Today is the first day of 2016.
I couldn’t be happier!
It’s a new stamp on time, fresh and clean. For now, at least, there have been no mistakes, regrets or darkness to soil the sparkling purity of “the new.”
Knowing me, that won’t last too long! But, for now, I’m reveling in the clean slate! And I’m turning my back on 2015 and not looking back!
It’s also the first time I’ve written on this blog in years. Why? Because I felt too lost to help anyone. It would have been the case of the blind leading the blind. If I couldn’t let the past go, how could I possibly write about how to help others? I was in a deep depression springing from great personal loss, PTSD, anxiety and chronic illness.
The purpose of this post isn’t to explain how I got there… Everyone’s sad story is different. Life is often both cruel and beautiful. It seems that those destined for depression don’t need a road map to find it. They need a plan to get out of it.
And it starts with letting go…
I know. It’s such a trite thing to say. I’m sure every depressed person would love to just let go of their sadness, emptiness and anger. I know I wanted to with every fiber of my being.
Yet, when you are in the middle of the darkness, that feels like an impossible thing to do. Depression tends to shine a magnifier on all of your past trauma, pain, failure and misery and then, like a cruel torture machine set on constant replay, play out each event to rip open your soul with agony just as fresh as the day it happened. You can never heal when you keep opening the wound.
How can you reprogram this type of force that continues to crash into you? How can you turn the tide?
Until I successfully did this in my own mind, I couldn’t very well show others a road map to hope. Oh, I knew all the psychobabble; but I didn’t want to feel like a hypocrite when I couldn’t follow it myself. Until I found answers, I didn’t feel like I could encourage anyone else.
That’s the most frustrating thing about depression. You know you should get out of the house. You know you should think about all of your blessings instead of scrutinizing all the loss. You know you should exercise. You know you should be around other people. You know you should eat healthy food. You know you shouldn’t escape into television. You know you should read books that lift you up and help you focus on your blessings. You know you should go to bed on time and get good sleep. You know you should follow a schedule.
Yet, sadly, when the dark monster encircles you with his talons, you just don’t care about what you should do. In my head, there was always this rational side speaking to me, almost like a little person lounging in my brain behind a desk. I called her my own little psychologist. She was very judgy. She always inwardly chastised me for not snapping out of this and getting over things. She had read all the self-help books and listed to all the motivational coaches telling you how to excel in life. She meant well. She wanted me to be successful, but she constantly held up this picture of the person that I knew I could be, the person that I used to be, but now couldn’t reach.
I often thought it would be much easier if I went completely loopy. It was the in-between walk through sanity, depression and brain fog that was so difficult. I knew my brain wasn’t working right. I knew I couldn’t remember things or process information well. I knew I shouldn’t be this sad. Yet, I couldn’t get all the way to a healthy mind and I couldn’t embrace the lack of self consciousnesses from full insanity either.
How To Find Hope
Hope is the magic ingredient for depression. It is when hope has completely gone that life no longer has meaning. You have to believe it will eventually get better. That’s why I can now share my story. In my case, after years of almost giving up, it finally did.
Thankfully, I found that a large reason I couldn’t shake my depression was mostly physiological. I have known that I’ve battled chronic illness for years, but the doctors couldn’t figure me out. I was” idiopathic,” which just meant they didn’t know. Doctors don’t like to not know… They are too busy for diseases that hide and don’t present themselves immediately. They would rather view the patient as the problem… a hypochondriac perhaps?
Finally, I found a doctor who enjoyed solving the puzzle instead of running from it. He found that I had hypothyroidism, a chronically low vitamin D level and insulin resistance. It took an amazing doctor to finally help me understand why I had been battling this darkness for years without relief. Among other not-so-fun side effects, one of the main symptoms in all of these diseases is depression.
That’s right… depression is a symptom.
It’s not your fault. This was a revelation to me.
It’s a symptom; just like when you try to breathe with broken ribs and have shooting pain through your body with each inhalation. You can’t will that pain away. You also can’t stop breathing. You just have to let the bones heal and keep breathing even though every time you take in air you want to cry.
For me, until my body was given thyroid hormone, vitamin D supplementation and medication to manage my insulin resistance, no amount of willpower, positive thinking or counseling was going to fix me. My doctor found the insulin resistance and low vitamin D first, so I was already treating it. The second I put the final piece of this puzzle together, and took that tiny thyroid hormone, it was like someone took off the wet blanket from my brain. I could breathe again. I was me again.
Until I had the medical answers coupled with the techniques I had already learned from past counseling, I could only go so far.
I will say, even though I had great advice, great counselors and great support, I could NOT come out of it without treatment. It wasn’t because I didn’t have enough faith. It wasn’t because I wasn’t trying. It wasn’t because I wanted drama or pity. I was sick with the kind of illness that society doesn’t understand.
Yes, I’ve dealt with trauma, and I processed it and moved on. This wasn’t a well brain trying to process a bad experience. This was different. My brain was sick. While many gave me great advice, it was the advice you would give to someone with a normal brain. My little psychologist was already saying the same thing to me with repetitive monotony.
It would be like a coach telling a runner how to perfect their running form with a broken leg. The advice is great – for someone with two working legs. No matter how much the coach tries to get the runner to incorporate that advice, nothing would work until the broken leg is treated first.
So, as we begin a new year fresh with possibilities, I can only be extremely grateful to my loving husband for sticking with me through some very dark times, to an amazing doctor who kept searching out my illness until he found a way to help me, and to my many other wonderful friends and family for standing by me.
Don’t Stop Fighting to Bring YOU Back!
I promise, that person you used to be is still in there. Don’t give up until you find them again.
If you love someone with depression, I would encourage you to push them to continue to seek a treatment that works. Don’t let them give up and just accept that this is something they have to live with the rest of their lives. Some people need therapists and others need medical intervention. Depression is so multifaceted, but there are always answers if you keep searching.
Just because a doctor can’t find a problem on the first appointment doesn’t mean it’s “all in their head.” Depression is a side effect of MANY different types of hormonal, nutritional deficiency and metabolic diseases. It can also be caused by head trauma. Just because you can’t see the broken system doesn’t mean it’s not there.
If you are battling depression, while it may be the last thing you want to do, keep fighting for answers. Don’t just accept it if someone labels you as crazy. Don’t be dismissed. If you have tried counseling and the techniques aren’t working, don’t assume you’re a lost cause. You may only need a small fix to feel better. My depression and anxiety were gone the second I took my first thyroid pill, and they haven’t returned. Once you find the answers, you will be so glad you kept fighting for them.
Now that I’ve finally put a name to my silent tormentors, battled them back with treatment, and found myself again, I’m ready to move forward. I try not to focus on the years lost in a depressive haze. I can’t do anything about that lost time. However, I can make the best possible rest of my life.
It’s time to move forward, relish my many blessings, and enjoy the fact that I can think clearly again. It’s time to build the positive mindset to create the life I’ve always wanted. It’s time to embrace the NEW Year as a NEW me!
If you’ve successfully beaten depression, or are in the process of fighting it, I would love to hear from you. Tell me your story in the comments below.