Monday, July 26, 2010

~Mental Health Monday Guestblog~

This weeks guestblogger asked me to remain anonymous. Please take the time to read her story

Depression. Yes, I've been there, done that, and will do it again.

It started creeping up on me when I was about 13 years old. I had plenty of friends, decent grades, and got along with my teachers. I started wearing black shirts with sarcastic sayings, which the adults in my life chuckled at as part of experiencing that coming-of-age angst. At first, they were mostly correct. I was expressing my occasional sadness via Hot Topic merchandise. No biggie, right?

It soon became much more than that.

I had dealt with living an abusive home my entire life. My mother's only husband and my biological father was an abusive alcoholic who I haven't seen since I was three years old. Per their divorce and custody agreement, he gave up all legal rights to me. No child support, and no daughter. Worked for him, and it also worked for me. I have never wanted to see him, and I am now 22 years old.

Soon after they separated, my mother began living with a man who would become my two younger sisters' father. It started as all relationships do... happy and wonderful. I remember playing in the backyard with him and picking flowers from our garden to bring to my mother. I remember going to get ice cream--I always got orange sherbet with rainbow sprinkles. Orange was my favorite color. I eventually began calling him "Dad."

Soon things changed for the worse, and I began experiencing the emotional, psychological, and physical abuse that plagues too many childhoods in our nation and around the world. The physical abuse escalated until he was arrested when I was 14. For a long time I just dealt with it, but then I became depressed. I started cutting myself. I wore t-shirts, and I would slice only the top half of my arms so that no one could see them. I started when I was 13. I didn't want attention, which is why I kept it hidden. At first I started cutting as a distraction from the pain of my depression, but ss my depression worsened over the next 3 years, I started cutting to prove to myself that I could still feel something. I was so depressed that I didn't feel a deep sadness--I only felt numb. Cutting made me feel alive.

When I was 14, I decided to commit suicide. I know I say that in an uncomfortably casual way, but that is just how it was. I lived near some frequently-used railroad tracks, and was about to walk out the door to go to them and wait for a train to come and take my life. As I was turning the handle, my best friend called and begged me to spend the night. She didn't know what I planned to do, but that call saved my life. I decided to spend the night, if only as a way to say goodbye. Luckily, that night was enough to snap me out of my suicidal thoughts. I realized just how lucky I was when another close friend of mine killed herself the same way I was about to, only a few years later.

At 15, I became suicidal again. This time, I took some pills. I cannot remember what they were anymore, but I simply felt ill after taking them. I didn't feel disappointed or angry that it didn't work. I was simply too numb for any emotions. I went back to cutting, only this time I started doing it on my wrists. I wore long-sleeved shirts to cover the wounds.

I thought I would never feel better. I struggled with depression non-stop until I was about 17, the same age I stopped cutting. Then the depression became cyclical. I would have good months and bad months. I grasped onto that happiness, and felt helpless and hopeless when I felt it slipping away. I cannot fully explain why I stopped cutting. I just decided I didn't want to do it anymore. I didn't want to live that way. I wanted to get better.

A while after I started dating my now-husband, Mark, I sought help. I went to counseling on my college campus, and tried several anti-depressant medications. I was diagnosed with depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. At first those terms seemed tainted and dirty. I felt judged and labeled. I felt like an experiment gone wrong when pill after pill didn't seem to help. Eventually I just stopped taking them, and that actually seems to work better for me. Most days, I feel pretty damn good.

However, I am not a woman who USED to have depression and GAD; I am simply a woman who is currently winning the war against them. They occasionally win a battle, but I always remember that I can and will get through it. I have a wonderful husband who supports me in every way. I am getting through my undergraduate program with only a few mental roadblocks along the way. I seek help when I need to, and I try to remember that there is nothing to be ashamed about. I try to be proud about overcoming the obstacles that depression and GAD have presented rather than feel ashamed that there were obstacles in the first place. For the most part, I am happy.

It may not be happily ever after, but it IS happy for now. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

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