Depression Runs In My Family

depression runs in my family
depression runs in my family
Photo by: Laura Fuhrman

I want to do something a little different. Today, I am going to be sharing something that my sister wrote years ago (with her permission) while she was battling depression. Depression runs in my family. It is not something to be ashamed of, but rather, something to embrace so that you can find the strength to move past the darkness.

Adara, thank you for allowing me to share this, and more importantly, thank you for inspiring me and always being there for me when I needed it the most.

Written in 2013-

Sometimes I question whether I am secure with myself or not.  I tend to think I am an upbeat, confident person, but then I wonder if that is just on the outside, and if I am putting on a front, even for myself.

I know in high school I was not confident.  The 10th grade me would strongly disagree, but she’s wrong, and I’m right.  I didn’t like the way I looked, the way I talked, the way I spoke out of turn and the most random shit that came out of my mouth.  I wasn’t confident in my relationship, even though I had the most supportive, polite, and caring boyfriend. I had parents who lifted me up, yet I don’t think I really ever felt truly “comfortable”.

In college, I definitely learned more about myself.  I still babbled on about the stupidest shit. I have a dry sense of humor and more often than not it left me feeling embarrassed or misunderstood.  I definitely took the opportunity to change myself a bit, since this was a chance to start fresh where very few people knew me. I became ridiculously organized and anxious.  I wouldn’t hang out with friends on Friday until my homework was done. I had straight up panic attacks if my dresser drawers were not organized, if my underwear were not neatly folded and held upright in a shoebox (never mind the fact that they were all some pattern or color of Victoria Secret cotton underwear).   I reorganized my room monthly and overhauled the entire arrangement of the place. I stressed about every little thing, and I had very little trust. I went home on weekends, and proceeded to bring items from home to college, and vice versa, so I could create the perfect space to live comfortably. And I spent my weekends at home generally cleaning and organizing my bedroom there, and spending time with my boyfriend and family.

During this time, my grandma lived in the cities, and I never wanted to waste a day at home driving in.  I wanted to be home, where I felt the most comfortable, and not wasting my time away from there.

During high school and college, I kept journals.  They were my therapy. My place to digress and let it all out.  Yet I was so effing blinded by some ridiculous lie that I never even shared my true feelings in my journal.  I just sugar-coated the shit out of that too. Sure I had the annoying little sister that would read my journal when I was younger.  But that’s not why I did it. I honestly have no clue but sometimes when I go through my old stuff and come across some of my journals, I start reading them and quickly get sick to my stomach.  Because I am taken back to that time of uneasiness, of distrust. That time where I felt I had to paint flowers and daisies for a journal I kept for myself.

I honestly don’t know where any of these feelings derived from.  I can chalk it up to pure lack of understanding. Or just the simple fact that I was young and didn’t know myself.  I loved my childhood. I have so many fond memories, and I experienced so much. I was lucky and blessed, and that is a truth.  I have two parents who love me and two wonderful siblings. I have a great family, immediate and extended. While there have been dark times and uncertain moments, there have been more times of joy and support.  I truly have an awesome support system.

I also know that I was lucky to experience depression when I was 20 years old.  It changed my life, and while it sucked ass, it made me who I am today, and I would take that over who I was back then any day.

And if anyone were to ever say depression is not real, I can’t force them to think it is, but I can share my story, and know deep down that it is.  And yet, I completely understand them and the point they make. I used to be just like them. I had family members who were depressed, and I didn’t believe it existed.  I think I sometimes felt they were having a little pity party, even though the individuals in my life who suffered from depression kept it very private and I knew little about what they were going through.  I didn’t understand how a trip to Target, a walk in the park, or dinner with friends didn’t instantly bring them happiness. I 100% believed they were making something out of nothing.

