If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have told you that 19 was the hardest year of my life. I had left college, moved back home, was unemployed & single and my eating disorder was at its absolute worst. I never could have imagined a lower point than that year – it was truly rock bottom for me. I felt like I was on a sinking ship & I had lost all hope. But, this last year has rivaled that time & surpassed it in ways that I was not prepared for & that I didn’t see coming.
I’m not going to get into details about the specific life circumstances that have contributed to this (though there are many), because they are deeply personal to me & my immediate family. I hope someday to be able to share more with you, but I recognize that now isn’t the time for that. The goal of today’s post is to open up with you about my battle with depression, to talk about how it’s affected me throughout the course of the last year & a half and to share what I have learned as I’ve walked this road.
I’ve always been an optimistic, glass-half-full type of person. My parents said that, as a child, my “default setting” was joy. I could find the good in just about anything and I was the one who would make even my daily chores seem fun (à la Mary Poppins). So, it was completely foreign for me to go through an extended period of time where the clouds felt like my constant companions. In many ways, it seemed like I was losing who I was…and I couldn’t remember how to get her back.
Depression is a sneaky thief – for most of us, it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a slow, steady decline into darkness…and it’s so subtle that when you finally realize that it’s pitch black all around you, you have no idea how you ended up there or where to turn to find the light again. The things I normally loved & the activities that brought me joy suddenly felt like unbearable chores that I couldn’t possibly summon the energy for. I was convinced I could run a thousand miles and even that endorphin rush wouldn’t be enough to move me an inch closer to the surface from the hole I so desperately wanted to climb out of.
I wish I could say that I have successfully made it to the other side…but that wouldn’t be telling the truth. In all honesty, my life circumstances are still the same and those hardships are still there. What has changed, however, is my perspective. I am now confident that this is simply a season that I have to walk through and I am certain that it is only temporary. I may not know the exact way out, but I am sure there is one and I don’t believe this will last forever. My faith has played a huge role in this process & I am so thankful that I don’t have to travel this road alone. There are a few key things that I have learned along the way that I wanted to share with you today – I hope these will be helpful for those of you who may be facing something similar:
- Allow yourself to truly feel
Shame says that you should be able to “get over it”, that you should have it all together. Shame says: “Look at all you have been blessed with… you should be happy!” Let me be very clear: Shame is a dirty liar who wants to keep you down. Do not let it take up residence in your heart & mind. Lock it out & throw away the key. It’s so important to let yourself feel the sadness, grieve and have a good cry (or several). Stuffing emotions down & ignoring they exist never ends well for anyone – the best way out is always through.
- Allow yourself to truly feel
- Resist the temptation to withdraw & isolate
This might be the most difficult thing that I’ve had to learn through the last year. All I wanted to do was crawl in a hole and avoid interaction with anyone and everyone (even those that I loved & those who loved me). But, one of the best things I have done for my depression is to SERVE someone else. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out. If all you do is let yourself wallow, you will end up stuck. Yes, it’s important to feel those feelings for a time…but at some point, you have to shift your focus. Regularly doing something good for someone else has helped to lift the fog for me & slowly change my point of view.
- Resist the temptation to withdraw & isolate
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
I’ve been seeing counselors off and on since I was 18, so I am a big proponent of getting professional help when you don’t feel you’re able to tackle something on your own. Do not feel that asking for help means you are a failure because you can’t simply “think your way” out of it. Depression in women can be caused by many things and talking it through with someone is an important way to determine the source – especially because, in some cases, medication might be necessary for treatment.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
- Take it one day at a time
I never anticipated that this season would last as long as it has…and there have been many times when I’ve let that discourage me. But, we have to give ourselves grace. Recovering from depression is a process & there are incredible lessons to be learned as we go through this journey if we don’t pressure ourselves to rush through it. I found that if I looked at my calendar & saw all of the things that I needed to accomplish in that month, I would instantly feel overwhelmed. But, focusing on one day at a time and choosing to spend time each morning in prayer & gratitude helped set a more positive tone for those next 24 hours.
