Self-Actualization and Living with Major Depressive Disorder
I was spending the morning in a local park, it was a beautiful sunny morning, wandering through the rose gardens. Then walking among the trees where birds were chirping and the squirrels were running around unafraid of the humans milling about. A woman that was standing near me made a comment about the bracelet I was wearing and so I turned my wrist toward her to show that the white beads were made from bone. Not really thinking about it I turned my wrist over to show her and that’s when she saw the visible scar of my last suicide attempt. It is still healing. Also visible were the white scars left from the previous attempts. The look of discomfort was now on her face and she didn’t comment, she just walked away. In that moment I felt alone but it didn’t bother me like it would have before. I knew how lucky I was to be there. The bracelet is worn to remind of that every day of where I don’t want to be again.
The topic of suicide is one that will make people either uncomfortable or angry. People cannot understand why someone would think of ending their life. The stigma surrounding mental illness is still a topic of debate. Most still want to sweep it under the rug or push it to side to be dealt with later. People are afraid to talk about it. I’ve never actually been sure why? I just know I was one who wouldn’t openly face up to it. I was afraid of what people would think of me. I already felt like an outcast and didn’t want to be “kicked of the island”, so to speak. That changed and I’m no longer afraid to admit that I have major depressive disorder. Facing it is the first step to learning to manage and deal with the thoughts. To find a better way.
On August 11th, 2014, Robin Williams, a very well-known comedian and actor committed suicide. It left the world in shock that a man who brought so much joy could fathom doing something so dire. It was later revealed that he had numerous serious health issues and depression was a part of it but most likely a debilitating brain disease was the cause for his actions. I remember that day because I was in the middle of my own mental health crisis and thought if this man whose laughter, smile and work couldn’t keep him from going there then how could I possibly overcome it myself? I felt lost but wasn’t willing to give up hope. I continued fighting it.
I recently turned 46 years old. I am in the middle of my life. My children are almost grown. I should be in the middle of a career and planning for retirement if I was going by so called normal society standards but I’m not. I am and have always been physically healthy and rarely get sick but my emotional state needs to become stronger. My emotional state has been keeping me from reaching my full potential. I have been on this path to self-actualization and healing for quite a while. The first step on the path I’m walking on actually started after I made the first attempt at ending my life at the end of 2013. I had been pushing the thoughts down for most of my life and it finally became too much. It was finally time to face it, change it, manage it and overcome it. I couldn’t let this disorder define me anymore.
Depression is defined as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act” while suicide is defined as “the act of killing yourself, most often as a result of depression or other mental illness”. I had the thoughts of suicide since I was about 12 but never actually made an attempt. I was able to work through the thoughts and kept pushing forward.
As I got older the depression turned into self-esteem and confidence issues. It wasn’t until recently during a group discussion that I realized that I had been dealing with it through engaging in harmful behaviors such as gambling, drinking, smoking, binge eating and spending. Behaviors that defined who I was for most of my marriage and the same behaviors that I have been steadily getting rid of for 10 years. I quit smoking 11 years ago and we no longer keep alcohol in the house. I developed my own coping mechanism for the spending and gambling by keeping very little cash on me and leaving my ATM card at home if I leave the house to drive around and calm down. Binge eating is the next behavior that I continue to battle with but the exercise routine I’m working on is helping with that.
We talked about dealing with the momentary thoughts that propels the behavior as riding the wave or Urge Surfing. I had never heard that phrase before and found out it was actually a technique used to help people with addictions from relapsing. The technique is to “take a pause, step back and visualize their craving (thoughts) as an ocean wave — riding with the urge as it starts to ripple, then rises and crests, and eventually falls”. Learning this mindfulness technique along with walking and yoga has been helpful to my own recovery. The urges are starting to subside but I still have a ways to go.
Each counseling session I attend is peeling back another layer of truth to the trauma beneath the disorder with hopes that one day I will no longer need to attend quite as often as I do. That one day I can move through the emotions just as easily as anyone else while managing the thoughts and not letting it spiral out of control. The first step was to face the trauma and deal with the people behind it. There are so many out there that do not have the same opportunity I have been given. Whether it’s due to socio-economic reasons, location or just willingness. They do not have the opportunity to start over again.
So now, today, I envision what my future holds for me. I think about finding someone to share life with and accepts me for who I am. I think about my plans for creating a business one day. I think about completing college. I think about where my children will go and their future families, my future grandchildren. I think about traveling to far off places I dreamt about long ago. I think about trying new things and pushing myself. I think about the beautiful things I want to create.
I think about the things I would miss:
Beautiful sunrises Breathtaking sunsets Laughter
Warm breezes Dancing Music
Love Kisses Hugs
Holding hands Falling leaves Snow
Walking in the rain Splashing in puddles Sandy Beaches
Spring flowers Full moons Soft pillows
Walking in grass Art Literature
Architecture Perfume Fashion
Movies Cool sheets Warm blankets
Cool breezes Thunderstorms Green trees
Mountains Oceans Chocolate
Strawberries Cake Ice cream
There are so many things out there. There is so much to live for and I almost missed it. I couldn’t see it because the sorrow and pain was a like a blindfold and all I could see was darkness.
I couldn’t see what a gift I had. The gift of life. Most take it for granted every day.
Those that emotionally, mentally or physically suffer cannot see it because the focus is on the pain and they become withdrawn. They are the ones who need to see it the most. They need the compassion and understanding of someone, anyone who is willing to listen and understand them. They need that calm, unwavering voice to fill them with hope again. Sometimes that is all it takes a kind word, gesture or the just the action of holding out your hand to them. To let them know they belong here and that they’re not alone. Sometimes all it takes is to let them know “It will be okay.”
Thank you for taking the time to stop by.
I hope peace, love and happiness finds you today.
That there is clarity in your thoughts and your actions are purposeful.
YouTube Video Inspiration about Depression.
This May Save Your Life-Motivation-Inspiration-Depression