I was diagnosed with severe depression when I was 15.
There were many components as to why I fell into such a deep darkness, and each of them was analyzed and picked apart by my therapist for three years straight.
I saw my therapist once per week for three years, and we never fell short of things to talk about in our hour-long sessions.
Most of the time, my brain was running a mile per minute, and I would stumble over my words.
She always gave great input, and I can't think of a single time I dreaded going to see her.
For three years, we worked through my problems, tested depression medications and dug deep into my mind to try to turn the negativity into something a bit less.
When I chose to stop going to therapy, my therapist and I both agreed I was at a place in my life where I could control my depression.
She never once told me my depression would go away.
She always softly reminded me depression is something I would have to deal with for the rest of my life, almost like an addiction.
I have never been so thankful for those reminders.
I am now 22 and have been out of therapy for the last four years.
My depression still lingers every day of my life.
While I know how to control it now, I still find myself experiencing days when I feel like the world is crumbling around me.
There are days when my alarm goes off, and it takes all of my energy to convince myself to get out of bed and face the day.
I should say I am very happy now.
I am in a lovely relationship with a fantastic man, and we have a toy poodle who is the light of my life.
Despite waking up to my beautiful little family, I still have days when I can't seem to shake the feeling of depression.
If you have never experienced depression, please consider yourself to be extremely lucky.
My depression came all at once.
I remember the day very clearly.
I had been feeling down for a while, but I would never have thought to say I was depressed.
The moment I knew something was wrong was when it felt as though half of my brain was removed from my skull.
I couldn't focus on anything, my chest felt hollow and everything around me seemed to darken.
I was literally living the expression, "being surrounded by a dark cloud."
It was that day I contemplated suicide for the first time.
I didn't act on it, but I thought of every single detail down to the song I hoped would play at my funeral.
I didn't stop to think these thoughts were completely outside of anything I'd ever thought of before.
I was absorbed in the idea.
It was several months later when I finally began going to therapy, which was a choice my mother made once she found out I had been cutting myself.
I am thankful for her making that choice because I know had she not, my depression would have killed me.
In my adult life, I have found that taking steps to make sure my depression doesn't come back haven't been as much of a challenge as I once thought.
I'm lucky enough to have built a nice life for myself, but I know not everyone has that luxury.
The best advice I can give to people who have been living with depression — whether or not they have defeated the highest hurdle, or they're just beginning to seek help — is to simply breathe.
Breathing exercises were introduced to me when I began therapy, and they have proven to help even in the darkest of moments.
In all of the times (and there were many) I thought of suicide, I would force myself to focus on my breathing.
How many breaths was I taking in one minute?
Was I breathing in for five seconds and out for 10?
Was I making sure to breathe in my nose and out my mouth?
When you divert your attention to something as simple as breathing, it becomes cathartic and also brings your anxiety levels down.
If breathing techniques don't work, try writing.
Aside from therapy, writing played a large part in saving my life.
It started with a composition notebook and hours of writing about how I was feeling.
Even if your first page consists of nothing but descriptions of the weather, you've made an effort.
Slowly integrate emotions into your writing.
If you are thinking of harming yourself, write it down and read it the next day.
Do this as often as you possibly can.
I still go back and read some of my journal entries as a nice reminder I am no longer in that frame of mind anymore.
It helps when the days seem to drag on, and the darkness finds a break to creep into.
It always gets better.
Even if the depression won't ever go away entirely, there is always a light.