Hey, there. I’m 35 years old, and I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. It hasn’t always been easy to talk about, but through therapy and time, I have developed the language needed to express how I feel. Depression will never be something I can cure, but I manage it well. Medication helps. I would like to hear your experiences in dealing with depression and your struggles with it.
cw: Suicidal ideation, self-harm
Hi friend! First of all, I just wanted to give you a really huge kudos for the steps you’ve taken to manage your depression. It’s not easy but I’m proud of you for doing so.
I’m 22 and have apparently been depressed since age 13, based off analysis from a few therapists. It’s looked different over the years but I’ve had a lot of experiences with self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The two times it was the worst were in my sophomore and junior years of college. Sophomore year because I got involved in a situation where I basically lost half of my friend group in a bad, messy situation that involved campus police. Junior year because I had the sudden and crushing realization that I didn’t feel like I wanted to do anything related to my major and that I wasn’t good at anything else.
Meds helped me in my sophomore year a lot. Not so much in my junior year. If I had had the energy, maybe I would’ve worked with my doctor more to get a better prescription. But I just really hated the process of trying new ones. There’s always a couple of weeks where everything’s funky and I just feel sicker. And then the on-campus psychologist suggested I go on Adderall, which I immediately had a bad feeling about. So I kind of stopped trusting the doctors at my school on mental health stuff.
Like you, I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to cure my depression but I’m glad I’ve found ways to manage it. Gonna need it as I’m dropped into the “real world” in a month and a half.
They tried to give me Adderall in high school when it first became clear that something was amiss. Of course, like the dumbass kid I was, I just said it was working so that I could trade the Adderall to my friends for weed since all the Adderall did was make me stay up and talk everybody’s ears off their head. I think its a common experience to get prescribed Adderall at first, at least its something thats come up a lot when I talk to people.
Anyway, my depression experience started in high school (I think) and hit its nadir in junior year at college. I wasn’t diagnosed until 22, after I had dropped out, and so I spent 20-21 in an absolutely despondent state of isolation and guilt about not being able to do anything productive. One semester I went to one class in total, and since I was at college far from home I could get away with cleaning everything up and appearing normal when family visited. I had a job as a fundraiser at school, which requires enthusiasm I did not have because of the depression with combined poorly with my anxiety, so I would show up to work and pretend to have conversations on the phone then mark people down as pledging and requesting information, which got me fired from my job.
The thing that motivated me was avoidance. I thought all of the time about avoiding scrutiny, because if people saw the “true” me they would see what a wretched thing I was. Not understanding what was going on meant that I judged myself harshly. I’ve never had to deal with suicidal ideation or self-harm, but instead I’d have these fantasies about getting in my car and driving in a random direction until someone realized I was missing, and then they’d find me and rescue me, not just from being missing but from my entire life. They’d know that something was wrong and they’d fix it.
The worst part of it all was not knowing what was wrong, because the key to managing it for me now is being able to recognize patterns. I’m not on any medication currently. (I’d tried Paxil at first, which sucked, and Wellbutrin which helped and conveniently burned all the weight I’d gained during my shut-in year) This July will be six years since I was expelled from college for never going to class and having to return home (which I’ve been very fortunate that I had a soft place to land after this experience. Many people don’t.) and a lot has changed since for me.
Literally all of the friends I had before that episode are out of my life. Not because they’re horrible people but because I interacted with them in a way that involved lots of drug use and I can’t and don’t want to be a part of that life anymore.
I have new friends, including a few who have been through severe mental illness and helped me learn how to love myself. I have new hobbies, I do more writing and hiking as opposed to being a stoner (which I don’t judge at all, it just doesn’t go well for me).
I lean into being enthusiastic about the nerdy shit that I love, as opposed to being detached and sarcastic all of the time. Every so often somebody from my old life hits me up on Facebook and they can’t believe that I’m gushing like I am about the Golden Lovers storyline in New Japan Pro Wrestling or something like that. The old me would never risk seeming so uncool. Online communities like this one where people don’t feel guarded about showing their enthusiasm are a blessing and another safety net between me and the crushing isolation of the bad times. At the time of my episode, I was much more on the cynical and edgy side of the internet where it was more important to be cool and on the edge than sincere, which was very bad for me.
