‘I dreaded getting up every morning. I was living life on autopilot, putting on a fake ‘I’m fine’ smile.’: Woman shares her brave battle with depression

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“I don’t actually know when depression decided to bless my life, and I say bless because it’s both a blessing and a curse. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, regardless of how unfortunate the circumstances or diagnosis. Depression isn’t fun, it’s questioning your will to live on some days, some days it just disguises itself as laziness, some days it’s nonexistent.

selfie of a woman in good lighting
Courtesy of Stephanie Maxfield

Looking back, I think I have been dealing with depression for years, I was just in denial and really had no idea what it truly was. I honestly think 10 years ago my depression would have been overlooked by family and friends because depression wasn’t so prevalent back then. I figured it was just phases of life, struggles, hardships and it will pass, so I would just power through. I have been in the healthcare field for almost 10 years, have been taught about depression and anxiety, as well as other mental health diagnoses. The one thing I am for certain is that it doesn’t affect any two people the same. It manifests differently in every single person. I have seen depression in many age groups over the course of my 10 years of being in health care.

In winter 2021, I finally came to the realization that I had depression. I had done some research and took some standardized tests to confirm. I was embarrassed to say anything to anyone, I didn’t want to come off as weak or as if something was wrong with me. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I could have depression: I didn’t have a traumatic childhood, no family history (to my knowledge), no significant life events (other than a few deaths, which are a normal part of life) leading to a depression diagnosis. But the thing with depression is it doesn’t discriminate.

Winter 2021 was a very low point for me, I just felt like I needed an answer for what was going on with me. I dreaded getting up every morning. I was literally just living life on autopilot, showing up as little as possible, putting on a fake ‘I’m fine’ smile.

woman taking a selfie in front of a canyon
Courtesy of Stephanie Maxfield

I also had a new family I had to show up for, a new husband and stepdaughter.

Pushing myself to show up for them meant putting myself last. Which meant no one was getting my A-game, but let’s be honest, they weren’t even getting my average game. It was reflecting my work, relationships, and myself.

I just always thought it was sleep deprivation, pain, stress, difficulty with my relationships, or even work, but no matter how much any of those things changed, my emotional state never did. I want to say I was like this for a few straight months before I finally needed answers. I just couldn’t take feeling down, worthless, and miserable every day, anymore.

I turned to my best friend who also struggles with depression, she had talked to me about hers many times. I can remember when I first talked to her about it, I told her how I was feeling, how long it’s been, my symptoms, and she also agreed, ‘Yup, sounds just like depression.’ It was comforting knowing that I had someone in my corner, who could help me, understand me, and support me. I still needed to have this conversation with my husband, though I knew he would understand, I didn’t want to come off as weak or needing pity.

woman taking a selfie with her friend
Courtesy of Stephanie Maxfield

I don’t believe medication should be the first answer to treat depression. I have turned to meditation, prayer, moving my body in a way that brings me joy but also challenges me in order to feel a sense of accomplishment, dance parties in the kitchen, feeding my body nutritious food, and limiting processed foods. Personal development with books and podcasts. Drinking water, I also quit drinking alcohol because I realized it no longer served my life in so many ways.

I also look to my 4 dogs as a source of compassion, love, and companionship.

One thing I do want to highlight is self-care. For me, self-care has been the game-changer in how I navigate my depression. On those really bad days, I look to self-care the most. Yes, all the above options are a form of self-care and should be practiced. What I’m talking about is a hot shower, a massage which I get monthly, painting your nails, washing your face and using a face mask, brushing your teeth, combing your hair and styling it, or sleeping in a little longer. I say this because these are sometimes the only things you will get accomplished, and they need to be celebrated. They are important and are tasks that sometimes get skipped because you don’t feel like doing them. In short, do something that affects and benefits yourself before you try to help someone else.

woman standing in the snow
Courtesy of Stephanie Maxfield

I have hope and strength in GOD, I know he has me no matter what the circumstances or scenario, regardless of how much of a struggle it is somedays. I can question why, but I truly believe there is a reason for everything God has planned for me, way greater than I will ever know. I will continue to follow GOD and keep strengthening my faith, as I believe he will get me through the darkest days.

I feel that because I finally have a diagnosis, and an explanation for how I’m feeling on those days when my depression shows up, I know how to navigate it better. I can ask myself questions like ‘What do I need today?’ ‘How am I feeling?’ ‘Do I need help, if so, who do I need to ask? And for what?’ There is nothing wrong with asking for help: you are doing yourself a disservice by trying to do everything on your own.

I try to maintain my routine, regardless of how I’m feeling. My morning routine sets the entire tone and mood for the day, I find it crucial to follow it, gratitude journaling, work out, drink water, and get ready. Eat a nutritious and full breakfast. I also try to have a positive mindset going into the day, telling myself that today is a good day and it will be a good day.

woman taking a selfie with her child
Courtesy of Stephanie Maxfield

My future has a ton of goals involving my career, home, and family. I won’t let depression hold me back but use it to my advantage to take care of myself a little more. I want to let others know they aren’t alone, nothing is wrong with them, and they too will get through it, no matter how hard. You are not weak, you are strong for speaking up and talking about it. Get help, there is nothing wrong with seeking help. You deserve to live your best life, and depression or other mental health diagnoses could be holding you back. You deserve happiness, strength, support, and love.

A few bits of advice, don’t use your depression as a crutch, it’s the difference between getting out of bed or staying in, isolated because you have depression. You can have depression and still be happy, motivated, ambitious, productive, and goal-oriented. It’s how you choose to live your life, either your control depression or it controls you. Ask for help. You are not a superhero: you can’t do it all and you shouldn’t want to. Ask yourself daily, what are some tasks that can be put on hold or delegated. Look for support groups or communities and talk to your closest family/friends. Be open as much as possible and tell people what is going on, because people don’t know what you don’t tell them. There are many natural options to treat and cope with mental health diagnoses. Incorporate a few that help you, its a trial and error game but natural remedies teach you ways to navigate depression and prevent further episodes.

I hope you find joy in the journey, love in your heart, and strength from within. You can and will do hard things.”

woman with her family
Courtesy of Stephanie Maxfield

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Stephanie Maxfield from Idaho.  You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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