It Does Get Better

I’m sad. I’m sad and to tell you the truth, I couldn’t even tell you why. It’s 12:27am, I’m sitting on the floor of the guest bedroom with my computer on my lap and I have tears streaming down my face as I write this. I feel a crushing sadness – one that feels like an elephant on my chest. Suffocating me, ensuring that I don’t catch my breath, knocking the wind straight out of me. As I’ve grown into adulthood I’ve learned more and more how important it is to not only take responsibility for your mental health, but how crucial it is to learn your triggers, to learn ways to recognize what has the capability to knock you off track so you can learn to mitigate them. It is not an easy or fast process. It is frustrating, it is exhausting, and it is hard work, but it can be done. If I have learned anything about adult-Hannah, it’s that she is more than capable of putting in that hard work. I’ve done it time and time again, since I was 16 years old and was able to put a name to the ailment that had been living in me for as long as I could remember. I will admit, when I was 16 I was much more dramatic and I thought I was forever doomed to the prison of misery in my mind; a damsel in distress with no one to rescue her. Seasoned with almost a decade of experience living somewhat of an adult life, I have a few pointers for that sad, confused 16-year-old girl. Hindsight 20/20.

Fortunately, I have a smart, capable, talented, beautiful little sister. Unfortunately, she struggles with depression too. While I remember being that age and I can remember what that hollowness and helplessness felt like, it also seems like it was a lifetime ago. Everyone struggles differently, and everybody heals differently. What has worked for me may not work for my sister. We do bond over the fact that we understand each other’s minds, but I do struggle to come up with advice for her because frankly, there is none. The thing I remember most from the time in my life that she is currently in, all I can feel is the negative. All I can remember is wanting to escape, to get away from home and to feel something – anything that wasn’t this. It’s hard to live with a not-so-inaccurate dark cloud looming above you; like the ones in the antidepressant commercials. Only sometimes it feels like a cloud and sometimes it feels like an elephant. I wish I could do more, but I try to do whatever I can to make my sister’s experience a little better, a little less lonely, and to let her know that I understand her. The feeling of being truly understood when you are in a depressive state is more comforting than any “chin up, it’ll be okay” or “I’m sorry, everything is going to get better.” Feeling misunderstood when you are in a place where you can’t even understand yourself is alienating at the least and maddening at the worst. While I do empathize for my sister I am honest with her. I tell her that it’s so important to learn to take care of herself when she gets into a bad place, because this feeling she has may not go away. I am honest with her about my struggles too, so she sees that while you might not be able to stop it from coming, you can get better at making the bad times shorter and the good times longer. It makes me sad to know that my sister may continue to feel this for another decade. But I know she’ll be strong and she will get through it. She’ll learn that there are more good days than bad, and that it gets a little bit easier every time she works through it. She’s stronger than she thinks she is.

2 thoughts on “It Does Get Better

  1. You followed me on Twitter just now (thank you!) and I clicked the link to your latest writing. Immediately, I felt like I was reading my daughter’s writing. The descriptions of her depression are identical. Similarly, she began her dark times around the age of 16 too, I think. It’s so relatable to me but from a parent’s perspective. I brought my daughter to all of her appointments, counseling, psychiatrists and partial/inpatient programs to help her learn coping skills. They only helped for a short time and then the depression would hit again. She was a cutter, usually her thighs but sometimes her arm. Break-ups with boyfriends hit her the hardest but different work or friend situations also caused her to hurt herself. 2018 was the most difficult year for her, at 22, when she broke up with her boyfriend of 2 years. She attempted suicide, although I don’t know for sure if it was a real attempt or if she was trying to get help. She said the belt strap broke on her door. Her psychiatrist pretty much gave up on her, after years of trying different medications with no luck. She said the last suggestion she had was to try Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which she went to every day for 4 weeks, but that just gave her headaches. Then she tried Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), which she went to 2-3 days per week for 6 weeks, with no luck. That also gave her headaches and temporary memory loss, plus it made her feel more suicidal, so she quit that.

    Then gradually things changed. She seemed to have given up on doctors and started to concentrate on herself more. First, she decided she should have never left her boyfriend, so she begged him to take her back. He was somewhat cold to her for a while but she stayed with him and he softened up again. Then she quit her job, which she didn’t like very much, and accepted a new job where they are much nicer and the work is much better. She got a new psychiatrist and a new therapist, both of whom she likes a lot. It seems her depression really was situational and she needed to take the steps to correct whatever situation was cancerous in her life. She’s 24 now and still not out of the woods. I don’t think she’ll ever be totally well and I suspect she’ll be right back down again if she loses her boyfriend or her job or something else bad happens, but she does have a little different attitude so I could be wrong. Maybe she’s learned how to shorten the bad times and lengthen the good as you wrote. She occasionally texts me to say she’s not feeling well and she doesn’t know why. I talk to her for a little while, then she does something which helps. She plays with her cats and ferrets or watches an uplifting movie, I’m not sure, but she seems to have figured something out. I’m crossing my fingers that I don’t get one of those texts or phone calls where I need to go to the hospital again. Those are the worst for a parent.

    I just wanted to let you know that your story, your situation, is very relatable. I hope you continue to manage your depression and I pray that your sister learns quickly because I know that sometimes what is considered a learning experience by most people could be something completely devastating to someone with depression who doesn’t yet know how to manage it. Thank you again for the follow and especially for writing this.

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    1. Wow, thank you so much for your comment. First off, I admire and appreciate your daughter’s fight. She and I are the same age, and I can relate heavily to the experience you describe. This was my first post about depression, though I have hundreds more laying in wait for a braver day. I think sharing a personal struggle is always hard, but it makes it easier knowing at least one person can understand. We all learn our coping mechanisms, and it’s a long hard road for many to get to a stable place with depression. My thoughts and love go out to you and your daughter, living with depression is a constant self-evolution and I’m glad to know she is learning more about herself & how to manage it 🙂 have a great evening, thank you for reading.

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