My life before the depression
I am a wife and a mother to three beautiful energetic kids, ages 10,7, and 4. My family is my world. I love reading, cooking, and baking, cleaning up, listening to calming music and love spending time with my family. My kids love swimming classes and outdoor activities. I was taking pre-requisite courses at a community college to get into nursing school. Life was good. I am the person my friends would call for advice or when they need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on. Depression was not in my everyday language.
Then came the sickness, what?
My illness was sudden. I went from class to the emergency department and to an inpatient department. Fast forward, after a year of hospital visits and chronic pain and fatigue, I was then diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It’s a widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, and its symptoms vary from patient to patient. Symptoms include muscle pain, burning, twitching, tightness, insomnia, trouble concentrating or remembering, drained fatigue, anxiety or depression.
I had a team of doctors helping me deal with fibromyalgia and fatigue. And then came another diagnosis, clinical depression. This, I was not ready for. How can I be depressed? I am a strong will, a smart, a happy, an unshakeable woman with remarkable strength. Therefore, I cannot be depressed. This, to me, was a sign of weakness, or at least this was what I thought. I must admit, all the signs were there; isolation, sad mood, loss of pleasure in activities including sex, irritability, feeling of guilt, helplessness, and so on.
I need help
I had to let go of my pride and my beliefs of depression to accept help. It takes a strong person to say yes, I’m depressed and I need help. No one is immune to depression, men, women, children. This disease is real and it’s about time we talk about it openly. How am I dealing with depression?
How am I dealing with depression?
- Reduce stress. I identify and evaluate what I can control and cannot control, what is important and what is not important. For instance, I can take rest and practice breathing exercise, but I cannot control the action and attitude of people in my life.
- Therapy. I see a good therapist weekly which is very helpful. You have to choose an experienced therapist and like her. It might take a while to find one that you like, but it’s paramount for your mental health. If you are a man, it might be helpful to find a man therapist, someone you’re comfortable with.
- Medication. It was difficult to find the right medication for me, but my doctor eventually did. This is not a happy pill as I still have to make some changes to my lifestyle and adjust accordingly.
- Stress response. I had to learn to evaluate my response to stressful situations. It took a lot of planning and practice to control my responses. I started to take 10 minutes to walk instead of anger outbursts, set realistic goals to avoid excessively worrying, positive self-talk, and learned when to let go.
- Personalizing. When something bad happens, I don’t blame myself.
- Catastrophizing. I try to avoid anticipating the worst. One bad thing does not mean everything else will be bad.
- I avoid seeing things only as either good or bad. Just because I didn’t perfect one thing does not mean I’m a failure.
- Boost my self-esteem. I learned to love and care for myself. As a result, I surround myself with people that make me feel good about who I am.
- Lean on others such as friends and family, joined a support group for people going through depression. This can be helpful in sharing your feelings and thoughts.
- I get a good night sleep, set a bedtime routine to calm my body down two hours before sleep. I also take sleep tablet to help stay asleep throughout the night.
- My belief in the power of journaling was reinforced after practice, it’s a great way to jot down your feelings and thoughts. Moreover, who says no to a friend that only listens and doesn’t judge? I don’t mind.
- I learned to communicate with my loved ones about my needs and wants, and when I just need a moment alone to regroup.