I was 18 when I was first diagnosed with depression.
I had just finished my first year at university, and I spent my days in bed, often sleeping until 3 or 4 in the afternoon. I would wake up, eat, then go back to bed and either cry, or mindlessly scroll through social media. Sometimes I would binge watch TV shows on my laptop.
I would get up again to eat, then proceed to go back to bed, unable to fall asleep. Cry, scroll, binge watch, repeat. I’d stay up until about 2 or 3 in the morning, then wake up 12 hours later…you get the picture.
I wasn’t getting along with my mom and my relationship with my first real boyfriend was on the rocks too. The only time I would get out of bed (other than to eat) was to see him. I thought he was my main source of happiness. I banked on him for my highs. And then, when we fought, I would feel even worse than I did before, wondering what I would do if I lost him.
Finally, my mom took me to get help. We went to the doctor, and he instantly recommended anti-depressants. I was terrified. I had seen what drugs had done to other people around me, and I didn’t want to be completely numb. I still wanted to feel, just not as intensely as I had been.
My GP then recommended me to a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook hospital to get another opinion and an official diagnosis. My mom drove me, and accompanied me as I spilled my feelings to the doctor and the student doing a placement with her. They gave me more info on the meds, and finally convinced me to try them out.
My mom continued to drive me every single week so I could go back and be monitored. I talked to the student doctor every week — I remember her being really kind and understanding. It was nice to just talk about my feelings to someone else, someone I didn’t know who wouldn’t necessarily judge me…better than just bottling them up.
Once the meds started kicking in, I felt like my old self again. Bubbly, energetic, overall happy. But it didn’t last.
To make matters worse, the student doctor finished her placement. I had really found comfort in talking to her every week, and then she was gone. I didn’t want to start over, build another relationship with another doctor. So I stopped going.
For the next few years, my mood had its ups and downs — it was never really stable, but I managed. I went to different hospitals, saw different doctors, tried different forms of therapy. But I never really stuck to anything, because nothing really worked. All I knew was that I hated being on meds, and I wanted to get off of them.
I started seeing a new psychologist, and he supported my decision to discontinue the use. As I weaned myself off, I started to feel more intensely. Little things that wouldn’t make me cry before would bring a flood of waterworks. But it was liberating, to feel again.
In hindsight, my timing was off, in terms of stopping the drugs. I got off of them as I started my new job — a huge life change. Sure, I was full of natural highs at first, from the excitement of embarking on a new life journey, but soon, the pressure and the stress became too much.
I relapsed, hard. I was filled with anxiety and depression, I would wake up gasping for air, unable to get out of bed, too stressed to go to work.
My mom started spending her nights with me, so we could leave the house together, to make sure I went in to the office.
Things started to get easier. I began dating a really great guy, which became another source of happiness and another form of support.
Of course, that wasn’t a sustainable source. I started going downhill again during the summer of 2014. The hardest part was my main form of support, my mother, had gone overseas to be with her sister, whose husband was dying at the time.
I went to my dad’s house so I wouldn’t be alone … but I still felt so very isolated. I would spend my days in bed, crying. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t eat. My mind felt like there was a dark haze, I couldn’t see anything clearly. I felt reckless, irrational, and it seemed as though I lost complete control of all of my emotions.
My poor dad didn’t know how to handle it all. He just begged me to stop crying. So I would hide, in a room, under the covers, so he couldn’t hear me.
The lowest point of my life was Thanksgiving 2014. I was pushing people away from me, including my boyfriend, and hit a point where I just didn’t want to feel anything anymore. So, I tried to hurt myself. But luckily, there was something in me that told me this was wrong, and to seek help.
So I did. I told my mom I needed help. I told her how scared I was that I wanted to physically harm myself, something I never imagined in a million years would cross my mind.
She took me to the emergency room. I knew at that point, my relationship had to end. He did too. You know how they say you can never really love someone unless you love yourself? That sentiment could not have been more true than at that moment.
I’ll never forget the heaving cries that consumed my body, for what seemed like forever. They would stop for maybe 10 minutes, and then just start again. I was terrified of what would happen to me, if I would have to stay overnight, isolated with just my feelings to keep me company.
Thankfully, they let me go home, and put me back on the meds that I was on years before. My mom drove me to my sister’s house, and I just remember lying on the couch, staring blankly at the fire, and my sister coming to sit beside me, rub my back and tell me how loved I was. That’s something I had never heard from her before.
One of my good friends came to see me the next day. She held me in her arms as I cried and cried and cried … the tears just couldn’t stop. I realized then and there how important I was to others, that I really wasn’t alone.
I spent the week at home, lying on the couch in front of the TV, crying and sleeping, again, with no appetite. It would take a while for meds to kick in. I visited my homeopath for a remedy, and she recommended I see a cranial sacral therapist, which I truly believe changed my life (I wouldn’t get into too much detail about this form of therapy right now, and save it for its own post).
Fast-forward to two years later and I’m a completely different person than I was. Yes, I’m still emotional, yes, I still get stressed and anxious and yes, I feel sad at times. But it’s OK, because it’s manageable. After years and years of trying different therapies and going on and off of meds, I finally found what works for me: cranial sacral, anti-depressants, regular exercise and soul food (playing piano, singing and journalling). Oh, and of course, a good support system and my Bach Rescue Remedy.
The combination of all of these things are what keeps my mood from dipping, and what allows me to function on an everyday basis. My goal is to get off the meds, though I still have a lot of work to do to get to that point.
This is not a story I share often. In fact, it’s something I’ve hid for a long time. I’d say it wasn’t until the past year and a half that I’ve really been more open about my personal struggle with mental illness, and not ashamed of it. Talking about it helps. Hearing other people’s stories helps. Knowing you’re not alone in the battle to fight it is key.
There’s a lot of talk about the stigma and getting rid of it, but there’s still so much more that can be done. What I’ve learned is the ones who can provide you with the most help and support are the ones who have been through it themselves … the ones who truly understand what it feels like to live with a mental illness.
So this is why I’m talking about it, and letting it all out in the open. To continue the conversation, to add to it, to let it be heard. To encourage others to open up and share their stories, and to, hopefully, prove that you can get through those extremely difficult times as come out stronger.
So let it be known that as of today, I am no longer afraid of saying the D word. And if this post pushes even just one person to conquer their fear of talking about depression, then I know it was all worth it.