I have been struggling with depression pretty much all of my life. During my teenage years, I managed not to hurt myself or commit suicide, although it ran through my head every single day. As I found out this past year, my parents had absolutely no idea on how much I struggled. Years went by, fighting with myself to accomplish what U wanted and not disappointing my family with possible failures., with no success in finding happiness in working as a nurse, and no success in finding happiness in Arizona, I managed to move to Colorado, away from being judged as lazy and not normal., and told of what I should be doing that would be best for me in their eyes. As much as I opened my mouth and tried to make them understand my wishes, my ideas of my life, my values and beliefs., they did not listen. I had nothing to lose. So I moved.

I knew for a very long time that something was not normal with me. Not with following the lifestyle that seemed to be the norm in the US, but with my thoughts and my body. It could not be that life should be and is such a struggle every single minute of the day. It could not be that there was nothing I could do for myself that would make me happy. I looked at my friends as having tons of other friends, constantly out partying and celebrating, being spontaneous when it came to trips and activities, while I was only able to go to work. Lucky enough being a massage therapist is a lot of physical work that makes full time not a 40 hour work week!. Watching TV was about all I could do. Eating junk food that could be heated in the Microwave was about all I ate. Keeping my home clean was nearly impossible. At least at that time I had two cats, they could keep each other company and were not so dependent on me.

I had a lot of life changes in a very short period of time, loss of job, sickness, the death of my Grandmother, money trouble, and chronic pain that limited me with daily activities and finding a job that I could actually like. I was so numb that I lost track of time. I was so overwhelmed with everything that I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. It took a lot of courage to reach out to the school counselor, luckily the school provided a limited amount of treatments for free. Big Bonus! We decided that I needed more time to heal so I was referred to a treatment close to where I live.

Another huge part of my recovery was self-care. I had to learn that self-care was a necessity in recovery, and not a selfish act. Taking time out of my day, even just five minutes, fighting the little voices in my head that were telling me that selfishness is not a good thing. I started telling myself that I am worth five minuted to myself., to do whatever feels good. I am worth it! It started with a shower, but a using a body wash that was special to me, that smelled really good. Then came the body lotion which made me feel pampered. But there were times when taking a shower was the hardest thing I did that day. Something that simple took all day and every effort I had to do. But that reward of feeling accomplished, and clean was the best. And letting this be the hardest accomplishment for that day was hard to accept. But again, I had to sit with it. This was how far I was in my recovery, that was all I could do at the time. An that was ok. I started adding things, like foot baths, pedicures, and manicures, yes, I got some fancy color nail polish that I always wanted and used it. I started listening to music more often, having the fireplace running, not watching TV, reaching out to some friends I knew I could trust and that were not too much work (energy wise!), going to group therapy and experiencing for the first time that community of support I never knew existed. And I started to cook again, something I really enjoy. And it felt good to eat healthy again. That along gave me the energy.

With any recovery, there are setbacks. There are good days and bad days. Someone who you trust and respect does something to hurt your feelings, and the world comes crushing down. It can be that simple. A gloomy day, a comment from your mother, something usually does not seem to impact other people, but that is all it took to set you back to the beginning. Dealing with road blocks, you need to understand that it is okay to have a setback. But the important part to remember is to not give up. An yes, some days I though that recovery was not possible. Going from one very good day, with laughter and happiness, and energy, to all of sudden falling into this darkness, sadness, hopelessness was crushing. But I had experienced happiness, and I wanted to fee it again. So I fought, hard, with baby steps, but it got easier. I got better faster. I reached happiness faster.

It was there that I finally got an official diagnosis of severe depressive disorder and general anxiety disorder. i was put on antidepressant medication, but developed side effects, and the side effects just became more severe with the changes in medication. So I decided that instead of treating the chemical imbalance of my brain with other chemicals, I would try to change my behavior and my thought process to make up for the imbalance. I knew that exercising was supposed to help with depression, so with the help and encouragement from my therapist and peer support I started getting out of my home for about ten minutes at a time, only managing this once a week, pretty much only when I had my peer with me. I am a person who is very hard on herself and was very disappointed that I could not do anything more, or by myself. But I learned from therapy and my peer support that changing is very hard work. I knew that if I wanted to get better, I would need to move more, and managed to get out more with my support, and after a while went for some walks on my own. I even managed to sign up at the rec center and am going there on a somewhat regular basis , working out for an hour. The change in your body sure inspires you to do more. And having a peer support who is a bodybuilder!

I also learned to sit with what I was experiencing. I could not figure out what emotions I was experiencing. I was confused, and it felt wrong to even experience emotions. That was part of how I was raised, and the environment I was in. It took a lot of guts to open up about that in therapy, expecting to be judged, and told that I was not normal and that I should have been able to deal with all of this. I was expecting to hear that I am a wimp, weak, and I was telling myself those things. But the opposite happened. I was encouraged to experience my emotions, to just let them be and do their thing. They have a purpose! I learned to accept what I was experiencing was real. My depression is real. All the emotions that come with it are real. Nothing about anything I went through and am still going through is embarrassing, it is part of depression, anxiety, and childhood trauma and actually considered quite normal in the psychology world. That is huge more me to accept. It makes me happy to be able to recognize and give words to feelings, a whole new vocabulary I had to learn. I have all the feeling word sheets hanging around my home so if I get stuck, I look at one of those sheets and put a word to my emotion. The world is making sense.

Not having a purpose in my life made recovery pretty hard. I had to quite the best job out there, was still in school, and knew that it would take forever because I did not even know what degree I wanted to get in. I already accomplished in life what I wanted, following the biggest dream of a visit to Australia, and having experienced a great work environment working on people in pain and discomfort, overwhelmed by their and helping them set and achieve their goal of wellness and a pain free life. So what else was there? I knew what I did not want to do. Thankfully, after escaping my cloud of hopelessness, and getting to know my peer support more, and watching her enjoy her work to the fullest, I asked her more about what it was she was doing overall. It did not seem different from what I was already doing as a massage therapist, except the not toughing people part. After talking to several people about this, my peers support who got to know me pretty well and was and is the only one who actually saw me at my worst, and my best, and anywhere-in-between, my therapist, and some of my friends. I took the chance of applying to the pss program and got accepted. Huge boost in my confidence! Here I am, talking to you, telling you that there is a way out! Change for the better is possible. And you are not alone!

Looking back, I am proud of all my accomplishments. I am proud to recognize that I am a strong individual , who used courage, determination, persistence, bravery, stubbornness, and kindness, to note some of my strengths, to be where I am now, able to have a productive, healthy life, with a great sense of awareness and hope of a better future.

Monika’s Story