10 Benefits of Having Depression

Don’t let the title of this blog fool you — depression definitely sucks. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone; however, there are some things that having severe depression (and anxiety) have taught me. If I’m going to deal with these disorder for the rest of my life, I better make hay when the sun shines.

1. I’m empathetic – Depression is a chronic disease, an invisible one, and so many people misunderstand just how bad it can be. A lot of people put on a happy face while they go to work and in front of their friends even when inside they feel like they are slowly dying a painful death. I have learned not to judge others as much, because we truly don’t know what’s going on with someone unless they confide in us. And those who are suffering from a chronic or invisible illness, I have so much more empathy toward. I know what it’s like — the pain, the judgement from others, etc. Having depression has taught me to respect other people’s health journey, no matter what that may be.

2. I’m also resilient – I’ve been through a lot, and even though it’s still painful at times, I fight. I bounce back. I shake it off.

3. I’m able to help others – I’ve had depression and anxiety since I was about 12 years old. I’ve taken tons of different medications, I’ve been hospitalized at a psychiatric facility, I’ve abused my anxiety meds, I’ve self harmed and I have an eating disorder. These experiences help me relate to others and I can share what I’ve gone through, hopefully so they don’t repeat my mistakes.

4. I have lots of patience – During a depressive episode, I can get so frustrated with my brain for not working correctly, but I’ve learned that if I just stick it out, the sun will shine again and my pain will fade. I just have to be patient — with my brain, with my medications, the ECTs (electroconvulsive therapy), etc. With the right combination of therapy, medication and coping skills, life gets better. It will always get better.

5. I appreciate the little things in life – This is hard to do during a depressive episode, because everything feels like hard work. (See my spoons blog). It’s hard to shower, eat, sleep and take care of my family, etc. That’s why I have to force myself to appreciate the little things — a cold Diet Coke, fresh flowers, painting my nails, playing with my kids and binge watching TV shows with David. “Indulging” in these things helps me to remember that life is good, despite what my brain is telling me and that I have to continue to take care of myself to experience the good.

6. I’m confident I can handle anything – I’ve battled severe postpartum depression, I’ve fought off suicidal thoughts more times than I can count, I’ve been hospitalized for six weeks and I continue to fight my major depression on a daily basis. These are not easy feats. It’s especially hard when you’re fighting a disease in which your own brain tells you to kill yourself or you’re not worthy. Yet, here I am despite it all. I’m strong, and I know I can handle anything that comes my way.

7. It’s taught me who I am – I kept quiet about my depression, anxiety and eating disorder because I learned somewhere along the way that these things were character flaws. I thought I was broken and flawed and didn’t get the help I needed. That’s the stigma of mental health talking. Depression is just a disease I fight — it’s not who I am. I’m the strong, resilient, loving woman who kicks depression’s ass everyday. Everything I went through was a major gut check, and even though I hate what depression has done to me, it’s made me a better, stronger version of myself and I can’t hate that. I’m proud of my journey and I’m proud that I can be so open about it. My hope is that others will read my blogs and feel free to share their journey as well.

8. I’m brave – It wasn’t easy being honest about my mental disorders and sharing that I’ve been hospitalized and suicidal. Although it was freeing later in the process, it was really painful when I initially shared everything because so many people don’t understand mental health. But that just means we have to work harder at normalizing it and sharing factual information about it. I’m brave for putting it all out there, I’m brave for doing ECTs every eight weeks and I’m brave for getting up every morning and fighting for my life.

9. It’s shown me who my real friends are – Being depressed is a real drag. I cancel plans with my friends quite a bit, and I know that gets annoying hearing that I’m depressed every. single. day. I get it. When you’re dealing with such a debilitating illness, you find out real quick who will stick by you and support you. It ain’t for sissies. I’m thankful for my girlfriends who continue to stick by me and give me unlimited support, no matter what’s going on with me.

10. It’s forced me to be more mindful – I have to keep very close tabs on my emotions and actions so I don’t slip into a depressive episode. I have to make sure I’m getting enough sleep, water, alone time, vitamins and more so I can be as healthy as possible. Monitoring my emotions is no different — I have to make sure that I’m processing and dealing with my feelings, especially if it’s a negative emotion. For example, if I’m feeling uncertainty or fear, I have to cope with that in a positive way and not a negative way, such as binge eating. It’s very easy to turn the feelings monitor off and try to fill that void with food or other unhealthy coping skills. So, I’m mindful of how I feel and in dealing with how I feel.

Any benefits I missed? Drop ’em in the comments. Thanks for reading. Stay in the light.

Cancelled Plans and Spoons

I’ve had to cancel plans with three different friends this week. I HATE cancelling plans — it makes me feel so guilty, because I feel like I’m letting my loved ones down. I know I can’t help it — and my friends are very understanding — but I still feel guilty and less of a friend.

At least now I can tell them the truth — I’m too depressed to leave the house. Before I went to The Menninger Clinic, I didn’t tell the truth, and I probably seemed like such a flake who didn’t care about spending time with her friends. But now, I’m honest. I said that I was having intrusive thoughts about suicide (not suicidal thoughts per se) and I just didn’t have the energy. I call it survival mode. You see, I’m getting an ECT treatment on Friday, so I just have to make it until then. The ECT should reset my stupid brain and maybe I won’t be so depressed and fatigued. I’m hoping that I won’t have as many migraines after this treatment, too. For some reason, my migraines have ramped up the past few weeks, and it’s been really annoying. I hate being limited by my illnesses, and on that note, I’m reminded of an article I read about the Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino, who suffers with lupus. She writes about the physical and mental toll an invisible, chronic illness can take. And I relate.

While describing what it’s like to have a chronic illness, Miserandino grabbed spoons and used them to represent finite units of energy. Healthline.com writes this of Miserandino’s theory, “Energy, for many of us with chronic illness, is limited and depends on many factors including stress levels, how we’re sleeping, and pain. Miserandino then walked her friend through the friend’s normal day, taking spoons, or energy, away from the friend as the discussion went on. By the end of the day, her friend wasn’t able to do as much as she wanted. When she realized Miserandino went through this every single day, her friend started crying. She understood, then, how precious time was for people like Miserandino, and how few ‘spoons’ she had the luxury of spending.”

I feel this in my soul. Especially right now. I have to save every waking minute in order to do what is absolutely necessary, what I deem necessary, at least. This includes taking care of the kids and all their needs. This, to me, comes first. My remaining energy, if you can call it that, goes to taking care of myself. Many people would argue that it should be reversed, and I don’t totally disagree, but this is how it is right now. I hope to change it, because I know you can’t pour from an empty cup, and if I don’t start taking better care of myself, my cup will stay empty. I’m working on that, too.

It dawned on me this week that I could probably space out the ECTs more if I just put in the hard work of self care. I don’t mean getting a massage every week, although that would be nice right now, but I mean taking my medicine as I should, taking breaks and eating healthier. And actually sitting and exploring my emotions instead of burying them then stuffing my face. That happens a lot, almost every day. I also would like to increase my therapy sessions to twice a week — I have a lot to do, lol.

That’s OK though. I’m worth the work; I just need to remember that every single day.

Thank you to my friends who were so gracious about me. cancelling on them. I love y’all and appreciate your support.