By Shannon Kaiser
I used to cry myself to sleep every night. I walked around the cold Chicago city feeling lifeless, numb, and bored with life. At night the tears would always creep aggressively back in and rock me to sleep. I would obsess over my day and feel tremendous guilt and anxiety tied to my eating disorders, drug addictions, poor choices in men, and staying in a job I hated. These bad feelings would just push me back to my bad behaviors. I would do whatever I could to avoid the sinking feeling that I hated my life and myself, so I tried to numb myself with food, drugs, codependent relationships, etc. It was a vicious cycle.
Realizing something was wrong I went to my doctor. She diagnosed me with clinical depression and wrote me a prescription. As I opened the door to the pharmacy, an invisible wall literally pushed me back. It was as if a force field had sprung up in front of me, preventing me from getting the prescription filled. As I looked at the scribbled piece of paper, I had an awakening. Although I knew depression is a real, serious mood disorder that requires treatment, and that for many, antidepressant drugs are necessary, my inner voice said, “This is not you; you don’t need these drugs to feel better.” Just follow your heart.”
I’m not quite sure where that conviction came from. Although I believe that we all have that inner knowing of who we are and what we need, that voice had been muffled so long, drowned out with the thoughts of self-hatred that tormented me. That moment was the turning point of my life. As I ripped up the prescription, I made a promise to myself to always follow my heart and to start to ask myself why am I so unhappy. I realized, in that moment, that
I couldn’t control the world around me but I could learn how to control my own role in my life. I could continue to allow the world to happen to me, or I could happen to the world, meaning I could make a difference by becoming healthy and happy.
My thought was that if one less person in the world was hurting, then that is making a difference and helping the world. So I chose to take responsibility for me. No one else, just me. And the most glorious thing happened; I became happy. I found myself. I fell in love with my life and myself.
Instead of focusing on my diagnoses I focused on wellness. I put my attention to healing and moving through the pain instead of allowing that to be my final outcome. Looking back on the years I suffered silently in my depression I realize there are things I’ve learned from this painful time.
Here are 5 things I wish someone told me before I was diagnosed with depression.
1. Rock Bottom is the Premier Catalyst for Change
What I’ve learned is that in our darkness, if we are open, we can find the light. I hit rock bottom and it was the biggest blessing as it served as a shift for me to focus forward and pull my life together. It was a wake-up call and opportunity for realignment to my true self. The pain, addiction, sadness, and grief we experience are nothing to be ashamed of. It is an opportunity for personal growth and self-understanding. If you are going through a difficult time right now, you are not alone. You are being groomed for greatness. Give yourself the ultimate gift of living a fulfilled life by being present in your journey.
2. There is Healing in Sharing Your Story
Have you ever noticed your favorite song lyrics, the bestselling book or the memorable movie are drenched in emotion and epic battles of self-discovery? There is always a pain, but there can be beauty in the breakdown. When we share ourselves with others we open our selves up to be seen and cared for, we also build connections.
3. Comparing Yourself to Others Just Keeps You Stuck
When we look outside of ourselves at other people, we often self-sabotage our efforts to heal. Because we think things like they have it all together, or they seem to be healthier or happier, I must be doing something wrong. We blame ourselves and become victims. Remember this, If you are alive, you will struggle. Take comfort in knowing that part of being human is to know the struggle brings clarity. You can live your life fully by going into each moment and embracing it.
4. Thinking Your Don’t Have a Choice is a Choice
We may not have a choice about our diagnoses or actual situation, but the way we move forward and perceive the situation we have full control over. Make intentional efforts to focus on the healing instead of the struggle.
5. Trust Life More
If the situation you are in is causing you more stress than joy, it is a clear sign that the situation has expired. A lot of the times we stay stuck because we are holding on to things that we are supposed to let go of. So let go and watch yourself feel more freedom and joy. The reason most of us don’t let go is that we don’t have full faith in our future. Dig within yourself to find the courage to trust yourself and your life, because when you take the steps, one step at a time, your path will reveal itself—but you must first take the step.