With all the chatter in recent weeks regarding the sad news about beloved actor and comedian Robin Williams, I thought it might be time to share my own story about Depression. The Robin Williams story hit home for me for two reasons: one, his July stay at Hazelden Rehab center put him a mere ten minutes from my home, as did his trip to DQ upon his release. Hazelden, a world famous treatment center, is nestled up here in the boonies of Central Minnesota, and we drive by it on a semi-regular basis. However, the other reason Williams’ story hit so close to home for me is that I suffered from severe Depression for nearly a decade.
Dealing with Depression
Most people don’t have a clue about what it’s like to spend every waking minute of your day trying NOT to “off yourself”. It’s horrible. The sadness, despair, hopelessness and emotional pain that comes with severe Depression is devastating and terribly difficult to deal with. Having been Depression-free for 17 years now, I thought I’d share what worked for me and what didn’t in dealing with Depression, as it’s a terrible thing when people feel there is no way out of this horrible disease.
What DIDN’T Work for Me
Drugs. Now, let me start off by saying that this is NOT an anti-depression drug suggestion. I know lots of people who have benefited tremendously from the use of the right Depression med in the right dosage. But the drugs only made things worse for me. Instead of feeling sad, I felt nothing. Numb. Like a robot. I also tried several therapists, and this didn’t help me either. I wanted them to tell my why I was feeling this way, but they wanted me to tell them why I was feeling this way!!! Well, no shit, Sherlock: if I knew the answer to that I could work to change it! Again, NOT anti-therapy here, but it didn’t work for me. And as far as the drugs, I eventually came to the conclusion that I would rather suffer from the ups and downs of Depression than feel absolutely nothing at all, ever again. Again, NOT saying this is the route all should go. If the drugs are working for you, then by all means keep taking them.
What DID Work for Me
My faith in Jesus. Jesus’ unconditional love for me (and for all of mankind) was the main thing that got me through. I worked to learn and understand the true character of God, because sometimes He can (mistakenly) seem a little schizophrenic, am I right? Learning that God and His Son, Jesus, do indeed have unconditional love for me and walking this out with them truly helped me the most. I would focus on the Bible verses that talked about God’s love for His people, and read about all of Jesus’ willing works of healing etc., in the four gospels, and that gave me the “oomph” I needed to keep going.
A clean diet. Eating a primarily whole foods diet also did wonders for me. When your blood sugar goes up and down so dramatically due to a high sugar diet, (think kids at Halloween, the major league sugar rush and the following “crash”) your emotions can be affected as well. After a lot of self-observation, I realized that the crash that occurred after sugar consumption would, for me, mean a crash in my mood as well that often took me two or three days to come out of. When I switched to a primarily whole foods diet (I’ve gone months without any white flour or sugar whatsoever) the Depression improved dramatically.
Exercise. This was another major league help for me. Doing some type of aerobic exercise every day will increase your endorphins and improve your mood naturally. So I worked to exercise regularly, and especially when I was feeling down. If I felt the weight of depression starting to suffocate me, I’d grab Rick or a friend and go rollerblading, walking, biking or hiking.
Self-analysis. This was a major league help as well. Although Depression is caused by a low seratonin level in the brain, that seratonin level often drops after a traumatic event which leads to huge stress on the body. Consulting the Lord via prayer and analyzing my life and when it started to spiral into Depression, I was able to pinpoint some major traumatic events, starting with my parents’ divorce when I was 11 and the abusive relationship I got into at 14. Without going into great detail about that relationship, suffice to say it was everything you’ve seen in the movies.
From there, I started to “self-talk” my way through the reality of those events vs. my view of those events. I would remind and teach myself, for instance, that even though it “felt” that way, that my dad did not leave me – he and my mother mutually separated due to their own problems, and both of them were heartbroken at having to give us kids up to each other at certain times each month. Same with the abusive relationship I was in. I would tell myself that “BF” didn’t hurt me because I was deserving of it, but because he was not well in his mind. By replacing the lies I’d been believing about the traumatic events in my life with the truth about them, my self-esteem improved and I finally started to believe that I was the awesome, much loved child of God that He said I was, and not the major league loser that my brain told me I was.
Refusing to give up. Just like with our debt, I had to work consistently in my head to teach myself that I was NOT giving up on a healthy me: mind, body and spirit. I became my own personal life coach, focusing on my dreams and goals and learned to refuse to give up.
