I’ve had depression for much of my life. Of course, I haven’t been depressed all the time for my whole life, but it’s come and gone in various degrees for as long as I can remember. But the long cycle of depression I came out of about six months or so ago was the worst I’ve ever experienced. And having really acute emotional pain on a daily basis for months and months changed me. Before, my depression sucked and often impacted my life negatively, but it didn’t consume me. When I finally came up for air it took me a while to realize that I had changed, but I had.
My self confidence was shot
Spending more than a year with your brain bombarding you with the message that you are ugly and worthless and unlovable is pretty hard to recover from. Even after my depression subsided, I still had a much lower self confidence than I had before. I had gained a little bit of weight, which didn’t help because it’s long been a sore spot for me. I also felt less capable, less kind, less competent than before. It’s something I’m working on in therapy and with my actions, but it is taking me a long time to undo the damage. Part of how I’m recovering is just by living my life like the person I want to be and hoping that my brain catches up.
My priorities were different
I used to be a fairly ambitious person. I wanted a job that was important and had an impact on people and was difficult to succeed in. That ideal job changed a few times, but I always wanted to have professional adventures and be well respected, and that always made me lean towards professions that are very time consuming. After my bad depression, though, I started to focus more on building a life that was pleasant on a day-to-day basis. My priorities shifted and I became much more concerned with a good work/life balance. Now I’m in grad school for a profession that is meaningful but not all-consuming. I focus more on my family and home life. I prioritize Mike and our dog. I make time to spend with friends. I talk to my mom on the phone as much as I can. I try to do things that make me happy, like blogging and cooking. My ideal life looks radically different than it did three years ago. Now I want to be a person with a job that doesn’t feel like a chore, with a lot of friends and loved ones, with the time to have fulfilling hobbies.
I take better care of my health
When my depression got bad, I sort of let it. I put off going to see a psychiatrist until it was intolerable. It took me a while to get off my ass and find a therapist I clicked with. Now I’m on top of that shit! I had been off of medication for a while, but a few months ago I started to feel a little down again for no reason and I thought my depression was coming back. So I saw my psychiatrist and he put me on a low dose of a medication that has worked for me in the past. It’s been very helpful in keeping me normal. I exercise more. I see my therapist regularly. I’m more aware of what I need to do to be OK and I do it as best I can. That doesn’t mean I’ll never be depressed again; I probably will. But with any luck, next time won’t be so bad because I already have a system in place for taking care of myself.
I hate depression, and being depressed was probably the worst thing that ever happened to me. I don’t think anyone comes out of something like that completely unscathed. I see that period of my life as a dark chasm that separates a more carefree time from my adult life. I mentally separate things into before, during and after. But some of the changes that came out of it were positive, and I’m working on the ones that weren’t.