I have a great support system when I need it. After my diagnosis, I initially over-relied on my best friend who has been hospitalized for mental illness and she did me a great service by telling me I needed to get better at processing my own stuff rather than relying on her for every worry. I don’t let bad days feed into more bad days most of the time. When I feel low, I have these methods of telling myself that I have great qualities even if I can’t feel like a great person. It’s kind of like the difference between really feeling good about yourself and having to convince yourself that you’re good even when you don’t feel that way.
That helps a ton because the worst parts where when things happened that I could not emotionally connect to while knowing that I should and I wanted to. For instance, my brother got married and had a child and I was detached from that whole experience. I wanted to be happy for him, but I couldn’t be, and what made it ten times worse was that I then blamed and hated myself or not being happy for him. I don’t do that anymore. I know that the “real” me loves my family and friends and cares about important things, and that when I can’t care, it’s not because I’m a piece of shit. It’s just that my brain isn’t up to snuff that day.
If I do my best: fulfilling my responsibilities, eating properly, sleeping well, even when I don’t want to do any of it and just want to curl up and disappear, some part of me knows that’s what I need to do so I suffer through it until it eventually gets easier. Some days are successes if I write 5,000 words that I love to death after a great work out, and some days are successes if I eat three reasonable meals, sleep eight hours and drag myself through a workday and accomplish nothing. That’s just how it is being me and living with this condition.
I hope I don’t get another major episode like what I had in college, but it may happen. I think the science says there’s a significant chance of another one in my lifetime that may last a few years. I feel confident that I won’t be crushed by it if it comes. When they say that knowing is half the battle, that really is the truth. When you know you can blame the depression and not yourself. You can get people in your life who can relate to your experience. I hadn’t intended for this to end up as long as it did, but I rarely write at length about my experience, because my family can’t relate to it, I haven’t needed to go to therapy for a while and I don’t want to bog down my friends with intense discussions because most of them struggle too. tldr: i was doing horrible once and now I am doing fine to great, depending on the day.
Good luck! You’ll do fine!
CW: Suicidal ideation
I have struggled with depression for most of life and have only learned how to manage it in recent years. It began in high school and peaked during my undergrad when I was in my early to mid 20’s. At my worst point it was completely crippling. Not a day went by without thoughts of suicide.
Eventually, I saw a doctor for a separate issue and was diagnosed. That was probably the turning point, as I grew up in an environment where these things weren’t discussed, mostly due to a lack of knowledge about it, I think. Having the language and resources to contextualize and understand what I was feeling was life changing.
Eventually I found someone I cared about a lot and she ended up convincing me to seek further help in the form of medication, which has been effective for me. It isn’t 100%. I still have my episodes, but I have developed the understanding and methods needed to cope and generally think of myself as happy.
Now, I really go out of my way to try and normalize it. After I sought help and started talking about it, discussions began with other family members. At work, too, I try to make it normal and have had discussions with coworkers on the subject.
Anyway, that is the EXTREMELY condensed version. I am 33 now. I suffered through the worst years of it and made it out the other end.
That’s very brave of you to discuss depression with your co-workers. I definitely don’t think I could.
I’m 36 and have had moderate-to-severe depression since at least my early twenties although it wasn’t diagnosed until about 7 years ago. I spent a long time self-medicating with alcohol (which didn’t help and led to it’s own set of problems) even while I was getting regular therapy. I haven’t had much success with any medications I’ve tried yet, but therapy, quitting drinking, and dedicating time to exercise and diet, have made huge improvements over the last couple of years to the point where I am in pretty good shape now. I’ve also always found happiness and satisfaction in creative pursuits, so I’m taking that seriously and allowing myself to be sincere about them, and sincere about working hard at them.
I’m also lucky to have a great partner, helpful family, and I had a pretty good social network for most of the really bad times, though I’m fairly introverted and tend to stick more to myself nowadays.
My depression was the hide-in-bed-watch-tv-and-do-nothing-because-none-of-it-matters kind of depression. So the hardest part for me is always finding motivation and recognizing success in what I do. I used to be a lawyer but quit when my first child was born to become a stay-at-home dad, so I went from a place where achievement was very easy to quantify and catalog to place where it very much is not. There are also a lot of social/cultural expectations to manage. My being a dad who stays home is still “weird” to a larger number of people than you might imagine. Plus, being a parent is just hard in general. Aside from that, I’m now trying to begin a new career as a writer, and while reminding myself that it’s ok to be bad at it at this early stage can sometimes be difficult, I also know that there have been years in my life where it would have been impossible to convince myself of that.