Although I still have sad days like everyone does, the Depression that I dealt with for so many years is totally and completely gone. And as God as my witness, it is NOT coming back. By Jesus’ stripes, I am healed. (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24)
Depression is a horribly devastating disease to deal with, and if you or someone you love is suffering from Depression, I encourage you to get help from a trusted medical professional as soon as possible. Don’t let the horrors of Depression rob you of the life that you deserve.
*Photo by Joe Penna
I too suffered from depression many years ago and medication though helped a bit it was a change of routine and exercise that helped me get through it. After my house fire I thought I was going to relapse bad after that one but, I bounced back and quite honestly, after the fire my views about life and how I see material stuff completely change. Is hard having depression and surrounding yourself with uneducated people that just don’t get it. The best thing I did was be open about it and get help. Thank you for sharing your story, Laurie.
So glad you’ve beat the depression you suffered as well, Brit. Yes, those times like the fire certainly help us realize what is truly important, don’t they. Hugs to you, my friend!
I’m sorry you went through such a rough time, but happy you found a way that worked for you to get through it. I think that’s the big takeaway here: if one way doesn’t work, keep trying to find a way that will.
Tonya, SO true!! The point is to never give up and keep trying new things until you find what works for you. There are so many options out there.
As you said what works for one may not sit well with another. The key is that you kept trying to find solutions that would help you to work through the depression. Depression is something that many people suffer from and either don’t immediately realize it or don’t want to admit it. Both my mom and I battled it and pulled through but it was pure, pure hell. Thank you for sharing with us Laurie and may God continue to bless and protect you.
“pure hell” – that’s the perfect way to put it, Kassandra. So very glad you and your mom pulled through: the blogging world is a better place because of you.
I’m so glad your depression is gone now, Laurie. I never had any success with therapists, either, and I wanted to be in control of my emotions, so I never took any medication for it. I think introspection really helps, and there’s a lot of value in cognitive behavior based therapy. It’s great that you were able to take a step away from your emotions and see things for what they were. That can be incredibly difficult to do when you’re being consumed by so many negative thoughts.
You’re so right, Erin. It IS difficult. I think it’s vital to just take it one step at a time, you know, and keep trudging along through the bad days and working to find what works. Hope yours is well under control now too, my friend. You deserve happiness!
Thank you for sharing your story, Laurie. It takes brave souls to admit depression and you are the stronger for it. From one soul sister to another, XO my friend!!
And many hugs back to you, my friend! May joy envelope your days. 🙂
Thanks for sharing this. Depression can be behind any smile or frown and although many people are quick to judge others we really don’t know so compassion for others is important. You never know what someone is going through.
That is so true, Mr. CBB. It’s so very common, and many have no clue that those around them are suffering from it.
I agree about drugs and therapy. My medicines were at maximum dosage and I had to go through several to even find a combo that worked and that I could tolerate. But after a while, the constant pill-popping was in, itself, depressing me. One day, I just stopped (not that I advise that) and never looked back. I instead focused on being balanced – sleeping well, exercising, eating well, attending church, etc. therapy was always totally miserable for me – talking about my problems just made me more depressed!
On another note, we should grab DC from Young Adult Money and do a meetup!
Your story is similar to mine, Kirsten!! Would love to talk more about that with you one day. YES – we should!! Email me and we’ll talk. 🙂
Well done for getting out of it Laurie! Like debt, it starts by admitting you have a problem. I know so many people who tell you everything is fine and are chronically depressed. You can’t get out of it if you don’t fight.
Thank you so much, Pauline. And you’re right: one has to admit there is a problem, and then they have to fight, fight, fight their way through, utilizing every tool they can. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
I’m so glad to read that you’ve overcome depression and are thriving. And thank you for sharing these intimate details about your experience–I am certain it will give others the strength and encouragement they seek. Again, glad you are living your life to the fullest now!
Thanks so much, Mrs. FW! You know, it’s been so long now I often forget about those days until I read a story like Mr. Williams’. Then I remember how tough it was in those days and for people today who are battling depression.
I admire your openness. It takes a lot of courage to share something so personal. I’m so glad you received help and are doing well. Personally, I cannot believe how much that exercise makes a difference. If I just run 1 mile every morning my mood goes from “blah” to energized. It really does work wonders for me.
Releasing those natural endorphins really is like a happy pill! People forget about that aspect of exercise, I think, and tend to view it only as a chore lots of times.
