Today I went through an old portfolio of mine that was damaged in our little flood in the basement. When I first saw the damaged portfolio my heart sank. I have held onto some of these pieces for over fifteen years and I really hoped I could salvage the art. When I opened the portfolio I was disappointed to see and smell the damage. As I went through the art I was transported through time and began thinking about the past. When a lot of people think about college they remember the best years of their lives, I don’t. College and my twenties were a blur of depression, hopelessness and medications.
( Sifting through all the wet and damaged Art.)
Looking back I think my struggle with depression began in junior high. I was terribly shy, kids were cruel and I could not seem to find myself. I always felt so awkward. As I went into high school things didn’t change much. I am not saying it was all bad, I had some great friends and had some amazing experiences but deep down I was always sad.
When I went away to college things got a lot worse. I was miserable and I progressively became sadder and sadder. When I was twenty it came to a head and I just wanted to die. I finally got the courage to go to a doctor and talk about was happening to me and how I was feeling. The next year my life was a blur of antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and anti psychotics. I went through two psychiatrists, a therapist and several different diagnoses. I left school for a semester and when I was there I wasn’t. I was so absorbed in my illness and how horrible I was feeling.
When I was twenty-two I gave up on medication and before I knew it I was madly in love and became pregnant with Noah. I dropped out of school, got engaged, bought a house, and became a mom all in a ten months. When I was pregnant with Noah I felt wonderful. I was physically sick but mentally I felt fabulous, I wasn’t depressed. When Noah was about two the depression came back and once again I was playing the medicine game. I always found it interesting how many different pills were shoved down my throat, three, four, five, different ones at a time. All doing different things all of them contradicting each other.
I finally hit a wall and gave up on medication and doctors completely. I think I just accepted I would always feel this way and it was how I was supposed to feel. When you don’t know anything else irritability, depression and anxiety seem like the norm. Life went on; I got pregnant with Abbey and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Within a year of having Abbey my relationship with my parents deteriorated and I watched in horror as their marriage fell apart. When you suffer from depression you are depressed not because of external problems it’s just because of how your brain works but when you add external factors to an already depressed brain the situation becomes beyond grim. I could not handle what was going on anymore and I was miserable, irritable and severely depressed. I was no longer a twenty year old college student wasting her life. I now had two happy energetic children and a loving husband. I could no longer live with self-pity and bring down the people I loved most in the world. I decided to try medication again. I decided to go to my family doctor and see what she suggested I try.
We started with one medication, not three and it was a low dose that we slowly increased. The first time I realized I felt better was amazing. I took a deep breath and instead of feeling the weight of the world and dread I felt hope and carefree. Unfortunately I had to stop taking the medications because of a severe reaction, but for the first time I knew what it felt like to feel good. It’s been a year and a half since I started trying to find a medication match. About six months ago we found a combination that worked. It’s amazing not to be depressed, anxious or irritable all the time. I still have a bad day here and there; everyone does but it’s not because my brain is not working it’s because of something else. Life is clearer now, I know what I want, I know what is important, I want to surround myself with positive experiences and not dwell on the negative. When you can’t help being depressed and negativity is all you know that is one thing but when you purposely surround yourself with it, it is something completely different.
I wish I could go back to that eighteen year old girl going to college and talk to her. I would tell her not to take herself so seriously, not to become self absorbed with her illness, and go into getting help with an open mind. To create as much as possible, love as many people as possible, and experience everything she could. I would suggest getting help immediately, listen to and challenge her doctors and be proactive in her treatment.
My twenties were filled with extremes, amazing highs and terrible lows. When I look at my life I have one regret and looking back at my waterlogged portfolio it made it very clear. I regret letting depression dictate my life. Not being depressed has let me see what I want in life and what I want for myself. I am so glad I decided to get help before I got any older, because not suffering from depression is the most amazing feeling in the world.