SPEAKING OUT

If I had to pinpoint a time when I first felt the symptoms of depression—

the feelings of sadness, aloneness, and worthlessness—

I would say it was around the age of eleven or twelve. Sometimes the journey wasn’t all that bad, as when the symptoms were managed through medication and therapy. Sometimes the journey was very rough, however, and I spiraled downward into months-long episodes of major depression. The absolute low point of my journey happened during my junior year of college.

As I entered an episode of major depression, I started to isolate myself from friends and family. I chose to sleep rather than deal with my increasingly intense feelings of self-hatred and worthlessness. I avoided any social interaction because of the fear of judgment. I thought to myself, “If I don’t like me, how can I expect other people to like me?” So I spun deeper and deeper into a world I created for myself—a world which consisted only of me and my dark thoughts.

After living this way for a couple of months, I forgot what life outside of depression looked like. I felt like I had been having these thoughts and feelings all my life. I couldn’t remember a time when I wasn’t depressed, and I couldn’t imagine a future where I wasn’t depressed. I felt hopeless. When I became tired of trying to live and hold it all together, and when the thin string of sanity that I was holding onto finally snapped, I decided to end my life.

But, thankfully, that’s not where my journey ended. I stayed in a psychiatric hospital for a week before entering an intensive day program for six months. During this time, I took a medical leave of absence from college, and focused on a new kind of education: learning to love myself and learning how to live with depression.

After graduating from the day program, I returned to college. It was important for me to prove to myself, and to those who supported me throughout my recovery, that my suicide attempt was not going to derail my life. I would not let it force me to compromise the goals I had set for myself.

I want people to know that I am not ashamed of my suicide attempt. I want them to know that there is nothing shameful about the feelings associated with depression. They are real and valid feelings, and ignoring or dismissing them is not the answer. For me, it took a suicide attempt for these feelings to come out, but it doesn’t have to be that way for other people.

Speaking openly and honestly—

without guilt or shame—

about my depression has taken my journey with depression in a new direction.

I continue to advocate and share my story in the hopes that knowing others have or are experiencing the same feelings can provide hope to teenagers and young adults. I have had the opportunity to participate in a program that provides mental health screenings to elementary and middle school; I recorded a StoryCorps interview with my mother that aired on my local NPR station and will be archived in the Library of Congress; and I will be a panelist at the Illinois Department of Public Health’s 2014 Statewide Suicide Prevention Conference. Excitedly, I will also serve as the co-chair of DBSA’s newly established Young Adult Council. All of these activities not only help to promote awareness and education about mental illness, but are instrumental in supporting my efforts to live a life of wellness.

My journey with depression will be a lifelong one. The journey isn’t over because I’ve learned tools and practice skills that promote living in wellness. Not every day is perfect; and some days, wellness is hard to achieve. However, life is beautiful and enjoyable once again because I’ve learned to accept and embrace this journey. And sharing my journey with others only makes it that much more rewarding.

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