I have not suffered from Depression, but I am like you Laurie, it just seems as though medication is not the answer. Since it is a natural disease, I feel as though there is a natural cure and each person needs to figure out what works for them individually. I truly believe that anything is possible if you put your mind to it, I just think that sometimes our mind fights us more than we would like. I appreciate you sharing your story and your struggles and how you work on managing these feelings on an ongoing basis.
I agree 100%, Shannon. Our minds are so powerful if we allow them to be. We just need to work on making our spirits stronger than our fickle minds/emotions.
Diet, exercise and faith in myself are what have kept me going through a lifetime of depression and despair. Drugs did not help, therapy was useless and forget religion, I just don’t believe. Depression is a nightmare to live with and just no one else understands.
I totally agree about those who haven’t lived it not understanding, Brad. It’s something you only understand if you’ve lived it. Hang in there, my friend – you deserve the best!
Thank you SO much for this incredible post! My husband has dealt with depression in the past and I am always grateful for others who are willing to share their story so I can learn to empathize with him. I know the blogosphere is huge, but know that your little piece of it has huge significance for people you don’t know! 🙂 Amen to the transformative power of Jesus…His plan is so much greater than anything we could hope for!
Also, I just tried your zucchini bread recipe this weekend. It was a HUGE hit – not to mention lots of fun to make 🙂
I think it’s so great that you work so hard to understand what your hubby is going through. And thanks so much for your kind words – they always bring a smile to my face. 🙂
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Laurie. Robin William’s death was a tragedy, but the fact that people are sharing their stories is encouraging. It’s an important topic to talk about and too many have been lost to depression.
I agree, DC! Yes, it’s wonderful that people are being more open about it now and working to encourage each other and those who have depression. That’s God making lemonade out of Satan’s lemons. 🙂
Laurie, thank you for sharing your story. I have several family members who suffer from depression, so I know it can be quite difficult.
I wholeheartedly agree that exercise and also – for me, anyway – being outside – can do wonders for one’s mental health.
That natural Vitamin D is indeed wonderful! It’s like a happy pill! This is why I love hanging my clothes on the line. 🙂
Glad you’ve worked out your depression, I often turn to The Lord for gratefulness and difficult times.
He rocks, Charles, doesn’t He. 🙂
I used to experience depression during my college because of peer pressure. Thank to my friends and family who reintroduce God in my life. My advice is to those people who know some having depression is encourage them and bring them closer to God.
Jayson, so very glad you have found the Lord Jesus and have overcome the depression you were experiencing!! Happy to hear that. 🙂
Great advice, Laurie! I too had a terrible time with depression that started several years ago and even though I don’t feel 100% cured right now, I am getting closer and closer. Everything your said that worked for you worked for me too and was what actually help me get cured and help me live a life that’s as normal as possible.
I am happy that I had the power to say no when they wanted to put me on Xanax and something different and I decided to become my own “get well” coach. Rediscovering and accepting my faith in God was the foundation to my improvement, then the little steps followed: a diet change, some exercise, time spent stress free in an almost meditative state, I also learned to take breaks from work and get enough rest… all these helped a lot. I also found that happy, optimistic music helped a lot and I made sure to listen to it a lot. And finally, even though it might not sound like something a sane person would do, I used to talk to myself in the mirror and give me encouragement and “pep talks” – this also worked (and no, I no longer talk to myself now lol).
I loved reading this article and I am sure it would be of tremendous help to anybody suffering from this truly horrible disease.
Good for you for finding your own way, C, and researching what works best for you. I love that you talked to yourself in the mirror: I think it’s vital that we view ourselves as the wonderful people we are, and that type of exercise really does make an impact on self-esteem! Thanks for sharing your story too, C. Hopefully we will be helping others out there.
You offer lots of inspiration and hope in your story of recovery, Laurie. Thank you. Robin’s death has brought a lot of writing about individual’s dealing with this, myself included. I read something on post secret which was really good about this. It said that for every person who had succumbed to the disease (like Robin), there are thousands who have succeeded. Those suffering should not give up hope or faith that they can be better.
Exactly, Deb: the take-away here is to keep on fighting till you find what works. Life is too valuable to give it up to something like Depression.
Thanks for your bravery, Laurie. I was in a similarly rough place from age 15-22. I just hated myself and didn’t want to exist. I did some pretty dumb things, too. I tried therapy and meds. Therapy helped but meds made me feel numb. I do think diet and exercise help — I remember my therapist at 15 recommended I change my diet and I remember laughing at her and being insulted that she would think my pain was from my diet. While it wasn’t the only thing, I was naive to ignore the prospect. Glad you have found relief!
