sessions and reflecting upon what you and your counselor discussed. Be sure to set aside some time before and after each session. Remember, it’s you-time!
  • There is no shame in attending counseling. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to face one’s issues. Being “real” about things might be difficult but the rewards ~ personal growth and lessons learned ~ are worth it.
  • Resist emotional crutches, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, food, shopping, etc. Numbing the pain is only temporary and addictions create more ~ BIGGER! ~ problems in the long-term.
  • Consider more “organic” methods to lift your mood: get enough exercise, healthy foods, rest, sun exposure, and Vitamin D; listen to music; keep a journal, watch comedy, reach out to those in your support network, go to church. Sometimes, even just fixing hair/make-up and wearing something nice helps.
  • Don’t expect overnight results. It takes some time to work through issues to find permanent solutions. Expect good days and bad days. The key is to find effective coping mechanisms for the bad days (see organic methods mentioned above) and making the most of the really good ones. I find that writing about the good days in a journal is a great way of reinforcing the feelings of happiness; additionally, re-reading the journal when necessary is a good “go-to” activity on the bad days because it serves a reminder that there are bright spots to celebrate.
  • Resist the urge to withdraw from your trusted social network…BUT distance yourself from toxic people. Being around those who understand what it means to be depressed is more beneficial than those who are inclined to say “What could you possibly feel depressed about? You have everything!” or “Snap out of it!” (like it’s THAT easy).
  • Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I have never, ever been suicidal, despite feeling terribly depressed at times. Things have never gotten that bad for me to feel like I want to end it all because I do have a purpose for living ~ my kiddos. Suicide doesn’t solve “a” problem; it creates a whole ‘nother mess of problems for everyone left behind. It robs them of the chance to find just the right “key” that might make all the difference between life and death. That key exists for all of us and it’s just a matter of finding it. For some people, it takes no time or effort and for others, it takes a bit longer. We all have a purpose here and finding it is part of the adventure.

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain

In conclusion, I think it’s important for us to understand that depression is not something that responds to an On/Off switch. Because someone seems to “have it all” doesn’t make them immune to depression. We never know true circumstances, from the outside looking in. Some people are really adept at hiding things very well; it doesn’t mean they’re happy. We can help by making our family members and friends feel comfortable with reaching out to us when they need to. It’s not always necessary to fix everything that’s wrong; sometimes, all that’s needed is an understanding ear and a friendly shoulder.

{Hugs}

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6 thoughts on “Day Thirteen: Try (Another) Blogging Event

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post! You wrote this so beautifully, it emotionally moved me. I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression for quite a few years now, and this really made me feel like people care and are out there who understand. Your tips are great too, thank you for those! I’m going to have to write them down to reflect on. I’m also so happy that you’re no longer dealing with an abusive relationship and are working on healing and moving forward! All my best to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi again!

      I’m so pleased that reading this post helped you, which is precisely the reason I write ~ to share my experiences so that others can relate and know that they’re not alone. I’ve also had a lot of experience helping others suffering from depression and anxiety.

      I’m glad you find my tips helpful, too. I also want to suggest that you follow the tag #deardepression, {the source of the community event I participated in for the task} because you may find it helpful to read posts from other people and, perhaps, share your own.

      If there’s ever anything I can do, please contact me via the form or feel free to connect with me on any social media sites.

      It’s nice to meet you and I do hope you’ll stay in touch.

      {Hugs}
      Carol

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, I’m definitely going to follow that tag too. It’s really great you’re trying to help other people and that there’s a community for it. I’ve always just tried to work things out myself, and while that sometimes works it also doesn’t, so I really appreciate the tips and other resources. 🙂 I’m really glad I’ve met you and I’ll definitely stay in touch, thank you.
        {Hugs back at you} – Lydia 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think that people who experience their share of adversity are sensitive to others who are silently suffering. I can tell when someone is genuinely sad ~ their eyes betray their smiles (I know this because mine did for many years). This is especially true of people in abusive situations who try so hard to cover up what’s going on, but don’t smile with their entire face. Most often, one has to have first-hand experience to really notice it in others.

        I’m glad to have met you, too. I’ve followed your blog and look forward to reading more from you. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • This is so true! I too had perfected the smiling without your eyes. Someone once told me, “If you’re happy, smile. If you’re sad, don’t.” It may not seem like much, but I’ve really tried to do that instead of hiding what I’m feeling. Thanks so much for following my blog! 🙂 I look forward to posting more and reading more from you as well. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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