dealing with depression

At the age of 19 I experienced what was later diagnosed as a "major depressive episode". My depression was so bad that I was failing my classes at BYU and unable to do my job as a Resident Assistant. I ended up withdrawing from school and going back home to live with my parents for a year before enrolling at Utah State University. At the time, it felt like the ultimate failure.

Upon returning home it took me a few months before I began to come out of my depression and start to become functional again. For awhile the highlight of my day was getting up at 4pm (yes you read that right) to watch Reba on TV. On Friday nights I would go to Costco with my parents. That was usually my only outing for the week.

When I think about that dark time in my life I remember lying face down, staring at my pink bed sheets with desserts on them for hours, unable to get up. I remember sitting at my desk listening to Michael Buble's song "Home" staring blankly at the white brick walls of my room. Other memories are still just a blur. Even though they were in perfectly good shape, I threw those sheets out when I left school. I couldn't look at them ever again.

I've had to manage my clinical depression for the last 11 years and most likely will the rest of my life. It's not something that's ever going to just go away. Each year since my major episode it has gotten a little bit better, a little bit easier. Over the last few years I'm grateful to have experienced a long period of stability.

But even being stable, I still have at least one day every few months where I just can't function. It's hard to explain but all I can say is that the struggle is very real. On those days I don't stay in bed or checkout because I want to. I'm physically and mentally unable to go about my usual day.

Last summer I had a 4-day depressive episode and shortly thereafter lost my job. After that happened I found a therapist here in Albuquerque and started seeing him every 2-3 weeks. I also have a really good med doctor now who is working with me on my medication.

The love and support I get from my husband, family, and friends is amazing. While they may not always understand my depression, they recognize its real impact on my life and the lives of so many other people. I'm also very blessed to have a wonderful boss who understands my struggle and works with me to make sure I can be a successful employee.

Why do I share all of this? Because I want to help end the stigma that still exists around mental illness. One in five adults in America experience a mental illness. Earlier this week it was World Mental Health Day and this entire week is Mental Health Awareness week. Mental illness is real and impacts people in a variety of ways and in varying levels of severity.

I want to help change the way the world sees mental illness. I want to be open about the fact that I deal with depression. And while it is a true issue that influences all areas of my life, depression does not define who I am.

Luckily, my depression has never been bad enough where it's required me to be hospitalized. But that doesn't make it any less real. And several people who are closest to me have been hospitalized and deal with diagnoses much more serious than mine. My heart goes out to them and everyone who deals with disorders like this in their lives.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or another form of mental illness, know that you are not alone. A good place to start, as far as resources go, is the National Alliance on Mental Illness: Start today to get help or learn more.

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