March is Women’s History Month. I take a lot of pride in the road I’ve traveled in womanhood. It’s important for me to recognize all women and show appreciation for their life’s all year round, but especially during the month of March. To celebrate & honor those around me, I thought I would do a new series where I talk about all the different chapters of my life that form me into who I am. I’ve talked a lot about my anxiety so I thought I would start with my journey through depression. I want to share the deepest parts of my soul with you all this month. It’s not always going to feel easy, but I think it will be worth it.
I recently finished reading the book “My Lovely Wife In the Psych Ward” and it had an immediate impact on me. This book follows a husband’s journey as his wife is unexpectedly experiencing psychosis and is admitted to a psych ward. She had never felt anxious before. She had never experienced depression before. It was like God flipped the light switch off in her life and everything went dark. Throughout the book, she would be admitted to the psych ward three different times. She was ‘normal’ before. Now she was labeled with several mental health diagnosis and prescribed several medications that would maybe help. I can relate to her story.
Anxiety now feels safe to talk about. Why isn't depression? If there was a list of mental health disorders that we could openly discuss, free of judgement, I imagine anxiety would be at the top. Way below that would be depression. And then way way WAY below that would be bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline, etc etc etc. Why is that? I think we’ve gotten to a point in our society where we have normalized speaking openly about anxiety - which is amazing! I hear co-workers openly mention they feel anxious before big meetings and almost every day I see memes on social media talking about anxiety. Why aren’t we there with other mental health topics?
We have to end the stigma. Depression is something that is a part of my story. But I’ll be honest, it gives me a great deal of anxiety even sharing this with you all. I wasn’t even comfortable openly talking about this with friends and family until a few years ago. When I first started An Anxious Millennial, I didn’t even know if I would be able to share this part of me. But I want to help others. And I want to continue to heal myself, so sharing helps us both, right?
My relationship with depression first began when I was 14. It appeared out of nowhere and I didn’t have a word to describe how I was feeling. I was unable to sleep at night but found myself wanting to only sleep during the day. I stopped doing things that had brought me joy. My mood shifted. I felt like life was too heavy. I still remember the day I sat in my doctor’s office and he told me it sounded like I was depressed.
Six months later I was admitted to my own version of a psych ward. An inpatient hospital for kids my age. I was admitted for a total of 8 days. I felt like a shell of myself. Like I was floating outside my body watching this person have all these experiences. One day I was in eighth grade experiencing a ‘normal’ teenager life and then I the next I was here. My body and mind turned on the autopilot switch. I was just trying to survive. Every day was filled with the structure I needed to navigate depression. Wake up. Check vitals. Group breakfast. Group therapy. Art therapy. Group lunch. One on one therapy. Quiet time. Group dinner. Group therapy. Relaxation hour. Repeat it all tomorrow. My parents still have the art I made while I was admitted hanging in their house. I now view it as a display of where I’ve been and where I’ve come.
I made friends. I heard stories that softened my heart. I saw self inflicted wounds on so many of my roommates for the week. You could not wear any clothing with drawstrings. I vividly still remember my mom taking all of the drawstrings out of my clothing when they were helping me get settled. I didn’t feel like a 14 year old anymore. I had to work really hard to feel like myself. We were granted phone time at night and I remember sitting on the floor by the nurses station (we couldn’t really have conversations without them listening) and I’d call my friends and family to get some sense of what life was like on the outside. On day 8, I was discharged. I had made progress. I felt like this dark rain cloud turned to a light mist. The sun was starting to shine through.
Two years later, I made my second trip to the same facility I had left behind. I was 16. I should’ve been worrying about getting my license but depression put that on hold. I felt like a veteran at this point, I knew what to expect. Wake up. Check vitals. Group breakfast. Group therapy. Art therapy. Group lunch. One on one therapy. Quiet time. Group dinner. Group therapy. Relaxation hour. Repeat it all tomorrow. I was only admitted for 5 days this time but it somehow felt longer. This trip made me question myself and what my life looked like. Would I ever find the girl I once was? Was she still inside me? Would the rest of my life be spent in and out of psych wards?
It seemed like life was moving for everyone else my age. But for me, I was standing still. I would still see my therapist weekly. I saw a therapist almost weekly for 3 years. I would see my psychiatrist monthly. That lasted 3 years too. Medication was always a guessing game. I remember being on one medication that made me so tired but also so hungry. One of my best friends slept over and even though I had fallen asleep, I was still eating chips. Even though I look back at that story and laugh now, in that moment, my life seemed like I was navigating through the thickest fog.
But a few years later, the dark rain cloud started to lift and I began to see the sun.
Over the years, I’ve seen 5 therapists. I’ve been on countless medications. Today I take Lexapro every night. I debated if I even wanted to include that part of my life but I mean it when I say we need to end the stigma. The last time I felt depressed was two years ago. On my last therapy session, my therapist gave me a handout that helps put a plan in place for when I start to feel anxious or depressed. Even if you are someone who has never dealt with anxiety or depression, I encourage you to do this for yourself. Life happens and depression does not discriminate. It makes me feel so much better to know what signs to look for in myself and have a plan for how to cope.
My family helps me feel safe when talking about all of this. My friends make me feel brave when I share my story. I hope in me sharing my journey with you, it will help you open up to those around you. And if you aren’t ready, it’s okay. It took me 13 years to get here.
I recently was on a date and the other person said it would be really hard for them to be with someone who was still dealing with their past. I knew he was talking about past relationships (at least I think) but every part of my past makes me who I am. Every part of my past has formed me into the woman I am. I proudly accept my journey and I feel proud that this is the woman I see in the mirror every day.
Celebrate the women around you this month. And make sure to proudly celebrate your own womanhood.