“I know what it’s like to want to die. How it hurts to smile. How you try to fit in but you can’t. You hurt yourself on the outside to try to kill the thing on the inside.” – Girl Interrupted
I still remember when I was diagnosed with depression 16 years ago. My grandfather had recently passed away and I took it so hard. It started out with me not wanting to get out of bed and I never felt like going to school. I cried all the time, not really knowing why. All I wanted to do was stay in bed all day and cry. I never wanted to go hang out with my friends or do any of the things that used to make me happy. In fact, I hadn’t smiled or laughed in weeks, I just wanted to be left alone. The darkest moment? When I wrote a suicide note in my journal saying goodbye to everyone and I had a plan in my mind about how I would do it. I came to my mom and told her “I don’t want to be here anymore, I want to die.” As I stood there hysterically crying, she got on the phone and called to get me into a therapist.
When we got to the office, I couldn’t stop crying and I wanted to leave. I kept telling myself that I was ok but I really wasn’t, I needed help. The details of the next several months were so foggy, I remember bits and pieces but not a lot. I remember going to see a therapist 2-3x/week and I remember seeing a psychiatrist and I was put on antidepressants and anxiety meds. I do remember how unsupportive my friends were, thinking I just wanted sympathy and they didn’t understand why I was sad all the time. By the senior year of high school, I had lost almost all of them due to my depression. Nobody wants to be around someone who is depressed, at least that’s what I thought at the time.
People with depression don’t want to feel like this, I didn’t want to cry all the time, I didn’t want to have thoughts of hurting myself, I didn’t want to lay in bed all day and not have the will to get out of bed and live life. Depression is still very misunderstood and people thought I was “crazy” because I was on medication and saw a therapist. But you know what? Therapy saved my life and I wouldn’t be where I am today without it.
By the time I was 20, I had stopped seeing a therapist and I was feeling so much better. I just started college and got my first full-time job. How did I cope with my depression? I stayed super busy all the time so I didn’t think about it. But depression had its way of coming back into my life constantly. Like when I was in an abusive relationship and the end of the relationship caused my depression to be sky high and I started to feel the way I used to. Or when I dealt with the constant changes accompanied with moving to San Francisco and not knowing a soul. My depression is ALWAYS there and is something I have to cope with the rest of my life but I’ve learned some things along the way that have helped me cope:
Journaling: Journaling was super helpful for me, I would journal every day to get my feelings out on paper and I would feel so much better, It’s hard to share some things I didn’t feel comfortable sharing with anyone. It’s very therapeutic and something I recently started doing again.
Seeing a therapist: I wouldn’t have gotten through my darkest moment if I didn’t see a therapist. It was good for me to share things about myself without being judged. I’ve been going to therapy off and on throughout the years and it has really helped me. In fact, I got my master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and am on my way to becoming a licensed therapist. Therapy saved my life and I want to help others the same way I was helped.
Support System: Having a good support system is the most important thing when going through depression.
My family was so supportive when I was going through this and they didn’t judge me and even though I felt like I being annoying, they told me I wasn’t. I can’t stress this enough, having a support system, even if it’s just one person, is essential in coping with depression.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help: Never be afraid to tell someone “I really need someone to talk to” or “I need help” and don’t let the stigma associated with depression stop you for getting the help you need.
Exercise: Exercising really helped me cope with my depression although I often would have to push myself to get out of bed and work out. I feel so amazing after I work out and my mood improves by 100%,
You are not alone and there are a lot of people in the world who are struggling with depression. Am I cured of depression? Absolutely not. Depression never goes away and is something I am going to live with the rest of my life but I have found ways to cope with it. Some days it’s still hard to get out of bed and sometimes I can’t stop crying but it’s possible to have depression and still find happiness.
-Lauren P. currently works as a mental health counselor in the San Francisco Bay Area