Depression means different things for different people. Whether it's something you've dealt with your whole life, something that was triggered by an event or something that frequently comes and goes, one thing is certain: Depression steals so much from you.
I suffered from mild depression for most of my life, but a particular event triggered a massive breakdown that led to a diagnosis of major depression.
Before experiencing that massive episode, I was a completely different person. I was fun, adventurous and passionate about the things I loved. I traveled the world, cared about social and political issues and spent as much time as I could with my family and friends.
I would experience depressive episodes here and there, but it was never to the point where medication was being prescribed, where suicidal thoughts became actions or where hospitalizations were a reality.
One day, all that changed: Moments and times that could be spent living life were taken from me. These are some of the things I've lost in the fire within that two-year timeframe.
1. It steals your family and friends.
When I'm in the midst of my depression, I become this ugly and negative person. My family and friends do as much as they can to support me, but, of course, there comes a point when it becomes too much.
As much as depression changes me as a person, I'm also aware of what it does to those around me. Depression isn't just sadness. It's irritability, moodiness and sometimes anger — things that make it difficult to be around a person.
With that being the case, I tend to withdraw and isolate myself. I always assume that it's contagious, so I do what I can to stop it from spreading. This, of course, strains my relationships. I've lost friendships because of this and people I was once close with now keep me at arms' length.
The thing is, you can't really blame them. I'm well aware of how difficult it is being around this and even more aware that these symptoms can get out of control.
2. It steals your pride and distorts your self-image.
Depression has convinced me I'm ugly, worthless and unlovable. All of my insecurities come out, which has caused other monsters to surface. Monsters, such as eating disorders, debilitating anxiety and panic attacks come out of nowhere.
You're convinced that everything is your fault, that you're the reason terrible things happen, and that you've become this hassle and annoyance to those around you. This distorted self-image can be so intense that thoughts of death sadly emerge.
For those that drown in these thoughts, suicide can easily become a reality. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide accounts for more than 44,000 deaths a year. For every successful suicide, there are 25 attempts made. Unfortunately, I'm included in those statistics with two attempts spanning the course of 10 months. But there is help!
3. It steals your physical health.
When someone I haven't seen in a really long time compliments me on my weight loss, they usually ask if I've been working out. Usually, when this comes up, I smile and say yes.
In reality, the 30-pound weight loss that I've experienced in the last two years is a result of my struggle. What you really want to say is, “Thanks. It's the depression.”
When you're in the midst of it, your appetite becomes nonexistent, your energy is so low that getting out of bed becomes a chore and body aches and pains become a daily occurrence.
And if you're put on medication, starting something new or adjusting your current dosage – a different kind of physical trauma can occur. The side effects of starting or adjusting any medication can include anything from manic behavior to tremors throughout the day.
The side effects usually do go away within time, but when you are in the throes of it all, it can feel never ending.
4. It steals meaningful moments.
There have been several moments in the last two years that should have been amazing. Moments that should make me smile when looking back at them. One of those moments was being a bridesmaid at my niece's wedding.
It was the first time my whole family came together like that in years. It was an event that should have been filled with laughter and joy, but, unfortunately, depression stole that day away from me. What I remember most when I look back at that wedding isn't the dancing or the bride walking down the aisle, it's the emptiness I felt.
Instead of living in these moments, the heaviness of depression outweighs any laughter or happiness that you should be experiencing. It robs you of the enjoyment, the excitement and that indescribable feeling of being alive.
When looking back at those photos, everyone sees this beautiful person with a big smile looking like she's having the time of her life. Me, I see the loneliest person in the world who's dying on the inside. That, in itself, is pretty depressing.
5. It steals your youth.
“You'll never be this young again,” is what I hear constantly from friends trying to get me out.
Instead of these statements inspiring me to begin living my life, they make me feel incredibly guilty and regretful. I'm aware that I'm letting these years slip away. It destroys me knowing that I'm spending my youth fighting this illness instead of having fun like normal people my age are.
You force yourself to have a good time, you force yourself to smile and laugh and you force yourself to be that young, carefree person that's expected of you. When depression is there, it's nearly impossible to “snap out of it,” no matter what's going on around you.
Depression steals all of it. It steals the time you could be spending enjoying life. It steals your weeks, months and years. Time doesn't care about your struggle, it stops for no one, not even depression.
Although depression is still a constant that continues to steal so much from me, I haven't given up. I'll continue to see a therapist, continue taking medication and continue fighting until the intensity of it subsides.