MY DEPRESSION DOES NOT DEFINE ME
I lived with depression for six years before seeking treatment. Denial is a powerful thing.
My depression came on gradually. It started in eighth grade. By the time I reached my sophomore year of college, my depression had completely taken over my life. I had reached rock bottom.
Depression was a completely surreal experience. I always felt like crying, but I didn’t know why. I always tried to hold it in, because usually once I started crying, I was unable to stop for hours.
I remember one night, while crying in my bed, the thought came to me that this was probably not normal behavior; but, I still couldn’t stop. I felt like everyone hated me, even strangers I simply walked past. And sometimes I hated them too, for the judgment I assumed they were passing on me.
I was constantly in my own head. I barely ever talked to anyone, but had a stream of self-criticism running through head at all times to keep me company. During this time, I truly lost who I was. I didn’t have an identity or personality anymore. I never laughed or smiled. And after a while, I just became numb to the world around me. It was easier to shut down and not feel anything, than feel the pain and sadness. I became a zombie. I didn’t care about anyone, even myself. I quit every activity I was involved in. I went to class and went back to my room. I did my homework then watched TV until I fell asleep.
That was my entire life.
I finally sought help the middle of my sophomore year, when my parents bribed me into seeing one of the school’s therapists. Even still, I didn’t start medication until my junior year, and starting medication didn’t deliver the quick fix I was hoping for, either.
It took another full year and trying four different antidepressants to finally find one that helped. My senior year of college was when I finally started to live again. Up until my senior year, when I started the right medication, however, I was still in pain. I was hurting and was desperate for any sort of relief from my emotional pain that never seemed to end. I found several different ways to quickly bring about brief periods of relief, but they all ended up hurting me worse and dragging me further down in the end.
I first tried food. Starting my freshmen year of college, I had periods of binging and then restriction and purging. I developed an eating disorder. I tried self-harm. Cutting brought me a physical pain that distracted me from my emotional pain. The physical pain was more tolerable than my emotions. I tried binge drinking. There was a point in my life where I realized the only time I felt happy was when I was drunk. I tried boys. I thought that maybe getting external validation from boys would prove that I was worth something, and so make me happy. It didn’t. I let go of my self-respect. I let myself be objectified and disrespected and used and taken advantage of. I may have felt wanted and pretty for a moment, but afterwards I only felt even worse.
It is now the August after I graduated college. I spent the last two months in treatment for my eating disorder and am happily in recovery from that. My continued medication and therapy have kept my depression at bay; however, I know it will be with me my whole life. I have new, healthy coping strategies. I have re-built my social network; I made friends my senior year that I know will be life-long. I have an identity again. I laugh all the time, some would say an obnoxious amount.
I am finally experiencing happiness. If I’m being honest, I am still terrified by the thought of slipping back into depression. But I believe I’ve been through the worst and am on the other side. I survived. And now I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to live a happy life, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. So I will keep recovery as a priority. I know I will always be a person living with depression, but more importantly, I am Lauren.