Well, I’m not entirely sure where to begin. Let’s just start with the basics, shall we? I am writing this anonymously to protect the identity of the other people in my story. I don’t believe it is my place to expose them. So, with that aside, I suppose all you need to know about me is this. I am a wife, a mother, and a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And I have lived with major depression and an anxiety disorder for most of my life.
I was only fifteen when I was first officially diagnosed, but I know it was always there, lurking in the shadows, long before I ever saw a doctor. Ever since that day my life has been a journey of different medications, counselors, and psychiatric care. The worst stretches of time for me were my sophomore year of high school, and my freshman year of college.
College, especially, was VERY difficult. I made the decision to go to a university clear on the other side of the country from where my home was in the midwest. I was alone for the first time in my life, trying to live as a somewhat independent adult, far away from all my family and friends.
I struggled in my classes, but the worst of it was about one semester into the school year, when I became trapped in an extremely unhealthy relationship that would slowly destroy me over the course of the next semester. This person also suffered from mental illnesses, and in the beginning it wasn’t too bad. But as the weeks turned into months it became clear that he needed much more help than I could give, but I gave anyway. I gave all my willpower, all my energy, energy that I normally would have used to get myself through my illnesses, to him. I was miserable. I spent many nights alone in the dark, waiting for tears to come. Sometimes they would, sometimes they wouldn’t. I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, and I lived my life through a fog. Because, to me, that’s what depression is.
Imagine your world is covered in a dense fog, stretching as far as you can see. All around you are the vague shapes and voices that make up your life. You have just enough access to your senses to function, but that’s all it is. Functioning. Existing. Surviving. It’s not living by any means of the imagination. Your life is dulled and dulled until finally, you can’t feel at all. The only thing you want to do is curl up, close your eyes and hope to never wake up again.
For those dreadful months of my life I lived in this fog. I would wander aimlessly around campus, trying to distract myself from the worst feeling of all: not feeling anything. Yet even in this emptiness, there was one emotion that peeked through the fog ever so slightly. Fear. I was so afraid to leave him. I was so scared that my leaving him would result in his suicide. I couldn’t live knowing I was the reason someone else died. So I felt obligated to protect him, even though by doing so I was slowly killing myself.
Even in this dark time I was extremely blessed. My earlier run with depression and anxiety had taught me some things. It taught me that I am so so SO fortunate to have the parents I have. My mother struggles in the same way I do, and that meant she truly understood that it wasn’t “just a phase” and she knew how best to help me. In a similar way, my father had experience in supporting people with depression, and he knew how to listen to me and give me support. On top of that, I had tools that I had obtained from my old counselors and doctors. I took medication. I journaled. I saw the on-campus counselors. I took ink pens to the skin of my arms to distract myself from doing something much worse.
All of these things helped me. However, the greatest blessing to me in those times BY FAR was my dear roommate. She truly saved my life. In those dark, dark nights she would hold me as I cried. She made sure I ate something each day. She helped me get out of bed and get fresh air even when that was the furthest thing from my mind. She prayed with me. She made me feel like there was still hope even when all hope felt lost.
Months passed, and I eventually returned to the safety of my home in Indiana. I was far away from that person and that place that had caused me such pain. I took comfort in my family, and stayed busy with my job at a local hotel. I slowly returned to some sense of normalcy, but inside I was dreading my return to school in the fall. My roommate would be leaving on her mission soon, and I wouldn’t have very long with her before being alone once again. But little did I know, I wouldn’t have to go back. My life was about to change forever.
One beautiful Sunday in early July, I found the courage to finally end that unhealthy relationship. It had been a long, steady decline up to that point, and I think that we both knew that it needed to end. The very day after I finally broke free, I met my husband.
That day was the turning point in my story. Since that day I have never gone back to that level of despair I had felt before. Of course, depression never really leaves. I still have my bad stretches every now and then, but nothing even close to what I had experienced during my one year of college.
My husband gave me life again. I started smiling. I started eating. I wanted to wake up in the mornings again. After four weeks of dating he asked me to marry him. It just all felt so right. We knew it was the path we were both meant to take, and a mere three months later we were sealed for time and all eternity in the Salt Lake City Temple.
Since then, life with depression and anxiety has become much more bearable. Part of managing my illness now lies in recognizing what triggers it. For me, some bad triggers are disturbing stories on the news, disaster or otherwise “scary” movies, fasting, not getting sleep, forgetting my medication, bad things happening to the people around me, and trying to take on too much at once. If I try my hardest to avoid these triggers I find that my depression is much easier to deal with. Because once I start to slip back into that fog, it becomes much much harder to get out.
But when I do slip into that fog again (trust me, it still happens) I try to lean on those who love me. I try to let them help, I find comfort in the fact that they’re there, even if their words aren’t getting through to me. Another thing I do is I try to stick to my routine, even if it’s the last thing I want to do. Sometimes, for me, just going through the motions is enough to keep me going until I eventually snap out of it. But perhaps the most important thing I do is I remember this: I have a disease. There is an imbalance in my brain’s chemistry. This condition is not my fault. I didn’t do anything to deserve this. I am not being punished. This is simply the way I am. All I can do is try to keep going anyway.
And that’s all that anyone can do really. Keep moving forward and trust in the good times to come. And they will come. Mine came on that July day when I laid eyes on my husband for the first time. They will come for you too. Until then, hang in there, and know you’re not alone.