What You Really Need to Understand About Your Own Depression

You are not defined by your depression. You may be dealing with depression, anxiety & other mood disorders but they do not make you who you are & they do not define you.

You Are Not Your Depression

My Own Struggle With Depression

Unfortunately, my story starts at an early age.

Pretty much at the beginning of puberty I began to feel different & like something was “off”. Despite having a cushy lifestyle & a loving family things just did not feel right & I did not know why, nor did I want to discuss it out of fear of judgment, disappointment, & multiple reasons that made sense to me at the time but were all truly a refusal to admit that something was wrong.

This begin as early as age thirteen & around that age is around the same time I began having trouble sleeping, trouble focusing in school & it was about the first time that I pondered the idea of not existing.

Suicidal Thoughts

The way I saw it, I didn’t like the idea of life if it was to be how it was at that time forever, & at that time it felt like it would certainly be that way forever.

I didn't reach out to anyone about it because I was terrified of the consequences, I didn't know if I would be taken seriously, & quite frankly I was embarrassed. Not to mention at the time, unfortunately, there wasn't as much as we now know about mental health & mood disorders.

My silence was the beginning of a downward spiral. Around the age of 15 I began experimenting with drugs & alcohol in secret because I was not happy with the way I felt & I wanted to feel something different. I was socially withdrawn, both from friends & family. I continued to skip classes, & began to give in to the way I was feeling. “This is life, & it is terrible,” I thought.

From Feeling Bad to Feeling Worse

Things became worse & worse until finally I decided I'd had enough & made my first attempt to take my own life. I'm not going to go into details but this continued on an almost near annual basis for the next decade with my final & last attempt being November 2016.

From Worse to Surviving

Truthfully, I wish I could say I knew what changed in me, but I don’t.

I was simply tired of going through the motions & it was becoming clear to me that my repetitive cycle was not going to work in any way shape or form. I always identified as being tired of life, but this time I realized I was tired of the way I was living my life, not life itself. I wanted to be different - I wanted to be Matthew, not depressed.  I wanted to be able to say “I am dealing with depression” rather than “I am the embodiment of depression.” I wanted to get better.

Finally, after years & years of embarrassment, secrecy, & denial, I began to seriously take the advice of the health professionals whose care I was under, as well as connect with my family & be more open about how I am feeling. I couldn't do this alone, & I knew that because I always isolated myself & got worse, not better.

Talking About Depression

Although I took years & years to take the steps necessary to put myself on a path to improvement I began to realize I am me, not depression. You're not defined by the things you feel, but who you are & the actions you take. The monkey on my back was simply that - a monkey. He might have been heavy, but he was on my back, not inside my soul. I did not need to identify with him as I did in the past. this realization helped me to understand that there was hope & that I could feel different.

The decade of doing damage to myself was not without consequences. I never received the education I had originally attempted to pursue, I have a terrible time keeping a job & sometimes it feels like there is too much lost time to make up for - but that’s incorrect.

Life With Depression

I know that at the end of the day there are steps that I can take to get better, & I'm taking those steps one foot at a time, even if, at times, it can seem like I move at a snail’s pace.  I just focus on identifying any challenges I may face in the moment they occur, & do my best to evaluate & solve the problem. If I can’t, I seek help. I also don't look back at the past & wish that I did it differently because the past is the past & it helped shape who I am today.

I implore anyone who has any inkling of a feeling even a little bit that something is not right to not dismiss it or push it aside. Be honest with yourself & be honest with those who care about you. Identify your challenges & tackle one at a time.

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The moment I stopped identifying with the problems in my life & stopped letting them define who I am, it activated a fire inside of me that got me hooked on making positive improvements in my life. Getting the help when necessary is crucial. Taking small steps everyday may not seem like much at first but you have these moments of clarity & Mindfulness where you take a step back & say to yourself, “Wow, I can’t believe how far I’ve come.” Do I have much to show for it? Currently, no, but I can feel it inside myself & that is enough to keep that fire alive.

Keep Going

Life has its ups & downs. not everything is perfect & I can't say that each day goes the way that I want or I that I feel everything is fine all the time but that doesn't mean that I am not okay. A snowball can go in any direction, & whether it's down or up it's going to get bigger & bigger. For now, & forever I have decided to choose up, not down.

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