- Take it one day at a time
I firmly believe that the more of us who speak up about our struggles in this area, the less stigma there will be associated with it. Maybe you are battling postpartum depression; maybe you are going through a divorce & learning how to adjust to a new normal; maybe you’re unemployed & are struggling to get back on your feet; maybe you’ve tragically lost someone close to you…whatever the case may be, it’s important to remember that depression can come to anyone & at any time. Sometimes depression can occur without any loss or stress to trigger it. So, if this becomes your reality, just know that you are not alone. This is not a life sentence and it does not mean there is something wrong with you. You don’t have to do it all and be it all – it’s perfectly okay to not be okay.
Even though this year has been full of difficulties, I can truthfully say that I am grateful for the trials – I have learned so much, gained a strength I didn’t know I had, developed a deeper faith & an increased compassion for others. My goal in sharing my story is to raise awareness & bring hope. If you have a friend or loved one who is dealing with depression, be patient & long-suffering with them…especially when they push you away. They need unconditional love now more than ever, so don’t give up on them. And if you are reading this and you are personally in the trenches yourself & in need of support, please email me directly so we can connect & I can encourage you. You weren’t meant to walk this path alone & I would be honored to be the one to help lift you up.
Thank you very much for sharing this part of your story. I believe you’re exactly right – that bringing more stories into the light helps end the stigma and shame. Peace and courage to you as you put one foot in front of the other.
Thank you, Katy!
I, too, have been struggling with anxiety and depression for a long time…about 10 years now. It feels like your brain is working against you and I am still looking for a miraculous way out. There probably isn’t one and this fight is extremely draining, especially because I have my mind set on not taking any medication. It is HARD, but at least I am not alone. I am always grateful to read about stories like yours, because it eases the pain of not being able to do all of the things I want to. We just have to hang in there, right?
I’m so sorry to hear about your struggle – 10 years is a long time and I admire your courage. I also don’t have the option of being able to take medication for it (because of how it would affect my Lupus) so I can definitely relate. One day at a time, one foot in front of the other!
Thank you for sharing this, there is a stigma regarding depression and until more people are open and honest it will continue. Prayers for you sweet and beautiful soul, I applaud your courage.
Thank you so much for your prayers! xo
Oh wow… Such a heartfelt and heavy but very inspiring post to read. Thank you so much for sharing and opening up, you’re helping more than you can imagine. To even just read that “you’re not alone” in our own battles means everything. I have been exactly the same like you as a kid and in adult years I’ve had my cycles of being “stuck” deeply into depression… It’s not a fancy word, it’s not fun to deal with it and sometimes it’s almost impossible to get out of it and feel better or normal again, esp. if you’re going the natural route like myself, meaning no pills and on your own fighting your way towards the light.
Asking for help and having loving and understanding people in those moments is worth more than anything as well as being able to admit and accept that you are not fine and need help.
Much love to you dear and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for much better times in your life to come!
Thank you for sharing, Natali – I have gone through cycles in the past as well, but nothing this long & constant & difficult. I am also taking the natural route (though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using medication) – if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here for you.
Susan Jeffries says
I had no clue you struggle with depression. It certainly is not apparent on your blog. I am glad that things are lightening up for you now. I pray that you find peace and health.
Thank you so much, Susan – it has been an all-out fight for me to keep my head above water with the blog during this time (though I have taken several “mental health” days here & there).
Mary Lichter says
I am so sorry you struggle with depression. You are not alone and thanks for sharing your story with us. I’ve struggled with depression on and off for over 30 years now. I have found all of the coping mechanisms you have listed above to be very helpful. I have learned there is no shame in seeking out professional help, support groups, meds or whatever one needs! I have had especially difficult times the last 4 years as my husband had been ill with cancer for 14 years and passed in May of 2015. The first year without him was hard and the depression was there but it really got bad the second year. I’m seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel the last few months but so many things trigger my depression. For now, one day at a time for me–one hour at a time if necessary. I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers and pray for healing and peace for all of us who deal with this! Hugs.
Mary, I am so sorry – I cannot imagine the heartache of losing your spouse! Thank you for being brave enough to comment & share your story with us – I will be praying for peace & comfort for you and I’m always here if you need an extra boost of encouragement.
I was a reporter for 14 years. One thing I learned is that everyone has their struggles. If they don’t, it just hasn’t arrived yet. I’m sorry you have multiple issues to fight through. I have severe allergies that are now complicated with food allergies and sensitivities. I, too, look fine on the surface, but some days are a real struggle. Medication does little to help, so I find ways to cope. I’m glad you shared your story as it may help others. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you can’t yet take it day by day, take it minute by minute. Take care.
