I was first diagnosed with depression in 1997, after the birth of my second child. Postpartum depression, they called it. And I was only diagnosed with that after attempting to step out into traffic. That was the first time my best friend saved my life.
I was a new mother, 19 years old, with nothing to my name. I didn't have a job or any other way to support my infant daughter. I had left her father after he had cheated on me twice before. Because I had nothing, and no way to support my baby, I felt like a p.o.s mother. This wasn't the first time I had felt like that either. The year before, I gave birth to my first child, a stillborn baby girl. Deep down, I knew that her loss was not my fault, it was genetics, but because of my preexisting low self esteem, I didn't see it that way. So when I had my second daughter, and could not provide for her, I mentally beat myself up over it. Then I began to physically beat myself up. I totally lost my mind! I began having a panic attack, digging at my arms and ripping my hair out by the handfuls, before I slipped out the door and walked down the road, tears streaming down my face, waiting for a car to come speeding along so I could just end it all.
That was my first true experience with the pit of despair. I think I had brushes with the edge of the pit often throughout my childhood but that was the first time I was truly at the bottom with no light in sight. All I have to say is thank the gods that my best friend was super observant and cared about me as much as he did! My next experience was the hardest and in some ways, the worst!
Fast forward almost three years later, to the death of my second daughter, at the hands of a man I had been dating for two years! Her death not only put me in the pit of despair for YEARS but it also got me diagnosed with P.T.S.D (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). My best friend rescued me, yet again, by traveling 3000 miles to help me and to bring me home. He took me in and did everything he could to help me, but I was too deep in the pit for anything to help. I began to drink every weekend, heavily. When I realized that drinking wasn't helping to numb the pain, but only exacerbated it, I gave up drinking but continued down the path of self destruction by having unprotected sex with anyone I could hook up with. I didn't care if they were "clean" or not. I was over the edge, beyond the bottom, lower than low in that dark pit and nothing was getting me out! I pushed away everyone that had ever mattered to me, shut myself off emotionally (or so I thought) and just went through the motions of living. Eventually I started to see light again. I reconnected with my best friend and we started dating. Then we got married and less than a year later, got pregnant. We had two beautiful girls, and while a part of me was happy, a part of me was still in the pit, as I had not sought out help other than medication.
When our girls were toddlers, I fell into the pit again. I became overwhelmed with caring for two toddlers, a menagerie of animals and trying to maintain a clean living environment. I started to feel worthless again. I started to beat myself up mentally and emotionally again, and the state stepped in and removed the girls from our care because of it. Instead of giving me the help they knew I needed, they made things worse by taking my kids away. Bring on suicide attempt number two, this time by overdosing on Doxepin, a depression medication that is dangerous for someone with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, like me. And again, like the previous time, my best friend, my husband, saved me. He got the pills that I had not swallowed out of my mouth and rushed me to the hospital, where they pumped me full of charcoal to deactivate the medication.
Fast forward to a few years later... our girls are still not in our care but I did seek out professional help after I decided that I just couldn't keep trying to do it on my own any longer. I spent two years straight doing intense trauma therapy, working through ALL of my trauma, and there was a lifetime of it! My therapist gave me the tools I needed to recognize when the depression is setting in, and to battle it when it begins to set in. And I am grateful that he did! I am 40 years old now. I have been out of therapy for three years. I still remember the tools he gave me, and I still use them! I have recently gone through my "anniversary" month, when I lost most of the people that I have loved the most in my life, and my depression started to return. After a discussion with my husband, it was decided that I would take some time off from working to work on myself. I am taking each day as they come, one at a time. I remind myself that it is ok to feel sad, to have a lazy day where I just sleep or lay around watching television. However, it is not alright to allow that to become my life again! I will NEVER allow myself to sink into the pit of despair again! Climbing out is hard! And it is nearly impossible to do on your own!
I am teaching my girls, both of whom have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, the tools that my therapist taught me, with the hope that they can keep themselves out of the pit. Because that is what depression truly feels like. It feels like you have fallen into a deep, dark pit filled with despair and agony. You put on a mask when you face the public, so they cannot see your pain. But when you are alone, you keen and wail, you rock back and forth while wrapping your arms around yourself because you feel like your heart is going to burst from the pain. Your entire body hurts and feels like an elephant is sitting on you, crushing you. You shake like a leaf because your body just can't do anything else. And when the tears finally subside, and the rocking stops, you crawl into bed, pass out from mental and physical exhaustion and never want to wake up again. The thought of facing another day on earth terrifies you, simply because you don't feel like you can go on.
But you can! You CAN beat the pit of despair! You are strong enough! My next story will give you the tools to help you! Until then, keep fighting, keep living, and remember, you are NOT alone!