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Here is my personal story of living my life with depression. As an advocate for mental illness, I want to share my struggles, what I've learned and share a message of hope. This is an ongoing struggle, a struggle communicating with honest transparency as well as a daily struggle towards "recovery." I hope by sharing some painful experiences with you, it will help someone out there. With sharing this experience, I hope not to lose your respect or confidence in me but I wish to help you better understand depression and people who suffer with suicidal thoughts or self-harm. This subject seems to be discussed more often in our society so I don't think I'll reveal anything earth shattering but maybe just relate my own personal thoughts on the matter and things I've learned through these experiences. I am really thankful to my friend, Meg that helped contribute to this conversation and all her insight. She is an AWESOME friend and I love her mentorship! Also, I can't give enough credit to a great, understanding husband who helps me through this challenge, every single day, he is AMAZING!
Here is my beginning notes on this subject:
Well here it goes, last month is the one year anniversary of the second part of my life. One year ago, I found myself in a different emotional state, one of struggling to understand myself better and maybe finally being honest with myself and my loved ones. You see I know I've always struggled with depression for probably my whole life as I enjoyed the added endorphins from exercise. I have struggled to fight feelings of anger or frustration that seem to come from nowhere but the lonely places of my mind. I realized I delighted in early morning time to myself to organize my thoughts. I worked REALLY hard not to let my emotions lash-out at others or at least appear optimistic and happy, sometime I'm successful and sometimes I'm not. I had a difficult time even understanding my own feelings and especially articulating them to others. I remember wondering if I should receive counseling in communication because I felt so frustrated in expressing my emotions especially to the people I loved. However it wasn't until certain events took place last year that I started to truly understand and maybe label these circumstances with some honesty that I begin to understand, learn and improve...hopefully....so here are the events....
....To listen to rest of the story, Listen HERE
Here are a few lessons, I learned
1) Don't make assumptions - This probably was the best thing that I learned, I realized that before this experience, I made MANY assumptions! Assumptions of what mental illness is about and people that suffer with a variety of these illnesses are like. I think many of the assumptions I had about mental illness are perpetuated by society. I was terrified to admit that I struggled in this area because I didn't want to be seen as crazy or unstable. I assumed that if I continued to shove down the feelings of depression and put on a happy face, think positive thoughts, it would just go away. I made assumptions that as a person of faith, if I had enough faith, God would take this affliction from me. I thought I could fix myself with out anyone having to know, it was a deep secret within. I made assumptions that all my troubles could be handled with just strictly diet and exercise. I assumed that anyone taking anti-depressives or other medication just weren't taking good care of themselves or weren't willing to do the hard work. I made assumptions that people who used illegal substances were weak, not realizing I had my own unhealthy addictions to help me forget my own tormenting thoughts, like keeping myself overly busy, I made assumptions to ignore my family history, genetics, chemical, and hormonal balance may play a part in my mental health. I think that we can all make unhealthy assumptions about things that prevent us from getting the help we need and that sometimes being put in a difficult situation can help us push against assumptions, so my challenge to you is to let yourself examine your assumptions, all of your assumptions, because from my experience it helps us be healthier in the end.
2) Check your thoughts and emotions often - you can't shove down thoughts and not have it resurface somewhere else in your life. Whether that resurfacing be continued beating up of ourselves, holding ourselves back in other lives from being our best or our reactions to others. I think we have talked about checking our thoughts and emotions a lot on my podcast (especially recently). However, I want to stress that nothing in life is so important or to get completed that may make negative emotions surface. Negative emotions are never a very good thing for you or for those you love. I think that being as honest as you can be with others is helpful in checking your thoughts and emotions. My honesty sometimes scares others, especially my husband, but at least he knows what is going on inside of me and it also makes me take responsibility for my emotions, actions and reactions. It allows me to examine my life more clearly. I think troubleshooting with a trusted person is helpful in creating better thoughts and emotions. This is more than just trying to think positively, because that is just like spreading frosting on manure. The emotions need to change to positive vibes. The law of attraction will push you to the things that are like you, the electricity your sending out. Changing the emotion is critical to greater success. Checking your thoughts and changing your emotions, can be done through a variety of ways and I wish I could tell you how to change it for you but by examining our feelings we can figure it out. Ask yourself what am I needing? What are my thoughts? Where can I feed my soul? What would make me feel more whole right now? Asking myself these questions was another assumption I had, especially as a busy mom. I felt everyone's needs came before me or I was selfish. However, it is like being on an airplane, putting the mask on yourself can help you better help others later.
3) Find your essential things and DO THEM - I think this was the most difficult discovery for me. I remember being asked this in the hospital, because they want you to make a plan for helping yourself feel better and I struggled to identify my essential thinks. I think I had shoved my own feeling down so much and so often that I couldn't even understand what did make me feel better. I had thought everyone else came before myself. However, your plan for making yourself feel better is vital for long-term health. I do think that people struggling with depression, "should on themselves" far too often. (to borrow a phrase from Ashley Logsdon) but honestly we do. My other plan was what I thought I "should be" doing, not really on what truly helped me have more positive vibes. Don't let someone else's plan or daily list be your plan unless it really helps and as soon as it doesn't work any more, reexamine it and find something that does work. I think the times when we are struggling most our essential things take a backseat, at least that is how it is for me. When I become busy, stressed or overwhelmed I start to feel cruddy, I stop doing my essential things. However when we feel the worst is when we need to take the time for ourselves and get those essential things done. I've even found that doing my essential things helps me better organize the stress, re-evaluate if the "busy" is really necessary and help me get rid of the cruddy.
4) The last thing I want to talk about is take care of yourself. I think this sounds like a contradiction to my first comments on assumptions. I think that this includes several components: physical, emotional, spiritual, genetic, chemical, and hormonal - there are so many component that we need to check. However, I've done so much better, eating well, drinking plenty of water (dehydration brings on my depression), taking the right kind of supplements and vitamins for me and exercising. I said that doing these things was one of my assumptions that needed to be corrected. Now I really just look at things differently as far as my health is concerned. I think a big breakthrough in this area for me was finally labeling my mental illness which helped so much. I really hate labels and sometimes think people can use labels as a crutch or an excuse not to be awesome in your life. However, finally being honest, labeling my condition and thoughts, helped me think of my problems in a whole hopeful new light that is helping me be awesome in my life. I looked at my family history and instead of running from it, I faced it. This helped me get genetic testing done which helped me realize places my body is deficient in making the MTFR gene. It helped me get hormone levels checked so I know exactly the supplements that need to be added. Also, a transformative thought in this area was thinking of mental illness in the same light we use with other health problems like diabetes. Think about it, would you ever expect a diabetic to function properly without the right chemicals, a health diet and or exercise. Depression many times is the same, missing vital necessities to help you function properly in your life. This past year for me has been spent studying information and material on proper brain function and how to better treat my brain. Just take care of yourself, be honest, monitor your thoughts, breakdown your assumptions, help yourself be the best you can be.
Resources From Meg:
National hopeline network: 1-800-784-2433
National suicide prevention lifeline:
Crisis text line: text "TWLOHA" to 741-741 (text line with trained counselors)
IMALIVE- hopeline.com (online chat with trained counselors)
Kati Morton is a licsensed marriage and family therapist go to Katimorton.com for free worksheets and workbooks
Also Kati Morton on YouTube for mental health videos
Call 211 or visit 211.org for local resources
Recommended Books: If You Feel Too Much by Jamie Tworkowski
Loud In the House of Myself: A Memoir of A Strange Girl by Stacy Pershall
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Lack of Focus, Anger, and Memory Problems by Daniel G. Amen M.D.