A word that didn’t have any influence on my life until 2016. I don’t think I ever really knew what depression was growing up. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety in 2016 that my eyes were opened.
For the most part, I had a normal childhood. I grew up in a home with a father, mother, and younger sister. I was loved and cared for by amazing grandparents and was always surrounded by family. That all came crumbling down when my parents sat me down and told me they were getting divorced. My father was unfaithful and left my mother for another woman. My whole world was turned upside down. The life I once knew was changed forever.
Being a child of divorce came with a lot of shame. The divorce came at a significant time in my life — going from grade school to high school, during a time when it’s the hardest for a kid to try to fit in. And being a child of divorce made me different from everyone else.
My father became so involved with his new family, my sister and I were not important anymore. My sister is 8 years younger than me, so I took on a lot of responsibility an 11-year-old shouldn’t have to. For about 6 years, I went through the hardest trials and tribulations. Having to be there for my mother and my sister, hating my father and his new family, and trying to be a kid all at the same time. My childhood was robbed from me.
For years, I suppressed all my feelings. I held on to all the hurt and anger my father caused me and bottled it up. My coping mechanism was simple: I erased all those years from my memory. I pretended none of it ever happened. I had to be strong for my mother and my sister. There was no time to be weak. Well, let me tell you, being strong can only last for so long. I don’t think we realize how much our childhood affects us in every way as adults.
Fast forward to 2016, everything finally caught up to me. I had just graduated college in 2015 and felt like I could do anything! Never did I think, months later my life would be turned upside down. I didn’t realize I was experiencing depression. I just kept telling myself things would get better. I was crying all the time. I would come home from work and go straight to bed. I wasn’t eating. Things that once made me happy no longer did. I was contemplating life. I questioned my existence. I felt very lost and didn’t think I had a purpose on this earth. I wanted my life to end.
Once again, I kept all of these feelings to myself. I didn’t want to disappoint or burden my family. I thought I was doing a good job at hiding it until my mother helped me realize I was not okay and needed to get help. I remember the night she came into my room, as I was crying into my pillow, and said, ‘It’s okay to feel this way; we all go through hard times. You will be okay. You will get through this.’ Shortly after, I quit my job, started medication, and went to therapy weekly.
Even though I was getting the help I needed, I was still embarrassed and ashamed of my diagnosis. Only my immediate family and partner knew what I was going through. I was suffering alone and in silence. That’s when the idea of creating a blog came to mind. I wanted a way to share my story with others and thought it was the perfect way to do it. I created my blog ‘Beeing Jess’ and used it as a platform to be open and honest about what I was going through. This took such a weight off of my shoulders to finally be able to say, ‘I have anxiety and depression.’ I was finally able to live my truth.
After starting my blog, I began to get involved in the mental health community. I knew the more I shared my story, the more people I was helping. There is such a stigma surrounding mental illness, and it needs to be stopped. So many people suffer in silence and feel like they have no one to turn to who will understand. There are a lot of people, like myself, who are living with a mental illness and are really good at hiding it. You never really know what people are going through.
By sharing my story, I was able to meet people from all over the world who were going through the same struggles. I became a mental health advocate for different organizations where I was able to speak with like-minded people with one goal in common: end the stigma. I wanted to be a voice for the people who hadn’t found theirs yet. The more I posted about my battle with mental illness on my social media, the more people would reach out to me about how they were struggling as well.
I try to be open and honest when I talk about my struggle with anxiety and depression. Having both SUCKS. It is something I would never wish on anyone. Since being diagnosed in 2016, I would say I have had about five really horrible bouts of depression. The most recent just occurring this past October through January. I would say it was one of the lowest times I had ever experienced to date. The thing about depression is, no matter how many times you have gone through it and think you know when it is coming on, it surprises you. I never realize how bad it is until I hit complete rock bottom.
I do take antidepressants for my anxiety and depression. I am currently on 10mg of Lexapro. It is a hard pill to swallow thinking I may be on medication for the rest of my life. I have tried to live life without it, and I am able to function for a while. But then, slowly but surely, the depression takes over, and I find myself right back at rock bottom. I try to have a positive outlook; my brain just needs a little more help than others, and that is okay.
One thing that has really saved my life during my darkest days is running. Running is the one thing that has always been there for me and will continue to be there. It is a huge part of my life. It gives me purpose. There were days where I couldn’t pull myself out of bed, but running changed that. It gave me something to look forward to every day. Running reminds me just how mentally strong I am. I am proud to say, despite my anxiety and depression, I am a marathon runner.
Living with a mental illness is very difficult. It makes life 10 times harder. It affects every aspect of your life, especially your relationships with other people. I’ll be the first to admit I have succumbed to my depression. I have let it completely take over me. This has made it very hard on my relationship with my partner, friends, and family. They have all seen me give up on myself and become an unrecognizable person. But when you are stuck in the dark hole of depression, you don’t see anything but black all around. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
I don’t know where life will take me at this point. But I have come to terms with the fact I will most likely experience anxiety and depression for the rest of my life. It won’t be easy, but I know I will overcome it. When you are in the dark, deep hole of depression, it can be very difficult to see the light. But you have to keep fighting; you can’t give up. All I can say to anyone struggling is IT DOES GET BETTER. I promise you, life is worth living. You have to keep moving forward, one day at a time. You are never alone.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jessica Rodarte of Los Angeles, CA. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her blog. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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