Getting out of bed in the morning is no easy task for someone who struggles with depression or even other mental health illnesses, making everyday life more impossible as the symptoms worsen--things that people all too often take for granted. Hello, I am Kelsey Hoffman and I live with Dysthymia, mild chronic depression. The majority of my friends and family have no idea that I have struggled with this mental illness for many years now; I have become a professional at hiding it. For the longest time, I believed that this was the way to handle my depression. I have, over the years, discovered that this technique is in fact not the best way to handle my daily struggles. In fact, it is not a way to handle my daily symptoms at all, it never made them go away; it really just masked them from the world around me.
Dysthymia is a form of depression and is not as severe as Major Depressive Disorder. Though I can have periods of time where I am majorly depressed, this just depends on the person and their illness. Symptoms for Dysthymia are the same as Major Depressive Disorder. The only difference is that Major Depressive Disorder requires at least five symptoms to be diagnosed while it is less than five for Dysthymia. The symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
A list that is rather intense and the symptoms happen more days than not, pretty hard to avoid that. Luckily I do not have more than five symptoms often, but that does not mean I do not have those times. Depression is a feeling like you have lost something but you have no clue when or where you last had it. Then you come to the realization that what you lost was yourself.
Daily happiness is something that I have to force upon myself. I am slowly teaching myself how to help live a better life with my symptoms as best I can without the use of medication. It has been a long time since I started struggling with depression and I am now figuring out how my mood changes right before the depression is going to get to be too much to function. This doesn't always work for everyone and even for me, it doesn't work every time. I try to surround myself with a lot of people and not be alone, but the mind is very powerful and it can override the distractions I try to give it.
Being a college student under extreme amounts of stress does not always help my mental stability. When your mind is already telling you that you are worthless and stupid, which likely won't be true, but you get a grade back and your mind might have been right that time. It helps add to the downward spiral that is currently happening prior to that grade that ever crossed your eyes. The reality that you need to do well and be successful becomes a shadow that follows you around and you are getting beat up from all ends. It gets to a point where nothing anyone can say will help your mindset.
Being depressed is often a saying that people say just when they are sad or overwhelmed. Now I know that they do not mean it but sometimes it can get rather irritating simply because they have no idea what it actually means to be depressed. A state of mind that is not always brought on by some sort of trigger in life, a mindset that catches on and does not let go no matter what people say. I know now that they mean nothing by it but words really do mean something and it is important to remember what you say around people who actually struggle with depression or anything else for that matter.In reality, the seasons changing are not the best for me. Less sunlight brings moods down. Recently I have been struggling due to my ability not to fully work out like I used to. Other health reasons that are still lingering leave me without my daily dose of endorphins that working out gives me, something that I know helps my overall mood and gives me genuine happiness. As I step back into the working out world it is slowly helping, but school and overall stress of finical instability and the constant coming and going of people in life does not give me the proper stability that I need. It is chaotic, but let's be honest, that is just how life works.
Some people have told me that it is just something I need to pray over and God will take it from me. I promise that I have attempted that and clearly, I am meant to live with this struggle. It is something that I have to fight through but I know I can lean on God for strength when my own fails me. A common misconception is that being a Christian makes your life easier because you have God on your side, unfortunately it doesn't make life easier. It does help make the trials easier. Depression is an illness, not a choice. So God might take mental illness from people but it has become a part of my unique story and it is being used to reach a world of people who struggle too.
I do not know if I will have Dysthymia for the rest of my life or if I will eventually need the help of medication. As for now, I am living my days to the fullest and counting my blessings when the days are good. If you struggle with depression, you are not alone. Our minds tell us that we are unworthy and alone, but that is not a fact. If you know people with depression, be patient with them and continue to try and help them as much as you can. I know my friends have helped me over the years and I am grateful for them. Just because I act happy doesn't always mean it is genuine, hard to believe but it is the truth. Depression is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of a person who has been strong for a long time.