I have depression. There. I said it. Holy shit, the elephant in the room has been named! I won’t tell you that I suffer from it, but instead I’ll say I deal with it. Much like an addiction, admitting is the first step and it’s taken me two decades to finally do it. I, along with many other people had bought into the stigma. I spent 6 years obtaining a psych degree (yes, I see the irony in this) so I knew all about the signs, symptoms, treatments and knew that someone with depression isn’t broken or fucked up. Yet, I didn’t want to be labeled as someone with a mental illness. So, instead I gave excuses for my illness – “I’m just feeling down for some reason”, “it’s just a bad day/week/month”, “I’m fine but I just need some time away from everything”. Not once when I had an extreme reaction to a negative event did I think “hmm maybe this is something bigger.”

People in your life will tell you it’s okay to be sad – these are good people to have in your corner. Surround yourself with these people. They may not have all of (or any of) the answers to your problems, but they care. They care without judgement and won’t offer you unsolicited advice even when they aren’t quite sure what to do. That’s not to say the people that infuriate you with their “cheer up” and “smile” and “you’re still sad? It’s been a week already” are bad people. They just don’t understand what you’re going through and maybe you need a little time out from them. Do not try to make them understand – it is not your job. You may have the most fun in the world with these people, but if they’re pushing you to not feel what you’re feeling in your own time, it’s not healthy for you. The brain is unable to differentiate between physical and emotional pain. So, just like you need time to heal a broken bone, you also need time to heal a broken heart. You can’t rush healing a snapped femur, so why should you have to rush your emotions?
I find that if I don’t let myself take a day/week/month to feel sad and work through what I’m feeling, it’s not going to go away. It’ll just keep building up under the surface until finally it reaches a breaking point.  This time, it came in the form of a handful of oxycodone and my first (very expensive) ambulance ride. I had given my heart to a selfish and unkind person who left me feeling worthless, used and all around defeated. Now, I know many people believe that a boy broke my heart and I dealt with it in a very “drastic” way. However, after 20 odd years of repressing a mental illness, it doesn’t take a lot before something seemingly small or insignificant can trigger an all time low. (I wish it was as simple as boy breaking my heart – that can be dealt with by listening to Tegan and Sara while eating a tub of cookie dough ice cream and screaming “liar” at everyone in Love Actually). Looking back, I’m not even certain I wanted to kill myself, I just knew that I never wanted to feel the way I did at that moment ever again. I was tired of feeling the kind of debilitating sadness that consumed my life and took joy out of everything I loved. I was tired of feeling alone even when surrounded by a room full of people who love me. I was tired of letting someone else’s actions and words have complete power over my emotions. Most of all, I was tired of extreme highs followed by periods of excessive lows. I felt like a grenade with the pin pulled out just waiting to go off. I could be having the best day of my life but if someone said or did something that upset me, I down-spiralled. Fast.
A couple of days after everything hit its dramatic climax, I started feeling guilty. Seeing the effect all of this had on my family and friends and even my dogs made me feel terrible. I felt selfish and needy and like I was a huge inconvenience to everyone in my life. My mom took time off work and moved in with me, my sister became my 24 hour sounding board and all of my other loved ones were taking time out of every day to check in, see how I was doing and just trying to be there. It was overwhelming and while I felt appreciative, I also questioned why I was worth consuming everyone’s thoughts and lives. And if that guilt wasn’t enough, I started to feel guilty when I wasn’t miserable. If something made me feel the slightest bit of happy, I felt like I didn’t deserve it. I felt like I needed to be sad all of the time because that’s what people expected me to be. I also felt like I was really letting everyone down. I got caught up in a lot of shoulds – I should be back to work, I should be getting off the couch, I should be okay. It took me a while to realize that I shouldn’t have to do anything especially when I’m not ready. I should only be concerned with feeling what I’m feeling and working through it.

Maybe worse than the guilt was the apathy – I stopped feeling sad, yet I also couldn’t feel happy. I felt nothing. Not even a numbness. Just nothing. My sister asked me the day after I got out of the hospital “what if I would have hesitated? What if the ambulance didn’t get here so fast?” And the only response I could give her was “then I guess we wouldn’t be having this conversation.” I had no interest in eating, I wasn’t sleeping and I didn’t really want to do anything other than lie on the couch watching Netflix. One of my saving graces was finding an outlet where I felt good and I got to forget about everything for a period of time. For me, that was yoga. When I teach a class, I don’t have time to obsessively think about what’s going on in my world. Instead, my focus is the people in front of me and the energy I’m sharing with them. Now, that’s not to say that downward dog will solve all of my problems, but I’m fortunate to have found a space that feels safe and a community full of the most caring, considerate and amazing humans.

Now that I’m seeing the tail end of my last episode, I wouldn’t by any means say I’m cured. I’m instead learning to live with depression and not let it consume me. I’m coming to terms with the idea of being on medication and having a team of professionals who want to work with me to help me feel okay. I still have my good days and my bad days and the good days are finally starting to win over the bad. I still feel like I’ve got more healing to do but I’m working on it. I’m trying my best to let myself be open and be vulnerable to new things (which is easier said than done). I’m not sure I’m quite okay with knowing someone or something will probably hurt me again somewhere in the future yet. But, at least I’ve got tools to use to keep myself from falling down the rabbit hole again.

In hindsight, I am actually grateful for all that’s transpired in the last couple of months. Now that I’ve been to my lowest point, I can put everything else into perspective and figure out what and who matters most. I wish I had some sage words of wisdom or a cure for depression, but I don’t. Instead, every day I have to tell myself that I matter, I am loved and I am enough.