How it Felt and How Recovery Went
Whatever your mental health issue- be it depression, anxiety, social anxiety disorder (and any number of others)- there is a light at the end of the tunnel- recovery.
This can be substantiated- true life, personal stories of recovery:
Deborah, “Let me tell you right away that I am uncomfortable recounting my experience with depression. Not because it’s painful to talk about (though it is), but because I created this web page about depression to help other people, not to go on and on about myself.”
Deborah talks of her depression from the time she was 2 years old, through her teenage years and into college- where things went well…until they didn’t.
“I was in my last semester of school, worrying about finding a job in time so that I could stay in Boston with my boyfriend, and panicking over the prospect of being entirely on my own. The semester before I had been raped by a male friend, and this may have been a trigger. My roommates would try to coax me into going out and bar-hopping (which I normally loved), but I just didn’t feel like it. My moodiness got worse and worse, and I was constantly fighting with my boyfriend, through no fault of his.
The next few years I went in and out of major and minor depressive episodes, although I didn’t recognize either for what they were. I remember a few periods of doing nothing but dragging myself to work and, in my free time, reading romance novels.
I had been dating a man for a year who not only was depressed himself, but was an alcoholic. I had been pressuring him to make some sort of commitment to me, without understanding why it was so important to me. Finally, the morning after a particularly nasty argument, as I lay in bed, the sound of his car driving off made me crack. I started screaming and couldn’t stop until I was hoarse. Shaken, I called my family doctor and asked for the name of a good psychiatrist. I saw the head of psychiatry at the local hospital a few days later. I remember sitting in his office twisting my hands together in my lap as he asked me about my family history and my symptoms. At the end of the hour, he told me he thought that they could help me (the most beautiful words I could remember ever hearing) and that he would set me up with a therapist and a psychiatrist at the hospital’s mental health clinic. He also mentioned that they might want me to go on medication, an idea which I negated immediately. I had hated taking medication since I was put on tranquilizers for migraines when I was a teenager.
The next few weeks, which were at Christmas time, were horrendous. I went to a dear friend’s wedding but was only able to endure half an hour of the reception before escaping, crying on the drive home. I kept a hold of myself all Christmas Day but started crying hysterically as soon as I left my parent’s house, and cried all the way home.
Things got slightly better after the holidays, and I was going to therapy once a week. I was gaining insight into what made me tick, which was helping me to a great extent in my relationships. However, it was not alleviating what was steadily growing into a shrieking storm inside my head. In early spring I sat in my bedroom and decided that if this was the kind of pain I was going to live with for the next fifty years, then life would hold absolutely no appeal for me. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t thinking of suicide, but I’m sure it would only have been a matter of time before I sought that relief. I told my psychiatrist that I was ready to try whatever medication they wanted to give me. He put me on Norpramin, which is a type of antidepressant. The side effects (dry mouth, shaking hands, dizziness in the morning) were unpleasant, but I was determined to stick it out for the six weeks they told me it would take for the medicine to take effect. This was my only chance at having my life back.
Not only did I get my life back, I got a new life. At first, I noticed only that the noise in my head was fading, and I was beginning to take an interest in things going on around me again. But as the weeks went on, a whole new personality emerged. Instead of the classic clothes in smoky colors I had always worn, I now was gravitating toward flashy clothes in bright colors. Now I wanted to draw attention to myself – I loved it! I, who had always been so shy, was now smiling at strangers and eagerly entering into conversation with them. I was suddenly interested in everything: food, clothes, science, sports, history, etc. Not only did I have a thirst for knowledge, but I also had the energy to follow through on it. I read voraciously, but for the first time I wasn’t trying to escape into a make-believe world; I was fascinated by the one I inhabited.
I’m begging you, if you think you have depression, get help. Although it’s true that not every case is as successful as mine, around 80% of people who have depression can be helped. I’m not advocating medication for everyone. I have a friend whose outlook on life has been changed by psychotherapy as much as mine has been changed by the combination of medication and psychotherapy. Every case is different. Your best bet is to educate yourself as much as possible about this illness in addition to seeking professional help. Depression is a terrible, soul-stealing illness. I don’t know if we will ever be able to eradicate it, but from my own experience, I know that the tools to defeat it are there. You owe it to yourself to give those tools the chance to rescue you from the pain and emptiness of depression.” (Deborah M. Deren, My Experience with Depression (her blog- WingofMadness.com Depression Guide), in Stories of mental health & personal experiences, MentalHealth.com)
Melanie Higgins, “I had all the typical life stressors of a married working mom. One spring I had a birth control device implanted that apparently threw my hormones and mental well-being out of whack. I switched to part-time work that summer because it allowed for a bit more rest and less stress. But when I returned to work full-time in the fall, I began having odd flashes of fear. And when people around me felt sick, I did, too.
These incidents were brief, but I knew they weren’t normal. I started to worry more about my family becoming sick. I recognized that my fear was irrational and this concerned me. One October day my husband reported that he had an upset stomach. I was completely overcome with fear, worry, and anxiety. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t eat.
I sought help immediately and I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder or GAD. I began taking medications,
Today I feel stronger because I no longer worry about anxiety, and I know that I can rely on a number of successful coping strategies. My new lifestyle of yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, walking, relaxing music, a diet roughly based on Ayurveda (I’m still learning), and the avoidance of stressful or overstimulating situations has brought peace to my mind. I have let go of negative feelings and I don’t get upset as easily as I used to.
I will stay on my current medications a bit longer and continue counseling, but less frequently. I know there is a chance of experiencing anxiety in the future, but I will be able to face my challenges with strength rather than fear.” (Melanie Higgins, My Journey to Peace, Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
Social Anxiety Disorder
Ricky Williams, “I was 23, a millionaire and had everything, yet I was never more unhappy in my life. I felt extremely isolated from my friends and family because I couldn’t explain to them what I was feeling. I had no idea what was wrong with me.”
Williams’ fears escalated at the start of his professional football career for the New Orleans Saints. With high expectations to perform, Williams was thrust into the limelight. Often portrayed by the media as aloof or even weird, he was known for conducting interviews with his helmet on and shying away from fans. He could barely interact with his young daughter or leave his house to do errands. What most didn’t realize is that by simply talking to a reporter, a fan, a member of the community, or even his own family, Williams was struggling with the very root of his problem.
Williams later learned he was among the more than 15 million Americans who suffer from social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia. People with social anxiety disorder have an intense fear of being scrutinized by others in social or performance situations and of negative evaluation. In short, they are literally afraid of people. And more than one-third of people with this disorder report symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking help.
Fortunately for Williams, a good friend suggested that he see a therapist. “When I first met Williams, he could hardly look me in the eye,” said Janey Barnes, the therapist who diagnosed him and started his treatment program. “Like most people with this condition, Williams thought he was just shy or strange, but it was clear to me that his anxiety was debilitating, which is very different than shyness. Luckily, social anxiety disorder is highly treatable.”
After his first therapy session, Williams began his road to recovery. “After I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, I felt immense relief because it meant that there was a name for my suffering. I wasn’t crazy or weird, like I thought for so many years,” said Williams. “As part of my treatment program, my physician prescribed an antidepressant, in combination with therapy. Soon thereafter I was able to start acting like the real Ricky Williams.” (by Leslie Anderson, Ricky Williams: A Story of Social Anxiety Disorder, Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
As can be seen, recovery from mental illness is not “strolling into the sunset”. After all, life is full of stressors- day to day obstacles to be faced and overcome. But these are stories of real recovery.
Each person reached out for help… and got it.
And this is where Counseling on Demand comes in- reach out.
We are online at www.CounselingonDemand.com
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