Why Depression Has Been a Gift in Disguise.

depression

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” – Anaïs Nin

About eight months ago, I resigned from my job as a high school college and career advisor.

I didn’t hate it. In fact, I derived the ultimate feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment from knowing that the work I did directly impacted the lives of the students I served.

At school, I knew exactly what my role was. But outside of the building, my sense of identity had begun to deteriorate. I wasn’t sure who I was and what I wanted anymore.

For so long, I had based my sense of self on the needs and expectations of others. I was afraid of upsetting the people I loved so I gradually re-aligned my life to fit their concept of me.

On the surface, it appeared as if everything was great. I had escaped my small hometown and was living the big city life. I had a vibrant social network. I was very successful at work and being vetted for a promotion that would double my income.

But, my body told the whole truth.

My mind became foggy and it was difficult to concentrate on any one thing for very long. Even efforts to think about what I wanted to do next were met with a mental haziness.

Somedays, I just didn’t have the energy and I would allow myself to sink down deep, vaguely aware that I was losing ground but finding the descent so deliciously comforting.

My thoughts felt heavy. My emotions felt heavy. My relationships with other people felt heavy so I isolated myself. Because I was so acutely aware of the changes in my body, I was convinced everyone knew something was wrong with me. This was something stronger than sadness.

I was ashamed at how low I was but realized I would need support to help pull myself out. When I spoke to my therapist about what I was going through, she evaluated me and eventually diagnosed me with depression.

Initially, I was shocked but not because I didn’t believe myself to have the symptoms. I clearly met the criteria. I was unable to accept the diagnosis because it didn’t fit the self image I had constructed.

I was the one everybody looked up to and drew strength from. I was supposed to have it all together. I had spent my entire life perfecting the art of being OK. Depression shattered those illusions and left me disoriented.

Even though I had studied depression as part of the psychology curriculum in college, experiencing it in my own body completely negated everything I thought I knew about the illness.

My therapist suggested that I speak to a psychiatrist who after several consultations and much protest from me, prescribed me anti-depressants. Within a week or two after starting the medication, my mood started to improve.

I wasn’t exactly happy but I could focus and make decisions again. My productivity increased and I realized I had energy to get things done which boosted my confidence in my abilities.

When I was able to think clearly, I had to admit to myself that my depression had been triggered by my unwillingness to listen to the inner voice that was urging me to grow beyond the experiences I had tethered myself to.

I was living in a city that left me feeling cold and disconnected. I was doing work that was no longer aligned with my vision for my future. I had stopped writing completely and had delayed the relentless and inexplicable urge to travel to Southeast Asia for one too many years.

Not only was I feeling guilty about not following my dreams, I felt like a fraud. I received weekly emails from readers who had been inspired and empowered by articles I’d written on courage and authenticity over the years. Yet, there I was, paralyzed by fear, living a life I knew no longer fit my way of being in the world.

There came a point when I was more afraid of what might happen if I continued to ignore the whispers within my spirit, than I was of quitting my job and venturing out into the unknown.

I gingerly excavated my dreams of writing and traveling the world. I decided that I would finish out the school year and travel in the Fall. As soon as I set a clear intention, I began to witness little moments of synchronicity. I called to myself all of the support and resources I would need in the next phase of my journey.

Though I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone, for me, being diagnosed with depression has been a gift in disguise. It has shown me the power and necessity of truly connecting with and being led by my intuition. It stripped away an outdated identity, giving me the opportunity to redefine who I am and what I value. It forced me to strengthen my relationship with myself and to be more intentional about self love and self care.

Most importantly, though, it provided a much needed warning that spurred me into action and reminded me that I am able to create my own reality. Once I remembered my power and took back control of my thoughts, my life, and my journey; my mood shifted significantly.

I would not go so far as to say that I am “healed” from my depression but my newfound sense of hope has created just enough space in my mind to consider the possibilities of what my future might hold for me. For someone suffering from depression, hope can be everything.

depression

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11 thoughts on “Why Depression Has Been a Gift in Disguise.”

