DC

DC
When We lived in DC

about

about
about

shop

shop
shop

Depression Does Not Define Me



Ok, here it is. The post I've written over and over, but somehow never finish. But I'm done with being vague and wishy-washy about it ...I have depression. Quite the attention-getter, right? Well, it's true. Depression is something I believe I've had probably almost all of my life. But it wasn't until just recently that I was diagnosed and began receiving the help I needed. This is a little bit heavier than most of my posts on here, but I needed to post this, not just write it out and leave it in my drafts folder (again). Sharing this is important, not just for me, but for anyone going through something similar. Every time I read about someone I know (or even don't know) sharing about a mental illness they have, I gain more understanding -about myself, them, and mental illness as a whole. And this even goes beyond mental illness. Adversity shouldn't be suffered alone, and the lessons we learn from it shouldn't be kept secret. I believe that part of the reason we suffer through trials is to help lift others when they are faced with their own. So, I'm hoping this post can do at least a little bit for you as what other's posts have done for me.

I remember standing outside my fourth grade classroom in tears, trying to convince my mom to take me home. I didn't know why I was crying, I could see my classmates staring at me, but I couldn't stop. And I couldn't go to class. I couldn't just go join my friends. I didn't know why. I just couldn't do it. My mom would ask me "what is wrong? What happened? What can I do?" And the only answer I could give was "I don't know." I ended up missing my first two days of high school for the same reason. I've missed work, I've missed parties, I've missed out on whole days. Most frustrating has been that I didn't want to miss out on these things. I didn't want to spend the day just laying on my bed crying. I didn't want others to think they had done something to make me feel this way. 

The hardest part of growing up with depression was not knowing I had it. I didn't know why I was feeling so sad all of the time. I had friends, I had a great family, I had talents, I had so many reasons to be happy. And the phrase Choose to be Happy seemed like such a duh solution. But I couldn't do it, so I ended up blaming myself. For some reason, I figured I was choosing to not be happy. I was choosing to be bratty and rude. I was choosing to be anti-social. Looking back now, I see that I never really had a choice. Mental illness is incredibly strong. It's not something you can just will away, or replace with happy thoughts. I've had friends compare it to if you had a physical illness or injury. You can't just tell yourself to be healed. You can't will your broken leg away. 

I was at my worst when Camaron and I moved to Utah in 2011. The stress of moving, lack of close friends and family, financial stuff, and trying to have a baby were just too much. I was having breakdowns left and right. Camaron and I knew there was more to this than just me being homesick. I figured I could take care of it myself though. I changed my diet and became vegan for a bit. I tried exercising more. I tried to incorporate art into my life more. But the rough days would still rear their ugly heads about once or twice a month. I finally decided it was time I should see a doctor. But that would require making a phone call, and one of the "quirks" of my mental situation has always been an avoidance of talking on the phone. So time passed and no appointments were scheduled. I didn't worry though, because I felt fine. Why stress out over calling some strange doctor when I was feeling fine? When I wasn't in my dark place, I basically blocked it out of my mind and figured I was over it. But it always came back.

And then I got pregnant. Let me tell you, as rough as pregnancy can be, I wouldn't mind being pregnant a lot more often, because my depression basically subsided during those nine months. Thank you, crazy pregnancy hormones. But I'm not pregnant anymore, and the depression has come back. 
So I finally went to a counselor (yes, Camaron had to call and schedule it for me). My first time going was this last December. I was a mess of emotions leading up to the appointment, but I was happier than I had been in a long time when I got home. It was an incredible feeling to have someone validate the feelings and thoughts I had been struggling with. It was amazing to finally know that there was a reason I was feeling the way I was. There was even a name for it. 

I continued counseling once a week for a few months. Sometimes I left loving this woman, and sometimes I left despising her. But, overall, I am so grateful for all that she taught me about myself. For what I learned about why I do the things I do. But the most important thing I learned from her was that this trial, my depression, doesn't have to always be a trial. It can also be a blessing -something I can be grateful for. I know that I have my depression to thank for my gift of being a good listener. And the deep empathy I have for others. And it has helped me accept the faults of others, because we really don't know what they're going through -and everyone is going through something. I know I still have a lot more to learn. I am still working on discovering other ways that my mental illness has and can bless my life. It's definitely not something I have overcome by any means. Overall though, I truly believe I am doing better.

