Living with Depression: My Journey Towards Acceptance and Healing

Living with Major Depressive Disorder

By Elena Sledge, as told to Kara Mayer Robinson 😄🌈

Introduction: A Roller Coaster of Emotions

Living with depression is no walk in the park. Trust me, I know. I’ve been on this wild ride for almost 12 years now, and let me tell you, it’s been a journey of ups, downs, and everything in between. From the moment I found out I had major depressive disorder at the ripe age of 19, my life took a turn I never expected. But hey, they say life is full of surprises, right? 😊

Questioning My Diagnosis: Why Me?

In the beginning, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I had depression. I mean, sure, I had some tough times, but nothing that seemed major enough to warrant a diagnosis like this. It was like I was handed a surprise party that I never wanted to attend. 🎉

But as I embarked on my journey of self-discovery, therapy became my trusty sidekick. My therapist taught me a valuable lesson that will stay with me forever: “You have depression because you have it.” It was a simple yet profound statement that made me realize I didn’t need to justify or apologize for my diagnosis. It was part of who I am, whether I liked it or not. And that acceptance was the first step towards healing. 💪

Managing Symptoms: A Multifaceted Approach

Over the years, I’ve tried various methods to manage my depression. One of the most effective tools in my arsenal has been therapy. Regular sessions with a therapist have helped me navigate the roller coaster of emotions that is depression. It’s like having a private investigator who helps me unravel the mysteries of my mind. 🕵️‍♀️

In addition to therapy, I’ve also experimented with different medications. I started with an SSRI, which worked wonders for me initially. But as time went on, its effects seemed to wear off. I dabbled with other medications like SSRIs and SNRIs, finding relief when I needed it most. I’m a firm believer in the power of medication for mental health, but currently, it’s not a part of my routine. However, I won’t hesitate to explore that option if the need arises again. It’s all about finding what works best for you! 💊

But managing depression isn’t just about therapy and medication. It’s a holistic approach that encompasses various lifestyle changes. Two years ago, I decided to get active and started working with a personal trainer. Let me tell you, the endorphin rush from exercise is a game-changer. Plus, my trainer also doubled as my personal cheerleader, which is always a plus. Go team! 🎉

A healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with mental well-being, so I make sure to prioritize sleep, limit my alcohol intake, maintain a routine, and nourish my spiritual health. It’s all about finding that beautiful balance that keeps you feeling your best. 🧘‍♀️💤🥗

Friends and Family: A Network of Love and Understanding

I am incredibly fortunate to have a support system that’s solid as a rock. My husband is my rockstar, and he understands the Dark Side of the Moon (no, not the Pink Floyd album, but the metaphorical one). Many of my friends and family have also navigated their own mental health journeys, so they get it. And let me tell you, having someone who listens, cares, and talks through it all can make the world of difference when you’re feeling down. Love and connection are the secret ingredients for growth and healing. ❤️✨

Managing Triggers: Navigating the Minefield

Although I’m not consistently experiencing depressive episodes at the moment, I’m well aware of how easy it is to slip into that dark abyss. It’s like my brain has a Ph.D. in Depressionology. Impressive, right? 😅

Certain triggers can send me spiraling, especially when it comes to feeling like a failure in relation to my work. As a mental health counselor, the pressure of owning a private practice and helping others can sometimes be overwhelming. In those moments, I need to put on my superhero cape and manage my thoughts like a pro. I write them down or talk them out with someone who gets it. And most importantly, I replace those self-deprecating thoughts with compassionate ones like “I’m enough,” “I’m trying,” or “This too shall pass.” It’s all about embracing self-love and shutting down that sneaky voice of doubt. 💪📝

But it’s not just work-related triggers that can throw me off balance. Personal and world events also have a profound impact on my emotional well-being. Let’s face it; the past two years have been a roller coaster on a global scale. It’s no wonder anyone can feel hopeless and despair in these uncertain times. So, I’ve learned to practice proactive self-care by prioritizing sleep, staying active, managing my schedule effectively, and showering myself with heaps of self-compassion. Depression thrives on doubt, and I’m not letting it hijack my thoughts. 🌍😌

My Biggest Hurdle: Triumph Over Darkness

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the times when depression almost consumed me. In my early- and mid-20s, I battled with suicidal thoughts and felt utterly out of control. It was a terrifying experience, and I didn’t know if I could hold on. But thanks to therapy and medication, I found a way to navigate those treacherous waters. It wasn’t easy, but I emerged from that dark tunnel and into the light. Sure, those passive suicidal thoughts occasionally rear their ugly heads, but I’ve learned to tame them. It’s a constant battle, but one I’m determined to conquer. 💔🌟

Living with the Ups and Downs: Finding Peace Amidst the Storm

While my journey with depression has been full of ups and downs, I can proudly say that I’ve found more peace as I’ve grown older. The intensity of the roller coaster ride has eased up a bit. When I feel great, I embrace it with open arms, cherishing every moment. And when I’m just okay, I remind myself that it’s part of the journey too. 🎢🌈

To manage these fluctuations, I rely on my arsenal of coping mechanisms: therapy, a support network of friends and family, and staying active. They are my pillars of strength that keep me grounded when the turbulence begins. It’s all about embracing the journey, no matter where it takes me. 🤗

What I Know Now: Lessons Learned and Growth Achieved

Through it all, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I am not defined by my depression. It’s a part of my life, but it doesn’t define me. Depression has pushed me to grow in ways I never anticipated. Sure, I wouldn’t wish it upon my worst enemy, but it has given me a unique perspective and made me more compassionate towards others. In fact, it inspired me to become a therapist myself, carrying the torch of support for others who walk a similar path. I used to resent my depression, but now, I see it as a vital chapter in my life, one that has shaped me into the person I am today. 🌱❤️

Remember, if you’re struggling with depression, you’re not alone. Reach out to a mental health professional or seek support from loved ones. Together, we can overcome the storm and embrace the sunshine that awaits us on the other side.

Now, let’s rise above the stigma and start a compassionate conversation about mental health. Share this article with someone who needs a little extra love and understanding today! 📲❤️

Q&A

Q: Is medication necessary for managing depression?

A: Medication can be a helpful tool for managing depression, but it’s not the only option. Some individuals find relief through therapy, lifestyle changes, and support networks. It’s essential to work with a mental health professional to determine the best approach for your unique situation.

Q: How can I support a loved one who is living with depression?

A: The best thing you can do is be there for them. Listen without judgment, offer your support, and encourage them to seek professional help if needed. Remember, your presence and understanding can make a world of difference.

Q: Can depression ever go away completely?

A: The journey of living with depression is different for everyone. Some individuals may experience periods of remission, while others may manage their symptoms more consistently. With the right support and tools, it is possible to find moments of peace and happiness despite living with depression.

Q: Are there any natural remedies for managing depression?

A: While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, some individuals find relief through practices like exercise, mindfulness, and a well-balanced diet. These lifestyle changes can support overall mental well-being. However, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before making any major changes.

Q: Can therapy really make a difference in managing depression?

A: Absolutely! Therapy provides a safe space to explore and navigate the complexities of depression. A skilled therapist can help you develop coping skills, challenge negative thought patterns, and provide support throughout your journey.

References

  1. Understanding Depression: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment
  2. Medication for Depression
  3. Exercise and Mental Health: How Moving Your Body Boosts Your Mood
  4. The Power of Social Support for Mental Health
  5. Mindfulness-Based Approaches for Depression

Photo credit: SrdjanPav / Getty Images

SOURCE: Elena Sledge, MEd, LMHC, therapist, Awaken Therapy Collective LLC, Winter Park, FL.