Until August of 2006…

It was a beautiful, warm sunny day in August.  I was headed back to college to start my junior year as a resident assistant.  I was excited and nervous, but nothing out of the ordinary. It was always a bit hard leaving my family and boyfriend, but I was excited to get back to my routine and hit the books (no joke, I fricken loved hitting the books).  I drove myself as this was my third year heading up and I was more mature – I didn’t need the usual parental unit drop off. That and they would be up that weekend to drop my sister off so there was ample time to let them pamper me with a trip to buy dorm room necessities and enjoy a few meals out to push off eating in dining services one more day.

I stopped off at my boyfriend’s house on the way up.  Since it was mid-morning, he made us strawberries and cream oatmeal and we talked about when we would see each other next.  At this point, that was our routine. We were used to it, and used to saying good-bye. We had been doing it for 4 years at this point and it worked.  Both of us enjoyed our freedom. It made the time we spent together more meaningful and fun, and it allowed us to form friendships and have time for family and friends.

We talked for a while before I decided I should hit the road.  I wanted to get up to school and get everything unloaded from my car before nightfall.  The car trip up was usual. It was boring and long, but I listened to music, stopped halfway for fuel and a soda, and continued on my way.  I got to school mid-afternoon, checked in, and started unloading. The school was eerily empty. Sounds pretty normal for almost two weeks prior to the first day of class.  At this point, the hall I was moving into was only occupied by the Resident Director and the Director’s assistant. I’m not even sure any of the other RA’s had moved in yet.

I hauled my bins of belongings up 3 flights of stairs to my little room on the top floor of an old brick dorm hall.  My room was at the end of the hallway tucked in the far corner of the floor. The room itself was a decent size for one person.  One wall boosted built-in shelves and closets, and the adjacent wall had angled ceilings, reminiscent of the top floor of an old castle (the building has a similar look to it) with a large window overlooking the courtyard.

As I continued to unload my truck, I saw the Director’s Assistant once.  She was insanely sweet and offered to help. I didn’t want to burden her so I politely declined and continued on my way. As I continued to go up and down, and up and down, my mood continued to turn sour.  At first, I was lonely, then sad, then tired, then everything combined. I finally got everything unloaded with the exception of a metal swing I was going to fashion into a couch. That had to wait until my friend popped over later.

I went to my room and started unpacking.  There was still plenty of daylight at this point, so I decided to try and get as much unpacked as I could.  My overly organized self could not handle living out of boxes and I would work into the wee hours of the night just to get everything in its correct place.  As I was unpacking, I was suddenly hit by a huge wave of grieve and sadness. I started bawling in my dorm room. I was in complete shock. I felt outside of my body, unaware of what it was doing, and how quickly it approached.  I calmed myself down, but I couldn’t shake the heavy weight of sadness that engulfed me.

One of my best friends stopped over to say hi and welcome me back up.  She had graduated the year prior and had stayed in town and found a job.  I put on a happy face, she helped me unload the porch swing from my car, and we headed to grab soup and sandwiches from a deli across the street.  We headed back to my dorm to eat. I took a bite, and quickly realized I was not going to be able to swallow. My throat closed off, and my eyes welled up.  Not able to really explain myself, I told my friend that I was having a bad day. We talked for a bit, I again settled my tears, and she asked if I wanted to stay at her apartment.  That was the first net thrown out to me. I jumped on the offer and got the hell out of my dorm.

That night was one of the worst nights I experienced.  I was sad, lost, and scared. When everyone went to bed, I laid in the dark, feeling completely and utterly alone, feeling out of body and completely absent.  

I finally fell asleep, my eyes swollen from crying.  I awoke to my alarm at 6. I needed to get back to campus to start RA training.   Not only did that suck, but worse then that was that I woke up with a sinking feeling in my stomach, a pit that lasted the whole month, though I didn’t know it then.