My days are mostly good, and when I feel bad or sad it’s because of a specific reason, and proportionate to the cause. Sometimes I think back to times when things were really bad, times when I felt hopeless and worthless, times when I was afraid to listen to a sad song because I didn’t know if I could rebound from it. But mostly I’m glad to have found some comfort and I am always willing to talk to people who are still seeking it.
I’ve probably been depressed since the tail-end of 2016, give or take a few months.
I had a high-stress/low satisfaction job that had me ping-ponging between catching 9:30pm trains home to spending the whole day wondering why I didn’t have enough work.
I was anxious, angry, and just fundamentally unhappy. I did look for other work, but the only offers I got were from papers quite far from home that I feared would be bad fits, especially with the lower pay I’d be moving to. I finally went looking for treatment in early September 2017, only to get laid off a couple weeks later after the New Business team failed to bring in any new business for a while.
The therapist I settled on remarked I actually seemed happier, relieved in the weeks immediately after that.
But the honeymoon wore off quickly and I got into the cycle of mainly getting rejected by jobs, and discovering I had MAJOR anxiety attacks at the thought of moving anywhere too far from home, which the handful of offers I got all entailed.
To exacerbate things, I tried to throw a party and invite a bunch of friends who worked in the city. A bunch of people cited a Jewish holiday as a reason they couldn’t attend, so I moved the date and in the process lost the only two people who had said they could make it. That kind of broke me, and probably made those aforementioned attacks way worse.
Since then I’ve had bad weeks and good weeks, but it’s pretty rare I go more than a couple days without feeling deeply depressed and very doubtful of my self worth.
I only realised in retrospect over a discussion with a friend that there was a ~24 month period a few years back where I was likely depressed and only self-medicating with alcohol and cannabis. It took a bit of a shock from trying to run to catch a bus to make me realise just how long I had wallowed and start to try to pick myself back up again.
The causes of my depression were a break-up, an absolute lack of motivation for the course I was studying whilst still having family pressure to continue, and the spiral of alcohol and cannabis. I was fortunate not to require a serious intervention to help me out of my depression, and managed to find an activity from my childhood which helped me restructure my life (not video games!).
I have a couple of friends struggling with depression just now, and although we don’t meet often, I try to make sure that when they want me to I help them open up and discuss their problems and thoughts constructively. The friends who stick with you through times like this are the ones worth keeping.
You don’t have address this question if it makes you uncomfortable to answer, but what actvity helped you get out of your depression?
I feel you so much on the environment you’re in not being a place you can talk about it openly. I remember once letting slip in front of my father how I was feeling and it resulted in me being yelled at for hours. I was eventually able to convince them to let me go to a therapist, but discussions afterwards were always “Is she helping you?” and I would say “Yeah” even if I didn’t mean it.
I think it was the comfort of something familiar, the exercise, and the increased socialising that made this suitable for me.
Second martial arts, just started Nihon Kenpo (esoteric Japanese MMA with basically Kendo armor) a few months back and its doing wonders for my mental state, confidence and interpersonal relationships even if I show up to work barely able to move half the time.
But it’s a very challenging thing to go to a club all by yourself. I was lucky to have a friend start just before me and they dragged me along.
If you want a non-challenging, flexible thing to do; I like going on long-ass walks. I set goals, like I want to see what’s at the top of that mountain. Or what a certain neighborhood, riverbank, train station, whatever is like.
I come back, tired, sweaty and sore. But each of my walks sticks out as a real clear memory to break up the mundane week to week nothingness that I was otherwise experiencing.
Thanks for sharing
Diagnosed with clinical depression around 18 months ago now. Medication really helps for sure. My biggest helper though ( alongside video games ) is my bike.
The feeling of riding through a city is unrivaled and just so consuming, I think it’s because you have to be so in the moment when riding your bike.
It takes a shit load of confidence to go out for the first time and can be pretty scary at times but damn, it helps. Highly recommend.
Peazea, thank you so much for posting this. Goes a long way towards validating this as a community that can talk responsibly about personal mental health issues.
I’ve also struggled since high school, with two particularly notable periods.
The first big one I remember was, ironically, the year I spent training as a hospital chaplain. I had just graduated from college and felt deeply rudderless. The chaplain training helped a lot – especially the chance to help others – but often I just felt like I was not doing enough along some secret, invisible axis that no-one was telling me about but was secretly judging me for. The work was fulfilling but, as a member of a religion without clergy (let alone paid clergy), it was hard to see chaplaincy as a career path.
