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I have struggled with depression and anxiety off and on throughout my life, but the past two and a half years have been a particularly difficult time.
In the spring of 2014, one of my grandfathers was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He chose to fight, so I attended as many chemo appointments as possible with him and my grandmother. I knew his chances of beating such advanced cancer were very slim, so I spent every spare minute trying to show him that I cared.
In the meantime, my other grandfather was slowly deteriorating with Alzheimer’s. In September, he went into the hospital to get a spot of skin cancer removed. After a successful operation, there was a mix-up with his medicine, his heart stopped, no one noticed for a few minutes, and by the time he was resuscitated, he had suffered extensive brain damage. After a few days of being on a ventilator, going through lots of tests, we had to unplug him and let him go.
Exactly two months to the day after we let my one grandfather go, my other grandfather died from cancer.
I was already under a lot of stress from school and work, and these two deaths threw what little sanity I still had to the winds. I went to counseling, I started seeing a psychiatrist, but it felt like I couldn’t get back on top of my life. I had panic attacks, random crying jags, and totally withdrew socially when I had normally been a very social person.
During this difficult time, I met and started dating my (now) husband. With the help of meds, counseling, time, and a lot of TLC from my amazing man, I began to make a way out of the fog.
It’s been an uphill battle, but I’m finally back to normal…or at least, a new normal. I am finally coming off my meds and feeling like myself.
I am re-learning hope. When I was drowning in depression, I could not grasp the idea of hope. It was way too risky, too painful to hope when the odds seemed totally against me.
In dark times, I looked to many things to bring me bits of peace and joy, and found a special friend in green things. I have always loved flowers, but this time I developed a special appreciation for succulents.
Succulents are drought tolerant little plants, with rubbery leaves. They were the perfect plants for me because I am very forgetful and rarely water my plants. These hardy little ones brought some sunshine and encouraged me on the hard days to hold on. My plants could hold on for months with little to no water, and their determination to live and sometimes even grow through tough times reminded me that I could make it.
On the hardest days, I would lie on the floor and just breathe. My counselor introduced me to meditation. The breathing exercises associated with meditation sometimes helped to bring me back from the verge of a panic attack. I especially struggled at night, to turn my brain off and just rest. What helped me the most at night was guided sleep meditation. I love TheHonestGuys ‘ Youtube videos. They helped so much to center me and relax enough to fall asleep. (My favorites are Guided Sleep Meditation Talkdown and Guided Sleep Talkdown to Rain Sounds)
Life is getting better. I am starting to come off of my medication, I am married to a wonderful man, and we are expecting a baby. I have been able to move down to an as-needed meetings with my counselor instead of weekly meetings. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, hope began to grow again in a quiet little corner of my soul. It is fragile and small, but it’s back. There is hope for a good life again.
Friends, I have been tempted to try to escape from my pain by overdosing, by self-harm…any way possible.
I am here to tell you that things will get better. Hold on.
Whether you have a little cloud hanging over you, or are suffocating under a great big boulder of depression, find help and do not give up.
- Need some help right this very minute? Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or talk to someone via the Lifeline Crisis Chat. I always felt shy and silly calling, but THAT IS WHAT THEY’RE THERE FOR! To give you the support you need RIGHT NOW.
- If you are a student in college, you most likely have FREE counseling available to you through the school’s therapists. This is what I did. You usually have a set amount of sessions available, (I think at my school it was 8 meetings) but if you feel you need more, there are usually extensions available.
- You can find counselors in your area easily on Psychology Today’s Find A Therapist or by Googling “counselors in [your city]”. Therapy can be expensive over time, so check with your insurance to see if counseling is covered. If you are low income, you can usually ask about discounts. It never hurts to ask!!!
- If your depression was triggered by a certain event, like a death, there may be group therapy programs in your area that may be cheaper and a better fit for you. The two programs I am familiar with are GriefShare and DivorceCare. Both programs (at least, in my area) are free or very inexpensive — under $20. They are often hosted by churches. Each weekly session is self-contained — if you missed one (or several), no big deal.
- Your friends can’t read your mind. Tell them what’s going on and ask them for support.
No matter how dark life looks, there is still a possibility of good. There is always a possibility that things will get better. I am so glad to have found hope again. I have to believe that holding on through my bad days has built endurance and strength. On the good days, I try to soak in the sun, the beauty of green things, and the reality of life around me.
Depression and anxiety suck…there’s no getting around that. However, there are people who love you and a beautiful world all around you.
All I can tell you is HOLD ON and breathe. You are not alone…we are not alone…God is with us.
There is still hope for a good life, even when you can’t see it right now.