by Jeanne in North Carolina
I lived, or should I say, existed with depression (dysthymia) for over 30 years. I know that my depression started as a child, though no one ever considered this possible back then. We moved a lot when I was a child, so starting new schools didn't help. My mother was very angry back then and often took it out on me. This, plus no friends led to a lonely childhood.
As a young developing girl I was sexually molested several times. My self-esteem suffered tremendously as I grew up, which led to unbalanced relationships and mistreatment at the hands of others. I also ended up pregnant and without a husband (though I was married, he was not around) and on welfare. I had many thoughts of not being around and these increasingly became stronger until I finally figured out how to end my life. This coincided with a time when I experienced a nervous breakdown.
I had just started talk therapy and eventually pharma-psychotherapy as well. I went through a divorce, losing my house, lost jobs...but also put myself through college while I raised my children. It took a long time of intense talk therapy (and several different therapists until I found the right one for me), but validation and retraining on how to love myself was the start in the right direction. It took 12 years of retraining and embracing myself, as well as focusing on positive outcomes and my strong faith and belief in a Loving God. There were many times of unemployment and numerous jobs, which is very hard to explain to potential employers. How do you explain that you've been suffering from a mental illness and still get hired? While I am so thankful that depression is losing the stigma it once had, it still is a misunderstood ailment for so many people. It's not just about thinking happy thoughts (as someone repeatedly told me) and it can be physically debilitating (I thought I had some rare disease because I was so tired all the time.) I would love to have more workshops and information offered to businesses that might alert them to the conditions of mental illness. I am happy to say I am in a stable relationship, job and place to live. For the first time in my life I am saving money and looking forward to the future. I truly believe for me it was the combination of having someone who truly cared about me, teach me to do that for myself (thank you Diane!) and then the personal relationship with God that exists is what helped me recover. I am currently working on my second Masters degree (in psychology) and expecting my 5th grandchild (first girl!) in December.
It has been over three years since my last episode with depression and I am grateful that I am still here today. I wish more people would seek help and let go of the idea that it makes them less than perfect. Nobody is and who wants to be? It's an illness much along the lines of asthma...it's a physical condition that comes out in a variety of ways. Know that there is light at the end of the tunnel (and it's not an oncoming train!) and that you can recover and enjoy Life!