For me, counseling was a great help. Talking with my counselor and my bishop at church made it possible for me to gain a broader perspective on myself and my mental illness. I have also tried medication, which was also helpful. Overall though, having a knowledge that I will never be faced with a trial I can't handle has been the greatest reassurance though this whole process. I know that each time I have one of my bad days, it is only temporary. And even further, I know that having bad days at all is only temporary. We all have adversities to face, but that is life. That is the part that helps us grow and develop. The part that makes us stronger. I love how my bishop once described it to me, I am not defined as a depressed person. I am a person who has depression.



If you have any questions for me, I'd be happy to answer them. Also, if you suffer from a mental illness or would simply like to learn more, the article Myths About Mental Illness is great:)

22 comments

  1. An amazing post from an amazing young woman. How wonderful that you can see the blessings this illness has brought into your life. And I believe this post will be a blessing to many of your readers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Adversity shouldn't be suffered alone, and the lessons we learn from it shouldn't be kept secret"

    I read it twice cause I got so much out of it.
    As a person who has several people in my immediate family with this struggle and my own similar struggles, I really appreciate hearing your perspective and ways you've learned to overcome it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you so much for writing this, I would have never guessed that you suffered with depression also. And to know that someone I see as such a wonderful, awesome lady and mother can deal with one of the same demons I deal with makes me have hope for my future. I hope you realize just how amazing you are.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You have no idea how perfect your timing is with this post. I have been thinking about getting help for the last two days. I have had depression since high school and it has been its worst in the last two years. When I was on birth control, which has the equivalent hormones of pregnancy, I was a dream. I felt like a normal human being. When I went off, two years ago, it has been awful. I have constantly felt like, I just need to fix it. It's me. I need to "choose happiness" like you said. I'm finally realizing I cannot do this alone. I have gotten used to feeling this way all the time, I have forgotten what it's like to just have peace and be happy on a consistent basis. To not always want to retreat to my home and never leave. Thank you so much for being honest. You have helped push me to find help and I'm sure you are helping others.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Bri, I'm glad my words were able to hit you the way that you've expressed they did. As hard as it was, and even though there were sessions that I really felt like were pointless at the time, I am so grateful for what counseling did for me. If you find the right person for you (and sometimes it might take a little trial and error), counseling can be such a blessing. Also, I just ordered a book that delves into seeing mental illness in a happier light -I'll let you know how it is:)

      Delete
  5. Thank you for posting this, Andrea. I find a lot of strength when others share what they are going through in an authentic way. I hope you've gained strength in sharing it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I admire your courage in writing this.

    I'll share some of my experience. It's not depression per se, but I find it helpful to read about people's experience with illnesses other than the one I have been diagnosed with. Your post is especially enlightening, as I just experienced a longer, much harder depression than my typical.

    I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 18. I can relate wholeheartedly to growing up with it, but not knowing it (though I thought maybe I had depression).

    I am glad you mentioned what a blessing it is: I think some of the most brilliant, creative people I know (myself included "cough, cough") are a little crazy ;)

    Bipolar is interesting. Most who have it experience long periods of depression (months or years) followed by shorter, but sometimes longer (for me, it's usually shorter) periods of mania. *Mania is basically being Superman. But only in our heads. Don't get me wrong, some incredible people attribute their success and creativity to those manic impulses, but often the mania leads to taking on more than we can handle, which then leads to a harder depression.*

    During these periods of extended mania or depression, there are often shorter cycles, dubbed "microcycles" (by me). The longer, I call a general mood. There are cycles within cycles within cycles. So, I could be manic for a month, but have four weeks back and forth within that general mania of being depressed and being manic. And then within that week... and that day, to the point where the two states of being often blend together--- literally feeling manic and depressed at the same time.


    Currently, I am recovering from an extended depression, and heading into the manic side of things. This really excites me, because I finally feel alive; but it also makes me nervous, because, when manic, I tend to set unrealistic goals, make extreme moves, and start 16 projects at once. This is all fine and dandy, except that when I don't finish a single one of those 16 projects, the depression comes much harder than usual.

    When depressed, I get into a funk. The mania comes in and out throughout the depression, and so I at least have some motivation to express my depression through the arts. But, I also do things that really push my body closer than it should be to death (poor nutrition, poor sleep, word of wisdom things, etc). I don't do this because I want to die; rarely is that the case. I abuse my physiology because I just don't care (depression). I want to push my limits (mania within the depression). I want to die hard, while remaining alive.

