Robyn - posted on 02/23/2012 ( 1 mom has responded )
Living Happily With Major Depression and Social Anxiety
Most of the time I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I have a wonderful, devoted husband who is my best friend, three happy, healthy children and a loving, supportive extended family. A core group of close friends, some stemming back as far as childhood, to others I've met in more recent years.
A little over three years ago I was officially diagnosed with major depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and social anxiety. Although this is something I suffered from all my life, and there is a family history, it wasn't until Childbirth when I suffered terribly from post partum depression that I finally fessed up and admitted to myself that something was terribly wrong.
The winter months were the worst. Lack of sunlight was causing my depression to worsen. I finally opened up to a close friend about what was really going on with me. She referred me to a mutual friend who had been through the same thing. It was such an eye opening experience to speak to someone who could relate to what I was going through. We discussed doctors, medication, diet, and other resources. She shared with me her struggles and successes in dealing with depression. Understanding what she had been through, and where she was now was so reassuring that there was hope for me. This was truly a huge discovery, and more than I could of even imagined. I remember feeling elated that there was possibly a light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn't believe someone else
was possibly experiencing what I was feeling. I wasn't the only one suffering.
It's easy to put a smile on your face and act like everything is ok on the outside. After a while, the pain is too much to endure. Having the courage to speak up and be your own advocate is the way to go. I was on the road to recovery. It would be a long road, but I was on my way. Seeking treatment was the best decision I ever made. I think so many people suffer silently, go through the motions and act like everything is ok. There was so many days that I didn't feel like I could even get out of bed. I just wanted to hide under the covers. There is so much guilt associated with mental illness. You don't understand why you feel so horrific, especially when your life is so complete.
It took a lot of patience, hard work and determination to get well. It was through trial and error that I found the right antidepressant medication and just the right dosage. I learned that all generic brands of medication weren’t the same. When I finally found the one that worked for me, I knew to stick with it, even if it meant searching all over town to find a pharmacy that carried that brand. I couldn’t believe how pharmacies chance manufactures and don’t even tell you. I had to figure out on my own that something was different about these pills. I didn’t feel right! When I asked for a particular manufacturer they told me all generic brands were exactly the same. Not true! I also learned that the generic and brand name are also not always the same. It depends on the medication. It’s just a matter of finding the one that works best for you, and checking the label on the bottom of the pills to make sure the manufacturer is the same. Once again, being your own advocate is the only way to go!
I also worked with a therapist who taught me how to gain control of this illness. I was taught so many strategies, and I now understand how to take care of myself.
Since gaining control, my self-esteem has improved tremendously. Even though I have socially anxiety, I'm very social and friendly. I sometimes still feel anxious in certain situations, and I've learned the hard way that not everyone wants to be bothered. Some People aren't interested in saying hello just because you live in the same community and they know exactly who you are. I used to feel so rejected and blame myself when people acted this way. It would throw me into a funk for days. Sometimes I still have trouble understanding people's manners, but I also understand it’s not always about me. Although my feelings still get hurt, I've learned to accept that fact that not everyone is going to like me, want to be my friend, or even engage in casual conversation or idle chit-chat. It doesn't mean I'm not a good person. I've learned to be true to myself. I'm not perfect, and I understand now that we all have strengths and weaknesses. I focus my energy on my family and friends. When you have a mental illness, these tasks don't come easily. I don't know that people who don't have any history of biological or situational depression understand what people that do go through. It's a feeling of such deep, dark sadness. How could they?
I think because I have suffered, it’s made me a kinder and stronger person. I will reach out to people who are different than me. I'll smile and say hello if I recognize them. Who knows what they are going through in their life? I do have to admit that I won't bother anymore talking or reaching out to people who have snubbed me over and over again. (I've finally taken the advice of my bitchier friends) I’m healthy now and it just doesn’t affect me like it did before. If only people could understand how their negative behavior affects those who suffer from any kind of mental illness.
The key to my recovery and to maintaining good health has been a regular exercise routine, using a light box during the winter months, taking medication, a healthful diet, learning to ask for help when I need it, and selecting and maintaining friendships where there is a strong and mutual connection and support system. There is no room in my life for toxic friendships. Surrounding yourself by people who lift you up is so important! I'm grateful for all of those special people in my life.
I hope that if you are suffering silently- you will consider getting help. I struggled for so long and felt so isolated. I thought I was the only person feeling so awful. Of course this wasn't true, but you feel so alone when you are going through it- you don't even realize. I'm not ashamed anymore or worried about the stigma of mental illness. I'm happier today than I have ever been in my life. Please seek treatment if you are suffering. This is why I am sharing my story. It sounds so cliche to say this but this isn't a dress rehearsal. This is your life. If you want to feel normal and even have a shot at feeling balanced, seek help! Those that know me the best know that I try to live each day like it's my last. I’m able to do this now that I am healthy.
I truly hope that my story will encourage you to seek treatment for yourself or someone you know or suspect is suffering.
Depression is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people.
What causes depression?
No single cause of depression has been identified, but it appears that interaction among genetic, biochemical, environmental, and psychosocial factors may play a role. Depression is not a personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away, but it can be successfully treated.
What is major depressive disorder?
Major depressive disorder (MDD) is commonly known as depression. MDD can be diagnosed by a health care professional when a patient reports at least up to 2 weeks of sad or "empty" feelings or loss of interest in activities accompanied by additional symptoms of depression.
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is an anxiety disorder in which a person has an excessive and unreasonable fear of social situations.
A person with social anxiety disorder is afraid that he or she will make mistakes and be embarrassed or humiliated in front of others. The fear may be made worse by a lack of social skills or experience in social situations. The anxiety can build into a panic attack. As a result of the fear, the person endures certain social situations in extreme distress or may avoid them altogether. In addition, people with social anxiety disorder often suffer "anticipatory" anxiety -- the fear of a situation before it even happens -- for days or weeks before the event. In many cases, the person is aware that the fear is unreasonable, yet is unable to overcome it.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is episodes of depression that occur at a certain times of the year, usually during the winter.
Some Symptoms of SAD may include unhappiness, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, decreased or increased appetite, weight loss, weight gain, social withdrawal, and loss of energy.