Some of you know this, and some of you don't.
I have depression.
It is a disease.
I've had it since I was a child. I didn't know what it was until my early twenties. I don't talk about it as much as I used to because I am doing much better. I know how to manage it now. It's like any other disease that needs to be managed. Sometimes I take medication for it and sometimes I don't. It depends on how bad it is. I've found blogging to be a wonderful therapy for me. It gives me an outlet to vent.
Depression is not "made up". You can't "just snap out of it". Some people think it is caused by sin. It can be, but not always, although sin can contribute to the severity of the symptoms. There are different kinds and different levels of depression. My depression is hereditary. I have a family history of it and I have that gene built into my genetic code. It is a chemical imbalance within the brain. It took a great deal of convincing from my doctor to finally accept this truth. Over the course of the last ten years or so, I have become educated and now have a better understanding of the disease and how it personally affects me. I know what triggers a 'low' episode and what symptoms to watch for so that I know when I can't treat it myself and I need to take my medication again. Not everyone is this lucky. Some people require medication all the time - there is nothing wrong with that. I just know that MY depression is mild and I don't have to take it all the time. I know that poor diet, stress, a lack of sunshine (Vitamin D), not enough exercise, and irregular sleep are all triggers for me.
You may be wondering why I'm talking about this today.
I'm talking about depression today because I read a blog post this morning from the sister-in-law to a man who committed suicide last week. Cheryl over at Happy Meets Crazy wrote this heartfelt post today and it pricked my heart. I feel so extremely sad for this family today.
You see - I almost attempted suicide eleven years ago... twice... in the same week. I had quit nursing my youngest son a few months earlier. It was so strange - I had severe post partum depression with my other two babies, but for some reason, I felt the best I had ever felt with baby #3... until I quit nursing. As soon as I quit nursing him my hormones went crazy and I went into the lowest depression I had ever felt. And then my grandfather died unexpectedly from a heart attack after spending his last day on this earth at my house. I sunk even lower. The funeral was in my mom's hometown - 3 1/2 hours away. I was in bad shape. As we were driving home from the funeral, my husband and children were sleeping in the car. The route home went through some sharp turns and switchbacks up and down steep canyons. As we came to a sharp corner with a steep dropoff the thought entered my mind to just drive straight - right off the cliff - instead of staying on the road and making the turn. "It would be the perfect solution," I thought to myself. Then my husband and children would all go with me and I wouldn't have to feel bad about leaving them behind. I replayed it a dozen times in those few seconds coming up to the turn in the road. At the last second, I decided I could not live with myself throughout eternity if I went through with such a horrible thing. I didn't tell my husband until we got home what I had contemplated. A day or two later I was in the tub taking a bubble bath - escaping. Over and over in my mind I considered just sinking into the water and ending it. I almost did it, but just like the cliff, convinced myself it would be a terrible thing to do.
I was tired. Tired of fighting to stay sane. Tired of the extreme sadness. Tired of the self-loathing. Tired of the aches in my body. Tired of the stress. Tired of being tired. Tired of life. I was at my limit. And I couldn't go any further. I needed help.
I told my sister about it and she told our doctor (we went to the same doctor) what was going on. She just happened to have an appointment the day I told her. This wonderful doctor told my sister to call me and that he wanted to see me THAT DAY. He made room for me and squeezed me in. My sister and my doctor saved my life. I have no doubt about that.
Let me tell you about the miracle I experienced that day.
My husband went with me to see the doctor. He was worried about me too, but he was too close to the situation and didn't know what to do to help me. I know that he was grateful for my sister for saying something to the doctor. Our doctor was in the next town over - an hour away.
I sat on the exam room table and cried. I cried all the time at that point. I couldn't stop, no matter how hard I tried. He told me that I was depressed. He told me that I needed medication. I told him that I didn't want to take medicine because that meant that I wasn't strong enough, that I was a failure. I told him that if I took the medicine, that meant I was crazy. I didn't want to be crazy. He was kind, compassionate, and understanding. He explained to me that having depression isn't something someone chooses. It means the hormones in my brain were messed up. "It's been proven by science," he tells me. I still didn't understand and didn't really believe him, but I took the written prescription he handed me with the instructions to fill it right away and not to wait. I'm desperate for relief at this point so I listen to him. I decide to trust him.
