By Lisa Huddleston
I have just spent the last hour or so cleaning up my messy office, filing papers and magazines and other junk that has been lying all over my desk for the past few months, putting away pencils and pens (finding my “lost” scissors!), and generally tidying up around my workspace. This and other recent actions demonstrating an interest in my surroundings cause me tentatively to feel hope regarding my mental state. I think I am beginning to feel more like me again. Just maybe the cloud is lifting.
Friday evening I attended a Creative Arts Potluck at church and thoroughly enjoyed the discussion at my table, the music performed by the singer/songwriter, and the “talk” given by the visual artist. I even felt a tiny tingling urge to create again. Although it is a little scary because I am not at all sure of myself, just wanting to create is a sign of returning health. As is the fact that I am writing this post.
Frankly, even my previous post expressing huge frustration over how long it has taken to get the help I need was a good sign of me becoming me. I was at least writing something.
So … breathe in, breathe out. And wait to see if the trend continues. I just talked to my doctor, and he too sounded hopeful; although he reminded me that it will probably be two steps forward, one step back for a while.
And why am I writing this post today? Do I really need to share my personal medical situation with random readers?
Yeah–I think I do. I want to encourage anyone who may be feeling like I have been to begin the process toward recovery today. As I wrote last week, it may be a long road before you find the help you need. The sooner you start taking steps in the right direction the better.
First step: talk to people you trust to get references for the name of a trustworthy counselor. That may seem obvious, but it can take a while and could be harder than you think. I reached out to three friends who I know have experienced depression, but I did not actually see a counselor for several weeks because of the time taken writing emails back and forth, scheduling conflicts, and so on.
Second step: ask your counselor for the name of a good psychiatrist who can manage your medications if any are needed. I have gone the route of getting antidepressants from a general practitioner’s office in previous depressive episodes and felt very much as though I was acting as my own psychiatrist–I asked for what I wanted, and they gave it to me. Seeing a psychiatrist was a very scary step for me, but a necessary one. I need to have someone who is a better psychopharmacologist than I am choosing and managing my medications. It has been a great help being able to ask any questions I have and receiving well-considered, educated, and experienced answers that I can trust in response. Hugely helpful!
Third step: stick with it. There have been many times over the past few months when I have wanted to give up trying and just sleep. But this morning I am thankful to have hung in there in the strength I had–through the anxiety, the nausea, the self-loathing, the doubt, the shame, the humbling step of asking others for help, and so on. I have hope again. And hope means the world to me.
I have learned a lot in both my research and experience. Depression like mine is likely to return–but treating it quickly and in the best possible ways can help to lessen both its frequency and severity. I am thankful for those who are willing to speak out despite the stigma, because their experiences have helped me to get moving in the right direction–even if it is still two steps forward and one step back. And that is why I am writing to share my experience today. I hope it makes a difference for someone else (maybe you?). Hope truly means the world to us all.
I recommend Andrew Solomon’s work, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, if you are interested in learning more about this illness and its treatment.
Special thanks to all of you who contacted me saying you were praying for me when I couldn’t pray for myself. God is faithful.