Elena Sledge to Kara Mayer Robinson
I have suffered from depression for almost 12 years. I’m 31 now and I found out I was suffering from severe depression when I was 19.
My freshman year of college was miserable, but I really don’t know what went wrong. I saw a therapist, and the following summer, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Looking back, I can see that I was depressed in high school too.
Accepting my diagnosis was a process. I’m having a hard time understanding why I’m depressed and where it’s coming from. In my opinion, I haven’t experienced anything bad enough to warrant major depressive disorder.
Treatment helps. My therapist normalized and validated my experience. At one point, she told me, “You have depression because you have depression.” That’s something I’ll never forget.
I realized I needed to accept my diagnosis and take steps to help.
Over the years, I have been in therapy. This helped me the most.
I was also on various medications. When I was first diagnosed, I was on an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) for about 2 years. The effect wears off gradually, but it helped me a lot initially.
I tried other medications such as other SSRIs and SNRIs (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) for a short period of time. They help when I need it. I’m 100% for mental health medication, but I don’t think it’s needed right now. I might try again if things change.
I also made many lifestyle changes. I started working with a personal trainer two years ago because I barely exercise. I feel stronger and more energized. I still work with the same trainer 4 days a week.
By exercising, I try to take care of my body in a way that makes me feel good. I also focus on getting enough sleep. I hardly drink alcohol. I focus on maintaining my routine and taking care of my mental health.
support from friends and family
I’m very lucky to have the support that I do. I do a lot of work to maintain intimacy because relationships are very important to me.
My husband, who is wonderful, also suffers from depression. Many of my friends and family have experienced depression or other mental health issues, so they have a lot to understand.
It helps to have someone who listens, cares and takes the time to talk to you about what is going on. Social support is great. I believe that relationships are very important for growth and healing.
I don’t experience depressive episodes all the time now, but I find them easy to fall into. It’s funny because my brain really knows how to be depressed. In a way, it’s so familiar and comfortable.
Sometimes I struggle with feelings of failure. It comes up most often in my work. I am a mental health counselor. Having a private practice and trying to help others can sometimes be overwhelming and trigger depressive thoughts and symptoms.
I had to do a lot to manage my thoughts and not start humiliating myself. To release my emotions, I write them down or confide in someone. I also reframe my thoughts into more compassionate thoughts, such as “I’m fed up,” “I’m trying,” or “It won’t be like this forever.”
I still sometimes spiral when too much is happening. My main trigger is being overwhelmed by personal and world events. The world events of the past two years have certainly had an impact. It’s easy for anyone to feel hopeless and hopeless these days.
I know my triggers and I try to be proactive. I do my best work when I’m getting enough sleep, staying active, managing my schedule effectively, and showing compassion. Depression loves to hold onto doubts. Thoughts of “you’re a loser” or “it’s never going to get better” can grow quickly.
my biggest obstacle
My biggest struggles were in my early twenties and early 20s when I was suicidal. Many times, I feel emotionally out of control and wonder if I can save myself. My symptoms are bad and I need more support. I feel like the treatment saved my life. Medicines are also important. I got over it by then, but the negative suicidal thoughts still come up.
life and ups and downs
In my early 20s, my ups and downs were more intense and severe. The roller coaster can still be tough, but I do experience more peace at this stage of my life.
When I feel good, I feel good. Sometimes I feel okay.
To cope with the ups and downs, I relied on what I knew was helpful, like getting therapy, getting support from friends and my husband, and staying active.
what i know now
The most important thing I have learned is that I am not my depression. It’s something I experience and live with, but it’s not me.
Depression has helped me grow and expand in ways that I might not otherwise have. I don’t wish to choose it for anyone, and I wouldn’t choose it for myself if I could. But it’s the hand I’m dealt and it’s okay to see how it shapes me.
It makes me more compassionate. It inspired me to become a therapist with a strong therapist I once had. It pushes me to support others.
I used to really resent my depression, but I don’t anymore. As bad as it has been over the years, it’s an important part of my life and it’s helped me in so many ways.