Do you want to know what feeling depressed is like? Are you struggling with your emotions and you just don’t know what they are? Let me tell you about what depression is like for me.
For as far back as I can remember I have been depressed. I didn’t know that what I had was called depression – for me, I was carrying with me always a feeling of overwhelming hopelessness and dread.
Even as a young child, the prospect of doing anything, be it getting out of bed, going to school, playing with my friends, having dinner with my family, filled me with such a sense of unrelenting dread that I just couldn’t do it.
I didn’t know that I was different from everyone else. I didn’t know that everyone else didn’t hate their life as much as I did.
My mom used to come up to my room and yell at me for being such a loser because I didn’t want to play with my friends or hang out with my family. It didn’t take long for 10 year old me to start to believing her. That I was a loser. And it certainly didn’t help me feel better.
My parents sent me to boarding school and, on the second night, someone handed me a bottle of vodka. I remember it like it was yesterday. I took one gulp – oh, how it burned – but suddenly, like magic, my feelings of hopelessness and dread disappeared. Life was just grand.
By the time I got to college I was a full-blown alcoholic. I would stay up for nights at a time, doing drugs. I would do whatever I could to put my life at risk. I would climb up on roofs, tripping on mushrooms. I would drive my car really fast on back roads, drunk. I didn’t want to commit suicide but I would have been perfectly happy if I was dead.
In spite of the hopelessness I carried with me, I was living a productive life. I graduated from college and moved to San Francisco and got a dream job working in the catering department of The Four Seasons Hotel. I worked hard and partied hard.
And, in spite of the 100lb gorilla of hopelessness that I carried on my back, I lived a life that many would consider happy. I had a great job, a beau and friends. But I also was an alcoholic with a terrible secret.
My boyfriend and I got married and we moved to Maine. I had two children and I stopped drinking and doing drugs but I replaced those things (self-medication in retrospect) with being perfect. I was the perfect wife and the perfect mother and the perfect employee.
At the same time, I was working as hard as I could to stay ahead of the hopelessness and dread that I carried with me every day.
I never talked to anyone about how I was feeling. We New Englanders are tough and hell would have to freeze over before we would admit to any weakness. So, on I lived, parenting, selling real estate, managing our home.
I was fine.
And then, in 2004, we moved to Tokyo. Which was amazing. And horrible.
For the first time in my 39 years, I had nothing to do. My kids were at school and my husband was at work and I was at home, with no friends, no work, no life.
Everything caught up to me. I could no longer ignore that hopelessness and dread that I had been carrying with me for all these years.
I started drinking again and acting out sexually. I compulsively bought handbags on Ebay. I drove my car fast whenever I could. I was cranky and impatient and miserable.
And then, one day, to this day I don’t know how it happened, I found myself in a closet, banging my head against the wall. I had no idea what was going on.
From my closet I managed to pick up my phone and call a friend. She came over and scooped me up, took me home and fed me apples and peanut butter while another friend found me a doctor.
It took that doctor 20 minutes to diagnose me with depression. I was 42 years old. I had been living with this gorilla for 42 years and it took one doctor 20 minutes to identify it and tell me what to do chase it away.
It’s been 10 years since my diagnosis. Since then I have found the right medicine that works for me and I have developed coping skills for dealing with things when times get tough.
I do still get depressed occasionally, but not for long, because I have learned how to recognize when it is happening and manage it well. I take my meds religiously and take really, really good care of myself.
I am living well with depression but if I have one regret it’s that I didn’t seek out help earlier.
But I can’t live with regrets. What I can live with is taking care of myself, managing my moods and building an amazing life for myself.
I AM living that wonderful life, one I am very thankful for every day, one with love and children and a community. I have this life because I pay attention and manage my moods and take care of myself. Some days I work hard but it’s worth it!
You can do it too! I promise.
Are you struggling with depression?
I know it’s really, really hard. Let me help!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.