I remember when I was in preschool, at Kinderplatz, in the music room gathered on the rug around the books with the rest of my class waiting for school to start. I was wearing a red turtleneck with a navy jumper, and a big red bow. I had just sad down to my friend and next thing I knew, another girl shoved me aside and said “You can’t sit with us because we’re wearing pink.” I had a real life Mean Girls moment in preschool. Both my friend and this other girl were wearing pink dresses with colorful snaps down the front. That was the first time I remember feeling small and unwanted.
When I was in kindergarten, I was in a half day kindergarten, so I began my mornings at daycare. I remember one afternoon, upon arriving at school, I was crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason. Not only did I want my mom, we had a substitute that day so my day was already a bit thrown off.
When I was in fifth grade, my best friend and I were playing house, and we always liked to dress up. I started to develop sooner and my friend made the comment one day that I could no longer wear cute clothes. I was devastated.
At the end of fifth grade, I remember crying randomly about having to make the change to middle school. Sixth and seventh grade were ok, but eighth grade was miserable. I missed many days of first and second period. My teacher thought I was just skipping, but in reality, I was waking up every morning with severe nausea from stress.
When I started high-school I went through a period of time when I cried myself to sleep every night. I remember one day sophomore year, standing in the choir room with tears streaming down my face. It was the Monday after spring break. Every time I tried to open my mouth to sing my eyes flooded with tears.
By junior year of high school I agreed to go to a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with depression. This was no surprise because of my family history. My mom suffered from depression, and my maternal grandmother ended her own life when she was only twenty nine years old. Depression runs in my genes.
I still was not ready to admit that I needed counseling so my doctor prescribed me an antidepressant and I went about my day to day. When I started college I visited the campus psychiatrist who continued to prescribe me my antidepressant as long as I would see a counselor. I still wasn’t ready, so I no longer had my antidepressant.
My first senior year of college, I finally got tested for a learning difference. We learned I am mildly OCD, and have ADHD and minimal short term memory in addition to my depression and general anxiety. I went to another psychiatrist who gave me medicine for ADHD and that seemed to also help with my mood.
And then more change happened.
I was finally ready to admit that I needed help. I began seeing an on campus counselor once I started graduate school, switched to a pastoral care counselor, then to a short term counselor, and then to a long term counselor. My psychiatrist and I continued to try different medication combinations until we finally found one that worked.
But even the perfect concoction isn’t perfect. I was taking a sleep medication that helped with my insomnia, but I couldn’t wake up or function normally unless I got twelve hours of sleep. I’m lucky if I have eight hours straight to sleep. So yet again, we are on the search for a medicine combination that works.
It might seem odd for me to share such a personal medical history, but I’m sharing it because I think people need to be aware. Mental illness is often seen in a negative light. I went to seminary with a girl who said that people with insomnia are crazy and she didn’t want to be involved with anyone with it. We don’t hang out anymore. Part of that is my own doing, and the other part is her. It’s hard to be friends with someone who thinks less of you.
I have struggled with depression my entire life, and will continue to struggle with it for the rest of my life. But it does not define me. Sometimes I let it, but a mentor and friend of mine told me that bad days are just when you’re depression is lying to you. That’s a good way for me to look at it. It keeps me from letting myself be defined by my depression. It keeps me from living in it daily. Yes, there are days that my depression is harder to live through than others, but I know that come the next day or the next day or the next day this feeling will be gone, and I’ll be my true self again.