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Depression: Yours doesn't define you.

*Like always, what I decide to share on here are from my own experiences and opinions. Any facts that are started from outside articles will be posted at the end, and none of this is meant to educate you on what qualifies as experiencing Depression or diagnose you.

I would say my first experiences with depression occurred when I was in 8th grade, but I was definitely sad and having a hard time a few years before that. I purposely wanted to include the fact that I was feeling sad before saying I became depressed, because being sad and depressed are two different things.

It's always bothered me when people use the word "depression" like it's nothing, or when people talk about how "depressed" they are when their favorite ice cream is sold out or their show has ended. Depression and being sad or upset are totally different; think of depression as being uncontrollably upset and feeling like there is no end in sight, or the complete opposite where you are so "happy" you can't control yourself and you fly off the handle and basically crash and fall apart when it's over. Those are considered to be manic highs and lows, which I've dealt with in my battles with depression.

Depression for me started when I was around 8th grade or so. This was the point in my life where I was starting to have issues with my self image, my self worth, and it was really hitting me how I felt like I didn't fit in anywhere. I had friends and a boyfriend, but none of that really helped when I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror and that ultimately ruined all of the relationships I had especially with myself. Outside factors and other issues played a big role in how I felt as well, but it all resulted in how I felt about myself and my worth.

I was bullied a lot of my childhood between having a severe peanut allergy and for having a big nose. Being isolated at the "peanut free table" where I basically sat alone until they realized it would be a better idea to put the kids who wanted to have peanut butter for lunch at the same table, I already had a target on my back since elementary school. This lead to kids teasing me with putting peanut butter in my face and realizing it wasn't a joke when my throat closed up, and lunch aids who told me "You'll be fine just wash your hands" when a PB & J was thrown on my leg and I broke out in hives and was sent to the hospital. Stuff like this even happened through HS and I had to leave my class to go to the hospital during my Junior or Senior year because a kid thought it would be funny to eat his peanut butter Halloween candy right next to me even though many people in my class told him how I wouldn't be able to breathe.

I was also always made fun of for the size of my nose and even my weight, and to this day I'm still made fun of for my nose as if it's still supposed to bother me the way people meant it to. I think I grew into it pretty well and apparently bigger noses mean you have more wisdom (so take that). I even got comments about having a bigger chest when I was younger as if I could control that, so I hid under sweatshirts and zip up jackets everyday. Suddenly I got to an age where that was worth being praised for, but that brought me unwanted attention and if I didn't cover up it came across like I was trying to show them off. Even now at 22 years old I struggle with the fact that I can't wear half the shirts I want to because I don't have the right bra or because I can't get away with not wearing a bra. I can't wear half of the cute V necks I want to because when I wear it it's considered "inappropriate" because of something I can't control. To this day my depression is always triggered when it comes to not feeling like I fit into my clothes or that I shouldn't be wearing certain things, so I choose the big baggy stuff most often.

When I got into HS I was having a really hard time trying to figure out who I wanted to be and what friends were good for me. I lost a lot of them, made new ones, and then lost those too. It's hard to feel like you don't fit in, and at the time I was having problems at home too and I just felt like I had nowhere to go to feel happy and like I could be myself. I guess looking back at it now that's kind of what HS is all about, but for me it never really got any better. I wasn't just upset and felt left out, I was incredibly depressed. I had one girl I was friends with at the time who I finally felt like I could talk to about what I was feeling and how I was handling the depression I was dealing with all alone and I went to her because I truly didn't know what else to do. I told her what I had been doing with taking out my feelings or lack of on myself, and she basically told me that she didn't want to hear about it and that she didn't want to be responsible for whatever the outcome would be. And I thought I was depressed before.

