One day, while driving home by myself, a passenger showed up in my car. Unannounced and uninvited, the passenger sat down with me and told me, “If you drive your car into that tree over there, everything will be better.” The passenger’s words were disturbing, and I sat there stunned. Who was this passenger, and why was the passenger saying these upsetting things to me? Over the next several weeks, the passenger continued to creep into my car, without warning, whispering these same sinister words in my ear. And I sat there, frightened, and told no one.
After a few weeks, I mustered up the courage to confide in a close friend. She was concerned. So was I. “Who thinks about driving into a tree and killing themselves?” I asked her. My friend agreed that something was not right with me, and she encouraged me to see my doctor.
During the appointment, I sat still atop the exam table while my physician asked me a series of questions. “What is wrong with me?” I thought. “What is my doctor going to think of me?” The physician asked, “Do you enjoy doing the things you used to enjoy doing?” No, I responded. I couldn’t think of the last fun thing that I had done. “How is your energy level?” I don’t have any energy, I answered. “Do you have trouble concentrating on things?” No. Wait, yes. I was having trouble focusing on my studies. Last came the big question, the question that I had been dreading since I walked into the exam room : “Are you thinking about harming yourself?” Yes, I said. I don’t have a time picked out. I don’t have a well-thought out plan. But I’m having intrusive thoughts about killing myself.
I was prescribed a medication and therapy at my appointment and scheduled for a follow-up. And I learned the passenger’s name that day: depression.
Living With Depression
For most people living with depression, our story doesn’t end with, “I started taking medications and went to counseling, and now I’m better.” Depression is a disease process that we deal with on a daily basis.
Living with depression, I have my good days and my bad days. On my good days, I’m a talkative people-person who enjoys spending time with friends and family. I’m a runner, a car-based Christian music singer, a volunteer with the undeserved, a lover of literature and film, a binge-watcher of Portlandia, and an adventurer.
My bad days are another story entirely. On my bad days, I am sad, and I will burst into tears without warning and for no reason. My energy level can drop significantly, and I’ve spent some bad weekends almost entirely in bed. My running shoes sit unused on the shoe rack. There’s no singing. There’s no reading or watching movies or television because I can’t concentrate, and, even if I could, I don’t want to. I hope that family and friends won’t call me because I don’t want to talk to them. An overwhelming sense of sadness seems to well up inside of me, and I get a terrible feeling that this sadness and hopelessness will never end. It doesn’t matter how many times my depression has worsened and then improved. When my depression is at its worst, I am convinced that it will never end.
Each individual who has depression deals with the disease differently. Before I learned about intervention strategies I was drinking to deal with my depression symptoms, which only made it worse. I went to a holistic rehab and learned natural, positive ways to help me deal with my symptoms. Seeing that I could do positive activities without depending on the bottle for my depression allowed me to feel even less depressed. These are some strategies I learned at treatment that have helped me cope with my depression and they might be able to help you or someone you know.
- Medication: As my experience with depression has changed over time, so have my medications. I have been blessed to have physicians who work with me patiently and tailor treatment to help me as a unique individual.
- Therapy: It is amazing how talking aloud about your personal struggles can provide healing. I have worked with therapists who have provided empathy and insight that brightened my day and my outlook on life.
- Healthy Living: Eating nutritious foods and running improves both my physical health and my mental health.
- Spirituality: One of the most powerful articles I read about depression came from a fellow Christian coping with the disease. To deal with her depression, she will sometimes “imagine that God is physically holding [her].” Following her example has brought me peace and comfort when my depression is at its worst.
- Support System: My family and close friends know that I deal with depression, and they are there to support me on my terms when I need them.
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Charlie is a writer and researcher in the fields of mental health and addiction. After battling with both, Charlie has dedicated his time to writing about both issues with the goal to reduce the stigma associated with them. If one person can relate to my words then I have already made the world a better place.