I’m so sorry to hear about what you are going through – I know all too well about food sensitivities and living with a restricted diet…it certainly isn’t easy!
Margie Cooper says
I’m so sorry to hear about your pain. However, thank you for sharing this topic. My cure all is walking, getting out in the fresh air daily keeps my sanity. I am happy that you are finding your way through the pain. Being in New York I know you must walk places a lot. But, I hope you make the time to walk to just clear your mind. When I visited New York, I would wake up early when the streets were quiet and peaceful and walk forever. It’s such a different place in the wee hours of the morning. It’s a great place and time to be with God. Peace be with you sweet girl.
Completely agree with you – I noticed that anytime we went camping as a family this summer, my mood was instantly lifted. There is so much truth to what you shared about being outside, getting fresh air, moving your body & seeing the beauty of nature around you.
Adi H says
Thank you for sharing your story. Sending prayers for you. You are a beautiful person inside and out.
Thank you so much for your prayers!
Praying that things turn around for you soon! Hang in there and thanks for sharing. xx
Thank you so much, Caitlin!
Jessica @ TheBudgetSavvyBride says
Thank you for sharing this. I can definitely relate and I agree, it’s so important to share these struggles, not only to help ourselves feel less alone, but to let others who are suffering in silence know they too, are not alone. ❤️ Sending love and light to you!
Thanks Jessica – it’s been truly amazing to see the women who’ve come out of the woodwork this week and shared similar stories!
Thank you so much for your bravery in sharing your story. Your writing is absolutely beautiful and it sheds light on feelings that can seem so impossible to describe. Thank you for the light you bring to this world! ?
That means so much to me – thank you, Rachael!
Amazing post…realistic and true. Praying your path becomes brighter every day.
Thank you, Heather – I am praying that too!
Thank you for sharing. You never know who might have needed to hear this today. The emotions and struggle you describe, along with your advice on how to deal, reminds me of what I went through in the years after my husband passed away at the age of 31. I wanted to come here and support your message and second that it does get better and you just keep moving forward (and sometimes take steps back, but that’s okay too). It is exhausting, but the silver lining is a new perspective on life and cherishing all it’s blessings. I hope you continue to share. I’m sending strength and courage your way.
I’m so sorry for your incredible loss & I admire your strength to push through that grief – so inspiring!
Sharyn Busick says
A difficult subject dealt with in a compassionate and loving manner. God knew our time here would be fraught with hardships and so He told us to be there for each other. Praying for you and sending wishes for joyful days ahead! ❤️
Amen to that! I could not have made it through this year without Him carrying me!
Samantha Crouch says
Thank you for your vulnerability and transparency. Through sharing, many find hope in your words. I am praying for you and celebrating your small victories and courageous moments and you navigate this time in your life.
Thank you Samantha – I appreciate your prayers!
Kimberly this had to be a very difficult post for you to write about something so personal. Thank you though for sharing it. We never know how opening up about something may be just what someone else, who is struggling, maybe able to grasp onto to help them make it through one more day. I am fortunate in that I do not struggle with this situation myself but know others who do and see it in the work I do with others. Like I tell my clients take one day at a time, if need be one minute at a time in order to help yourself make it one more moment. Thoughts and prayers coming you and your family’s way.
It was very hard to hit that publish button on this one, but I’m so glad that I did because I’ve since been able to connect with so many amazing women who needed encouragement & words of hope. Never again will I be hesitant to share my flaws – they are powerful!
Amanda Smith says
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope this post helps many, many people. You are wonderful for being so real and sharing.
I hope it does too – thank you!
Carmen Jones says
Depression is a funny thing in terms of people relating to you. If they can see a broken arm or something physical, they can react and understand. Like a soldier returning from the battlefield without physical scars, when people can’t see the psychological warfare going on in another human, they presume you are fine. You have a loving family to support you. I wish you only the best and thank you SO much for writing about this subject.
You are so right – which is why it’s even more important to help raise awareness about mental health issues so others can understand that this battle is an all-consuming one and it’s often fought quietly & privately.
