I never asked to be ill. I’m sure no one jumps up and down begging, “Pick me, I want cancer!” I don’t see anyone paying to contract AIDS. I also can’t picture anyone smiling when told they have the “gift” of Multiple Sclerosis. Believe me, I was not crying tears of joy at getting my Mental Illness diagnosis, especially at age 14.
Twenty one years later I am still questioning, “Why me?” I had all these future plans that have since crumbled like an avalanche because of my Depression label. Normal life events are tremendously stressful on me not only mentally but physically. As far back as when my Depression started I can pin point the typical everyday life event that caused it:
At 14… we moved from my birth home to another state where I started high school knowing no one.
At 18… I felt neglected and unimportant as my adulthood birthday was almost ignored as my mother had to take care of my grandmother. (I do not blame my mother at all for this now).
At 20… I had stressful classes at college.
At 26… I gave birth to my daughter.
At 28… I had climaxed at my job and was dealing with demanding responsibilities as the sole employee and the fact that I had no where else to go.
And, at 34… I was given another child through fostering who was to become our son but sadly he had to be removed because of me falling into Depression’s arms again.
So, why me? Why was I given this present? Why every few years do I feel nothing? Why do I become apathetic, hopeless, helpless? Why do I become exhausted, achy, teary and anxious?
This gift, Depression, is genetically linked on my paternal side seeing more faces than I care to list. Over and over I have asked whatever higher being is up there, “Why me? Why am I the ‘lucky’ one?”
Over the last 20 years of struggling, including a plethora of appointments with psychiatrists and therapists, multiple medication changes, and research, I have gained much knowledge on the topic of Depression. I have gained insight on how it affects me and what works for me in regards to recovery. And now, although I still sometimes ask, “Why me?”, I have started to wonder if this illness is really a blessing in disguise. Is my Depression a gift?
Recently at the Warrior Mom Conference, I learned that Thriving Mothers, or Thriving People in general, invite their Anxiety in for tea. They embrace their Anxiety. I have decided to apply the same principal to my Depression. I am letting my Depression join me for coffee and cake. I am hugging it, listening to it, wholeheartedly embracing it. By doing this, instead of wondering “Why me?”, I am learning what these decades of succumbing to this illness has taught me. I am learning that it is indeed a gift. It is a teacher and I am always the ever curious student.
I’ve learned that my body could be pushed to limits never imaginable and still bounce back. Even though I never thought I would return to my “typical” self, I did and in less time than before. I learned that with every bout of Depression I become stronger mentally and eventually physically as I push myself to beat this illness. I have learned that there will always be sad days even if I am in recovery and that I need to listen and be aware of my body’s alarm system. I have learned to appreciate the simpler things in life… Something I needed to do considering the intrusive thoughts I have had. I have learned to love those around me who support me no matter what and this circle of people has only grown over time.
I have learned that by suffering from Depression a multitude of times it has given me a few great gifts…
The gift of inspiring others… to seek out help whether from myself or their support systems and to come forward. I shed tears of happiness when I am told, “You inspired me to tell my story,” or “I wanted to thank you for being such a positive role model.” In my darkest days the word inspiration being associated with myself would never have happened.
The gift of writing… I can’t express how many words flow out of my head when I discuss my Depression, Anxiety, articles concerning Mental Illness, and images I see with inspirational messages. It has brought back my writing talent I had as a child.
The gift of explanation… to my daughter. To be able to explain mental illness to a child and have her understand is amazing. To have her still love me after explaining thoughts and feelings while ill makes me happy.
The gift of slowing down… A hard one for this Alpha. I always have to be doing something. It is very hard to relax for me. I have since learned to turn down added stresses to my life. I am already a full-time worker, mother to a young girl and am PTO Treasurer for her school. I do not need any more on my plate. I have also started to meditate. It may only be 4 minutes a day right now but for those 4 minutes I am focusing on nothing but my breaths and it feels great.
Now, instead of always thinking “Why me?” which I still do every now and then, I have turned my negativity into positivity… Now, I have begun to ask myself, “What can I do with my gift of Depression? How can I help others? What has it made me realize about myself?”