Today on Feb 5th bloggers from all over are collaborating to flood social media with their personal stories about depression and how to accurately and effectively manage depression. Day of Light was created to bring depression out of the dark and to shine a light on this topic that so many feel the need to keep hidden. Day of Light is also meant to share resources with those that are struggling.
My Day of Light story is long, complicated and definitely far more in depth than what I can say on a blog post so I will summarize the best I can.
As a young teenager I always felt different somehow from the rest of the kids. I seemed to always be pursuing a "happy place" and unfortunately never finding it. I looked for this "happy" in many good and bad places. This incessant search led me to dark places and ultimately to a point where at the age of 15 I wanted to die. At school I smiled, I tried to please my teachers, I had friends and I had enemies. I had a very loving mother and a father that was never home due to work. I wore a mask on a daily basis refusing to allow anyone to see the disease that was spreading through me because I was 15. I was confused, scared, lonely even though I had friends. I was more than anything clueless to what depression was. My search for "happy" was a never-ending search that drove me to alcohol and drugs at a young age, sex at a young age and the constant need to please others caused me to find myself being used more often than not. After an unsuccessful suicide attempt at age 15 there was no pill given to me, no counseling, no intervention of any kind. There was silence. More darkness. Secrets. Why? Because back then even more so than now depression or mental-illness wasn't talked about openly. It was shameful. Dirty. There was very little information on the topic and parents really had no idea how to deal with a depressed teenager because isn't that "normal" for teenagers? Many think so but I am here to tell you, no. This is not okay and it's not just a phase that will pass in the night. I know because I have lived it.
Fast forward to my young adult life where I was still searching for that "happy", still not being able to find it and still having no idea what this hole inside me was from. Having no idea why no matter what I did I felt hollow, empty, sad, alone and confused. Again at age 20 I found myself no longer wanting to fight that disease that lurked beneath the facade I wore everyday and I again attempted to commit suicide. My 15 year old self had followed me 5 years into the future proving that this darkness was far from leaving my side. Laying in a hospital with a tube down my throat having my stomach pumped to rid it of bottle after bottle of pills I found myself at another incredibly scary precipice. This time I was given a pamphlet about available counseling in the area. I remember the day I drove by the counseling center and told myself there was no way I was going there. Those places were for crazy people. Then I remember thinking, "am I crazy?" I shook those thoughts away and decided I should just see a doctor. I made an appointment and that day I was simply written a prescription for an anti-depressant. I picked this very expensive prescription up at the local pharmacy and I remember looking at the tiny pills thinking, "I found it!" I thought I had found "happy" in those pills and boy was I ever wrong. Sure they brought me out of some of the lows but for some reason there were no more highs. I was just existing. That's not the "happy" I was looking for.
Many years later after falling in love, having children and having a life that to most on the outside would see as wonderful and happy I still fought that demon that seemed to never leave me. That darkness was still there every day robbing me of the things in my life that I should have been enjoying. It had been eating away at me for most my life but now it was doing more than hurting me. It was hurting my husband and children. I was not the mother or wife that I wanted to be and I certainly wasn't the me that I wanted to be. Some days even the smallest of tasks like taking a shower or getting myself dressed was next to impossible. The bed was my safe place; sleep my escape. While my children learned and played at preschool, I slept. I cried. I feared and I cut myself on a daily basis to remind myself that I could feel and control a form of pain that was ultimately a release to me. One day it all became too much and I sought out help myself. I did this because I looked at my children and I promised myself that I would survive for them because they didn't deserve to live a life motherless. So instead of making that final, deep, life-ending cut I called and made an appointment with a therapist.
That was the day that I saved my own life.
I stayed in therapy for a long time. I did everything my therapist asked of me. I attended group sessions, individual sessions, marital sessions and I also was prescribed a combination of mood stabilizers that did help. It wasn't easy. It was in fact very hard and some days I wanted to quit but I didn't. The therapy combined with the medications brought some light into my life and the darkness began to fade. The ending of this story is not perfect. Some days I am that 15 year old girl all over again. That 20 year old all over again. That terrified mother all over again. What most people don't realize about depression is that it will always try to push its way back into your life. Sometimes it creeps up on me when I'm least expecting it and I have to make a conscious decision to fight it with the tools I was given in therapy. I am no longer on medication and I do find "happy" a lot of days. The thing that I have learned about depression and mental-illness is that it's an ongoing fight each and every day to love yourself. To embrace your life and to stop being afraid of what society or those around you think. Being imprisoned by stigma is an eternal prison that you will never escape until you bring who you truly are out into the light.
Talking to your family and friends about how you are feeling, reaching out to professionals about your inner struggles and seeking the proper treatment is NEVER bad, wrong, dirty or something you should attach shame to. Depression and mental-illnesses are in fact illnesses just like cancer or any other ailment that hurts our bodies or brain. There are ways to get better and there is hope for you to live a full life that you can and will embrace and enjoy.
Step out of the dark and into the light. Get help and be proud of how courageous you are to do so.
For more stories like mine and resources for help check out one of my favorite bloggers HERE
Or you can call Lifeline 800-273-TALK to speak to trained professionals