What It Is Like To Live With Depression
Depression is not just a mood. It is a mental illness that challenges a person's daily living. At the same time it does not define us.
Video recorded 07/06/2017
I am not sure what motivated me to create this video above back in 2017. As mentioned I hoped that one day I could look back at this video and use it as my testimony to help others. In the midst of another depressive episode I had some level of hindsight to be writing about it years later. At that point of my life depression was no stranger to me. It seemed as though I could never catch a break. I would go two to three months doing well before depression popped up like Rodger from Sister Sister. I became the friend that could be “too much” to handle when it came to those closest to me. To the rest of the public I was living this amazing and vibrant life. With the right photos you can have you dream life on social media. Now in life you have functioning drug addicts like some potheads and then you have people like me who may be considered a functioning depressed person. “Check on your strong friends” always becomes trendy after a reported suicide or the world experiencing grief all at the same time. I challenge you to check on all your friends because strength is subjective and shown in different ways. Everyone has their limits. Let me share mines.
"I challenge you to check on all your friends because strength is subjective and shown in different ways."
My first depression onset started in the end of 11th grade all the way through to my senior year. I was not a fighter and had never been in a fight. The day I became depressed I was the physical target of a relative’s anger. I had seen their level of anger before but this time it was directed to me. It was the type of anger that makes you so fearful you freeze in place because you do not know what will happen but you know it is not going to be good. Just as I anticipated things went very left very fast. That night resulted in me having a black eye, broken blood vessels in my eye, broken eye glasses, and endless questions and students staring at me as I walked through the school hallways. That Monday when we returned to school I remember entering my computer class with Ms. Claire. Anyone who knew Ms. Claire knew that her picture was next to the definition of mean and annoying. Therefore, there was no surprise that before I could even walk into her class, she stopped me with her face twisted up asking “What happened to you?” Her tone didn’t mimic a concerned adult but a nosy person trying to instigate an incident. I don’t remember what I told her but I knew it was far from the truth. It had to be because I was a minor and my black eye was enough cause for child protective services to get involved. At 15 I experienced hate, anger, embarrassment, betrayal, fear, distraught, and much more all at once. I would go back and forth between being angry at him for doing such a horrible thing and then get mad that I did not try to defend myself. Whether he knew it or not back then, I already had it made up in my mind that would be the first and last time I would be physically abused. That was eleven years ago and it still disturbs me as if it happened yesterday. My decision to start therapy would eventually reveal how that day became the foundation for the destructive path I started to follow.
Now my worst year EVER was in 2017. I would gladly pick 2020 over 2017 any day. That’s how bad it was. I had never been depressed as long as I was in 2017. Ironically right before this depression season started I just graduated with my Masters of Social Work a few weeks beforehand. The start of the year was amazing. I graduated with my second degree and my college paid a full trip for me to do research in Armenia.
I had a huge party for my graduation, I filed and got approved for my business LLC, and I had a great job working as a Community Organizer. I was making great achievements but then came June. June was disrespectful and shut that ALL DOWN for the remainder of the year. That year I took many losses. Everything was literally happening back to back. During this time:
· My friendship completely ended with my best friend from my previous blog
· My other close friends had their own issues going on and could not mentally deal with me
· My plan to move back to the DMV was failing rejection letter after rejection letter from every job I applied to
· Another traumatic incident occurred
· My sister Breyonne (who is my protector, my confidant, my everything) moved to Minneapolis
· My other “best friend” stole money from my bank account. How the heck did that happen? So once upon a time I was foolish and gave him my debit card info to buy uniform pants because I didn’t have time to transfer funds. His “uniform pants” costed $400. Needless to say that friendship ended.
· I hurt someone I cared about by withholding very important information I should have told them
· Once I did land a job in DC and moved back to the DMV a month into the job it became the job from hell. The Executive Director (my direct supervisor) purposely made the work environment hostile. Her motive was to get me to quit before getting audited by the Grantor because she knowingly hired me for a position requiring a license per the grant which I did not have. Side note: For my job seekers PLEASE choose an employer that has an HR Dept.
The list just went on to the point I was no longer the functioning depressed person. I was not myself and everyone knew it now. My presentation was flat and nonchalant. I didn’t care about anything including living. I would pick up extra hours to avoid being at home. I started abusing alcohol to numb the emotional pain. I did not want to feel anything because it hurt too much to feel. I started to hate myself and thought I wasn’t good enough.
I don’t know what comes after the sunken place but whatever it is, I WAS THERE. I was convinced I had no one to turn to and I was a burden to everyone so it was just best to tell everyone “I’m fine”. I was NOT fine. I became very suicidal. It started with self-hate talks, then believing I was unworthy, and then thinking I would find peace in death so I started planning. I planned on overdosing on left over oxycodone I had from a recent surgery or driving off the road. Then those thoughts started to become attempts. My risky behaviors escalated from there for the next several months.
Breyonne and I at my Grandmother's Surprise Party on 7/8/2017. This picture was taken a few days before one of my suicide attempts. This is what depression can look like.
The turning point for me to get professional help was when I became scared of myself. I knew what I was capable of. My emotions had turned into a landmine and I did not know what would be the thing to trigger a successful suicide attempt. In addition I was having frequent severe mental breakdowns that would last from 30 minutes to a full hour straight. Going to therapy literally saved my life because I could not manage that load on my own. Of course there was my family and some friends who were deeply concerned but my expectation was unrealistic to think I could just pour all my shit on to them in hopes they knew what to do with it. They were hurting too because it is always hard to watch someone you love or care about self-destruct especially when you feel like you cannot do anything to help. I realized later on how much I was hurting my family especially my mother. I remember calling my mother one day panicking about lord knows what and she responded “Every time something doesn’t go a certain way you start panicking. Sometimes I’m scared to answer the phone because I just don’t know when I’m going to get that call.” Hearing my mom anticipate getting a call about my suicide truly broke me. I did not want to be the person anyone had to mentally prepare to deal with, constantly worry over, or avoid because I drained energy. It angered me that she would say that but she had every right too because it was true. Change is not only inevitable but in this case it was needed and had to be intentional!
