Home Featured News Staying Happy: Living with major depressive disorder

Staying Happy: Living with major depressive disorder

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Photo by Jonathan D. Lopez

By Brittany Miller – Collegiate Staff

Depression sucks, there’s no beating around the bush or sugar coating the facts. Battling depression for three years has never been a battle I expected to win, but it’s not a battle I have given up on. To get out of bed without the overwhelming feeling of melancholy is difficult. To deal with that feeling and sit through a three-hour lecture is a challenge on its own.

I was a junior in high school, when I started to feel incredibly crappy about myself and the world around me. I went from having six friends to only two, I was no longer in band after making the spontaneous decision to leave, and I gained an unfortunate amount of weight. It sounds dramatic, but I hated my life, I felt lonely, and I was tired of feeling sad. It was in September 2011 that I attempted suicide for the first time. It obviously didn’t work, because I sit here today telling my story.

The feelings of self-loathing and utter melancholy never left, and it was after a trivial argument with my mom about my attitude, that I went into room one day in November and tried to commit suicide again. My attempt was just that, another failed attempt. I just wanted to be gone, and it didn’t work, which just made me cry even more. I took this as a sign that I wasn’t meant to leave this earth, though it doesn’t mean that I was ecstatic about the idea of sticking around either.

Then one day I stopped crying, and went to school, after not attending for almost two weeks. After that day in school, I was sitting on the couch with my mom and told her everything, it just poured out of me. And because of that night, I decided it was time to get help. I finished my junior year of high school, and was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in June 2012. I attended therapy for months, until I was finally put on medication. I was starting to feel happy again, I was able to smile more, and I was able to walk across the stage in May, 2013 to received my high school diploma.

Everything was great, if you don’t count my complete lack of friends, and the moments of utter hopelessness.

In the middle of 2014, I was tapered off my medication, hopeful for the first time that I was going to be happier than ever, but I was so very wrong. I was involved in a very unhealthy ‘relationship’ and when it ended, my happiness was gone, too. The aftermath of that relationship left me a complete mess, emotionally and mentally, and just like a freight train, the depression came back full force. I struggled with the idea of being okay after it all, but I was, and life became normal again.

I still struggle everyday, but I continue to attend classes, work hard and keep my head held high. And, I’m not alone, because depression isn’t just an illness I experience. Many others do too.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 30 percent of college students reported being so depressed they could not engage in normal daily activities. The American College Health Association places that number somewhere between 36 and 45.

GRCC Psychology Professor, Frank Conner notes that most college students do not seek assistance with their depression. Because of that, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact number of those who have been clinically diagnosed. The numbers are high, and they do have an impact on an individual’s success.

Depression is more than just this feeling, but the exact cause is always under question.

“There’s no simple explanation of cause, since each individual may have multiple factors that contribute to the disease,” Conner said. “However, it is simply broken down into two major causes, biological and psychological.”

So how do we cope with something that is out of our control?

I have learned that coping with depression isn’t something you learn overnight. It is a constant fight. It’s not always a storm, sometimes I see a speck of light that shows, and with the right focus, it can grow into what I need most, hope.

Despite what the commercials, and pamphlets say, I don’t have to make depression my whole being. I have learned that I can live a happy life, but happiness doesn’t appear at the snap of a finger. I have to reach for it, and that means admitting that there are going to be bad days, taking my medication and talking about the times that I feel low with my therapist or my mom.

There are many theories about the actual ‘cure’ for depression, but is there a single treatment that can wipe it out?

“Treatment matches the cause,” Conner said. “There are antidepressant drugs that reduce the symptoms of depression. While they do a good job of treating symptoms in the short run, long term success requires a reorienting of the person’s thinking and behavior.”

This type of success is something that Cognitive Behavior Therapy can do. It reframes a person’s negative and maladaptive thoughts, creating new ways of understanding the world and the person’s role in it.

“Drugs may remove the symptoms, but for many the depressive lifestyle remains,” Conner said. “Long term success requires a reshaping of the person’s lifestyle. With adequate treatment, most people who experience depression can go on to live a full and productive life.”

Battling something that wants to bring you down is exactly what we need to be the motivation that moves us forward. While others can find comfort in music, or art, I find comfort tucked into the binding of a good book. Rather than drowning myself in horrible feelings, I drown myself in a captivating, page turning, edge-of-your-seat kind of story. Books have been a constant source of comfort for me, as I learned how to speed read over time, sinking into the adventures of at least three books a day.

But the way we deal with depression varies person to person. GRCC Student Christian Gonzalez offers another way to cope.

“I put my emotions into music to refrain from exploding or getting really mental,” Gonzalez said. “I put [music] on paper so I don’t physically or mentally cause trauma or harm.”

While Mandy Evans, another student at GRCC, says many things help her cope with her depression.

“What helps me get through it is my family, friends and church,” Evans said. “My kids made me see that I had to make changes because they needed me. I have to be healthy so that I can take care of them. I am a role model 24 hours a day and I want to show them that you can overcome anything. I also write my feelings in a journal.”

One can lose themselves in the stroke of a brush, the shutter of a lens, the rhythm of music, or simply the view through their eyes. Losing ourselves in something joyful is the superhero that will take down the villain of depression. Contrary to popular belief we can actually be happy, it’s not impossible. Conner shares this belief, stating that the pursuit of a satisfying life even with all its ups and downs is a much better approach to living.

Living is all about perspective, without it we don’t see that first hint of green in the grass after a long winter, or the way the clouds sometimes look like animals at the zoo. I have lived a life that is defined by choice. The choice to hide from the world and cry, or the choice to open my eyes, appreciating every day that comes my way.

Depression is a psychological illness, a disorder, but it doesn’t define me.

I knew that when I was diagnosed with depression I wouldn’t be able to do this alone. I have my family, former high school teachers, and a therapist all here to help me in my darkest moments. Sometimes it isn’t easy seeking help, but it is something that needs to be done.

If someone you know is struggling, keep in mind that things are going to change, that are out of anyone’s control.

However, this is a crucial time to be the support system needed. Be understanding about the emotions they are feeling, and encourage them to seek help. It will make all the difference. And to those who are struggling with depression, remember there’s never a rainbow without a little rain, the storm won’t last forever and we all deserve to see a better outcome for ourselves.depression hotlines