By D.D Kelly
For most of my life I have suffered from depression. Although there were some periods when I was not depressed, it was always there, lurking in the background, like chronic back pain. I think my first bout with it happened when I was ten years old. Let’s just say I had a difficult childhood; one that my mind still lovingly protects me from, as I don’t remember much before the age of eight. The few memories I do have always take place outside of my home. There was violence in my house. My father was a raging alcoholic and exhibited all the behaviors that come along with that. Although I don’t remember much, I’ve pieced enough together through talking to my parents, both now deceased, and reading my mother’s journals of that time to know that I was a child in the midst of chaos. Without going into too many details, I will say that I experienced quite a few traumas at a young age. This caused me to go into deep depressions very early on.
I know now that I had “triggers” to my depression. I didn’t know that then. I would go along and be fine then all of a sudden fall into deep bouts of depression. This went on, off and on since I was ten until just last year! I am now thirty-seven years old. I was depressed for so long, that honestly, I thought this was normal. I thought that life just sucked most of the time, that it was hard, painful. Oh well… “Keep it moving” was my motto. I just went through the motions of life, not really enjoying much.
I’m sure those of you who’ve known me for many years are shocked by this. You see, that is a symptom of depression: the shame, the embarrassment, the feeling of being weak, worthless, unlovable. The hiding. Oh, I had it all, did it all…with a smile on my face, no less. I got so good at the pretense that no one ever knew or would even guess that inside I felt like dying. I did try to get some help. I started going to therapy in my late twenties. It helped. For a while. But the depression would always come back eventually. All I had to do was wait for it. It was frustrating. Eventually, I gave up and resigned myself to the fact that something just must be wrong with me. I thought maybe I was one of those people who was just…broken. I accepted it and decided to make the most of my life.
Ironically, my path to healing began with a serious bout of depression. Post partum depression with my second daughter. As I shared in my last post, I suffered from it (unknowingly) with my first daughter but the second time, I was lucky enough to have given birth at a hospital that had just rolled out a program to combat postpartum depression. The program worked by taking a screening of pregnant women right before they gave birth to determine their risk of having postpartum depression. Naturally, I passed with flying colors and it was determined that I was at a high risk for depression after birth. With this knowledge, the hospital staff kept very close tabs on me after I delivered. Once I went home, someone would call me every few days to see how I was feeling. They asked pointed questions to determined my state. Two weeks after I came home with the baby, it was determined that I was at an increased risk. Enough so that it was recommended I go see a psychiatrist. She advised me to take Zoloft – an anti-depressant. I balked. Meds? Me? NEVER! After much talking to by my husband and sister-in-law who had come out to help with the new baby, I took the meds.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made. Those several months that I took Zoloft were eye-opening. For the first time in my life, I was not depressed and I didn’t have those niggling “depression feelings”. For the first time, it wasn’t there in the background! It was incredible. I thought,” THIS is what normal feels like! Wow!” Unfortunately, feeling good and normal was not normal for me – it actually scared me because it was so foreign. I thought the drugs were making me crazy. I stopped taking them. I see now that my pride would not allow me to be on anti-depressants. For a while, I was ok. Depression was at bay. But then, I encountered my trigger, and down I went.
Last summer, I hit my “rock bottom” with depression. I had a job at a skilled nursing facility where I spent my day reading medical files of sick, old and dying people. I was the Admissions Director. It was my job to determine who was a good candidate for my facility. After reading their files, I met with them or their family members to further discuss their upcoming admittance into a nursing home. This job sent me into my worst depression yet. Something as simple as taking a shower felt like I was preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. It was horrible. I contemplated suicide. My daughters were the reason that I dismissed those thoughts. I had lost my mother when I was 32 years old and it was devastating. I could only imagine what it would be like for my babies who were 2 and 4 years old! I could not do that to them. For them, I had to push through. My marriage suffered. It took everything in me just to perform the daily functions of motherhood and work. I had nothing left for my husband. I had nothing left for myself. I knew that this was bad but it was like being stuck in mud; I could not for the life of me get myself out. I became increasingly distant, ashamed. I isolated myself from people who loved me. I just couldn’t fake it anymore – the happiness- so I just stayed away from people.
Finally, I had had enough. I was so tired of being depressed. I decided that I would go get help and I was determined to make this my last attempt. I found strength when I thought of my children. I couldn’t fight for myself, but I could fight for them. They deserved a good mother; a whole mother, who would be present in their lives, not just “getting through” life. They deserved a happy mother, and by God I was going to give that to them.
I pulled myself together and made the call to a psychiatrist. This time, I decided to attack this disease differently. I read up on it. I got my hormones tested. As it turned out, and not surprisingly, all the hormones that had anything to do with pleasure and happiness etc. were at levels so low that my psychiatrist marveled at the fact that I was even able to function. I read everything about depression. I chose to take supplements that would replenish the low hormonal levels and allow my body to do the rest instead of taking anti-depressants. My healing approach was three-pronged: Body, Mind and Spirit. I healed my body by taking the supplements, exercising, taking daily vitamins, getting plenty of rest, eating healthy foods. I healed my mind by going to therapy for 3 hours per week, reading books about depression and about overcoming depression. I left my job. Finally, I healed my spirit by coming to my truth. I discovered my trigger and eliminated it. I meditated. I sat alone quietly. A lot. I prayed.
Today, I can finally say, I have triumphed. I have beaten depression. It is gone. For good. I know it. I feel it. In my body, my mind and in my spirit.
I thought long and hard before writing this piece; even longer before deciding to publish it. Am I ready to share my story? What is my intention in doing this? I write this because I know that someone reading is struggling with depression. I hope that you hold on. Find something to fight for – it may not be for you – that’s ok, it’s a start. Make the decision to heal, but don’t try do it alone. Begin your journey. And when you heal, give the world the gift of you.
Categories: Spirit Matters