The first time I ever dealt with depression, I was 16 years old. My childhood was far from ideal. My parents split while I was young. My Mom is bi-polar and is an addict, while my Dad was distance while dealing with his own depression.
Also, at the age of only 15 I gave birth to my daughter. While I will never regret her, I can’t deny the fact that this was unbelievably hard. Her father and I ended up going separate ways, so for the majority of my teenage years we went through several custody disputes. However, the disputes weren’t really between us, they were between our parents. It was a bit of a messy situation.
I was drinking and partying a lot and I had little respect for myself or my body. I didn’t know what depression was at this time or how to deal with it. I was up all night and sleeping all day. I hardly passed high school. I ended up taking courses online just to graduate.
I didn’t want anyone around me to know that I was struggling because I couldn’t even be honest with myself about what was going on in my head, let alone my friends and family. I lied to everyone on the days I just couldn’t physically pull myself out of bed. It was like my bed was the only safe place for my loneliness.
I would say I was sick or that I had a family emergency because I just could not face the truth. There was something wrong and I had no idea what. The first time around, I ignored my depression and I never learned how to truly overcome it. I wish I knew then, what I knew now.
I Joined the Army as soon as I turned 18 and left my small hometown for the first time. The Army gave me structure and I didn’t have the option to be depressed to that degree anymore. I had to get out of bed or I would lose everything.
For the first time in my life I felt like I had everything to live for. This isn’t to say I had nothing before, but my depression was getting in the way of me seeing that. My daughter, my family and my country needed me, and I was here to serve them.
My new-found purpose pushed me to pursue the gym. The first unit I was in when I joined the Army was physically demanding and I was the only female in this unit at the time. I had to learn how to keep up and how to be just as good as the guys. I fell in love with the gym and everything that included health and fitness. The way working out made me feel, the results, my strength and my ability to be stronger than I was the day before. I learned about nutrition, I became personal trainer certified and I put my whole heart into it.
Fast forward 3 years and I had completed 4 marathon ruck marches, 2 bodybuilding competitions and a local CrossFit competition and I had been promoted to sergeant. My whole life was completely transformed.
The next wave of depression hit in late 2017. I had lost a few friends to drugs and alcohol and this took a big tole on my mental health. My mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer.
I didn’t understand how to handle my grief. I threw myself into a bodybuilding competition that I thought was just a new fitness goal of mine but really it was an outlet to ignore the pain I was in. By the time I was finished with that competition, I was burnt out. I quit working out and eating healthy. I just completely shut down. I had ignored my issues for so long that it felt like it just blew up in my face. My outlet for my pain was gone. I began retreating into myself and pushing everyone away. Thinking no one would understand and I would be better off alone.
I lost a relationship that meant the world to me because of this. That was my true wake-up call. I couldn’t deal with my own reality and that was the last straw. I was forced to deal with my depression at this point or I would lose everything I had built.
Thankfully the Army has free counseling and I started going once a week. I never go to the point of needing medication but was pretty close. I didn’t care what it took at this point though, I was determined to do anything to take my life back.
Also, this time around the world is different. Mental health is talked about more. The stigma is still there, but more and more people are speaking out about their experience with depression and anxiety. This time around I was not afraid to ask for help.
My mother survived cancer and has been clean for five years, my father is no longer depressed and is retiring this year and moving to Florida at 48. My daughter has a l gigantic family that loves her more than words and we are all on the same team, we steer away from courtrooms these days. The friends I lost will remain in my heart. I will continue to be a survivor. I am fortunate to have a large support system that stuck by me through everything. I could not be more thankful.
I say this all the time, but music and fitness saved my life. Without them I wouldn’t have had the tools I needed to fight depression. Along with the habit changing that I mentioned above, I reminded myself why I loved working out in the first place. My purpose for working out wasn’t to get shredded and look great. It was to feel great mentally, physically and emotionally. Self-worth, self-love and authenticity are things I hope to emulate throughout my time here on this Earth. I want to inspire others to love themselves and be their truest self at all times. Being honest with myself and having authentic people in my life have led me to be who I am today.
We are all survivors of something in some way. I have survived depression. It doesn’t mean I’m out of the woods. It can always come back, even with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, I know that I am never alone. There are people out there that can help me. I hope you know that too. You are never alone. You are worthy. You is kind, you is smart, you is important.
What Does Depression Mean To You?
To me depression feels like a weight on my brain. Everyday feels like a battle with myself. Things that used to be important to me, no longer are. My goals seem so unrealistic. It’s like I’m running for them and they keep getting further and further away. Everyone’s depression is different, everyone deals in different ways but for me, depression feels like I’m waiting to stand up again and I’m waiting for the chair I was glued to, to be the thing that’s far away.
How Did You Overcome Depression And/or Self Harm?
I have never considered self-harm or personally dealt with depression to that that extent. I overcame depression by reminding myself that getting better was not a race. Every day would be a new challenge that I needed to take on one step at a time. Each day I would set a new goal. Something small so it didn’t overwhelm me, so it didn’t feel unobtainable. These goals were small things like going on a walk, going to the grocery store, cooking my meals for the day, playing with my dogs. These are all things I knew I enjoyed before but had lost interest in because my depression was consuming me. Once, I accomplished this goal, I would feel like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel and that I was going to be okay. Somedays were obviously harder than others but I fortunately had a great support system that got me through it. I also went to a counselor once a week.
What Advice Would You Give Someone That Is Battling With Depression And/or Self-Harm?
My advice for someone that is dealing with depression would be to say it out loud. Admit that you are depressed. It is not something to be ashamed of. Asking for help, whether it be from a friend, family, or a counselor, shows bravery and courage. Also, look for the root of the issue, be honest with yourself and see what habits enable your depression. For instance, mine is watching re-runs of sitcoms that don’t stimulate my mind in anyway. It is a way for me to just feel numb and pretend like the world around me wasn’t happening. I had to challenge myself to change that pattern. I replaced it with something that would stimulate me instead.
What Do You Believe Are Some Problems That The Media Brings To Females That Battle With Depression And/or Self Harm?
I believe that you can’t fully blame social media. There are a lot of reasons someone can be depressed, however, if you are depressed social media does not always help. Social media is for highlights. Most public influencers only show the good things like their shredded bodies, their nice cars and nice houses. That person you see on social media may be struggling financially because of those “nice things” or maybe they are struggling mentally because they don’t like their bodies or themselves. A lot of people in today’s society base worth off of looks and what you have. Men and women both feel the pressure to look a certain way and have certain things. Social media is not reality and when you have someone’s highlights in your face all day long, it can be hard to see the highlights in your reality. Authenticity is a problem in social media. Showing the good and the bad in your life leaves you vulnerable and open to a lot of criticism. The world is changing and currently loving yourself for who you are, the good and the bad, is a trend and I really hope it is one that is here to stay. If you follow someone on social media that makes you feel bad about yourself or wish you were someone else in anyway, I encourage you to do a cleanse. Get all of those people off your timeline and replace them with people who share a positive message and make you feel great about yourself and encourage and motivate you to reach your goals.