We drove the couple of miles up the road to Walgreens. We decided not to wait and fill it at my local pharmacy at home. It took forever to get it filled. They didn't have any of my insurance paperwork. They had to set me up as a new customer. I just wanted my medicine and to go home. It took almost an hour to fill the prescription.
You know how it feels when you are in fog? The fog is low, dense, and the visibility is low. It's claustrophobic. It can be frightening for some. That's what depression feels like. There is literally a 'fog' over a person's mind when they are suffering from depression. The lower the low of the episode, the denser the fog is. I can feel it. I ALWAYS know when it is there. It clouds my ability to concentrate and has a heaviness to it that permeates my head, from the inside out. It's a relief when it's not there or when it's minimal. That is the best way I know how to describe what it is like.
That day, eleven years ago, the fog was the worst it had ever been for me. But I had hope as I waited in that Walgreens, even if it was just a slight hope. I still wasn't convinced the medicine would help me, but I had nowhere else to place my hope at that point.
So I finally got my prescription filled and got to the car. I didn't wait. I immediately opened up that bottle and took my first pill.
We decided to take the scenic route home and drive over the mountain. By the time we drove from the Walgreens to the other end of town, about 15 minutes, I felt it. I still remember where we were when I felt it. We were driving past Taco Bell. I felt a tingling in my head. It was like that tingling feeling you get in your foot after it has fallen asleep from a lack of circulation and then you move and the blood starts flowing again. And then I literally FELT the fog lift from my brain. I turned to my husband and said, "Oh my goodness! I feel it! I feel it!" The heaviness was going away. The pain was less. I could 'think' again. I felt like a caged animal who had been set free after a long period of captivity. It was an actual physical sensation. It was real. What my doctor told me was true. It really WAS the chemicals in my brain that were messed up. It wasn't all my fault! I wasn't imagining it! It was real! I wasn't crazy!
And then I realized I had been blessed with a miracle. A loving Heavenly Father heard my pleas, heard my family's pleas, and blessed me. My doctor told me it could take two weeks for me to feel better and to know if the medicine was helping. I felt it in 15 minutes! How could I ever discount that and NOT say that that was a miracle? What else could it be?
Not everyone is blessed with those kinds of results that are that quickly felt. I was truly blessed. I have not ever had that same experience with the medicine since then. I still take the same kind, but I don't need to be on it all the time. I am on the lowest dosage and can take it as needed. But I never let myself get as low as I was then either. I watch for the signs and I treat myself. I usually need it during the winter months because extreme stress and being cooped up indoors are my worst triggers and almost always send me into a tailspin - the holiday season from November to New Year's Eve is hard. So I listen to my body and I listen to my family and friends who watch out for me and tell me when they are worried about me getting low again. I am blessed with a wonderful support network who help me along. I am one of the lucky ones. Not everyone is as lucky as I have been.
I have told this experience to a few people. This is the first time I have actually written it down for the whole world to know this about me. But I do this for a purpose. I want to share my experience in hopes that someone out there will find hope in their own struggle with depression or have hope for a friend or family member who struggles. If you or or someone you know has depression - please love them, support them, watch out for them. If you see them struggling and sinking, don't be afraid to talk to them about it. Let them know you care and that you aren't judging them and that you want to be a support to them. Most people will only take advice from someone they are close to and trust - a sibling, a spouse, a best friend. If you are one of those people for someone with depression, don't be afraid to help them get help. You may even need to go as far as scheduling them to see a doctor and then take them to the appointment - if you are close enough to the person to do that for them. I do not doubt whatsoever that my sister saved my life by getting involved and involving our doctor. I never would have made the appointment myself. I will eternally be grateful to her for that.
If you or someone you know struggles with depression and would like to talk to me about your experience I would love to hear from you. You can email me at email@example.com. It's never too late to fight depression or to help someone you love who has it. Whatever you do... hang on a little longer. Don't give up. It CAN get better! I'm living proof of that!