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JT’s Story

“It gets better,” is a phrase I’ve hated for years and continue to hate to this day. People used to tell me not to worry, that the depression I was in was only temporary and I would get better, I just needed to give it some time. Yeah right. I was diagnosed with depression in early June 2012. My family moved to America in July of 2012. I was hospitalized for the first time in late August. The first day of school to be exact; my first day at an American high school. I was stuck in a depression for a long time and it is something I would never wish upon anyone. I hated everyone and everything – specifically myself, my mom, my family, my house, my school, America and everything in between. I felt so much hatred towards to my mom and for no real reason. I blamed her for all my problems, and everything was her fault, even when the problem had nothing to do with her I would still find a way to pin it on her. I would continuously lash out at her, hoping she would give up on me. I wanted her to give up on me because when she did, that would be my confirmation that I was as totally worthless as I felt. In my mind, if she gave up on me, that would be my ticket out. I could check out of life without feeling bad about it. She never did. Thank God.

Having depression is like being mugged by five different people: hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, self-loathing and demoralization. Once depression had me, I became its prisoner. It chewed me up and spit me out. It took everything I had away and then left like nothing happened. This pattern was continued day after day until it became a part of my daily routine. I was at a point where I welcomed depression into my life, creating a space where it could live and grow. Eventually I forgot what it was like to be happy and how to enjoy the little things in life. Being sad was my new happy.

My diagnosis changed during the summer of ’14. I originally was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. My new diagnosis became Bipolar Disorder NOS. Now as if it wasn’t already hard enough telling people I struggled with depression, I was also Bipolar.

Anxiety and depression go hand in hand in my opinion. Anxiety is a scary thing. It’s so unpredictable; when it hits it’s crippling. When I was IOP (Intensive Out Patient), there was a girl who would always try to one up everyone. “Oh you had a nervous breakdown last night? Well I cut myself because I was so sad.” I hated her. The way she talked made what she was saying seem like a cry for attention instead of a cry of help.  All I heard when she talked was “pay attention to me, pay attention to me.” She wanted people to feel sorry for her, which made it hard to have any empathy for her. By no means am I trying to discredit what she was saying because she did have her own issues; but she belittled my anxiety, which at the time was incapacitating.  After meeting her, I noticed more and more girls use the terms ‘depressed’ or ‘anxiety attack’ to get attention. They said it like it was cute to get anxiety attacks or that being depressed was cool. That infuriated me.

Okay I lied before about not wishing depression on anyone. I did wish it upon these girls. I took it back shortly after because I truly believe that would be the worst thing to wish upon anyone. As much as I have used the word “Depression” or “Depressed,” I hate it. I hate that word. It’s overused and misused. The phrase “I’m so depressed” makes me mad because the person, who is saying it, is usually saying it over something that is causing temporary upset. Depression is not temporary; it’s a prolonged feeling and, you don’t get to choose when it comes and goes. It was antagonizing for me to hear others use the word so casually. I felt like any time I tried to bring up my struggles with depression with my friends, they took it with a grain of salt. They knew I was struggling but, the responses I was getting from them weren’t helpful. It seemed like they thought I was faking.

Imagine I am in the middle of the ocean and my friends are on shore. “I’m drowning,” I shout, hoping they can hear, hoping they can help me. “Maybe I should get the lifeguard” friend one says. “You aren’t really drowning,” friend two says. “Stop messing around and get out of the water,” friend three says. Now, if I could have gotten myself out of the water, I would have. I guess at that point I should’ve re-examined those relationships.

I blame the misuse and overuse of the word depression for that. The word depression or being depressed has been so watered down that the word no longer portrays the full intensity of the diagnosis. I stopped using that word when referring to myself because it felt like one of my favorite shirts that I let my friend borrow only for her to let someone else borrow it. By the time I finally got it back, it was all stretched out and no longer served the same purpose.

Like I said before, I was stuck in a depression for a long time. I was in and out of psych facilities and treatment centers from 2012-2015. I skipped school a lot because I didn’t care, and quite frankly I didn’t think I would make it out of high school alive. My relatives would always tell me, “Hang in there, life gets better,” I hated them all a little more each time they said that. Mental health workers would tell me that same thing, “It gets better. Trust me. Once you get to college, everything gets better.” I hated them even more- I couldn’t think far enough ahead to plan for tomorrow, let alone plan for my future. I wasn’t even planning on having a future. There was no white light at the end of the tunnel for me. It was just dark and empty. I wanted to die.

Early 2015 my life slowly started to change. I was introduced to DBT, Dialectical Behavior Therapy. Mindfulness. That is what DBT is all about. I hated that word. Still do but it’s what helped turn my life around. 2015 was still a rough year for me, but that was the year I got my driver’s permit, which is something I never felt the need for because I figured I would never use it. It was the year I started to love and appreciate my mom again. My sadness was shifting from black to grey. I was starting to see a faint light at the end of my tunnel. You would think I would be happy to see that light no matter how faint it was. Wrong. As soon as there was a glimmer of hope, I would put it out and go right back to being sad. I liked being sad. I wanted to be sad. I wasn’t comfortable being happy. I hate to admit it, but self-sabotage is a real thing and I did it, all the time.

It gets better. I hate to admit it. Thinking back on it, the reason I hated everyone who told me that was because I didn’t want it to get better. I wanted to let my depression win. My depression was the pilot for a long time. He had control and he flew my plane. Until one day, I can’t tell you exactly what happened or when it all happened because I’m not quite sure. But it was the day I asked if I could try and fly the plane. The answer was yes, but depression knew how self-conscious I was. He knew what to say to make me fail. After that, I didn’t want to fly the plane. I never wanted to fly it again. So I don’t know what possessed me to try again, but I did and I didn’t fail, well not completely.  It was that little bit of confidence, that little bit of hope that helped me become the pilot of my own plane. It was me vs. depression over who would take the pilot’s seat. Depression had a huge head start, an unfair advantage because he knew exactly what to say to knock me off my game, and he did, again and again. But he wasn’t prepared when I had a plan B.

Over the year of 2015, I had gained a new skill set, a set of coping skills. Slowly but surely I was becoming more and more resilient; I didn’t give up as easily. Depression was going to have to step up his game if he wanted to keep me down. It wasn’t until 2016 when I finally took over the pilot seat. 2016 was also the year I got my license and bought my own car. It’s the year I worked at a summer camp as a one-to-one with a kid who has special needs. It’s the year where I am continuously making goals and striving to complete them. It’s the year I’m planning for my future. It is the year where I don’t give in as easily, where I put myself out there and try new things no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. It’s the year I can finally enjoy and appreciate the little things in life, but most importantly it’s the year I started to love myself again. Depression still rides my plane, but now he sits back in coach. It does get better. Hang in there.