I was so lost in my own head that I always felt like I had so many thoughts going through my head but also nothing at all. I went through a really serious time fighting myself and my depression, and then one day in class I felt myself about to break down because I was going days without sleeping or eating and I finally went to the school counselor. This was the first time I ever went and spoke to someone, and I literally didn't even know where to start. I really don't even remember a lot of how our conversations went, but I do remember just rambling on and falling apart at most of our sessions together. I remember trying to go right before lunch so that I wouldn't have to go back to class with red eyes and a puffy face, and I always tried to leave during my class or at a slow point during class so people wouldn't really see me going to her office. At the time it helped, but it wasn't helping enough.

I'm sorry to my friends and family who might be reading this and weren't aware of how bad of a place I was in and feel bad. I promise you there is no reason to feel bad because I became so scary good at hiding how I felt and how I handled my feelings behind closed doors that I was numb to it myself. I remember having breakdowns like you see in the movies where someone is just crying and sliding down a wall, then having to gather myself and go to work or go downstairs to eat dinner. After trying to talk to someone about how I felt and then feeling like when I did it didn't help, I became someone who found it easier to basically just not feel at all, and it made me cold and made me do a lot of things that I regret to people that I really cared about. I didn't even care about myself and couldn't even begin to think about how to care about anyone else at that time.

Fast forward, I made it out of HS despite the other hard times that followed, and moved on to college. I saw a counselor a few times at my first school but it wasn't helping, and then I got to a bad place again where I didn't want to talk to anyone about it anymore. Those manic highs and lows that I mentioned before became a very recurring thing, and I could feel myself falling into them as well as the crash that came with them. I couldn't control them. I ended up in what I will later share more about with my toxic relationship, and I was at a school I didn't like anymore because it didn't have what I wanted and I didn't know how to make the change in either situation so I was stuck. Again not thinking I had much value I didn't see how I would be worth enough to go through the trouble of transferring and asking that much of my parents after moving into my first NYC apartment, and I was working like crazy while taking on a lot at school. This is where my episodes of anxiety also came in, and that was another thing I didn't know how to handle.

Right before I made the move from my first school to the one I graduated from, I lost my best friend, my Grandpa, and I literally felt a piece of myself just fall off and shrivel up. Everytime I couldn't go to anyone else or I needed a laugh or some advice he was it, and I was scared shitless of how I was supposed to recover from losing him. He was my biggest theatre performing supporter, school supporter and mindset supporter, and I had no clue how I was supposed to go through transferring to a school where I knew no one without him. I was also still stuck in that toxic relationship I mentioned earlier, and now anxiety and depression were both taking over.

I have another post dedicated to anxiety alone for those of you who just struggle with that, so I'm not going to get very into it. However, my depression worsened immensely when paired with my anxiety, and I don't think I was ever at a lower point in my life than I was then.

I got help, finally. I got help from the first counselor that I actually could say helped me to accept my depression, understand it, and learn to live with it, and I honestly don't know what I would have done if I didn't get that help especially now that I was officially diagnosed with both anxiety and depression.

I think the hardest thing about depression is the fact that no one else can get you out of it. No one can get you out of your depression, and you can't get anyone out of their depression. Read that again.

Depression and anxiety are very different, but I think what may make them the most different from each other is the fact that anxiety can be worked on to be managed and triggers of anxiety can be managed and worked on by you and other people, but depression is 100% a solo act. Again this is my opinion and what I feel from my own experiences, but I can't say that there is a single thing that someone had told me to make me not feel depressed that worked. It worked when I was told it and then learned to see it for myself and then worked on it with myself, but with my anxiety I was able to have people tell me certain things and agree and see their side and have it help me with how I faced things that triggered me going forward. I've never had someone tell me that I shouldn't be depressed about something and then say "ok yeah you're right/ I understand".

Anxiety is being fearful and worried about things we know we can change but don't know how to, and depression is being scared that there is no way to change ourselves in order to get to that acceptance point.

