I taught Daina many years ago when I taught her in 9th grade English Honors. Her quick wit and overall sense of humor were a delight to have in the classroom, and Daina had a hard time hiding the mischief in her eyes. Needless to say, I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with her over the years. Our shared love of Disneyland and Disney history is just one thing we have in common, as we are both comrades in the fight against depression. At my request, Daina was gracious enough to write about when she first realized she had depression and what that was like for her as a teenager. This might have been a little difficult for Daina to really isolate for herself because she also combats a chronic autoimmune disease called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), so I appreciate her being able to really focus on when she was 17-years-old.
Before I was diagnosed with depression at the age of seventeen, I was probably one of the few most enthusiastic, optimistic, and positive people you’d meet. I was in high school, was popular, busy with school activities, and running for student council. Everything seemed perfect until I turned seventeen. At the age of seventeen, I started getting really depressing thoughts like “Why even go? You’ll just sit alone and be miserable” and “Is there a point to this?” I thought this would be a temporary state, that maybe I was just feeling negative and needed to perk up. I tried everything I could that would normally work to cheer myself up until one day I had the thought of “What if I just killed myself?”
Now, I’m not the kind of person who normally has these thoughts, and it freaked me out. I could feel myself sinking into what I know now recognize was clinical depression. I could fake smile and act like everything was normal, whereas my mind kept telling me, like that fabulous eighties movie starring John Cusack, that I was better off dead. I felt like I was being sucked into quicksand and nothing could save me. I prayed, but nothing happened. I tried to convince myself I was happy; it didn’t work. It got to the point where I had suicidal thought on a normal basis. This continued until I told my mom about it. I was extremely nervous; what would she think? Would she judge me? Would she not understand? To my wonderful surprise, she said, “I know how you feel. That’s depression, sweetie. I have it too.”
I had heard of depression before, but never thought that I’d ever have it. I was a positive person who did all the right things and was active in school. I didn’t do drugs, drink, or have sex; I was the perfect Mormon girl. To hear that I wasn’t alone in this experience was a complete shock to me. She listed the symptoms of depression and I checked out on every one of them. She called our doctor and made an appointment to get me on medication to help me.
Next thing I knew, I was at the doctor’s office. “Depression, huh?” my doctor said. In my mind I thought, “You have no idea bozo.” He prescribed me Zoloft and I started taking it. Slowly but surely, it started helping me. One day I j stopped and thought, “I’m not depressed anymore,” which was a complete surprise to me. I continued on the medication, but eventually had to increase the dosage, since I was still having suicidal thoughts occasionally and other symptoms. Once I started that, I was much better.
I’m now twenty-three years old, served an LDS mission, and am still taking Zoloft. I feel no shame in admitting I have depression. Thousands, even millions of people have depression and I happen to be one of them. I still talk to my mom when I have my occasional bad days, and when I rarely have suicidal thoughts. For me, the best ways to kick it is exercising, working my stress and get my hormones pumping in my brain, as well as distracting myself with other things, like nannying for my sister, working on projects, hanging out with friends, have a good, solid support system, and immersing myself in other things instead of letting myself wallow in my depression.
If you’re reading this and recognize yourself in this, go and talk to a doctor or someone you trust. Just get help. This isn’t the end of the line for you. People love you, there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to move forward and have faith in your friends, family, and doctors if you choose to use that route. Keep pushing forward, even if you have to drag yourself to the finish line or the end of the day. It will get better. You’re not trapped. Have faith and trust yourself. You’re never alone. Ever.