Story contributed by Allison Cote of Chicago, IL
It happened so slowly I didn’t even notice. At first I was just tired more often. Eating became a chore. Leaving the house became a burden. It was exhausting to even think about doing laundry. If a happy life is a balloon, mine didn’t pop so much as it leaked, slowly, leaving me a shell of the person I had been.
What was wrong with me?
It took five years, but I finally learned what caused the leak; a mental illness named Depression. Mental illness is not something our society likes to talk about but I wish we talked about it more. In the years I wasn’t getting help, depression was stealing from me. Depression stole my ability to cry. No tears of happiness or sadness ever fell from my face. It felt like I was being robbed of such incredible emotions. Sadness sucks but I’ve learned it is also a gift. It means you can feel, you can empathize.
You are not numb anymore.
It’s hardly past noon today and I have already shed both happy and sad tears. Emotions rushed over me, through me, and then out of me. I am no longer stuck living in the hell of being dead to feeling. Depression also stole my sense of well being. Making simple decisions like which train to take home exhausted me because I found myself judging the risks of imaginary dangers and the ever present fear of being anything less than perfectly efficient, crippling. Today I took the red line train home because it offered me a nicer walk. That decision was made in seconds.
The negative thoughts that raced through my head made me sick. Can you believe that when my sister first told me she was pregnant my first thought was “oh no, what if something happens to the baby?” Today I thought of my cousins going off to college and I had no fears for them. Instead I felt joy and optimism for their future. Thoughts of the future used to scare me.
Depression stole my self worth.
I thought that if told anyone about my depression they would judge me and see me only as “crazy.” I thought I didn’t deserve to get help. Now I know that telling people about my mental illness, owning it, and laughing about it takes away its power. I am not ashamed of who I am. In all of my imperfect glory I am person who cares deeply for others, who strives to be a doer, and yes, I may feel more of life’s lows than most other people but I am always looking to celebrate even the tiniest of life’s highs.
That’s a gift of being me.
Depression and anxiety manifest differently in all of their victims. So you or a loved one may have a different experience then me. However, I knew I needed help so I surrendered to professionals that knew best. The winning treatment for me was a combination of therapy and medication. Therapy teaches me to combat the negative thoughts that flood my mind and medication allows happy chemicals to flow freely through my brain once again.
Depression will not win any longer.
I should have been experiencing bellyaches from laughing and smiling in the many pictures I should have taken over the years. Unfortunately, I cannot get back everything that depression has taken from me, but today I can honestly say, I’ve got the thief locked up.
Visit Allison on her blog, She’s Going To Make It After All