I was diagnosed with depression a few weeks after my 17th birthday. The months leading up to my diagnosis had been turbulent at best. One good hour was often followed by many bad days. Eventually my good hours were spent anxiously anticipating the next storm.
I fought my battles silently and didn’t think anyone could help me. I felt like there was no way out.
Subsequently, I failed tests, struggled to complete homework, neglected important relationships in my life, and slept a lot. The struggle before diagnosis had been so difficult that, when I finally showed up to my first session of therapy, I was almost anticipating the word, “depression.”
What I didn’t expect was that receiving a diagnosis was really just the first step.
After my therapist evaluated me and explained that these rain clouds were actually caused by the chemicals in my brain I was relieved.
I was sick and I was ready to get better.
But things didn’t turn around with one visit to the therapist.
During the first month of therapy I experienced more bad days than I ever had before. Looking my illness right in the face was not easy at all. I came late to school daily and probably ate a little bit too much chocolate. It’s impossible to describe the pain I was in. But, unlike before my diagnosis, I now had people helping me get better.
I eventually started taking medication.
There’s no such thing as a magic pill and in the mental health world this couldn’t be more true.
It is extraordinarily difficult to find a medication that reduces mental illness without too many side effects. Like many patients the first medication I took was not the right one for me. My therapist reminded me each week that things would get better. That I wouldn’t be like this forever. So I closed my eyes and rode the roller coaster of life. I soon found the right meds and the right dosage.
I cried less and talked more. At some point I stopped listening to sad songs and started listening to hopeful tunes. Eventually I found myself looking forward to, instead of dreading, my weekly therapy appointments. It has been a year since my diagnosis of depression. The beginning of this journey was painful at best, but I am here. I got into college. I have reconnected with my friends. And I’m smiling daily. I have been reminded of the joy and love and positivity that exists within life. Each day is better than the last.
I’m not done fighting my mental illness.
Now, instead of experiencing symptoms helplessly, I know how to take care of myself. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t practice one of the many techniques I learned in therapy. One year ago I was driving home from my first therapy session crying harder than I had ever cried in my life.
Today I wake up having never been more thankful for the moment when my therapist looked at me and said, “it seems like you have depression.”
I owe my parents, doctor, therapist, teachers, and friends an enormous debt of gratitude for the progress I’ve made. But, most importantly, I am so thankful to myself for not just getting through this year, but even enjoying most of it.