Ordinarily, I link up with Kathy for Humpday Confessions. This week, though, I needed to take a break because there’s been something weighing on my mind and I wanted to get it out.
It’s about my depression.
Not in the way I usually talk about it. From a different perspective.
For those who are new, here’s a brief synopsis: approximately three years ago, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and mild PTSD (I think this last one is a bit of a stretch but we’ll roll with it). I’m pretty sure I’ve had depression and anxiety for years prior to the diagnosis, although it was usually termed “low self-esteem” or “being high strung”. And while those might also be the case, depression and anxiety are real, DSM diagnoses, making my issues more tangible and concrete. People can accept those without incessantly peppering conversation with pop psychology or motivational, inspirational quotes (although they’re nice and well meaning, they truly don’t help).
After a major depressive episode, and anxiety attack, I decided to take mental health leave from my job (which, given the nature of what I was doing at the time, didn’t help my issues). While on leave, I actually started to feel better. More like myself than I had felt in a long time. Therapy wasn’t helping (we can talk about that another day, how a therapist can make your problems worse. Job security, I guess, for some of them), but other treatments were. The meds helped. Being home definitely helped. Exercise, something I had always hated in the past, made a huge difference.
The main point, though, is that I finally started to heal. I could see the clichéd light at the end of the tunnel. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m not fully out of the tunnel and probably never will be, but I’m basically the lead car in a traffic jam. And coming through it made me realize just how grateful I am for my depression. Because it has reshaped what’s important to me and gave me new perspective on just about everything. When you’re in that dark of a place, it all seems hopeless. As you come out of it, though, you realize just how amazing life can be.
And for me, my depression shifted my priorities and perspectives. In fact, when it all comes down to it, I owe my depression a debt of gratitude. Because without it, I:
- Would not have quit my job. Make no mistake about it, it’s not easy, financially, around these parts. But the value of not being stressed or sad when I go to work is worth it. Every. Single. Day.
- Would not be pursuing my dream of writing. As long as I can remember, I have wanted to have a book published and available for sale in a book store. I never thought, though, that I had anything good or valuable to write or say and that my ideas weren’t creative enough. I know now that’s not true.
- Would not have had the strength to dump toxic people from my life. Or allow in those who make me better. Even as adults, it does not cease to amaze me how strong the influence our peers and friends have over our lives. Having friends around you know you can count on, and who don’t see life as some twisted competition you’ll never win, is essential.
- Would not have learned to enjoy exercising. I’ll be honest. I’m pretty lazy. I’d rather read a book or binge watch Netflix than do basically anything. But as part of my therapy, I was instructed to exercise for roughly an hour a day. So I started doing that. And now? Well, now, exercising is not at all a chore, I’ve found what I like doing, and I look forward to my workouts. I might not have lost much weight but I’m healthier than I have ever been.
- Would not appreciate the small moments. Although it’s different for everyone, depression has a way of making you feel like you don’t exist. Like you’re a shell or a shadow. It’s hard to feel any emotion. For me, learning to live with mine is, in part, learning to relish in the small moments. Watching the fireflies in my yard during a rainstorm. Listening to my daughter laugh hysterically. Petting my dog and have him lick my face (or foot, depending on which dog). Finding a movie to watch with my husband and that we both agree on. Normal, every day moments that are a big deal because now, I can acknowledge how incredible they are and that I’m glad to simply be feeling something.
My depression and anxiety have shaped who I’ve become. I won’t go so far as to say they’ve made me a better person but through them, I have learned a lot about myself. What and who I truly love, who I can rely on, what really matters. Knowing that means more to me than anything.
And for as much as I want to hate my issues, and some days I do, it’s hard to hate them without embracing and thanking them, too.
I saw this quote (and yes, I appreciate the irony of having a quote like this when I mentioned that inspiring quotes don’t help) but I thought it fitting (also, I don’t know if Elizabeth Edwards really is the woman who said this but that was the attribute on Pinterest, where I found the quote so let’s run with it):
P.S. I write about my depression and anxiety both as a therapeutic mechanism for me and as a way of bringing a voice to them. There is still such a stigma surrounding these issues and the more people talk about them, the more they make them human, the stigma will lessen. That is my hope anyway.