Painting by Dawn Fenner Fischer
Depression and Anxiety Disorder
– A First-Hand View
An inside view of clinical depression and anxiety disorder. Raw honesty from a friend’s daughter. She shares her story with the hope of helping others. I read her blog and asked for permission to repost it on my blog as a Guest Post. She agreed. Her name is Jackie Wasser and the link to her blog is: A Long, Bumpy Road to Recovery
Healing from Depression and Anxiety
A Long, Bumpy Road to Recovery (her story below, reprinted with permission)
Note: I am not in any way a Dr. I am simply sharing my experiences in hope to help anyone struggling with similar problems as I have had.
I can hardly remember life before my anxiety began to develop – for those who have never experienced mental illness, it is common for those with mental illnesses to forget what it is like to live without them. Around first grade, my thoughts became tainted with worry as well as an intense fear of judgment. My social anxiety disorder developed about this time. A common misconception is that this disorder is just an excuse for being shy. Social anxiety disorder is an illness in which social situations may create abnormal amounts of anxiety/stress. A couple of specific situations that were more than difficult for me included:
- Asking for help
- Ordering at restaurants
- Confronting someone/being confronted
- Speaking in groups of people larger than 2 or 3
- Talking with anyone I didn’t know well
- Virtually Any situation in which i could make a mistake
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do these things, I physically could not bring myself to do them. And no, facing my fears did not get rid of them. No matter how many times I spoke in front of my peers in school, my throat would close, I would tremble uncontrollably, my face would burn, my eyes would water, and in my younger years- I would sometimes cry if it was bad enough. For many years, these symptoms were entirely out of my control.
It wasn’t until I was in middle school when I learned what social anxiety disorder was. I researched relentlessly and discovered (about the same time) that I also had severe depression. I discovered this through dozens of online tests and screenings. I knew they weren’t always accurate, but I later found them to be almost the exact same as the ones my dr.s would give me in the future.
I didn’t know what to do with this information for a long time. I reached out to friends in search of someone who knew how to handle these things. I even went to anonymous sites where I could connect with online therapists. I didn’t think I would ever be able to speak aloud about the things I had experienced.
In 7th and 8th grade I experienced extremes of the following symptoms of depression:
- Difficulty falling asleep/staying asleep
- Negative self-talk
- Extreme insecurity/ self-hatred
- Memory problems
- Suicidal thoughts
- Feeling down and hopeless most of the time
- Little to no interest in things I used to love
- Always feeling tired and having little energy or motivation
- Poor concentration
Some misconceptions about Depression and the truth behind it:
- It is often thought everyone experiences depression the same, which is entirely untrue. There are many different symptoms and not all of them may be experienced. Or, the same symptoms may be experienced differently per person.
- Having depression does not always mean you’re sad or want to die all the time. Depression is a disease, more intense than sadness, and is diagnosable.
- Depression, like other mental illnesses, doesn’t have a cure. It does, though, have medications available to help with symptoms OF depression. Also, medication doesn’t help everyone.
- Having depression does not make you weak.
- Having any mental illness does not make you weak.
- There isn’t a direct reason for depression. Situational depression is a short-term depression caused by trauma or life changes. Clinical depression is usually more severe and involves a chemical imbalance in the brain.
(for a more in-depth description, click here: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314698.php )
While going through this severe depression, I was too afraid to ask for help because I was convinced I was crazy and couldn’t be helped. And this sent me down a dark path. I began self-harming, convinced I deserved it.
And no one does.
I continued this unhealthy habit until I reached a point in my depression where I experienced a constant rotation of having no emotions to being so sad and lonely that I became suicidal.
I always loved art. I received advice from friends to express my emotions through art. And I did. I drew grim images that usually portrayed something involving suicide or some sort of mental illness.
And one day my mom found the sketches. She sat me down and questioned me, but I was much too afraid to be truthful. After that incident, she seemed to worry about me a bit more.
Eventually, I decided it was time to tell my family I was depressed. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but it was beyond worth it. Eventually, I was convinced to try therapy. Being a middle school aged girl, the thought of going to therapy was embarrassing. I told only my closest friends and made sure they kept it a secret. I was bullied enough as it was, I didn’t want to be made fun of for anything else.