Over the next week, my brain wandered.  I lost my appetite and was only able to force down food later in the evening.  I went all day not eating, simply because I could not swallow. Simple tasks become ridiculously complicated.  And the mornings were also the worst. I continued to wake up daily with that pit in my stomach. This would last through the afternoon, along with the sadness and loneliness.  As evening came, I would start feeling better. This is when I was able to eat, be active, what have you.

Any time my parents or boyfriend called I broke down.  I just felt so disconnected, so out of place. I can only imagine how helpless they felt, in addition to feeling lost themselves. I was throwing some heavy shit their way because I didn’t know what else to do.  And even though I feel bad for what they endured, they were my saving grace.

It took a little over a month to realize that what was going on was not going to pass.  I cried multiple times a day. I pushed away friends and most family. I resigned from my RA position.  I couldn’t be fair to the role, and there were plenty of students who wanted that job so I gladly passed it off.  That and I thought maybe if I had less on my plate, I would start feeling better. It helped. It helped to get out of that dorm room that held not one good memory.  But it definitely did not fix it.

One of the first weekends in October, I went home to visit my family.  I spent the weekend curled up in my parent’s bed, or on the floor of my mom’s office while she worked. I slept and slept and slept.  It was the only time I felt comfortable truly letting go and relaxing. By Sunday, my parents recognized the severity of my symptoms, and also the fact that this wasn’t going away easily.  They suggested seeing a doctor.

The three of us headed to a family doctor Sunday evening.  By the grace of God, he took a Sunday evening house call. In his office, I explained my symptoms and feelings.  He suggested medicine, for both depression and anxiety. I cried. It was the last thing I wanted, to be dependent on medication.  After talking through the medicines abilities, and my doctor assured me that it was not habit forming, I reluctantly decided to give it a chance.  The medicine would take about six weeks to get into my system and start working, and I said I would see if it helped, but I promised nothing.

I went back up to school and quickly decided I was no longer happy where I was.  I needed a change. As each week passed, I noticed I was able to get through my day with less and less issues.  And as seems to be the case, after about 6 months, I started to feel normal.

To wrap this up, as it is getting too long, I will run through the next two years. I transferred to a new college 4 months after going through this ordeal.  That Christmas break was amazing. I felt like myself. When I started school at Augsburg, the change took me back a few steps, but I started seeing a therapist at the school, and I was able to quickly rebound.  And I had some amazing friends!

The following summer I tried to slowly decrease the amount of medication I took, until one day I stopped altogether.  Almost 6 weeks to the day (there are some articles that say it takes 6 weeks for anti-depressants to be working at full capacity in the body, and six weeks until they are flushed out of the body) I woke up, and started to instantly cry, all day.  It was the Fourth of July…the worst Fourth of July. When my parents came home, we had a long talk. They really drove home the fact that this is a chemical imbalance, and sometimes we need to do what is best to feel better. I went back on them, and found my normal.

Today I am on 1/2 of what I was back then, and even then I was on a low dose.  In my 27 years, I am in the best place I have ever been. I am generally happy, every day.  I work out. I am active. I am happy with where I live, although I am eager to buy a house! But I can wait.  I have learned to be patient, to take my time. To not rush before I am ready, and to leverage those around me.  I still have moments of doubt. I still have trust issues. But I am strong in my feelings, and I am more vocal. I have become less of a yes person, and I look inwards for the true answer.  I’m not confident in everything I do. I’m still indecisive, and sometimes I have a hard time making decisions, but I have gotten better at listening to my gut and talking through my feelings.  Someday I will probably work my way off of them again, just to see. But I am not ashamed. It has made me who I am. I am strong, I am confident, at least in most areas of my life. I take pride in my work, I speak up, and I have changed the way people in my past see me; I have changed their perceptions.  Because I am different. Quite different. And quite happy! Yes, I need to lose weight. Yes, I could be more organized. Yes, I could keep a cleaner house, blah blah blah blah. I don’t care, and that’s because I am happy, 98% of the time. I have ups, and I have downs, but I feel normal…at least normal for me!

-Adara

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