    I love the fact that I have bipolar. I also hate it.

    I love it because I know it is part of the condition I asked for before this life (otherwise I wouldn't have it, right?). I know I wanted it because of how deeply enriching it can be. But what a trip.

    I hate it because it hurts. So bad. To go from being in the most blissful, beautiful moment, to having it completely taken away from me, because something is out of order in my brain, is the cruelest thing I could ask myself to go through. Makes me think I had it before this life.

    The good news is that Nature is in cycles. Day, night. Summer, winter. The moon. It helps me keep a level head, knowing this. And often I think everyone is probably bipolar, just some more so than others.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you, Thank you! I am so happy that more and more people are sharing their stories of mental illness. Open dialog creates understanding and compassion. It took me a long time to see a counselor too. I look back at college with so much regret, because I missed out on so much fun due to my depression and anxiety and not getting help sooner. Maybe it's the artist in us? :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. I admire you so much. I love your perspective on temporary things like this will only last a day or two it's not forever. I think anyone and everyone going through trials whether short-term or long-term can benefit from that perspective. You're so awesome and so brave and I seriously loved reading this post I learned a lot.

    ReplyDelete
  9. By the way, I just realized I'm hiding behind my Avatar. This is Alec Tucker in case that wasn't gathered.

    ReplyDelete
  10. So well put. I am grateful for yours and everyone's recent openness about depression. Everyone has surely been there some time, whether short or long and more unity, understanding and love can definitely come with expression. You are truly strong and have never let on about any "rough days". You're amazing lady.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Andrea, I am so glad you wrote about this. Mental illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of. One of the side effects of depression is feeling alone. People being about their depression not only helps people feel less alone, but also helps take away the stigma that surround mental illnesses. I know it has for me. Thank you for sharing.

    A graphic novel that I really love is "Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness" by Darryl Cunningham. I feel like I tell everyone about it, but it is SO good. It does such a great job at explaining a variety of mental illnesses. My favorite part of it was the chapter about famous people with mental illnesses, though. Winston Churchill, Nick Drake, and, uh, one of the guys from The Beach Boys who's name I can't remember all suffered from depression. If you can't find it at your library, I would just buy it. Seriously. So good.

    I also have this theory that President Uchtdorf has had very personal experiences with depression judging on his past few talks, including the one in this past weekend's general conference. Some of my favorites are You Matter to Him, Your Happily Ever After, and Forget Me Not. I call it The Might Trio of Uchtdorf, but I will have to think of a new name since I want to add his talk from Sunday. Haha.

    Again, thank you so much for your boldness. Treat yourself to some fro-yo for being awesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amy! I am so going to check out that book (thank you, Amazon Prime). And I love your theory on Pres. Uchtdorf ...very intriguing. And seriously, Uchtdorf has so many talks that are just perfect, I couldn't narrow it down, but I do especially love the classic trifecta.

      Thank you for your sweet comment. Fro-yo does sound nice, I'll make Camaron take me:)

      Delete
  12. As someone with anxiety disorder, OCD and a history of depression, let me say I am honored to be in your company! It is so hard, yet I feel like I have these things because of who I am. It's like my glitch -- have you seen Wreck-It Ralph? I have a glitch but with therapy and medication, I have learned how to control it and learn to use my nature to my advantage. I have learned a lot about who I am and why I feel the way I do. It helps me come to grips with what is real and what my mind likes to create with its OCD-ness. :)

    Love you, Andrea! Thanks a bunch for sharing your story with the world. I am glad you have found something that works for you and I admire your strength.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha I prefer to call my glitches "quirks" :) And you're so right, they make us who we are. Thanks for your comment!

      Delete
  13. I just stumbled across your blog and first of all have to say how talented you are and second of all that I'm impressed by your courage and willingness to talk about something so personal. I am no stranger to anxiety and had to chuckle when you said you hate talking on the phone because I stress over making phone calls like that ALL the time! Glad I'm not the only one! :) Thanks for the inspiration!!

    Kimberly
    Third Floor Design Studio

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your sweet comment, Kimberly. I'm glad I'm not the only one who stresses over making phone calls:) It's seriously the worst.

