I started this blog for two reasons:
1 1. I wanted my far away family and friends to know what is going on with us.
2 2. And I thought that I could also use this blog for a DeGooyer Family history.
I've been grateful for the place to share my thoughts, activities and fun with family and friends. But today I want to write a post that is a bit more personal and not so much for history or informative purposes. I’m not sure why I feel the need to write this blog post, but I feel inspired to do so… So…
Twenty two years ago I was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance. In other words, I suffer from depression. For the past twenty years I have been taking medication and seeing therapists (off and on) to combat this struggle. I remember being at Ricks college feeling like I was “faking” my smile and my happy, enthusiastic attitude. I felt like a liar as I pretended to be happier than I felt. I had lost interest in people and things that made me happy. I remember feeling like something dark had taken hold of my mind – sadness, despair and hopelessness were all the emotions I felt I could find. I couldn't fake it anymore. All my strength at keeping up my pretense had gone. I spent many days and nights curled up on my bed crying.
Luckily my mother recognized the symptoms I was expressing. My mom had also suffered from a hereditary form of depression, and she was able to get me to the doctor. A few months later, with Prozac and some counseling, I felt “normal” again. It wasn't an easy road to take, but my family was supportive, and I had a very good doctor. (It takes time to get the right cocktail of meds for most depressions.) Luckily for me, my Mom helped me through most of the early diagnosis period. She would sit with me, cry with me, talk with me, and sometimes just hug me. The fact of the matter is that my memory of this “dark” time is kind of repressed. I don’t remember a lot.
Twenty two years later, I still take anti-depressants. They have changed over the years as my depression has changed, but the one constant is that I can’t go off them, or I become despondent and moody. I still occasionally see psychiatrists and counselors to help when I feel like I can’t cope. All of these things have helped.
I’m not sure why I am writing this post. I know it’s not for sympathy. But I do seem to be struggling a bit more with my chemical imbalance right now. There are times when it is more prominent than other times. I just hope that this post can help someone else who is also having a difficult time and offer some hope. There are a few things that have helped (aside from the medication – which I call happy pills – and the therapists – which I call expensive but necessary).
Depression is difficult to explain to people. If you have experienced it there is no need to explain it; if you haven’t, I don’t think there are words adequate to describe its despair. It permeates every part of your life, and sometimes it seems as though there is no light anywhere. BUT there is hope.
The last few weeks have been hard, and I've had to go “back to the basics.” What are the basics (besides medication)? Here is what I have learned in 22 years:
- God loves me. I know it sounds simple, but it’s true. It’s hard to remember in the moment sometimes. But he truly loves me. He loves everyone. He loves us more than we can imagine. There have been moments throughout my life when I felt unloved and unlovable. It’s usually in these times of deep sadness that Heavenly Father shows me a tender mercy in the form of reminding me of His love for me. I have literally felt Him hug me. I have had blessings where His love for me has brought tears to my eyes. With God’s love for me, there is hope.
- Prayer and scripture study is a MUST for those suffering from depression. It’s even more important in times of trials. Unfortunately, I haven’t always FELT like doing the daily prayer and scripture study when my spirits are that low. The hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” has been my go-to song to get me through prayer and scripture study when I am feeling that I cannot possibly pray. I sing it in place of prayer until I can cope. It’s helped. It still helps.
- Get enough sleep. Eat right. Move more. Be healthy. This also seems obvious, but it works. Depression can make it hard to get enough shut eye. And too little sleep can make depression worse. Trying to stay on a sleep schedule really seems to help beat the blues. There is no magic diet that fixes depression, but it really does help when sadness sets in. Some people who struggle with depression may not feel like eating at all, but others might overeat. I am in the latter group. I try to be extra mindful of getting the right nourishment. Proper nutrition can influence a person’s mood and energy. People who are depressed may not feel much like being active, but if I make myself do it anyway, I usually feel better. A walk makes me feel much better.
- Getting outside really helps me. I think it’s the sunshine and light exposure (the flowers also make me smile) that help lift my spirits. I find that my mood improves when I've been outside walking for 30 minutes.
- Finally, being creative has really been an effective tool to fighting my depression. Cross stitching or playing the piano has really helped me loosen up some positive emotions.
Depression is an ongoing process. I am constantly on this roller coaster. Some days (most days) are wonderful. Some days I struggle. For those people who are currently gripped by depression, either experiencing it or are supporting or living with someone with it, I hope my story helps. There is no situation that is without hope. There is no person that can’t overcome their difficulties. For anyone who is suffering silently, there is help out there and you are definitely not alone. God loves you.