I had a very crazy year in 2015. My life, was completely flipped upside down, turned wrong side out, ran over, drowned, and then laid out flat to dry. It’s okay though! It ended with very positive and promising things ahead. Me saying that it’s okay, is also part of why my year ended the way it did.
There are a million things that went on in my life this year, and I won’t get into details, because really the most important thing that went on, was the one thing that absolutely affected everything else in my life; my depression.
Depression is such a taboo topic in our society. I never use to talk about it, what will people think of me if they knew I’m on medication? If they knew there are days when I can’t get out of bed? What if they knew that while on the outside I seem fine, “perfect” even, really on the inside I’m destroying myself? I feel like we are all trained from a very young age to never show weakness. We’re trained to think of lobotomies, insane asylums, and people shuffling around in pajamas with blank looks on their faces whenever the words mental illness are uttered.
It’s not even just society, it’s our families, our friends, our peers. As an adolescent, a teenager, and a young adult I fought daily battles with myself, with my self esteem. I was a chubby kid, I had acne and frizzy hair, my family wasn’t poor but we weren’t rich either, so I never had the “cool” clothes. I was socially awkward, to the extreme. I grew up in a Mormon household; not only a Mormon household, but a shunned-by-our-church-community Mormon household. I was home school between the ages of 8 and 14; for the record, that’s a very bad time to not be in school, learning the basics of human social interaction.
By the time it became just too much to handle, and I finally went on anti depressants while in my early 20’s, I was so incredibly angry to learn that several of my family members had been on them for years. I felt so betrayed learning that, because I was always pretty much told to suck it up, that people had it worse, to stop complaining; I believe at one point I was even told to pray. This was the culture I was raised in; I was raised to believe that depression wasn’t normal, it wasn’t okay, it was something to hide.
I’d like to say that my battle ended there, and that I lived happily ever after. The placebo effect isn’t something that only happens when someone isn’t given actual medication. Sometimes, things have gotten so bad, that you don’t even know what “normal” is anymore; maybe I never really did know “normal”. So when I started taking the meds, yes, things “got better”. What I didn’t know though, was they could be even better. I made two giant mistakes: first, I thought that taking anti depressants would fix everything, all on its own; second, I thought after a couple of years that I was “cured”, and no longer needed to take the meds.
I wasn’t better. I thought I was, but I wasn’t. I had just learned to hide it better, and instead of being sad all of the time, I had this overwhelming need to be perfect, to control everything in my life. Subconsciously, mind you; I really had no idea that this what was going on in my life. I was always stressed. If things didn’t go how I had planned, if something unexpected happened, if my routine was disrupted in any way, I had a meltdown. It took a lot of shitty things happening, it took me hurting people I loved, it took people I loved hurting me, it took being alone for the first time in almost a decade, for me to see all of this for what it really was.
The first time I saw a therapist I was 28 years old (I’m now just 29). I didn’t go for me, I went for my marriage, but it turned into being just me. I don’t know how to describe therapy, I don’t know how to tell someone why it works; I just know that it worked for me. I went back on my meds; in fact my doctor doubled my dosage. I didn’t even know that was an option, I didn’t even know that I truly did need a higher dose in order to get the full benefits of the medication. I think the most important thing I get out of therapy, is I learned how to love myself. I learned how to better my life, how to see things from a different perspective, how to handle stress, how to not blame anyone (including myself) for anything. I learned how to manage my depression. This was the key component that I was missing the first time I started taking anti depressants.
With the new year, I thought a lot about everything I have learned this year. It was so nice, actually, to look back and realize that even if in theory I had a shit year, I learned so much from it. I came across this post on Buzzfeed, and so much of it made so much sense to me. Before, I probably would’ve rolled my eyes, and made some sarcastic remark about someone not getting hugged enough as a child. Oh but no, it’s true.
23 Things To Do To Improve Your Mental Health in 2016
Some of the ones that stuck out to me the most, the ones that I have decided will be my theme for 2016. Yes, my theme, I no longer will have New Years Resolutions, or set goals. Not to say a person shouldn’t have goals; it’s just that the word goal implies that if you don’t meet it, that you’ve failed in some way.
- Learn to say no, without explaining yourself
This is so important! No, I can’t do this thing for you. No, I can’t make it to that event. No, I don’t need to deal with this for any reason. I don’t need to explain why I can’t help, or why I can’t go. It’s not selfish, it’s self care.
- Pick up a hobby that’s only purpose is to make you happy
As I got older I got so wrapped up in “adulting”. In work, in keeping my house clean, in managing my budget, in keeping my family happy. What about keeping me happy? What about doing something just because I like doing it? It’s important.
- Budget for little indulgences that make you feel good every month
Buy yourself that book you’ve been wanting, go get a mani/pedi, go splurge on things for that new hobby you’ve picked up. You work hard, so you need to reward yourself.
- Cut should from your vocabulary
I should’ve worked out, I should’ve eaten better, I should’ve done that project-NOPE. I would like to work out, I would like to eat better, I would like to do this project. Cut the negative talk, don’t beat yourself up for not doing something.
Oh this is a big one for me. Prime example of me putting this into action: I took Monday off work, so that I could take my car in to get repairs that it pretty much desperately needs at this point. However, Portland got a surprise snow and freezing rain storm on Sunday! Which meant that come Monday, my car was iced in, and the roads were a mess. I couldn’t take my car in as planned. I could’ve been upset, I mean I was upset, but I could’ve let it ruin my day. I could’ve complained about it, and been grumpy. Instead I said it is what it is, I have a couple more PTO days coming up, I’ll just take care of it then.
I deactivated my Facebook on January 2nd. I did this for many reasons. It’s been less than a week, and there are moments when I wonder what is going on in the world of Facebook, and others when I really don’t care, because Facebook isn’t the real world.
When I thought about how I wanted 2016 to be, I thought about what I really wanted and needed to be happy. I would like to workout more, I would like to drink less, I would like to have more adventures, I would like to spend more quality time with my husband (read: put down the iPhone dammnit!), I would like to find things that make me happy, I would like to make self care a priority.
I hope that if you are battling depression, that you realize that it is okay to have depression. I hope you realize that there are ways, that may sound cheesy, but there are ways to better your life. Cheers, to not a better year, but to a great year.