Speak Your Mind
By speaking your mind and giving a voice to mental health, you’re changing the dialogue and personalizing this important subject.
My Struggles Helped Me Find My Purpose
I was diagnosed with severe depression in 2012. My grandmother was my best friend and within the blink of an eye, she was gone. I didn't have very many friends growing up.
I began hurting myself and I kept it a secret for a while, but a girl in my class saw signs of it and notified a teacher who notified my mother. I remember coming home and her just yelling at me. I didn't feel supported by my family, and my brothers would make fun of me.
This continued throughout middle school. In 9th grade, I found my happy place. I was doing OK but then I hit rock bottom. The scariest thing about it is I don't know what caused it. I continued to feel low into 10th grade.
My mom sent me to a short-term facility where I stayed for 10 days. I pretended to get better so I could leave. My mind was still very unhealthy but I didn't care. I wanted out. I was sent back 11th grade and 12th. My senior year was confusing. I had never had an issue with anxiety before I began senior year.
In school, I was required to give presentation after presentation. My teachers noticed I was being so jumpy and talking so fast so they told my mother. Because I was seventeen, I was sent to the same facility again for 11 days, where I was diagnosed with social anxiety. This time I took the treatment seriously and even gave advice to the younger women there.
I had found what I wanted to go to college for: Psychology. Do I still struggle with depression and anxiety? Very much. Every day is a constant struggle, but there are people who need someone to trust - who need help and I won't let them down. I feel like I was born to do this, so I take every day one step at a time so I don't lose myself.
Becoming a Survivor of Depression
I have suffered with depression for as long as I can remember. As a child, I struggled a lot in school and I was also unhappy at home. I assumed it was because I didn't know my father, and I didn't live with my mother because she had a drug addiction. I can remember speaking to a lot of different people about my feelings and how to better manage them. But after maybe the 3rd grade, those people stopped coming to talk with me.
Luckily for me I had a best friend who was always there to listen, or just to sit with me when I felt down. That friend moved, and I felt alone again and spent a lot of time to myself. I sat in my room in the dark because it was more comfortable that way. I frequently did that until I got to high school.
I honestly don't know what changed, but when I went to high school I wanted my life to be different and decided to make it happen somehow. I didn’t want to be at home and even my neighborhood was bad. My grandmother didn't understand my depression so she punished me for it, and I didn’t feel loved. I ran away from home.
My school guidance counselor finally asked me about depression and attention deficit disorder (ADD) treatment. She explained that I had a depression diagnosis from elementary school. I went into the foster care system where I was told that I wasn't alone and that there are resources for me. I took advantage of those resources. I am now happy to say that I am a survivor of depression. I am now 25 and a mother or two beautiful girls. If I had ended my life because of my depression, I would have missed out on all the joy I have experienced since I got the help I needed.
Finding Support with Loved Ones
I had a unique childhood. Poverty, addict parent, and lack of knowledge to change it. My personal growth, from scared and blaming everyone to accepting and letting go, is still a battle on bad days. I am thankful I learned from loved ones that I can say I am not okay. They don't judge and just offer support. If I hadn't collapsed in a dark hole I wouldn't have gotten help. We need to speak before the sky is black and we can't see out. We need to be able to say I am seeing gray.
So I encourage everyone to speak up!! No one can see a battle you are trying so hard to hide.
Talking About Mental Health as a Child
I was about 5 years old when I first experienced depression, but being young had no language to explain it. I remember simply losing my ability to laugh, or be happy.
I never spoke to anyone about it, but not because I was afraid. I simply didn’t have the language of my internal thought process. It seemed to last at least a year.
Luckily it never returned, but I want people to be aware that if your child seems off to try and engage them in developing appropriate vocabulary. it would have helped to have someone understand as it was a very lonely time, for a small, skinny kid from the Midwest.
Becoming a Mental Health Advocate
During my childhood, I experienced traumatic events that caused me to suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. Because I had no treatment, I eventually acted on my suicidal thoughts as a teenager, but survived.
Life was really looking up for me after I graduated from high school and was preparing to attend college, when my 15-year-old brother died by suicide. He was extremely important to me. He was the one who lifted me through rough times. His death was a complete shock to me and my family. This started a seven-year cycle of depression for me. I stagnated in my grief.
For a long time, I hid my feelings because of the stigma associated with mental disorders. In my late 20s, I had a breakdown, and attempted suicide again. I felt alone, abandoned, and misunderstood by those closest to me. It was a process, but I eventually acknowledged my own pain and allowed myself to get to a place of healing. I have now been an active mental health advocate for almost 15 years!
As a minister, I speak boldly at churches to help break the barriers that keep the faith-based community from receiving help. I talk about how clergy are also affected by mental illnesses. As a writer, I have a mental health blog and have published a best-selling book of mental health memoirs that deeply describes my experiences with depression and being a survivor of suicide. Advocacy is a part of my purpose in life and I will continue to break the silence that hinders so many from reaching out to receive help. I encourage others to share their story, so others can also speak their mind!
