Depression has settled into my life uninvited like a tag along side effect of chronic health issues. It enters and leaves me with little warning at times, the triggers barely recognizable to others. But I notice them. It's a battle that has been waged for nearly 20 years now, beginning with my first year of surgeries. The medical trauma I endured left a mental stain upon my psyche, a reminder of what transpired and what I wasn't able to escape. It accompanies the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that has been quietened over the years but remains lurking in the dark waiting to be resurrected at the most unwelcomed times once triggered. Together they lie at the edges of my life, waiting for entrance cues.
"DEPRESSION IS SUCH A CRUEL PUNISHMENT. THERE ARE NO FEVERS, NO RASHES, NO BLOOD TESTS TO SEND PEOPLE SCURRYING IN CONCERN, JUST THE SLOW EROSION OF SELF, AS INSIDIOUS AS CANCER. AND LIKE CANCER IT IS ESSENTIALLY A SOLITARY EXPERIENCE; A ROOM IN HELL WITH ONLY YOUR NAME ON THE DOOR." - Martha Manning, Undercurrents
Over the years I've come a long way with my coping, keeping the depression and PTSD at bay with only periodic episodes. The last few years of more stable health contributes largely to the quietened PTSD symptoms. The depression, however, routinely visits sometimes lasting for a few weeks to months depending on the trigger event and my coping for navigating through to the other side. Although long lasting depression episodes are now limited in their occurrence, I'm fairly quick to enter a depressed mood with extreme crying, anger outbursts, and even suicidal ideations. Symptoms I've struggled with over the years.
Highly stressful, fearful, or physical or mental pain inducing moments and events frequently trigger my depressed moods and if unresolved leads to a depression episode. Upon entering a depressed mood, as a planner with the need for control I try to find an action plan for resolving the triggering issue. The depressed mood develops into depression typically when my action plans fail to resolve the issue in a timely manner or I begin to lose hope as I begin to feel buried or suffocated by the triggering event and life. Hopelessness is a very powerful emotion that requires guarding against at all times. Without hope, we are quickly able to be sucked into a spiral of despair that is increasingly difficult to escape, particularly without help and support.
outwards. The only time I experienced bullying was my first year returning to public school after I was home schooled for a year due to unstable health. The bullying fueled my depression unleashing an all consuming anger and hate. I began to blame others for my life and my misery, particularly my surgeon (who was at fault for medical incompetence), doctor, parents, and bullying peers. I secretly dreamt of torture for these parties to suffer for the pain I endured. I prayed, even begged, for my own death and theirs daily. This anger and hate grew within me into high school where the weight of it all became too much and depression came crashing inwards. I no longer was able to project my self hatred on others. I forgave my doctor and my parents, realizing they had done no wrong though I was still unable to accept the changes to my body and my life. I longed for death and it showed in misguided efforts such as trying to jump out of a vehicle on a state highway and inserting tweezers into an electrical outlet. During the second round of surgeries in high school this death orientation was strengthened when I was near death and experienced its serenity and calmness. Feelings never recaptured again that leaves me quickly longing for that moment even to this day when presented with highly emotionally volatile moments and events. A longing that is very difficult for others, especially my loved ones, to understand the desire for escape to a peacefulness not found on this earth.
It's been a long road with depression and PTSD to arrive at a place where my coping has improved even in the midst of long lasting episodes. I entered therapy and started on Zoloft medication to help treat the depression and PTSD. The combination of therapy and antidepressant medication is stronger and more effective than one by itself and it made the difference for me, it saved my life and saved me from myself. I occasionally re-enter therapy and restart antidepressant medication when the need arises. I am stubborn though and try to fight my way through the depression without depending on either method for as long as I can. Sometimes I am able to make it on my own and other times I finally accept that I need help. I have no shame with therapy or antidepressant medication, I just don't like needing and depending on either although they can be very necessary for healing. I went through a depression period last year while deciding not to have children and for months I didn't know if I'd make it out of the tunnel. But I did with the support of my husband. This year I hit another episode of depression that after several attempts on my own, I've realized that I needed additional help and restarted the Zoloft and entered counseling for a period of time. Through daily support and hard work, I'm noticing improvements in my depression symptoms.
While I experience the effects of depression on my own life, I've also witnessed the devastating effects of depression on others. Most closely to my heart is the loss of one of my best friends due to suicide. He struggled with his own battle with depression and health issues. The battle became too heavy for him. If you are contemplating suicide or you're concerned someone else is contemplating suicide, please seek help. Depression is far too often isolating and this isolation furthers the cycle of depression. Depression recovery doesn't have to be accomplished alone. Reach out to others and let others in and introduce techniques from the recovery guide linked above and under resources.