How I coped with my depression
It happened gradually. I was waking up during the night more than usual with thoughts I could not control. Then I was having trouble falling asleep because of the thoughts I could not control. When I was awake, I started having trouble concentrating. My husband would speak to me and I would not comprehend what he was saying. I would zone out. I started to slack on my work. Procrastination started to become a daily habit. Then I turned inward and started telling myself how horrible of a person I was.
The thoughts became constant. Some of the lies I was telling myself were: I am terrible at my job, my friends think I am a loser, my husband is no longer in love with me, my son will become a drug addict, my parents are going to die soon and I cannot handle it, I am a terrible parent, the world is going to end, I should just end my life so that no one has to deal with me, I am a bad friend, I am worthless, I have no purpose.
I started comparing myself to others—in parenting, in jobs, in looks, in weight, in motivation, in being a good partner and friend. According to my observations, I was the worst at all of these. I was a bad person. I did not deserve good things. All of my thoughts were focused on everything I did wrong in my life.
I started thinking about past occurrences where I made a mistake or I said something wrong or I hurt someone else’s feelings. The one time I told my grandma to leave me alone; the time I told my brother what a jerk he was; the time I became impatient with a client. How could I be such a horrible person, I would ask myself. I started dwelling on the past.
Then I isolated myself. I shut myself off from the outside world. I did not call my friends or family, and I made excuses to stay at home. I did not want to be anyone else’s problem. I did not want to talk to anyone else about it because I did not want them to feel as if they were responsible to help me. I figured there was nothing anyone else could do to help me. I even shut my husband out. I told him I did not feel well—that I had headaches, stomachaches, a sore throat, anything to keep me from talking or to leave the house.
I told myself that I did not deserve to be depressed. I had many positive things in my life: a supportive husband, healthy children, a roof over my head, a steady job, a support system of good friends and family. I have all of these but why do I feel so miserable?
Nothing terrible had recently happened to me. I do not have a traumatic past. My parents have always been supportive and loving. Why was I so depressed? Even in my depression I felt like an imposter.
I tried taking melatonin, ashwagandha and other supplements to help me sleep. When these did not help, I became more hopeless. I tried counting backwards from 999 and meditating, but my negative thoughts kept interfering. I would fall asleep for an hour and then be awake for three, dreading the next day. I became agitated and so tired. I quit exercising.
When I would finally answer the phone or respond to a friend’s text, I was not myself. People at work and even friends and family told me to “smile,” “cheer up,” “just snap out of it.” All of these expressions made me feel worse. No one understood. If I could just snap out of it, I would! I did not want to feel this way. I did not enjoy being miserable.
I made myself go to my annual physical and I told my doctor how I was feeling. She diagnosed me with clinical depression and recommended an antidepressant, which I really did not want to take. I was afraid of the side effects and afraid of what others would think of me. When I told a close friend who works in the mental health field about my diagnosis, he asked me, “If you had diabetes and it required you to take insulin, would you?” I said yes, because my life would depend on it. He then asked, “So what is the difference with taking an antidepressant? You need it to be well, to function, to live without depression and anxiety.” He had a good point.
I filled my prescription and thought about how I was going to get past this difficult part of my life. I started to slowly recover. I made small goals each day, such as to exercise for 30 minutes, call a friend, take a shower, write down something I was grateful for, do the dishes, finish that brief. When I accomplished a goal, I crossed it off my list and it gave me a sense of purpose.
It did not happen overnight, but I slowly started to feel like I was getting myself back. I walked the dogs and came home feeling refreshed. I called a friend who also has depression and I told her everything. It was comforting and therapeutic to talk to someone else who understood. I talked to my mom and was surprised to learn that she had depression when she was my age. She taught me some healthy coping mechanisms. I started meditating and taking it seriously and started to feel a sense of calm warming over me. I started eating healthy foods.
After about six weeks, I could tell that the antidepressants were helping. I was sleeping more soundly and I started to become more motivated. I did not wake up with a negative thought. I started to get excited about what goal I was going to check off my list that day. I started thinking more positively. I was not anxious to go to the grocery store or to go out with friends.
I know that I might always have anxiety and depression, and that is ok, because now I know that I can cope with it. With the help of medicine, a balanced diet, daily exercise and a support system, it is possible to overcome depression. There will always be things that I cannot control: what other people do, how other people think, the past. But I can control my mindset and my wellbeing.
If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Judicial Advisory Group, a peer-based confidential assistance group that helps judges and magistrates with personal and professional issues. For more information, go to www.ohiolap.org/judges or call (800) 348-4343.
If you find that you are depressed, stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, seek help. The Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program helps lawyers, judges and law students manage life's stresses. OLAP has saved lives, careers, marriages and families. All inquiries are confidential. (800) 348-4343 / ohiolap.org