Deciding to Not Let Depression Own Me
I never knew that I had depression. I grew up with undiagnosed ADHD, and wasn't actually screened until I was a sophomore in college. My world was rocked when the psychologist told me I was depressed.
The hardest part for me was learning how to work through depression. I felt the same before my diagnosis as after, but now I realize that I need to get out of bed more than once a week and that most people don't go a full week without taking a shower. That's the battle that makes depression so hard to manage. Depression will make you believe that you aren't depressed. The real fight begins once you decide to not let depression own you.
Finding The Right Treatment Was Key
After my first child was born I experienced some pretty tough post-partum depression. There were a lot of external stressors at the time too, so "treatment" was a lot of just toughing it out and praying, hoping, those situations would improve. They did, but my depression didn't. I sought care from my OBGYN at my 6-month post-part checkup. She prescribed a medication, small dose, that did help. But it also gave me wicked side effects and a general sense of apathy. So she sent me on to a psychiatrist who specialized in women's mental health.
She immediately recognized my side effects for what they were and switched me to a medication that has worked well for me for the past 10 years now. I so thankful for this doctor; because of her I've learned that my body no longer produces enough serotonin. It really is a chemical issue and nothing any amount of bucking up and willing myself to not be depressed could help. She's helped me learn to recognize those times when the anxiety is hitting a peak and I need to take some additional medication and I've learned to accept that those times are okay too. It's all okay. Like it's okay for a diabetic to take insulin or a heart patient to take cholesterol meds, it's okay for me to take my meds and I am a better person because of them.
Taking the First Step Toward Healing
I suffered from undiagnosed depression since I was 15. I never sought help, kept it hidden, and created a series of narratives on how to push it down, how to numb it out, and how I could get through it without help, without medicine. From 15 to 23 it was pretty constant - feelings of apathy and just trying to get through each day. Then it went away for a while, and I thought I'd come through the storm, only having short stints of the feelings I had as a teen, not realizing that all I had done was lock it away.
And then, like a tidal wave, it hit me this year and I had felt the lowest I've ever felt. After 15 years, after feeling completely disconnected from everything and everyone I loved, a friend encouraged me to allow myself to ask for help, something I'd always been too afraid, too ashamed to do. I've been in therapy for six months now, on medication, and am finally starting to feel like I'm getting there. I know now this is a part of me, something I have to work through, to get through. After 15 years of dealing with this alone and not really dealing, I finally am starting to rewrite the narratives I've created with reminders that I am enough, that I am worth more than I've convinced myself, that I am not alone.
I have a long way to go, but taking the first step to healing was the best decision I've ever made.
Finding My Identity While Battling Depression
I wasn't breathing when I was removed from my mother at birth. While that was the first real problem I dealt with, I’ve gone on face issues I consider to be much worse. Aside from being born "blue" I am also missing an enzyme that helps produce one of the happy chemicals in my brain. I wasn't aware of this until 4 years ago, but I have been aware of my chronic major depression for quite some time.
When I was very young, I liked to play outside with my best friend. I was constantly picked on and teased by people in school but I didn't care. When I was about 6 years old, my personality and actions changed and the teasing started to get to me. I stopped going outside unless I had to, and my energy dropped to minimal.
I began thinking self-defeating thoughts and crying a lot. The things other people said now had an impact on my thoughts and actions. I moved to a different school because the bullying became too much for me. I thought this would solve everything, but it didn’t and I was still very sad.
By the time I was in 6th grade, things had gotten even worse. My parents fought every day and I woke up to them screaming at each other, and hearing my father curse about my mother when he drove me to school. I saw this as my fault. I started cutting to punish myself.
In 7th grade I was in a destructive relationship with a boy that lasted a year and a half. He manipulated me to do things I didn't want to do. I felt dirty and wrong, but It took me until the end of the relationship to realize how much damage he caused.
I started seeing a therapist and shared with my mother how depressed I was. I was admitted to a psychiatric facility for treatment. When I was released I met who would become my first girlfriend. Because I was born female, dating another female went against my Christian upbringing and I questioned everything.
We broke up after a month and a half and I went back to dating boys. I was put on pills but stopped taking them without telling anyone, so I had a hoard of pills in my room. I confessed to my new therapist about my thoughts of suicide and wanting to take the pills and they were promptly taken away. I continued the self harm, believing that I was a failure who needed to be punished.
By the end of my freshmen year in high school, I learned about people who were transgender and everything changed for me. I realized that I am, in fact, a boy. I joined the gay-straight alliance at my school and even became president a few years later. I met a great group of friends and even reconnected with an old friend from when I was very young.
A local LGBTQA youth organization expanded my social network even more. Even with all that support, I still felt depressed and gender dysphoria hit me hard. I went in and out of psyhiactric facilities and survived suicide attempts.
Over the years I've learned that the way healing isn't linear. I've also learned that I have a lot more going on than just depression. I suffer from attention deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, major anxiety, insomnia, and depression. There may be more. It's been hard with parents that don't support me being transgender and refuse to understand it, but on September 12, I started hormone therapy to change genders. I am aware that this won’t fix everything, but it will help, and I'm excited to really start living my life.