Beginning around age 13, I was filled with a lot of self-hatred. I felt like I couldn’t do anything right. I hurt in the inside all the time, to the point where it would physically manifest as headaches, back aches, chest pain. When I would have anxiety attacks, it would feel like I had a belt around my chest, getting tighter and tighter, until I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to breathe. Some days it felt like I was wading through molasses. Everything was so slow, and it was hard to motivate myself to do anything. I had to talk myself up to do anything. I would say, “Just get out of bed, come on, just start with that, just get out of bed.” The thought of facing the entire day was too much sometimes. I started cutting myself to distract myself from the way I felt inside. I cut myself in order to try to cope with what I was feeling. It felt better to hurt on the outside than on the inside.
I continued cutting on my arms until I realized people noticed. When my parents saw, they were horrified. They had never heard of self-harm and didn’t really know what to do with me. They sent me to counseling, and I was started on antidepressants. My pediatrician recommended admitting me to a psychiatric hospital, and my parents took me to one to be assessed. The doctors recommended that I stay, but my parents backed out at the last minute, because they were afraid that I would just learn more “bad habits” from the other kids hospitalized there. My boyfriend at the time broke up with me when he noticed the cuts. He said that I was “schizo.” I started cutting on places that my clothes would cover, so no one would see. My meds were changed over and over. They either didn’t work or they made me numb, and when I felt numb, I cut just so that I could feel something, anything.
My junior year of high school, I failed a semester of English, and in my house, not even C’s were allowed. I had a bunch of other little, insignificant things that happened around the same time, but finally I had just had enough. I thought about killing myself all the time. I usually tried my hardest to pretend to be happy. I was always smiling and laughed easily at anything. I am pretty sure most people had no idea that anything was wrong. At the end of the day, I was so tired from putting on my “happy face” that I would be absolutely exhausted, but I couldn’t sleep at night. I felt like I couldn’t shut my brain off. I had all these awful, negative thoughts swarming around in my head. One day, I just went home from school and swallowed every pill I could find, hoping it would be enough to kill me. My mom found me and took me to the ER where I had my stomach pumped. Again my meds were changed, and I bounced from counselor to counselor. I did not feel like anybody cared or understood. They may have, but I really just felt like they did not. I felt like everyone around me would be better off without me.
I felt like no one really wanted to help me. They could only throw a Band-Aid at me, when I felt like I was bleeding out. I just didn’t know how to get better, but finding faith in God really helped me to want to get better. I was at home taking summer school in between my freshman and sophomore year of college at this point. I had a psychiatrist who was happy to prescribe me meds, but I was still having some pretty intense panic attacks, three to five in a day sometimes. My mom was doing everything she could to try to help me. But it wasn’t enough. I decided that I would get better using God and my own strength and my friends and family.
So, in college, I wanted to get better, and having a relationship with really helped. It helped enough to help me graduate nursing school and get a fantastic job in a NICU, which I love. It helped me to establish healthy relationships and to meet the man that would become my husband. But as an adult, I still struggled and would occasionally get sucked back into my darkness. My husband could often tell that I was going to have a depressive period before I could. I think I was in denial when it was coming on, because I was afraid and didn’t want to deal with it.
I had one psychologist in high school who spoke to me about “retraining my brain.” He said that, oftentimes, our brain gets stuck in a pattern of negative thoughts and you have to work to break the cycle and to create new thinking habits to get out of the depression. I just didn’t know how to retrain my brain. I was young while seeing him and was not motivated at this point to get better, but the idea stuck with me and helped me later. A few years ago, my cousin recommended the book The Power of Now to me. That book helped to give me the tools to retrain my brain away from the negative thoughts, like my psychologist told me about years before. Once in a while, however, the negativity will start to creep back in, but thanks to The Power of Now I am able to recognize these thoughts and get rid of them. And thanks to God, I have the strength and motivation to fight the bad thoughts.
I would like to tell anyone struggling with depression that it can get better. It takes a lot of hard work, which is extra hard because the depression sucks the energy out of you. But it can be done! Also, it helps to find something to motivate you to want to get better. For me, my motivation to find recovery was God. That is the real key: deciding you want to get better. I realize now that for a while, I did not want to get better. It was comfortable and easy to stay in the bad mental place that I was living in. Since finding practicing tools to train my brain away from negativity, I can say that I no longer struggle with depression. Having dealt with depression in my past affects my life today by helping me to be more aware of my thoughts and more capable of handling them.