I don’t know at exactly what age I learned what the word depressed meant, but I knew when I heard it, that it perfectly explained the unbearable feelings of emptiness I harbored daily.
The first memory I have that I can point to and say, “I was depressed,” happened when I was about ten years old. I saw child stars that toured the world and made millions of dollars, I saw movies and read books about packs of perfect female friends, and, in real life, I saw petite blonde girls with manicured nails fawned over by every teacher, parent, and classmate.
Something is Wrong
I knew something was wrong with me, and my life. I didn’t have many friends, I wasn’t exceptionally talented, I was a bit chubby and rough around the edges. I broke down reading a book one night in bed, crying to myself and thinking, “Why is this all that I get? I know that I would be a great friend. I know that I have so much to offer. Why do I not get a chance?” Objectively, I knew I was doing okay. I made good grades, I had mostly good days, my mom and her friends would deliver compliments to me regularly- but it didn’t matter. I knew there was so much potential for me, that I just couldn’t reach. I didn’t know how, but I knew that if I tried hard enough to figure it out, I would look like
Objectively, I knew I was doing okay. I made good grades, I had mostly good days, my mom and her friends would deliver compliments to me regularly- but it didn’t matter.
I knew there was so much potential for me, that I just couldn’t reach. I didn’t know how, but I knew if I tried hard enough to figure it out, I could look like Sophia Bush from One Tree Hill. I knew someday I would meet friends as close as The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I would find my talent, and I would go far.
A few years passed me by; my friendships remained awkward and, I lengthened into a gangly, pale, high school freshman. My grades started to decline, and the first crush I’d ever developed was madly in love with a girl that was my polar opposite. She was edgy and punk rock and experimented with drugs.
Pretty much everyone around me drifted towards that same lifestyle. Rather than be more alone than ever, I thought I ought to try some of these things out for myself, “just to see.”
This path led me deeper into the depressive tendencies I’d always had. I cried for hours every day; I felt lost; I felt empty. I couldn’t rationally explain what I was feeling, and so I continued to try other ways to express myself – almost never successfully.
I tried therapy, and I tried medication. I saw a cognitive therapist for a year, and then upon seeing a psychiatrist, was prescribed Lexapro and Klonopin. While I believe cognitive therapy was very helpful for my self-esteem (the hearty roots of depression), the medication took away all the progress I had made. I am absolutely not against the use of SSRI’s, and I suppose in extreme cases, benzodiazepines, but I believe that they should only be used after every other method of treatment has been exhausted.
I did not need medication. I needed some perspective, I need some patience, and I needed a distraction.
In college, my mother became my unofficial therapist. Sometimes for hours a day, we would talk about my difficulty coping with everyday life. Many topics were covered, and often many times over. Here are a few that stand out to me to this day:
Fear of Rejection
My mother theorized that one of my main issues was that I didn’t get out of the house much. “But I’m too anxious to do anything,” I explained to her, “Simple things exhaust me.” We discussed why I felt so exhausted after interacting with others.
I felt drained because I had spent so much energy trying to do and say the right things, and trying to interpret everything the other person did and said. If I could somehow find a coping mechanism, a way to put myself at ease even when I wasn’t, maybe I could conquer this aspect of my depression.
Fear of Loneliness
I was almost content enough with myself to be okay with being alone, but I still knew that I needed others in my life, if not for validation, at least for companionship. I had such a hard time making friends because I was only reaching out looking for validation in the first place. “What you need,” she told me, “is someone who can appreciate the real you, and not the ‘you’ that you present to the world.”
Things like this seem so simple, and so obvious, and they could take an hour or more of discussion to sink in for me. But she was patient.
Your Feelings Are Not Facts
One of the most important aspects of our discussions was that just because I thought or felt something, didn’t mean it was true. My perspective could distort reality to the point where I thought people and the odds were against me. Actually, most people were too self-involved to even notice all of the things I was so worried and self-conscious about.
Feeling sad does not mean that you “are” sad. We are allowed to feel emotions without letting them consume us. It does not make us any less authentic or out of touch with ourselves. I often suffered from panic attacks because I felt that I had to ‘fix’ whatever was making me anxious.
They will often be things that evoke emotion that we have no control over. That is okay. My mother offered this solution; “Let the emotion was over you like a wave.” I did not have to be current. I could be the ocean floor, steady.
You Can Not Avoid Emotions
Emotions are not enemies. They are not something to bury, or avoid. One emotion comes, and another will take its place. Each emotion serves a purpose; Happiness is brave, disappointment means that you still care. “You can not hold on to past emotions.
You must live in the moment. Don’t mourn the past, don’t fear the future. Center yourself in the now and a huge amount of your problems will vanish,” my mother explained. I could explore my emotions and feel them fully, but only in the moment. Only one at a time.
Growth Is Never Pleasant
Some periods of life are so heavy, so frustrating, that it truly does seem that there is no way that we can make it through. These are periods of transition, and they always lead us to more certain times. Often, the uncertainty is ninety percent of the problem. Will we make it? Will things get better? They will, and they do. Still, I have to call my mother and borrow a few hours of her time, so I can ground myself again.
Her patience and her wisdom is something a doctor could never fit in a bottle. If you do find that you or your child does need medication, there is no shame in that, but what we all need, medicated or not, is someone that can offer perspective, comfort, security, and understanding.
These are the lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. These are the lessons I will teach my son.
Depression is not a life sentence, and my mother made sure I knew it.
About the Writer
Emma is a stay at home mother and wife, born and raised in Florida. She has always had a passion for sharing her stories and experiences with others. In her twenty-three years she has learned to enjoy reading, thrifting, and learning. She has yet to learn how to whistle, or parallel park.