I was always a happy and loving person. Many would say that I was living an idyllic life. In the beginning, my husband and I struggled to make ends meet just as most young couples do, but we were following our passions for art and poetry. Eventually, we became successful. We had three beautiful, wonderful children together and our lives were good, fulfilled and evolving in a positive way until five years ago when I was struck down by major depression.
That was a very revealing and momentous time in my life because it was period in which I began to learn how to hate. Before depression, I believed with all my young heart that peace and love could change the world. I witnessed that change occurring when those millions of us arose in unity to protest war and to speak out for civil rights. Love worked miracles and brought about sorely needed changes in our government's policies and, ultimately, peace and human rights prevailed.
My own life was filled with so much love and joy that when depression struck, it was like a prison door slamming shut and I was being placed in an isolation cell. No one else could possibly be feeling what I was. I hated my depression and all of its symptoms.
I was always an energetic person. Now, I felt tired and listless every day. The fatigue that enveloped my brain and body made me feel numb to the point of not even thinking. I could not concentrate or make up my mind about anything. All I wanted to do was to curl into a ball in my bed and sleep.
All of the things I used to love doing were of no interest. There was no pleasure in my life and nothing got me out of my lethargy. I was leading a completely languid existence constantly drained of energy. I wanted so much to break out of that mental dungeon I was in, but I couldn't muster up enough energy to think or do anything meaningful.
The truth is that I simply couldn't take part in life. I wondered whether I would ever be able to return and be a part of the life I loved so very much. That led to an incredible sense of despair with the insidious symptoms enveloping me again. I hated them and what they were doing to me.
There was one thing that I was able to do with reasonable consistency. I wrote poems. They captured the essence of my thoughts and feelings at that time. I collected them and placed them in my book, Depression and Back, which describes my personal journey from optimism to depression and the return road to mental health. Along that road, I found that I was not alone at all. Twenty-one million Americans suffer from depression each year and many felt exactly what I was feeling. During my recovery, I was determined to tell their stories and have done that in my documentary film, The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression, which is airing on PBS stations across the country.
Part of what kept me going was medication. Finding the right meds was a key to relieving my symptoms. It was my psychologist, psychiatrist, family and friends that kept my head above water. They saved me, saved my life really and prevented me from sinking beneath the waves. They were my lifelines, preserving me and helping me survive the madness that was spinning around in my brain. And I am happy to say that I am now slowly weaning off my medication.
It's very hard to relearn how to live in the present again. Hope, therapy, exercise, people who matter and give unconditional love, attending DBSA support groups and finding the right meds are the combination that helped me survive depression. I've learned that far too many victims don't survive. Getting better from depression demands a lifelong commitment. I've made that commitment for my life's sake and for the sake of those who love me.
No one has to love you except your family. When all else fails, your family will be there for you. When no one else cares, your family always will. Even when a selfish undermining mental disease wrecks your mind, your family will stand by you. Mine certainly did.
My dear husband Stephen is so very much a part of me and essential to who I was and the woman I have become. Our love has transcended time, surpassed the years and was always pure and good. Our children have made us so proud and we feel such deep and overwhelming joy every time we are together. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for understanding my depression, helping me and saving me along with all of the medical professionals who were instrumental in bringing me back.
I was drowning. They resuscitated me by giving me comfort and reassurance that I could get my life back. It takes help with talk therapy, knowledge of mental health illness and possible medication, support groups and a family's love and understanding. I am so very fortunate and grateful that I had all the components that could make me better. And though I hate my depression symptoms, I now see that they can be overcome.