I am telling my story, my experience with depression, with the hope that others who may be in a place I once was will know that things can get better.
I have come to view my depression somewhat dispassionately. I no longer see myself as worthy or deserving of being afflicted by the disease, but that is where depression can put you. If you have felt less than, not good enough, damaged, broken, irredeemable please let me tell you that it is not true. If you think that other’s have it easier because they are intrinsically better than you, I have been there. It is an incredibly uncomfortable place to be. But I can tell you that is also a false narrative and that you can very likely find a sustainable solution.
One lens through which you could view my life and experience is that of a poor-little-rich-girl. My father is a doctor, I went to private all girls school, my parents footed my rehab bill. While those things are all true, there is more to the story.
I have a genetic predisposition to depression and I was in some life circumstances which likely contributed to my depression taking hold. To add fuel that fire, I engaged in some behaviors which exacerbated my condition. If you don’t know, alcohol is a depressant. If you drink and are inclined towards depression, things may get worse for you. When I was first presented with this fact in my late 20s, I was not ready to hear it. At the time, drinking seemed to be the only thing I was good at or enjoyed. Luckily, my bottom was not too deep. I say that to mean that to the outside world, it would appear that way, that things weren’t even that bad. But inside, I was miserable and ready to die. I was fully into an eating disorder which was impacting my daily life and work. I was drinking more than I should and wrecked my car while under the influence. I felt that I would die in the near future due to a car accident, my eating disorder or by my own hand. But I still had a job, an apartment, my family, my pug. If you didn’t look too closely, I was able to hide the truth quite well. Until I wasn’t.
I arrived at a holiday engagement party in my hometown in December of 2005. A dear friend greeted me and said, with an air befitting the party, “Lucy, you’re so skinny! Should we be worried?” Though she was mostly kidding, I deadpanned my answer, “yes.”
Two and a half months later, I was in rehab for alcohol abuse and an eating disorder. Spoiler alert: I accepted that I am an alcoholic and have not had a drink in over 11 years. It wasn’t easy, it didn’t happen overnight. I relapsed with my drinking a couple of times out of rehab. The food issue continued for much longer as it is a lot easier to keep a drink out of your face on a daily basis that it is food – especially if that is part of the problem.
I am incredibly grateful for my friends and family who have supported and continue to support me. I know it would have been much harder without them. But I also know many people who have gone through worse with less and come out on the other side. All it takes is the willingness to ask for help.
If you don’t feel like yourself anymore, whether it’s a drastic change or a slow decline, talk to someone about it. There is a saying that I heard in AA, “don’t go to the hardware store for milk.” It means, don’t go to someone with the expectation that they will give you what you need if they have never done so before. For example, if you have a sibling with whom you are close but they are consistently dismissive of your feelings or depression, don’t go to them first. Find someone who will listen and hear you.
My depression is largely under control with the help of medication and overall healthy living. I see a therapist when I need to and do my best to be aware of my feelings, external stressors and triggers. I was worried post-partum depression was inevitable for me, but I did not experience it with my first child.
Long story short, if you feel bad or badly about yourself please reach out and talk to someone. We have come a long way in treating depression, from medication to talk therapy to EMDR to art and equine therapy and more. There is hope and you are worth it.
For more on Mentally Healthy Norfolk Month, please go here.
And please take a few moments with the Talk About it Norfolk video series.