Depression Marathon Blog

My photo
Diagnosed with depression 19 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

15 years

It was November, 2000, when I first noticed I wasn't feeling quite right. Having had depression as a teenager, I recognized the feeling. It had been many years, but I knew that feeling. I took action. I got a psychiatry recommendation from a friend and called to make an appointment. Unfortunately, the doctor was booked out until March, 2001. I was hospitalized before I made it to her office.

Depression, like any other illness, is no respecter of gender, socioeconomic class, or stage in life. When my depression began 15 years ago, I was happily married, owned a home, had two cars in the garage, worked full-time in a job I loved, and had money in the bank. Depression got me anyway.

Over the next several years, my treatment-resistant depression took everything from me. I lost it all, the house, the spouse, the job, and the money in the bank. It was tough. To make matters worse, I began drinking to stifle the pain. It didn't take long before I added alcoholic to my list of diagnoses. Hopelessness was my constant companion.

Fortunately, I don't live in that darkness today. In those early years, I truly suffered from my illness. Today, I live with it. I don't think there was a definitive turning point. Perhaps things started to change when I began to speak publicly. Helping others helped me. I can't say I'm grateful to have depression, but I am grateful for the lessons I've learned because of depression.

Losing people and things taught me I was stronger and more resilient than I thought. I learned I could survive with less. I learned how to ask for help and accept that which was offered. And most importantly I learned I had something to offer others. Educating and supporting others gave my life some direction. I had a purpose.

I think it was that sense of direction and purpose which led me out of the constant darkness and back into the world. I got sober. I began working again after years of disability. I started this blog. I spoke up. I attended to idle relationships. I became more willing to work with my doctor. I developed a sense of perspective and gratitude. Depression no longer controlled my life.

Living with depression is much better than suffering from it, but that doesn't mean I relish it. This has been a long, tough, educational journey. I hate the relapses into the abyss. The lasting fatigue frustrates me. I'd like to work more, have a little money put away, and perhaps be in a relationship. I'm sure my life would look much, much different today had it not been interrupted by depression. But I would have missed out on a lot of important lessons, too.

I'm satisfied with who I am today, happy even, and I believe that's in large part due to the lessons I've learned over the past 15 years. Sure depression has been challenging. Perhaps I'd be better off had I not experienced it. But then again, perhaps I wouldn't. On second thought, I know I wouldn't.


Unknown said...

What was the turning point for you that got you out of suffering with depression to living with it?

Tricia said...

Thank you Etta. Your blog makes me feel not so alone, and helps lessen the guilt I feel over my illness. After 28 years (or so) of chronic (constant) bipolar depression, I'm finally becoming more accepting of my illness, more forgiving of myself, and more realistic about my expectations of what I can accomplish. It's been so hard for me to truly accept my illness. I never hesitated to seek help, go to my therapist, my psychiatrist, take my med's, but I have a hard time accepting that my illness actually has an effect on my behavior. Somehow I feel I should be able to rise above it, and I'm constantly looking for "the answer" to live normally, to cure myself. Your blog is one aspect that helps me live with my disease. Thank you for sharing with us so openly, and for being a voice in the darkness.

I hope you have a good Thanksgiving and are able to take pleasure in whatever makes you happy.

Anna said...

Etta, you truly are an OVERCOMER, and your ability to share your journey is helpful to countless people! Congratulations for turning life's lemons into lemonade and sharing that lemonade with others!! I just lost a childhood friend who has battled bipolar for many years. It leaves me grateful for the wonderful childhood that we shared, thankful for my own relative stability and ever so sorry for those who are not able to find their way out of the abyss. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jet and your loved ones! Anna

etta said...

@ Sheri: Like I said in the post, I don't think there was a definitive turning point. Perhaps it occurred when I began to share my story with others.

Rachel T. said...

Great post. I too, can recall the moment I knew "something wasn't right." I think in my case, it's more anxiety than depression, but it's definitely both. I just don't feel at ease. I just don't understand why it happened to me and I obsess over it, which just makes it worse.