I came across several posts last week that talked on and on about beating depression. I’ve had friends ask me how people do it. And I always get weirded out with that question.
Beat depression? How do you beat something that can become such a big part of who you are, how your relationships with friends, family, significant others go, how well you do in your activities, and how you perceive the world that surrounds you?
The answer I immediately reach is: You don’t.
I’ve lived with depression since I was 13, but I didn’t get diagnosed until after I attempted to commit suicide at 18. I had been living with it for five years, five awful, hard, challenging years where everything was dark, where my mom just kept telling me it was part of being a teenager. I’m not saying absolutely everything was bad. I had boyfriends, friends, passions, I did really well at school, I actually had a pretty amazing life, with a lot of people who cared about me and thousands of opportunities for improving myself.
But, despite of all this amazing stuff I had, I felt miserable. Every day was a struggle, a constant battle with myself, with my head, with a hole that lived in my stomach that made it hard to breathe. I hated everything, everyone, I felt sad all the time.
From 13 to 16, I suffered from an eating disorder, had two surgeries to extract a tumor from my leg, changed schools, broke up with my boyfriend, lost the house I grew up in due to economic problems. I underwent a series of challenging events that made it kind of logical to feel down.
But I didn’t just feel down, I struggled to want to stay alive every single day.
So of course, all of these things that happened in my life didn’t just seem like unfortunate events, they kept me thinking my life was utter crap, and that it would probably always be that way because bad things kept happening, and time went by for me expecting to feel better, but I never did, I just kept on getting worse.
Eventually, I started drinking a lot, smoking tons of pot just to be able to sleep, engaging in self destructive behaviors that eventually led to me swallowing a bottle of anticonvulsants, which actually happened to be part of a treatment that I was taking, being wrongly diagnosed with cyclothymia. I ended up in the hospital and well, I think most of you know how the rest of that goes.
It took me throwing myself of a moving car, drunk off my ass, to end up with the right psychiatrist. A doctor that didn’t just want to fill me up with useless medication, a doctor that actually wanted to listen to me and try to come up with the right treatment for my condition.
Turns out, I was suffering from Dysthimia, a form of major and long term depression that allows you to maintain functional. I had taken antidepressants in the past, which had not worked and had only made me feel numb and inhumane, so I was kind of skeptical at first, but I was so desperate to not start college feeling the way I felt, that I was willing to try anything. So, he gave me a thing called Agomelatine, and after two weeks, I actually started to feel better.
I’m not going to say that the medication fixed all my problems, made me be totally happy all the time, that it helped me beat depression, because it didn’t. It made it easier for me to deal with the problems I had accumulated in the past years, allowed me to feel and see life in a way that wasn’t entirely gray, it made it possible for me to start living a much better and much more positive life, cause it regulated what had been causing me to feel so much despair the last five years, it regulated my depression.
Over the years, I’ve had to adjust the dose thousands of times. I’ve had a few downfalls along the way, but I never called them fallbacks, because no matter how hard my heart got smashed, how many people I lost, how much I loathed myself, or how hard the obstacle in front of me was, I never felt like I did in those five years.
So I kept steady appointments with my therapist, my psychiatrist, and made the best effort to keep a good line of communication between my head and my heart about what happened in my life that affected my emotions and the feelings that I had no idea where they came from. Because, that’s how you know. If you can target the external thing that is affecting you, then it’s a normal human reaction and you can probably cope with it on your own. But if you don’t understand why the hell you are feeling so awful, so down, so beat, then, you need to ask for help.
So, I didn’t actually come here to tell you how to beat your depression, cause you will probably never eradicate it. It is something that always be a part of you, that will always hurt you at some point, but it IS something you can control.
You control it by asking for the right help, by not being too proud or too ashamed to take medication, by always sustaining an effective introspection, and by never being afraid to admit you are feeling bad again and you need to do something about it again.
You will never beat this, it will always be your company throughout life. But that’s the thing, you learn to live with it. You accept it as a part of who you are and you fight it every single way you can.
Depression is not something you beat, it’s not a disease you can cure. It is part of your history, it’s part of you. And if you keep asking for help, and you keep leaning on the people who love you, who support you, who know there’s more to you than the gray shades you are used to seeing life with, you will understand that, yeah, you can’t beat it, but that doesn’t mean it defines you.