  1. What a wonderfully written story, and I’m happy it has a happy ending. I completely relate to how you felt, and it mirrors how I feel today. I have worked 22 years in a job that gives me little satisfaction, but I’m both treated and paid well. I also suffer from depression, and much of it results from the fact I’m not happy feeling like a fraud for “selling out”. Since I’m so far in, I can retire in 7 years and I feel like starting over. I’m wondering what medications you had that helped improve your mood, I’m only on an anti-anxiety and have no clue what would work for depression.

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad my post resonated with you. I suggest speaking to your doctor or psychiatrist about other medications that might be helpful. I was strongly against taking them and only agreed to it as a short term option. They helped clear the mental fog and gave me the energy I needed to make some of the difficult decisions I had to make. However, a major change came from being diligent about my thoughts. My therapist used cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and suggested I read Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dave Burns. I started to become conscious of how my negative thinking created and sustained my negative mood. I’m now at the point where I can literally feel myself slipping into a depressed mood and “catch myself” by becoming aware of what I’m thinking and challenging or changing those thoughts. It’s not always easy and sometimes it’s hard to pull myself up but it’s a lot more manageable. Instead of feeling like you wasted 22 years at your job, you could focus on the lessons you’ve learned and the skills you’ve developed that are transferrable to whatever your next endeavor might be. Telling yourself that you’re a fraud is obviously not going to make you feel that great. What if you commended yourself for your commitment and dedication? What if you viewed your job not as something that defines who you are but rather, only a means to support yourself and your family? You don’t necessarily have to wait 7 years until you retire to start over. Everyday is a new day that you can choose to do more of the things you enjoy doing. It doesn’t have to be something drastic like a new career path, it could simply be inserting more fulfillment into the life you’ve already created. I’m interested, what would you like to do?

  2. Fantastic piece at the right time for me. As a survivor of abuse, I still struggle with depression and other issues. Sometimes it is far too easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are okay. This gentle reminder certainly gives me something to keep an eye on as I go through my days.

    Being okay isn’t okay, right? We have to be better than okay.

    Thank you so much for this, I appreciate it!

    1. Matthew,

      Thank you so much for your comment. There is so much strength in saying, “Hey, I’m not OK” and seeking help. It’s unfortunate that we’re socialized to view reaching out to others for support as a form of weakness. I really wish more people would view that as a first step, rather than a last resort. I checked out your blog and I think you’re incredibly brave for sharing your story. As a writer, I know how difficult it is to be so transparent and vulnerable.

      1. Hey, I am glad they are taking any action at all. Yeah, it would be easier if they did something about it earlier, but it is better than not doing anything, right?

        Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate that. Every day is a process. This is why I loved writing a piece for the Change Blog too. It opened my eyes a little to how many people struggle with depression and abuse.

        You’re the best, thank you so much! I’m going to post this on my blog as part of a round-up I thought about!

  3. “my depression had been triggered by my unwillingness to listen to the inner voice that was urging me to grow beyond the experiences I had tethered myself to”

    This right here sums up a dilemma, or should I say a blessing, that I too have come to the realization that I am connected to things that contradicts my talents, beliefs and passions. That voice seems to get louder for me when I am and have been totally out of touch with who I am. For me trusting my intuition has and is leading me on a path that is suited to talents and passions, because previously I was doing what I thought people wanted from me.

    1. Wow, it’s so funny because I was just having a conversation with my friends about opening yourself up to intuition. It truly is a blessing because you have greater sensitivity to whether experiences are in alignment with your true self. On the other hand, it can be even more painful when you don’t “listen.” First, there’s a whisper with a hint of a suggestion. But if you don’t take heed, it becomes louder and louder until the call is unbearable. Being diagnosed with depression was like my spirit had gotten a hold of a bull horn lol. I’m learning to take immediate action when I intuition speaks. I wish you many blessings and gentler lessons.

  4. Thank you for your informative article and helpful insight. I’ve dealt with depression in my life and it’s horrible. Fortunately I was treated and recovered. I know articles like this one helps people related and fine hope.

  5. Your article struck a true sounding chord within me! One of the many characteristics of depression is that we tend to feel like we are the only person on earth going through anything like this. What a drastic difference to know we are not alone! Thank you so very much for your candid approach and honesty. It means the world, and can make a world of difference.

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