I’m so sorry that you have been suffering in silence all this time. Please know that you have a lot of readers that support you. If you ever want to share then feel free, but if not just know that people care.
Thank you Chelsea – sometimes it’s hard putting on a smile for all those outfit photos…in many ways, I felt like a fraud. But, I also wasn’t ready to share my story until now. I’m so thankful that I have such amazing & supportive readers who have responded so graciously to me.
Pam Clark says
I appreciate your vulnerability and authenticity. People need to hear what you have to say and I believe this post will touch many and give them hope.
Thank you Pam – I certainly hope this encourages many!
Is your depression related at all to anxiety? I only ask b/c my 17 yr old daughter has had some anxiety lately and seems like depression sometimes goes hand in hand with that. I am getting her some help and watching her like a hawk too-I think it’s stressing us both out.
I typically don’t have anxiety with mine but my daughter has started struggling with that a little this year so we have been helping her through that too.
Great post. Been there. Still sort of there. Making an effort to look on the brightside as much as possible. Never easy, is it?Sorry to hear the past year has been so challenging for you. Enjoy your blog as part of my “me time” each day.
Still sort of there too – we can take it one day at a time together!
For me it’s been a constant feeling of being stuck. Stuck in a job I’m burnt out with, stuck in a lease without the chance of purchasing my own home, and needing to get out. There are other, smaller issues too, but the desire to be unstuck is the biggest. Nothing dark or scary, just stuck. Chasing hope here too.
I can definitely relate to that feeling – after a while, it really starts to wear on you & it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been trying to focus on the things that I can change and that has helped some.
Heidi D. says
Thank you for sharing your story! You are undoubtedly helping many to feel less alone. I’ve battled severe anxiety throughout my life and although it is a different beast, it can also very isolating. I love your suggestion to help someone else. I think that is one of the most powerful agents in fighting depression/anxiety!
Completely agree – it’s seems so crazy at first because it’s the last thing that feels like it will help…but it really does!
The Modern Savvy says
Hugs my friend and I’m so proud of you for sharing these incredibly difficult, vulnerable and yet incredibly bold words. You know how I feel on a lot of this so I won’t say as much here except to say that as much as you’re hurting, know your platform has done more good today than you can ever imagine. And that is something to be very, very proud about.
Thank you – you know all the intimate details of my struggle and I am unbelievably grateful for your support & encouragement as I’ve walked this road. Thanks for all the times you let me “vent” 🙂
I read this early today, but, with only half a cup of coffee down, couldn’t form a response. Thank you for addressing this. I won’t go into details, but something that has touched my family in so many ways. The two things I give the biggest Yeses to are serve others, because it really does help to focus elsewhere sometimes, and your advice to be patient and long suffering with those friends/family suffering. It is a long haul, but it is what we are meant to do. And I am so heartened by all the positive and affirming replies on this post. At a time when compassion seems in short supply, it is very uplifting to see how this community has responded. Thanks to all of you.
Depression runs in my family too and it is so difficult to bear with one another in love during those dark times. I am also so encouraged by the response here – airing all my “dirty laundry” felt very scary, but people have been so wonderfully supportive & kind.
Thank you so much for sharing something so personal. I have been struggling most of 2017 and turning to food in unhealthy ways has only made things worse. It’s such unfamiliar territory that I greatly appreciate your openness in this world of “highlight reels”. Sending prayers.
I’m so sorry to hear you have been struggling through some of the same things – we all deal in different ways and I will be praying for you to find peace in your journey.
Susan Frances says
Thank you for sharing about your struggles
with depression. I had two horrible bouts of chronic depression – yes, it does feel like being in a deep hole with slippery sides. Maybe that is WHY we need help to get out.
I am sharing your post, hoping. It will help someone else. Hugs!
I’m sorry to hear that, Susan – it’s amazing how it goes in cycles sometimes! At the beginning of the summer, I thought I was over the hump but then I came crashing down again. Just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Thank you for sharing this. It’s such an important conversation for us to be having, all the time.
Completely agree – based on the response, I wish I had shared it sooner, but I just wasn’t quite ready.
Sending you hugs and best wishes
Thank you Tanya!
Thanks so much, Sam – your encouragement & support means the world to me!
Kathleen Robinson says
Thank you. You are making a difference!