My name is Jayne, and I want to share what it is like living with major depressive disorder (MDD). It is a mental health condition that I battle daily with the assistance of prescription drugs, a therapist, and a solid support system. Living with MDD is quite difficult. It is far from how I imagined my life would be.
Everyone’s experience differs; but there are commonalities. I speak openly about my struggle with MDD because I have nothing to be ashamed of. Also, being transparent has brought much good. No one is alone in the fight. Mental illness may be seen as “invisible,” but those who suffer will attest that it is just the opposite.
Depression for me is like being at the bottom of a well. Each time an episode occurs, I am not quite sure how I got there. Did I fall in? It could be by circumstance. Maybe I was pushed? Sometimes, I wonder if I was born there.
The well is narrow and a long distance down from the top. It is very dark and cold. From the opening, no one can see me clearly, but people know that I am there. I look up and see daylight. The bright sun hurts my eyes and I feel no warmth.
Tears stream like a river down my face. My tears fill the bottom of the well; the water rises slowly to my ankles, then my knees, waist, and my upper body. I am drenched and can not move, and it becomes difficult to breathe.
About a foot in front of me is a long ladder leading up and out of the well. It would seem logical to just move forward, begin climbing, and get myself out of the dark pit.
“There is a way out, ” I say to myself, but my arms are dead weight. I am physically and mentally exhausted; incapacitated. The thought of moving from where I am consumes me.
“I hate this,” I cry. Hopelessness and moments of anguish permeate my brain. The overwhelming racing thoughts are the most difficult to describe. It is like a pitcher of water continually being overfilled. No amount of towels, sponges, or a mop will clean up the mess. So I give up and allow areas to flood and rot.
Simple routines like getting out of bed, eating a meal, or leaving your house becomes ridiculously difficult or an afterthought. I lose interest in what brings me joy; whether it may be painting, writing, spending time with friends.
Now, I am not talking about just having a bad day. These particular feelings of distress and despair begin to drown and blind the intellectual part of you. Emotions take over like a big hairy monster that leaves a sticky residue wherever it travels so that anything it touches is tainted.
Back to the well. Now let’s pretend there is a large crowd of people at the opening. It may be my family, friends, or co-workers. Some of them look down, shake their heads, and walk away. They do no not understand what is going on.
“She is just moody,” or “Jayne needs to just snap out of it,” they say.
The worst is when people who mean well say things like, “She just needs to pray, be prayed for, or needs a healing. She needs to just let go”
I should be in the “praying hall of fame.” Begging and pleading to any entity to take this illness away has gotten me nowhere. I have sought “godly counsel,” and had all sorts of spiritual rituals done. Why on earth would I want to cling on to depression? Its teeth are rooted deep within.
Years ago, I began to speak to God differently. The negotiating of the terms of my depression ceased. I asked for strength. Strength to get through each day, and the opportunity to reach out to others
Back to the well again. The mouth of the well, a small group of people call my name. I hear them, but am unable to look up. My body is frozen. They want me to get out, but they don’t know how to get me to climb up the ladder.
“Are we not screaming loud enough?” they ask one another.
To get my attention, they begin to throw things down to me. Objects that they feel will be helpful such as books or brochures. In the process some of those “things’ hit me as they are thrown.
“Ouch!” I scream. Some things I can feel, like a multitude of tiny razors slicing into me. Other items just bounce off of me like a rubber ball on concrete.
I look down and everything is lying at my feet. And you’ve got it, I am unable to reach for anything because of my immobilized state.
A very small percentage of individuals actually try to climb down to meet me, let’s say 3%. Determination sets in them, even though they don’t understand what is happening.
There are those who have good intentions. They climb all the way down, try to shove me near the ladder to climb. This method fails everytime. Eventually they become exhausted and leave. Frustration sets in because of lack of knowledge. Depression can become just as draining for the loved ones surrounding an ill person.
Occasionally, there will be the one or two people who truly sees what is happening. They climb down into the well, they make sure I am ok. Other times they somehow strap me on their back, and we make our way to the surface. It could be a loved one, a doctor, anyone that can identify what is actually happening. Those individuals know what is taking place, and take hold of the rein.
Listen to me. The last place I want to be is at the bottom of the well. Actually, in my heart I desire to be nowhere in the vicinity of the well. I would rather be at motor vehicles, in a dentist chair, or have a Brazilian wax.
But, that is not my reality.
At this point in my life the red flags of depression are second nature to recognize. When I feel a “funk” trying to set in, I do self inventory and take immediate action. I will reach out to others to avoid isolation and thoughts of suicide.
Suicide. What an ugly word. It is hard for people to discuss the subject. Suicide is taking one’s own life due to illness. Mental illness sees suicide as a valid option to end all of the suffering that plagues within. The individual who thinks about it truly feels that the world would be a much better place without them; that their presence goes unseen anyway.
Each day I attempt to remain proactive. This is an ongoing war. As I said before I have to fight. There is just too much at stake for me.
It is my mission to share about depression and anxiety with those I encounter. Maybe they are going through something similar. Perhaps they know someone that is also suffering and they just don’t know what to do.
I have struggled with depression and anxiety since my early teens. There is a constant battle in my mind; a war against the real me and the illness that tries to destroy my persona.
It debilitating, but I must fight. Everyday I force myself to put on my boxing gloves (they are sparkly pink, I love sparkly pink), and attempt to beat the crap out of depression and anxiety in the ring. I take my stance like those crazy ultimate fighters my husband watches on television. I attack as ferociously as possible.
At the end of some days, I don’t even have a scratch. It’s wonderful! Other days I am so wounded; blood gushing from tears in my flesh. It’s unattractive. I detest unattractive. I am all about the pretty. There are days that the damage leaves me uncertain if I can do it all over again the next day.
I am thankful have quality people in my tiny inner circle. Individuals that simply make themselves available.. They listen and assure me that they are present. It is not about solving the issue. Think about it like this, if I had cancer and was having an off day and contacted you, I am not expecting you to take cancer away.
Do you know what I love? When I am laughing so hard that I cry. That is so therapeutic. You burn calories when you do it, and there is no hangover the day after. I try to find “the funny” in my everyday life. I have learned not to take myself so seriously, to take joy everyday in the little things I can easily take for granted. And most importantly to be thankful for all that is good.