How did I move forward? I just did. There came a point after I started asking for help that my family now knew what I was going through and what I was dealing with and I finally felt like I could talk about how I felt rather than just maybe trying to write it out or keep it to myself. I felt heard. Not for nothing with the point that I was at I honestly didn't see how it could get any worse and I knew that I had to start working towards picking myself up and putting myself back together again. I was starting to feel ok, and I knew that I had made the right choice to stop settling for how I thought I deserved to be treated and take care of myself.

Besides going to counseling, I found other outlets in order to help me manage my depression and take control of my manic highs and lows. As you all probably know I got into fitness and taking care of myself physically, and that helped me mentally as well. I'm not saying you need to go hardcore dieting and drop 30lbs in order to help yourself, but try and be more mindful of what you're putting into your body and how you're treating and taking care of your body. It's a known fact that both overeating and not eating are signs of depression as well as what you are eating will either help you feel better or feel worse (fruit versus fried food even though fried food makes me feel good sometimes) which I went through times of dealing with both, as well as things like lack of sleep and lack of motivation. I know it's a lot harder said than done, but do your best to push yourself to get what you need to get done until it doesn't feel like a chore anymore, and try and get yourself on to a better schedule that allows you enough time to get the rest you need.

For both my anxiety and depression I've found CBD products to be super helpful to fall asleep at night or to even just calm me down when I can feel myself getting anxious or like something is going to trigger me, and I also really do suggest some sort of physical activity. I also really love to straighten up my room, reorganize my drawers, move some things around, or find some sort of artistic project to work on to distract me and get my mind off of any negative thoughts that may lead me to being in a rut of depression.

I will say, as hard as it was to go through what I went through, it lead me to get the help that I needed as well as lead me to learn enough about myself and how I handle my depression to make me feel like I finally have a hold on my life as a whole again. No one can get you out of depression, that is a battle you have to win on your own, but you don't need to go through it by yourself. There are so many outlets you can take to help distract you from depressive thoughts, places you can go to for help, and resources that you can use to learn about this disease itself.

I've stated before that I am not a counselor or a therapist or anyone certified in anyway to diagnose someone or medically help someone with their depression, but I want to be here to help in whatever ways I can for those of you who need me or need someone to listen. I'm never going to say that I understand how you feel just because I have depression. That doesn't mean I understand how YOU struggle with depression, but I will do my best to offer my advice and help in any way you will let me.

If you or someone you know is in critical condition as far as their depression or any other mental illness, please don't wait to get help or be afraid that getting help with make things worse. It's called suffering from depression for a reason, and if you or someone you know is suffering please get them help as soon as you can and let those people who can help them determine what is best for them or what the next steps should be. You can't get someone out of depression, they will find their own way in their own time, please don't ever force someone to get help because they will feel unheard and unsafe and may stray further from getting help.

Thank you for those of you who have been part of my journey to getting to where I am today with my mental health and those of you who stayed by me while I was figuring out how to understand and live with my depression. I know for a time it turned me into someone who isn't me and that I let it get the best of me when I was losing, but I am so thankful to be where I am today and for the people who knew I would get here all along. I went most of this time being ashamed of the fact that I do have diagnosed depression, but here I am now putting it out for the world to know and it makes me so incredibly proud and fulfilled. My depression doesn't define me. It never did define me and it will never define you either. You're stronger than those thoughts in your head and the things that others may want to put in your head to make you feel as though you aren't, but those thoughts will only get in if you let them in.

I'm here to be that person in anyone's story who may need the same, and please be aware of the signs of things like depression in other people before you say the things you want to or act the way you do around them. Check in with your friends and family and even your not so close friends and I'm sure you'll get the same. If you're going to offer the same thing of being there for someone, please make sure you are prepared for the things you may hear or see because for many people depression is all darkness until they can see their own light. Also be there for support, you can't be upset when the things you say to help don't seem to have an immediate effect on that person.

Make conversations around depression and how you can learn to live with it more typical to have by opening up when you want to be heard and being there for the people you know may need it. Even if it is a nice comment on a picture or a heart as a response to something they decide to share.

You can't get someone out of their depression. They will find their own way with your help.


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