I’ve always been a pretty serious-minded person. Even as a child I was contemplative and had a steady internal dialogue running. I worried about a lot. Safety, family finances, relationships and just general fretting about what the future would hold consumed many of my waking thoughts.
Sleep has always been hard to come by. And nightmares about the terrible things that would befall me or my family were frequent.
This is not to say that I never experienced joy or pleasure, because I most certainly did. Like many children of the 80s I danced to Whitney Houston and Micheal Jackson. I wore big ugly sweaters and used cassette tapes to record my favorite songs from the top 10 lists on the radio stations.
But the fact that there were so many unknowns and variables in my life did not help my little anxious mind find peace.
I did not know it then, but as an adolescent and teen, depression and anxiety were already my bedfellows.
Fast-forward a few decades, lived experiences and choices and I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young military spouse with a brand new infant in the middle of Kansas.
Life comes at you fast and looking back I now realize just how often I was operating under a fog of depression in my teens, 20s and early 30s. But I was smart, determined and ambitious. I could just busy myself and work to ignore everything else.
Over time things we do not address or heal have a way of metastasizing.
My husband and I continued growing our family and exploring America via his Army career. And eventually I was able to return to school and complete my degree. We met so many friends and experienced countless opportunities, but I still felt I could never truly enjoy anything. I could not understand what was wrong with me.
Why did I keep feeling worse, even as our material lives got better?
As I tried different haircuts, hobbies and pursuits to feel better I realized I was just straight up depressed.
The funny thing is I immediately blamed myself for not being able to get a handle on it. Please take my advice, do not under any circumstances listen to your depressed self say depression is your fault.
Thankfully right at the outset of my 30s I realized that I could take steps to address my ongoing depression.
About 5 years ago I decided talk therapy was a necessity just to process the swirl of emotions I constantly felt. I called Military OneSource and spoke to someone who helped me get into therapy within a week or two.
Gradually I began to be more honest with my health care providers about my feelings and slowly started on a path to some healing.
I wish that I could say this process was overnight, but my journey to acknowledge and treat my depression was and is an ongoing process with fits and starts.
Because I have a beautiful family complete with a caring spouse and healthy sons I’ve felt a tremendous amount of shame that I still struggle to feel “happy.”
The belief that I needed to try harder or move on or trust God instead of actively seeking treatment from mental health professionals contributed to prolonging my pain versus supporting my growth.
I had to get comfortable with the fact that even as I accomplished my goals, pursued my career and raised my family…I still was NOT OK.
Depression takes many forms and for me no amount of bubble baths, glasses of wine, college degrees or friends could shake my general unhappiness or sense of foreboding.
Recognizing and acknowledging depression in myself required me to look at my food choices, friend choices, the media I consume and how I navigate relationships. I have to be sensitive about my sh*t, because my body is going to let me know one way or another.
Therapy is a must for me and I recognize the privilege it is to be able to regularly seek and receive support.
Living with untreated depression determined so many responses and choices for me for so long. I am still reveling at being able to take a long view of my short life and consider how this has impacted so much of my life.
If you think you (or someone you know) may be dealing with depression it’s time to say “no” to the status quo.
At the very least talk to your doctor about what’s going on. Healing from/with depression or trauma is not a wham-bam deal. It takes time and tenacity.
Discovering appropriate treatment and sticking with it even when you begin to feel better is a learning process.