Within 48 hours, the world was struck by two shocking suicides – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Two brilliant minds. Two incredible people who made a true difference. Two lives gone in an instant, seemingly without warning. Depression is silent and SO deadly. I would know. I’ve been suffering from depression since I was about 17 years old. I was diagnosed way back then and have experienced different forms of treatment. In the past I’ve opened up about my depression, because I feel like being honest may help someone else. I’d like to continue sharing my story, because I’m not ashamed. And if you suffer from mental illness, you shouldn’t be either.
Dog Mom With Depression
I’ve been battling depression for almost 13 years. It was initially triggered by my parents’ divorce when I was a teenager. My depression is clinical (and genetic), and it does seem to arise when a major event occurs in my life. Say, my step dad’s stage 4 cancer diagnosis two years ago. It could be something “small” or something big like cancer, but typically it’s an emotional change that causes my depression to creep to the surface.
I started on medication when I was first diagnosed at 17. It worked. Eventually it started creating weird side effects so I came off of it, and I thrived without anti-depressants for a while. I went back on medication in 2014 but by the time my step dad, David, was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer, I needed a stronger medication. I was crying everyday. I was not motivated. I was isolating myself. All of which are typical depressive behaviors of mine. It was then that I started on Lexapro, which has worked extremely well for me.
Although I’m on medication, I do still feel the effects of depression from time to time. For example, right now I’m going through a divorce. You may be surprised to learn this, but that is the case. I moved out earlier this spring and got a place of my own. Although it’s been good for me personally, it has been a tough transition. I also lost my job a few weeks ago, adding to my load of stress. As you could probably imagine, I’ve been experiencing a lot of rough days. Medication helps keep me at a pretty consistent mood, but during times like these it’s just not enough.
So what do I do when I go through major life changes like this that get me down? Pet dogs, allow people to help me and admit that “this too shall pass.” One of the game changers for me has been admitting that depression is kicking my butt, and giving myself a break. It’s not always easy, but I try to be kind to myself. “Okay, depression is getting the best of me. This does not define me. I will get through it.” We are our worst critics, but we have the ability to be gentle with ourselves.
It’s also been helpful to open up to people. Talk to my mom, my sister and close girlfriends. If you are silently suffering from mental illness, you may be surprised to find that you have a support system who truly loves you no matter what. Depression makes me want to shut down and not talk to anyone but when I get the courage to do so, I always feel so much better. I have sought therapy in the past, which has been a big help.
And then there’s anxiety…
I think that anxiety is a side effect of my depression. I used to be an incredibly anxious person but through mindfulness and meditation, I’ve gotten it under much better control. Just like my depression, anxiety will creep up out of nowhere and try to ruin everything. I’ve found the best way to shut down my anxiety is to talk it out with someone close to me and focus on Wynston. When I take Wynston to the park or sit on the floor to play with my cats, my anxiety tends to drift away.
Living one day at a time has also been helpful. Instead of thinking about plans five years from now, I focus on today. Now. The present. Sometimes I’m great at living in the present and other days I’m not. But it’s all about progress, not perfection.
Wynston has been a huge part of my battle against depression and anxiety. Earlier this year I made Wynston an ESA so he can be with me in social situations that may otherwise be overwhelming, such as at the airport or on the airplane. I can experience a rush of anxiety and feel like I’m going to have a panic attack, but then I begin breathing and petting Wynston. I focus on him. I think about the act of petting him. It’s unbelievable how he can take my anxiety away so quickly. If you’re interested in making your dog an emotional support animal, learn how to here.
Something else I’ve started doing is admitting when I’m going through a rough time. Instead of making excuses, I tell people, “I’m having a super rough night and I’d rather stay home and relax.” I’ve also began keeping myself out of situations that will cause me severe anxiety, like going to the grocery store when I know it will be crowded. Learning what your triggers are and making adjustments can help keep your anxiety in check.
Some Changes I’ve Made
As I’m going through a tough life transition right now, I’ve decided that I need to make some serious life changes. On the list of changes is bettering myself overall. And not for anyone else, but for ME. Here are some changes I’ve made:
- Started using a grocery delivery service because the grocery store gives me severe anxiety.
- Began traveling more often with Wynston because it makes me feel free and at peace.
- Made Wynston an ESA so he can help me cope better with my anxiety.
- Began opening up to more people about my struggles.
- Started focusing more on Dog Mom Days and making positive changes to grow my career.
- Started admitting what truly gives me anxiety, and making adjustments to help myself.
- Stopped caring what people think about me.
- Started focusing more on making memories instead of worrying about material items.
What I Want YOU to Know
If you are suffering from anxiety, depression or another mental illness, I want you to know that even if you think you are alone, you are not. I know the feeling, though. I know what it feels like to feel like you’re all alone in a world full of darkness and isolation. And if you think you have no one to turn to, I am here for you, no matter what. Wynston and I LOVE you!
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
You are not alone. You are loved.