A love letter to my depression

ImageI have suffered from depression since I was a young child. Depressive episodes would come and go. Each episode was a little deeper, a little longer, a little harder to come out of.

The pain of my depression was terrible. With mere words, I cannot begin to describe the despair. Thoughts of suicide were as soothing as a lullaby, yet I felt that I was already dead to the world. I was hollowed out, disconnected from life. When I did feel anything, it was sorrow, anger, anxiety or shame. Oh, I felt such shame for being so broken.

Deborah Shields, a woman who only knew me through an online chat group, was the first person to actually name my condition. She plainly told me in a private message “Heutzie, I think you are suffering from depression.” I was furious. Startled. Busted.

And I am forever grateful to her.

Once Deborah named it, I couldn’t deny that something was “not right.” I went to my doctor. I got a prescription for antidepressants. I stared at that bottle for days, giving it the stink eye, refusing to take the pills, refusing to believe I had a mental illness.

But the bold truth is I do.

My brain chemicals don’t work the way they’re supposed to. I take antidepressants, which are wonderfully effective for me. And like any other disease, I manage the illness. I have an open and regular relationship with my doctor. I exercise. I eat whole, healthy foods and cook from scratch. I get enough sleep. I limit my alcohol intake and I quit smoking. I accept help and talk through problems with friends or professionals (my swans). I keep my life balanced.

My depression, so long a part of my life, has made me who I am and who I am is splendid.

In Canada, May 5 to 11 is National Mental Health Awareness week. The US gives the topic the entire month of May. Good on them!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

A few years ago, I was desperately unhappy with my life. I felt stuck, not knowing what exactly was wrong or what to do. Within months, I was depressed and having panic attacks. As I tried to figure out what to do, or if anything could be done, my panic mounted and my frantic mind scrabbled at the seams of my life like a cornered rat. I feltfish hopeless and trapped.

My sister told me about an exercise she did when she was feeling similarly stuck and unhappy. She wrote down all the things in her life that were in her power to change. She suggested I try the exercise myself, assuring me that the results would be surprising.

She was right. There’s precious little that you cannot change. All these things (and more) are yours to choose:

Your home

Your job

Your eye and hair colour

Your name

Your spouse, your friends, your pastimes

Your citizenship,

Even your gender.

They’re all open to change.

In fact, the only things you can’t change are your past and your age.

Reinvention, transformation, opportunities and fresh starts are available pretty much every minute of the day. Now that’s hopeFULL knowledge!