Ever-Changing Reflection

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding... It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility.
~ Kahlil Gibran

Monday, November 21, 2011

#21DJC: The Dark Side of Me

Image credit: weheartit
What is the most painful thing you have ever experienced to date? What happened and why was it painful to you?

Several incidents ran across my mind when I read today's journal challenge question: break-ups, surgeries, lost friendships, accidents, childhood teasing... but none of those match my battle with depression.

I found the above image, and I thought it was a good visual of what living with depression -- or at least my depression -- feels like. The vast emptiness swallows you so that you view the world through a dim, dulled lens. The pain is sharp at times, aching but constant at others, and it permeates everything... even those drips of happy moments you catch. Depression claims you, and over time, you lose who you were, who you are, and you just become sadness and exhaustion. Oh, the exhaustion is overwhelming. I remember just being so tired with life -- with my life in particular. I was truly lost. Nothing excited me, nothing stirred the passion inside me. I just hurt. All. The. Time.

I faced two periods of deep, serious depression, both of which followed romantic break-ups but also times of intense change in my life. I think the combination of losing someone I cared about, questioning my self-worth and attempting to find my way on new ground was the recipe for the perfect storm.

The first came during my freshman year of college, and lasted through my sophomore, and maybe even the  beginning of my junior year. I was away from home, in a big city, by myself. Unlike some of my friends, I didn't have fellow high school classmates at my selected university, and that university had a starkly different culture than the warm, comfortable high school I left. I had a strong vision for my education and future career, but that was about all I had. I didn't make friends easily because I didn't know who I was and I wasn't will to trust. I didn't even trust myself, that I made the right choice for me at the time. Eventually, I made friends -- people who understood me -- and I realized my high school friendships weren't going anywhere. I learned to lean on my support system and on myself. I started to appreciate where I was and open myself to new people and experiences -- although not as much as I now wish I did. The depression faded.

It came raging back after college graduation. Again, I had just broken up with my boyfriend at the time, and I was not where I always thought I would be. I wasn't working in my field. I wasn't even writing. I was discouraged and defeated. Again, I didn't know who I was, and I didn't trust myself. I didn't trust myself to make the right choices, to know the right path, to accomplish my goals and dreams, to be successful. It was self-sabotage at its worst. I recognized this demon within, and I reached out for help. I clued friends into what was going on, and I even asked my doctor to recommend a psychologist, whom I never called. I didn't have the courage. DON'T LET THAT BE YOU. I eventually recovered and bounced back, but the process could have been faster, easier, more comfortable and ultimately more enlightening with professional help. I believe that by not seeking professional help, I left myself open to be struck a third time.

I missed out on so much because of my depression. Two formative years -- after high school and college graduation -- that are supposed to be about self-discovery, trial and error, beginnings, growth, and acceptance were fraught with nothing but pain, sadness, isolation, self-hate, fear and loss. I do not have any regrets in my life except for this one: that I let depression take over and steal those years from me. Whenever I feel myself slipping, I remember that, and I refuse to let those feelings and that dark side of my mind take any more from me.

I am by no means a mental health expert, and I do not recommend my path to anyone. Know that I am sharing this as part of my journaling experience, and if a side effect of that is someone is helped, I am grateful. If you, or someone you care about, is suffering from depression, I urge you to talk about it with whomever you feel comfortable. No one should have to face this demon alone.

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