Glad you have found relief too, my dear friend!! It is amazing how much a clean diet helps: I was surprised at that too.
Thanks for sharing Laurie. I have dealt with depression within my family, sometimes its not easy to spot or to understand. Getting help ASAP is so important and to continue to support that person dealing with it.
It sure is, Brian. It can be just as tough to watch loved ones go through it as it is to deal with it personally. Just love on ’em, Brian. 🙂
I think depression touches all of us at some point in our lives. As you know the hardest part is finding a treatment that works. I’m so glad you find something that worked for you. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thanks, Raquel, and I think you’re right: it’s much more common than some people think!
Thanks for sharing your difficult story here Laurie – it takes a lot of courage, and I’m always moved by such openness on topics like this.
I’m amazed at the strength you had to try these different avenues, and to have the awareness to do something about it, like exercise, when you felt it coming over you. When I went through some really difficult times in the past (don’t think it was quite depression though), I really believed my life was useless, and that there was no future. Your point about “the reality of those events vs. my view of those events” to me is the most important one here. Looking back, it was purely my perception, the way I chose to think about circumstances at the time, rather than reality, and I almost feel silly about it when I look back, knowing what I do now.
I’m so glad to hear you’ve had a strong 17 years without this burden!
It’s amazing how our minds work to trick us into believing that things are much more horrible than they are, isn’t it, Jason!!! Once I learned how truly fickle our feelings are, and how I did have control over them, it helped me tremendously in all areas of life and relationship!
This article came along at the perfect time. God Is Great. Thanks so much for sharing such a personal struggle. I will be sharing this article with someone I believe needs it ASAP. He is a Born Again Christian, as am I, but somehow I think he has fallen victim to the devil’s lies. He is displaying all of the signs of depression, including speaking of harming himself. I pray and pray for him. Thanks again Laurie. God Bless You Always. 🙂
SO thankful that this came along when it did – and know that I will be praying for wisdom for your friend!!! By His stripes, we were healed!!! (1 Peter 2:24). Hugs to you, my sister in Christ. 🙂
Thanks Laurie for having the strength to share your story! I think the more we can talk about depression and mental health the more we can normalize those discussions and break down stereotypes and stigmas. As a mental health professional it kills me to see the way the media “frames” mental illness. If someone is doing something unusual we label them, “bi polar” and joke that they are, “crazy”. It’s an incredibly damaging and dangerous way to think about people who struggle with mental health issues.
Nobody would tell someone with a broken arm that they just need to “suck it up” and stop thinking about it. But that’s exactly what we tell people with depression, “just get over it and be happy!” like somehow people who are depressed are willing themselves to feel miserable. There’s still so much ignorance (in the truest sense of the word) when it comes to depression in particular, and mental illness in general. I hope with the passing of Robin Williams, and others there will be more dialogue about how we can support and empower people who are diagnosed with mental illnesses.
I agree, KK! It’s been such a taboo subject, and hopefully now it will be more acceptable to talk about it and tell people if one is struggling. I told very few in my days of depression. I did tell my boss, who told me to “suck it up.” Nice, huh?
Thanks for sharing your story, Laurie. Depression is so hard. It just sucks the energy right out you and it can be so sneaky too. I’ve haven’t had a long-term depression as did, but I have had multiple depressions (one every decade 🙂 ) and sometimes it took me awhile to realize what was going on. My first one happened when I was 12 and I never understood what was wrong until later. Too young, I guess and I’m not sure if I even knew what depression was back then. To me what has always been the hardest is those self-defeating thoughts and lack of energy. I agree that food can make a huge difference. I had been trying to save money, which meant a lot of processed, cheap food. And then one day I made a salad and I felt so different afterwards. Ding, ding, ding. So I decided saving a few bucks was not work my mental health! My heart still aches over the loss of Robin and the pain he must have been feeling, but I am grateful that so many people have shared their stories. Depression gets swept under the rug and that just makes things worse. Knowing that you are not alone makes a huge difference. Glad you found your way out. I’ll get there.
It’s amazing how much food can make a difference! You WILL get there too, my friend. You’re a fighter, and that’s why you’ll win.
I am only reading this now – two weeks after you wrote it. It’s hard to know what to say. Again, I believe that you will profoundly touch the lives of so many with your transparency and your courage to be vulnerable.
You are truly a blessing. Thanks.
Thanks, my friend. I truly hope I can inspire others suffering with depression that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Their precious lives are too valuable to waste.
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