My first therapist helped at first, but she wasn’t the right fit for me. After maybe a year of seeing her, I discontinued our sessions. Later on, I began sessions with a new therapist. She was a perfect fit for me. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right one, but therapy is something I recommend to everyone – even if you are convinced your personal problems aren’t “bad enough.”
People used to ask why I was depressed. I always hated that question, because if I knew the answer I would have done something about it. But it’s not that simple. There are things that caused it to develop rapidly in me –
Things such as:
- Low self-esteem
- Being bullied
- Lack of support
- emotional/verbal abuse
- Abusive peers
- Peer pressure
- Being surrounded by people who discouraged me from expressing myself
As I started high school, I became exposed to a whole new world containing abuse, sexual harassment, addiction, substance abuse – the list goes on.
My experiences as a child forced me to mature at a very young age. Adults did not understand this.
If I had one message for adults, it would be this: age is not equivalent to maturity. Don’t assume that someone is naive or doesn’t understand complex issues just because they are “too young to understand.” Chances are (especially in today’s society) they understand more than you’ll ever come to know.
Throughout high school, I experienced different intensities of depression. My mental illnesses began to greatly interfere with my schooling, social life, and home life. I had no motivation to do homework, didn’t want to leave my bed, struggled to take care of myself, and at the same time, I felt obligated to save everyone around me.
Peer pressure took a major toll on me at the beginning of summer.
I have been an extreme empath for as long as I can remember. (this means that I have the ability to comprehend, as well as take on, emotions others are feeling, So for example, when in a room with 20 people, I -unwillingly- absorb all the energy within the room. For a deeper explanation go to: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201602/10-traits-empathic-people-share )
This trait led me to often put myself in harm’s way if it meant others would be happier. I never considered putting my own happiness first, even when it meant I would have to betray my morals
For years, I didn’t think I’d see the day where I would be excited to be alive or even a day in which I would want to be alive.
In the past two months, this has started to change…
I have been experiencing a sort of breakthrough in my depression. For the past 6+ years, I have not felt myself – I couldn’t recall what it felt like to not be depressed. Until now. I am beginning to acquire motivation, energy, and a peaceful state of mind. I am learning to stand up for myself and my own morals, rather than conforming to whatever is expected of me.
Years ago my art was morbid and dark.
I realized I was getting better when my art transformed into vibrant displays of the landscape that made me happy.
Lately, I’ve experienced the following in my breakthrough:
- I actually feel energized sometimes, rather than a constant state of fatigue.
- I feel motivated to do things I enjoy
- I feel motivated to do things I don’t enjoy
- I am able to speak my mind and stand my ground
- My extroversion is no longer weighed down by depression/anxiety
- I am kinder towards myself
- I feel like myself.
My depression isn’t at all “cured.” I still experience symptoms, but I have reached a point in my life where I feel I can breathe again. I feel more whole on my own, and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I hope my experiences may connect with someone reading this, and maybe provide reassurance for those who are struggling with mental illness.
I’ve had some amazing support throughout the years, and if it weren’t for those people I would not be here today.
Advice to anyone struggling in life // things that brought me to my healing point:
- Display empathy, but don’t let it control you.
- It’s ok to put yourself first sometimes
- Don’t let people guilt you into things that go against your morals
- Have morals. And practice them.
- Be kind, and be supportive.
- Ask. for. Help. the amount of strength it takes to do so is indescribable. But it is entirely worth it
- Express yourself. You have one life to live, don’t live under someone else’s shadow.
- Be open to change
- Admit when you are wrong and don’t be cocky when you’re right.
- Surround yourself with people who benefit your life. Don’t accept anything less
- Have hope.
- Be humble, but remember to be kind to yourself
- Love. And love deeply
On a side note, I am always more than willing to listen if anyone needs someone to talk to. I will gladly provide any advice I have or listen with open ears and a closed mouth.
Also, if you have any questions feel free to contact me.
A Word From Valley-Walk
First of all, thank you, Jackie, for sharing your heart and the truth. There is a phenomenon with #MeToo and this is giving people an opportunity to gain strength in knowing they are not alone. With that, there is something I like to call #MeFirst. The phenomenon where someone is willing to go first. Speak up so others can say #MeToo. Someone brave, like Jackie.
She posts on her blog about how to reach her. Here’s that link Contact Jackie
Happy Trails of Healing and
Making it OK to talk about Mental Illness…