I was baptized Catholic but never did my first communion. I went to Catholic Church on some Saturdays as a child but I was never into it. In fact, I dreaded it. I mostly remember my mom pinching me for giggling or for catching my sister and I playing thumb war. I went to a Catholic university but not because it was Catholic. I had my first positive Church experience there and I had professors who were priests and nuns and they were fantastic teachers who were able to have rational and warm conversations about God and spirituality. I really enjoyed it and it felt so different from the dark and gloomy Catholicism I experienced as a child. After college, I stopped going to mass.
This past year has been a tough year for me. It has also been a tough year for my relationship with my boyfriend. I did not think about going back to Church until one of my sisters recommended it to me as I told her about my S.O. problems. I have never thought of Church as a source of relief or help.
Now that I am slowly coming out of a dark period in my life, I am trying to look ahead and plan for a new year full of self care activities. This list may include therapy, regular exercise routine, more friend dates and Church. I do not what I am looking to get out of this or if it will bring me any happiness at all but I am going to get out of my comfort zone and visit different services at different churches until I find one that speaks to me. And it is okay if I do not find something. But for my own sake, I need something new and different.
During the summer of 2015 I began to feel a little off. I couldn’t tell what is was right away, there were just little signs here and there. The fatigue came first, soon after I had difficulty concentrating, remembering details and the insomnia crept in. I began to retrieve from activities I enjoyed. I think deep down I knew what it was right away, I just kept hoping it would all pass. It didn’t and I really should not have been so naïve. I had stopped taking care of myself. I was barely doing yoga, meditating, cooking well for myself and taking on too much work. I was pulling myself apart and because of that I began to crack, horribly. I could no longer read, I had no energy and the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness kept me crying in bed. I could not escape this feeling that at the time I would describe as a dark hole. For the life of me, I could not describe it. And so before things got really bad, I decided to get help. It wasn’t enough to just try to get back on my routine. I contacted my health insurance provider and set an appointment with mental health department.
Let me tell you, the psychologist that did my intake was fucken horrible. I almost did not continue the process because of that individual. The way he made me feel and the phrases and words he used made me feel even more ridiculous then I already did. But, I wanted to feel better, I needed help so I continued with the process. Luckily, the therapist I was assigned to was not a judgmental asshole and I began psychotherapy once a week for a couple of months.
The first time I tried therapy it was far more cognitive behavioral therapy, really developing coping skills. This time around we focused more on psychoanalytic and humanistic approaches to try to discover the root causes of my depression/anxiety. Though it was far less enjoyable than my past therapy I learned so much more about myself. It was grueling and there was hard work that really had to be put in outside of the sessions. I had to have some really emotionally intense conversations with family and friends, but I could say it was all for the better. Of course, I was not “cured” overnight and my depression did not miraculously disappear but I am doing much better, most days. Most importantly I had to come to terms with a couple of things I am sure I was unconsciously avoiding or not willing to admit to myself that I am still struggling with today. -Bella
Every time I entered both of my shrinks’ offices’, I wanted to immediately turn around and run. No one I had known at the time had receive this type of treatment, they’d usually just take the prescription from their physician and carry on. I felt absurd. I kept my family in the dark, I honestly did not know how to start this conversation with them especially through the phone. I was three weeks into my treatment when I finally went home to tell my family, as strongly suggested by my therapist. It was the worst plane ride ever. My depression was still very present and anxiety attacks would still visit me daily and as I started boarding the plane for a six hour flight I tried so fucken hard to keep my shit together. As soon as I got to my seat I put my hood on, closed my eyes and focused on my breathing. At the time my therapist was teaching me mindfulness coping strategies and my psychiatrist had started me on a really low dose of fluoxetine. I only moved to drink water and to exit the plane. My visit was nothing short of emotional. So many damn tears, not only from me but from all my siblings and mother.
I don’t remember the day I began to feel a bit more normal, in the sense that I wasn’t breathing erratically or almost crying all day or having major panic attacks. The medication began to work and I was beginning to become attune to my emotions. I was (still kind of am) someone who adheres more to logic than my emotions. Though a very sympathetic/empathetic person I struggle(d) to allow myself to feel what I am feeling most of the time. Therapy really helped with that, allowing me accept what I feel. I am quick to push my emotions to the side in order to get shit done; if it doesn’t help or will get in my way of doing or finishing something or make me feel weak, I don’t want to feel it. I have realized how detrimental it is to one’s emotional/mental health and still struggle to accept and embrace certain emotions. When I cry, I no longer feel ashamed or weak. When I feel sad or hollow I allow myself sit in those feelings. I don’t wallow in self-pity, instead I embrace my feelings and ask myself why I feel this way.
Slowly, I began to venture out into the world again. Going out again, hiking and feeling confident with both school and work. I felt emotionally and mentally better. But I did not feel like the same person from before the episode and it was frustrating. And I constantly compared myself to old me, pre-2012 clinical depression episode me. I couldn’t concentrate as well, I was far more emotional, too much exposure to sun would make me dizzy and I struggled with both vertigo and hypochondria. I was mad at myself for always automatically feeling/being cautious of everything I was doing. Constantly second guessing myself in things I never had before. It was learning my new limits and I hated it.
I continued weekly therapy for 5 months and then did biweekly sessions for about 4 months and decided to stop taking fluoxetine 6 months into treatment. I decided to use the medication as a crutch until I felt confident enough that I could handle both minor depression episodes and anxiety attacks with the mindfulness strategies my therapist had taught me. My psychiatrist didn’t necessarily agree with my decision, but it was something I wanted to at least try. I continued with practicing mindfulness, yoga and better communicating and accepting my emotions. For about two years I did not have a major depression episode, only those little bouts that lasted 2-3 days but nothing I felt I could not handle on my own. And then it felt like my world came crashing down slowly and I was drowning while burning at the same time. – Bella
Depression and anxiety are two afflictions that run in my family. As I grew older they were something I saw firsthand and learned more about. Hence, when my second episode hit me in the summer of 2012 I knew exactly what I was dealing with, but I did not know how to deal with it. This episode was different in that I was aware of what was happening to me, I was far from home and anxiety had been thrown into the mix. For most of the summer I thought I was going to die or pass out at least 3 times a day. Though sometimes I did wish I would just pass out so I would no longer feel my physical manifestations of my anxiety. I stayed in most of the time for anxiety attacks along with vertigo and shortness of breath followed me everywhere I went grocery stores, social events, work, the metro etc… I had even forgotten how to breathe naturally. I only felt semi okay in my apartment. I went on for almost three months trying to manage my symptoms as best as I could with the help of my two amazing roommates who never hesitated to comfort me as best they could. During this entire ordeal I had never mentioned to my family what I was going through, I did not want them to worry, but they were one of the main reasons I decided to seek professional help. I finally went to my schools counseling center. It went against all my natural instincts to sit there and explain why I was seeking help. I wanted to run out of there. As I sat there explaining and answering, what I believed were rather invasive, questions I was telling myself that I sounded stupid, I was being dramatic and I was weak. I was judging the hell out of myself for asking for help. The head psychologist scheduled me for two sessions a week, one with a psychiatrist and the other with a therapist, until my symptoms were under control. And for the first time in what felt like a fucken eternity I did not feel completely hopeless. –Bella