I am struggling with depression and I wonder how I live while coping with depression?

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Answered by: Helen, An Expert in the Depression: True Stories Category
Living with Depression: Finding Gratitude

I am hoping that this article will tell what it is like coping with depression. I want to talk about my life experience. It is depression from my personal perspective. This article is a biased and subjective account of how I came to find gratitude even when life gets very hard.

I was depressed throughout my childhood. I struggled with body image issues and family matters. I was bullied and I, in turn, bullied others. This childhood depression haunted me in high school. The bullying stopped while the food and body image issues remained. Family dynamics were still a struggle. I had trouble focusing and concentrating. I was often irritable, and there were times when I would just stare into space. During theses times, my mother often thought I was a bit out-my-head. Oh and, I also began planning how I would kill myself. These things were happening in high school.

Coping with depression continued to be an issue. I entered college and simultaneously sought therapy. I would often journal about these vague mood swings and it never occurred to me that I might have Bipolar Disorder. I was having mild highs and extreme lows. Therapists would ask me if I had any periods where I felt very happy or excited. I would answer no. No one bothered to tell me what that might look like for me. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Major Depression and given meds for that disorder. I continued to be depressed and the medication continued to be ineffective. Sometimes I felt so bad that I would "hibernate." Hibernation would entail gathering my favorite books and closing myself off in a side room somewhere in the house. When I was with people, I could not look them in the eye. Hibernating made the bouts of depression last less time. I came out of the pit of depression much more rapidly than if I had not taken care of myself. All the while I continued to fight feelings of wanting to die. I felt like I was part of the walking dead. I was given many different tricyclic drugs for the Major Depression. The meds had little to no effect. At the time I was also dealing with work, school, chronic pain, and an eating disorder. At 23, I lost both my parents to cancer. Not existing became more appealing. I tried to not exist a couple of times and too often "accidentally" took too much headache meds. All this time I lived in a state of denial about how bad I felt. I was nice and helpful and understanding with others. I once had a therapist mention that, very often. I often used the word "nice" Yes, a state of denial.

It wasn't until 20 years later that the director of a mental health clinic saw me and diagnosed me with Bipolar 2 Disorder. Bipolar 2 is a disorder where there are periods of mania but without the marked extremes. My mood would swing down to extreme lows. The doctor explained what my world would look like if I had Bipolar 2. I confirmed that he was describing my life. He immediately tried me on some Bipolar meds and my world changed and took a new form. I felt light. I no longer felt like part of the walking dead. I started taking pleasure in life. I had hope. I was happy and content. And, I stopped thinking about dying. Yes, there were times when the depression would return and I would become unsafe and have to be hospitalized. After my medication was adjusted, the depression would soon lift.

Now, I am older. I continue to take medication. I have started to look at the medication as supplements to my life that helps me be me. How do I cope now? I deal with my emotions as they arise. I get therapeutic help when I need it. I am not afraid of being authentic and direct. I do not live in the land of denial. I still deal with food and body image issues. Sometimes I struggle to not go into old behaviors such as starving when I get stressed. When I find I am depressed, I still hibernate in the form of sleeping. My doctor adjusts my meds as needed. This combination seems to make the climb out of depression much faster and easier. When severely depressed I still get thoughts of suicide, but I never act on them. I, faithfully, take my medication. I practice being in a state of gratitude. I love my family and friends. My family has a husband, two adorable dogs, and a cute kitten. How lucky am I? I make it a practice to live in a state of gratitude.

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