The future of treatment for major depressive disorders
December 5, 2022
How I talk to others about it
December 5, 2022

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By Elena Sledge, as Kara Mayer Robinson put it

I have lived with depression for almost 12 years. I’m 31 now and found out when I was 19 that I had major depression.

I had a miserable freshman year in college, but I didn’t really know what was going on. I went to a therapist and the following summer I was diagnosed with major depression. Looking back, I can see that I was also depressed in high school.

Processing my diagnosis was a process. I had a hard time understanding why I was depressed and where it came from. In my opinion, I hadn’t gone through anything bad that would justify major depressive disorder.

Therapy helped. My therapist normalized and validated my experience. Once she said to me, “You have depression because you have it.” I’ve never forgotten that.

I realized I needed to accept my diagnosis and take steps to help me.

dealing with symptoms

I’ve been in therapy fairly consistently over the years. That helped me the most.

I have also taken various medications. I was taking an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) for about 2 years when I was first diagnosed. The effects wore off, but it helped me a lot at first.

I have tried other medications such as other SSRIs and SNRIs (serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) for a short time. They helped when I needed them. I’m 100% a proponent of mental health medication, but it’s not something I need right now. If that changes, I’ll probably try again.

I’ve also made many lifestyle changes. Two years ago I started working with a personal trainer because I wasn’t very active. I feel stronger and have more energy. I still work 4 days a week with the same trainer.

With exercise, I try to take care of my body in a way that feels good to me. I also focus on getting enough sleep. I hardly drink alcohol. I focus on maintaining a daily routine and taking care of my mental health.

friends and family support

I feel lucky to have the support that I do. I’ve done a lot to maintain close relationships because relationships are so important to me.

My husband is amazing and has also lived with depression. Many of my friends and family have experienced depression or other mental health issues, so they have a lot of understanding.

It helps when someone is listening, caring, and taking the time to talk to you about what’s going on. The social support is huge. I believe human connections are so important to growth and healing.

Manage triggers

I don’t experience depressive episodes all the time right now, but I find them easy to slip into. It’s interesting because my brain really knows how to get depressed. In a way it’s so familiar and comfortable.

I sometimes struggle with feeling like a failure. It comes up most often in relation to my work. I’m a mental health counselor. Owning a private practice and trying to help others can be overwhelming at times, producing depressive thoughts and symptoms.

I have to do a lot to organize my thoughts and not be ashamed. To release my emotions, I write them down or speak them out to someone. I also frame my thoughts into more compassionate ones like “I’m enough,” “I’m trying,” or “It won’t be like this forever.”

I still get brooding sometimes when there’s too much going on. My main trigger is being overwhelmed by personal and world events. World events in the last 2 years have definitely had an impact. It’s so easy for everyone these days to feel hopeless and desperate.

I know my triggers and try to be proactive. I do best when I get enough sleep, stay active, keep my schedule effective, and show compassion for myself. Depression likes to cling to doubt. Thoughts like “You’re a failure” or “It’ll never get better” can grow pretty quickly.

My biggest hurdle

My biggest struggle was in my early and mid 20s when I was having suicidal thoughts. I often felt out of control and didn’t know if I could protect myself. My symptoms were bad and I needed more support. I feel like therapy saved my life. Medication was also important. I got over it, but passive suicidal thoughts can still arise.

Life with ups and downs

My ups and downs were much more intense and violent in my early 20s. The roller coaster can still be very hard, but I generally experience a lot more calm at this point in my life.

When I feel great, I feel great. Sometimes I just feel okay.

To get through the ups and downs, I rely on what helps me, such as going to therapy, getting support from my friends and husband, and staying active.

what i know now

The most important thing I learned is that I am not my depression. It’s something I experience and live with, but it’s not me.

Depression has helped me grow and expand in ways I might not have otherwise. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and if I had the choice I wouldn’t choose it. But it’s the hand I was dealt and it’s okay to see how it shaped me.

It made me more compassionate. It inspired me to become a therapist myself along with a strong therapist I once had. It made me want to support others.

I used to get very angry about my depression, but not anymore. As horrible as it’s been over the years, it’s an important part of my life and has helped me in so many ways.

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Living with major depression
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