      Delete
  14. I saw your post on FB and wanted to see what you had to say. I'm glad I did, though more than a little surprised at how much of your post I relate to. I could have written the 5th and 6th paragraphs, except that the word depression wouldn't show up at all in mine. I've always just thought I had a lot of mood swings, which for me may be the case. Plus anxiety. The other day, I needed to drive to Provo (40 min. away) to see my sister's play at BYU. I was incredibly anxious all morning about the drive and leaving my baby for those couple hours. I looked up the directions and talked to three different people about where to park and how to get to the right building on campus so I wouldn't get lost. I remember tearing up while I fed my baby lunch, feeling positive it was going to be the last time I did so. Then again pulling out of the driveway after I dropped him off at my friend's house. I was sure I was going to die on the way on my trip. This sounds absolutely ridiculous now, but at the same time, my body is tense just thinking about it. I prayed all the way to Provo. Haha...I even repented. My chest and throat felt tight and I gripped the steering wheel like a lifeline. I remember I couldn't even call anyone to distract myself from negative thoughts because I would cry, plus, I didn't want to distract myself from driving and then have that be why I wrecked. Anyway, I got there and watched the play, but the play was about WWII child refugees and did nothing to ease my anxiety. I drove home just as tense, and I couldn't have been more surprised to arrive home safely and see my baby and husband again. I knew the entire time that something was wrong--this was definitely not normal. I tried to tell myself what my counselor (who I went to for maybe two months about anxiety) back in college told me: 99.9% of the time my fears are not going to happen. Obviously I talked myself to Provo, but it was awful. I keep thinking I should talk to a counselor again, but they're not exactly free anymore, so I figure I should do it on my own and by studying the gospel. Anyway, experiences like that and being able to relate to everything you just wrote makes me wonder if I should look into it a little more and make sure I'm doing what I should to be the best I can be.

    Thanks for writing and letting me share. Sis. Morgan always said everyone is a little neurotic in her own little way...I guess it's more true for some of us than for others. :)

    You have a beautiful family, by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thank you so much for writing and sharing such an open, honest, beautifully put-together post. That takes A LOT! I admire your strength. I hope (and can already tell) things are moving forward to a beautifully bright and happy future. I have experienced (some years ago) the ups and downs following some really traumatic happenings...and the biggest thing for me was keeping my strength in the way I viewed myself. I had to become positive because I didn't want to live the way I was any longer. Confronting issues, voicing them and writing them down was also the beginning of much brighter days. I hope that sharing this brings a sense of calm and builds another layer of strength within you to know you have this and will get through it. Sending you the brightest of wishes for continued strength and beautiful days ahead.
    Maria x

    ReplyDelete
  16. congrats on your courage in posting this, purple shorts! its tough to open yourself up in this way and i love you even more for doing so! you are most certainly NOT alone in your hardship and i applaud you for taking various approaches to seek treatment. you do not have a weirdo disease ;) depression certainly does not define you or lessen your intrinsic value. if you ever want to talk out your feelings in person (not on the phone) or on skype, i would be happy to listen. close friends and family have carried me through my life and have been the best free therapists a person could ask for! i'm so glad you have great supporters there in gilbert and send mucho love your way! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jill! Oh you're just so nice:) I always love your comments. Please come visit AZ asap so we can throw some disc and play with your sister's chickens

      Delete
  17. I'll pipe in as well. Here's the thing I've seemed to learn about depression: if you have any degree of creativity, you're probably going to be depressed to some degree for some length of time. (I could have been more specific there, I guess, but meh.) Unfortunately, depression is stilled viewed as this outlier problem - something that (according to my ill-informed and clearly-non-creative-by-my-definition friends) you can just "will" away.

    You can't. Because I've TRIED that - you don't think I've TRIED? Idiots.

    As someone who's depressed probably 70-85% of the time, but whose symptoms are irritability, difficulty focusing, self-loathing, misanthropy and fatigue rather than a cliched version of being stuck in a bed, I'm thrilled to see these conversations taking place. It's hard (and about impossible) explaining that, yes, while I am a functioning adult and am not living a constant Lifetime movie, I'm still nearly constantly pushing through these symptoms even if I'm putting on a happy face.

    Anyway, this is borderline rambling, so I'll just say it again - thanks.

    ReplyDelete

Back to Top