Looking back on this time now, I see that I learned and developed many of the skills I now use on a daily basis. While I was on-call, I would spend time listening to people in dire circumstances, trying to help them feel heard, and then retreat to the on-call room where I would muck around with the frankenstein linux laptop I’d cobbled together when my tower broke after moving home.
The deadline to apply to seminary whizzed by and I was fortunate that my mom sat down with me and helped me find exactly what motivated me: programming interactive games/experiences, and education. She helped me apply to grad school and sign up for the Stats and Psych 101 classes in order to prepare.
The second time came the year after Jamestown’s Guy Fawkes DLC shipped and, realistically, had probably started a year previous without my noticing it. Over the course of working on the game, I had moved in with and then married my long-distance girlfriend who was, at the time, going to Law school. Jamestown and Law School wrapped up at about the same time, and all of the sudden both of us had lost these massive organizing forces in our lives – and we now had to live together as people, and try to love each other when the sense of drive and passion that had attracted us to each other in the first place was in ebb.
She was strong enough to realize that the relationship wouldn’t last. We tried therapy, but it was too late to salvage anything but the friendship. The couples therapy had shown me that I’d been leaning too hard on alcohol for emotional regulation and, fortunately, after couples therapy ended I had the opportunity to continue working with the therapist to drag myself out of the hole.
What ultimately ended up working for me was taking the time for reflection. I fell into a routine of spending half an hour each morning journaling and keeping track of my tasks. This helped me bootstrap to enough mental health to think about being in a functional relationship again. A few years ago, I married an amazing woman who does an amazing job of supporting me and advocating for her needs. She and my mother helped me realize that what really DOES excite me is teaching.
Now I spend large swaths of every day feeling good about myself as a teacher and a partner, instead of constantly fearing that I’m doing something secretly wrong (that only comes in occasional spikes – less and less the more I learn to forgive myself). Recently, I settled on a task tracking method that works with my particular cocktail of anxiety and ADHD and, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’ve been feeling consistently happy and optimistic for nearly a month.
I know it won’t last forever, and that challenges will still come along to knock me down, but I feel like I finally have the structure and support I need to stand back up both in my own action and among my friends and co-workers.
Long ass walks also helped me a LOT during my post college years.
I think the worst part about depression is that it’s nothing that can ever be cured-- you just learn to treat it some and adapt and live with it. It’s like losing a leg-- the leg isn’t ever coming back, you just have to adapt and find ways to live around it. Even proper treatment doesn’t make it disappear. And it can get so damn tiring after a few decades.
CW: Suicidal Ideation, Executive Dysfunction
Honestly I’ve probably been dealing with it for most of my life, but I only realized that I deal with depression in my junior year of high-school. There was one Friday night where I was just playing some Halo Reach, then out of nowhere I realized how deeply unhappy I was and couldn’t shake the idea of pounding a bottle of pain killers and washing it down with the Absolute Vodka we keep in the house.
I knew there was something wrong then, so I called a suicide hotline. Then I later talked to my folks about going to therapy. The therapist I saw wasn’t the best fit, and I didn’t realize just how much in my life was wrong, so I couldn’t really focus in on anything to work on. On top of that my folks hassled me so much about my depression that I just decided to be fine.
BOY WAS THAT A MISTAKE.
My depression came back in my freshman year of college and destroyed me. All I could do for two months was sleep. It ruined my GPA and I went from easily being able to graduate in 4 years to needing 5.5 years to graduate. I’ve seen some therapists, only one has worked, and I was on medication for a time. I’ve gotten to work out quite a few of my problems that contribute to my depression. I’ve worked on my internalized homophobia, I’ve wrestled with my complicated relationship with my parents, and I’ve worked on my feelings of being broken goods that people abandon.
That said, I still struggle with executive dysfunction and stress related to my depression, (and I’m realizing I’ve got Thoughts on my gender), so once the medical insurance I got through my job kicks in, I’m gonna go back to therapy and maybe back on medication.
I’m gonna get to a good place even if it takes me a decade of struggling.
I’m glad this thread exists. I don’t really feel up to getting into it, but mine has been really bad lately… and it helps to read what other people have gone through or done to cope.
I feel the same way. I’m educated, a professional at what I do for a living, I’m rapidly approaching middle age, I’m married and have a little house I own and for everything that says “America’s idea of success” (aside from the fact that my wife and I teach so don’t actually have real money) in that above description, depression is a very, very real part of my day to day that has to be constantly contended with. Sometimes all I want is to know other people are dealing with it too and it makes me energized to continue the fight.