By Allie Hunt
I was in my early 20s, dedicating 18 months to church service in Texas, when my struggle with anxiety and depression began.
It was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, but I was completely miserable. Often, as we rode our bikes from one appointment to another, I would think about how easily I could steer my bike in front of a car and all my worries wouldn’t be worries anymore.
Despite being severely suicidal, it never occurred to me that I had depression. I was ashamed of my feelings, but luckily I got up the courage to talk about my intentions, got some counseling and started antidepressants.
I still struggled the entire time I was in Texas. I gained a significant amount of weight and lived in a state of constant emotional turmoil, trying to live up to high expectations and a tightly structured schedule. I thought life would be easier when I went home, since I wouldn’t be living the same stressful lifestyle. I believed my feelings of depression were purely situational. But I was wrong.
The transition home was rocky, and I went into a tailspin of an identity crisis, feeling like I had lost touch with who I was — and I still felt miserable.
I self-medicated by drinking heavily in an attempt to avoid the reality of everyday life, completely in denial that I was dealing with a mental illness. Instead of going out and socializing, looking for a job or trying to deal with this empty pit called depression, I consigned myself to isolation and misery. Growing up in a home where we didn’t discuss feelings, I had never learned how to cope in a healthy way, and although I had entertained the idea of going to therapy, I was not at all proactive in making arrangements.
Eventually I began regularly seeing a therapist by sheer coincidence. A snowstorm kept my aunt from traveling to an appointment, and I took it instead. I’ve been going ever since.
Therapy helps, but it isn’t a magic bullet. My day-to-day life is still difficult, and my mental illness often isolates me from the important connections in my life. I put relationships with loved ones on the back burner, causing people I care about to worry. I let potential romantic relationships go stale, which only exacerbates my feelings of loneliness and being unlovable. My performance at work suffers because I have to greet people and be engaging, yet some mornings I can’t even get myself to get out of bed, let alone shower and make it to work.
Feeling hopeful for the future is especially difficult. Having children terrifies me. The thought of having “pregnancy brain,” altering my medications, facing postpartum depression, and having to mother other people when I can barely take care of myself seems overwhelming and impossible. Wanting to live when I have depression often feels like a big ask of myself, and I know I am not alone in feeling this. Every day, there are those who lose this most difficult battle we each fight with our own mind, and I’m intensely familiar with those same feelings of hopelessness.
There are days, though, where I feel like my normal self. My head is clear and I can actually take care of myself. Those are my favorite days. Other days, I lay in bed because my body and brain won’t work. All I can do is take things one day at a time, try not to let the dread of the future get me down, and hope that tomorrow is one of the good days.
Allie Hunt is a student and aspiring therapist living in Salt Lake City, Utah. She enjoys playing the piano and uses music and humor to get through the day. She also works as an assistant to the Lives Unencumbered team.
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