Today I am two years into therapy. In 2018 I was formally diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. As part of my treatment I meet with my therapist bi-weekly and my psychiatrist monthly. I decided for myself that I wanted to get on psychiatric medication to help stabilize my moods. I take two medications for depression and anxiety every day which helps increase my mood past my baseline. Remember therapy does not work if you don’t. In addition to therapy I started to pick up old hobbies I used to enjoy doing like making art, cooking, trying new things, and surrounding myself with only things, places, and people who added value to my life.
My first art show in 8 years in Baltimore, MD on 11/2/2019
Quick Tip: Medications can be concerning when reading side effects and watching those crazy commercials. That is why it is important to do your research and speak with your doctor to find a medication that works for you if you choose to go that route. If the medication gives you undesirable side effects call you doctor to let him/her know you want a change in dosage or medication. Whatever you do, do not just abruptly stop taking your medication because you can experience withdrawal. You want to be weaned off the medication by decreasing the dosage over time. Medication management is vital for getting desired results. There are natural supplements like (fish oil, multivitamins, balanced diet, etc.) that can be natural mood stabilizers. I encourage everyone to explore their holistic and pharmaceutical options.
I am ecstatic to say today I am no longer that person above. I really had to put in work to get myself together even as someone who works in mental health. In 2017, if you were to tell me this would be my life today I would not believe you. Getting to this point required putting me first, leaving some people behind, owning that I do not have to accept anything I don’t want to, and that changing your perspective on life is a game changer. One of my favorite things to do now is write and post inspirational quotes throughout my home. No matter where I am in my condo there is some affirmation reminding me of my value. I do still have moments where I get depressed but now they may last for a few days instead of months. I love myself more than ever now and in my opinion I am actually pretty dope. The best part of it all is that I found my voice again. I’m not timid to express how I feel to anyone (with the exception of like 2 people, emphasis on "still in therapy" lol). I vowed to never allow anyone to make me feel silent again. If no one has told you before I will be the first. YOUR VOICE MATTERS. WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE YOU ARE IMPORTANT! If you don’t believe me, go back and read it again until you do.
In conclusion, depression does not go away. You have to learn how to manage it in a way that is not disruptive to your daily living. I shared my story because to some I am not the ideal “depressed” person. Depression does not discriminate and can look like anyone. That is one reason why I think it is important to walk through life being generous to others. You really never know what a person is going through and you can be the person that allows them to see another day with being genuine and kind.
HERE ARE SOME POINTERS FOR
SUPPORTING SOMEONE WITH DEPRESSION
Your act of support does not have to be loud. It can be as simple as a text saying “Hey, I was thinking of you today. Just wanted to check in and see how you are doing?” They may tell you how they are really doing or not but at least they know you cared enough to reach out.
If you are not sure how to support a loved one dealing with depression then ask them how. Literally ask “What can I do to support you?” More than likely they will tell you so eventually you will naturally know what to do. You can also ask “Are you look for advice or do you just want me to listen?”
It takes A LOT for someone to come out about their depression because in that moment they are choosing to reveal their most vulnerable self. If someone comes to you about their depression that means they trust you and you should allow them to be in a safe space to feel. If you shut them out they may not trust opening up to anyone again.
Do not tell them you understand if you have not experienced their experience for yourself. Trying to find comparable life experiences as a form of relating is insensitive. You do not want to make the conversation about you unless you’re giving advice on how you got through your situation.
It’s okay if you do not know what to say. However, it is not okay to say nothing. We know that some of you are new to this. Again when in doubt ask how you can be a support. Even sitting together in a room while being silent can bring a level of comfort to a person. It is nice to just know that someone is there.
Do not underestimate signs and changed behaviors. Some people who are depressed will be indirect with their ways of communicating. A great example was Nick Cannon’s recent Instagram post. Nick never said anything about killing
himself or wanting to die. However, placing his location as “Heaven” and ending his post with “enjoy earth” are unusual things to say. Well why can’t they just say that? Dealing with conflict and expressing negative emotions is a healthy way is not universally taught. People only know what they are taught. So go with your gut and check-in on them. If you’re still uneasy after checking in with them consider seeking additional help by other family, friends, or professionals.
PLEASE understand depression is NOT a choice. Why on earth would someone wake up and decide “Hey I had a good day yesterday let be balance that out by choosing to be depressed today.” It’s not your job to play detective and figure out their root of depression. If you are part of the reason that they are depressed than I would recommend family or couple therapy with a non-bias third party to mediate any tension. Outside of that your role is to be supportive.
Last you need to know when to push and pull. What do you mean Brittany? When it comes to being hard headed, depressed people are right next to Taurus. Expect resilience! Be persistent if it is something that will help them. Try to pull them to get out of bed, eat, get fresh air, take a shower, etc. Do not push them to make hasty decisions, solicit traumatic details or explanations, give them ultimatums, victimize them, etc. If it has the ability to trigger their depression further then do not push the matter.
There are many parts to depression so if you have specific questions about depression or you are looking for advice you have two options. You can always become a part of our tribe and join the support forum. The forum is a safe place to get support from the community and only members have access to chat in the forums. Second option if you want a more private setting you can email me at email@example.com or send a DM through Facebook or Instagram.