People that picked themselves up after long-term depression?
May 30, 2014 12:08 AM   Subscribe

Just need to hear some stories of people that managed to turn things around after a long-term depression. Explanation below.

I was diagnosed with ADHD about a year ago, but started treatment only recently. I was put on Wellbutrin and I feel it's been working (I mean, I cried the other day which I didn't do in years). However, along with it, it helped me realise how self-destructively I lived until now, making choices impulsively and that would intentionally hurt me. I knew I was depressed for a long time (in retrospect, it might have started already when I was 5, a time I remember having really aggressive suicide dreams) but after trying to address it a few times I gave up.

My grades suffered, I isolated and kept masking it throughout all my schooling. I studied something I wasn't really at all interested in and was just as unhappy throughout my college years. Out of college, there were less distractions, the depression got worse and I finally sought help. Now I feel simultaneously great and horrible, because it's so strange to realise that I didn't really live until now.

Thing is, I know I'm a smart guy and that I learn quickly and well when I apply myself, which is why I can't get rid of the feeling how different it could have been, and how crazy I was to put myself in this situation.

I'll be 24 this Summer and want to study medicine now. In Europe, that's an age when most people finish this study, and here it's even less common to go back to school. A part of me is also kind of afraid that maybe such a radical change isn't possible, that it'll fail. It's strange, but it feels like I'm afraid to be happy.

In any case, I only wanted to hear some stories of people picking themselves up and turning their lives around after living like this for a long time.
posted by ahtlast93 to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Hyperbole and a Half
posted by empath at 12:18 AM on May 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

Seconding Hyperbole and a Half -- specifically, this post and the follow-up.

(It's more "this is what it feels like to be depressed, and the story of how I am starting to get better" rather than "this is how I put my life back together after I recovered", but still a really good read.)
posted by mekily at 12:23 AM on May 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

geeze. you are half my age and doing better on the same path. Go Go GO!!
posted by The otter lady at 1:20 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I did it when I was about your age. Again later on. It's a constant thing; I'm always fiddling with meds. But I made it work. I wrote my dissertation while very depressed. I'm now a tenured professor.

If there are two bits of advice I can give, they are this. First, be kind to yourself. This can be tough if the depression has caused you to question your self-worth. Second, know your body and how you react to various meds. Keep a journal. Read about drugs. Think: drug x works via mechanism m, and I did well with x. Drug y also works via mechanism m; maybe I should look into it. Psychopharmacology is much more an art than a science. But there is some science. In my own case, my own advocacy for various drug treatments has done me a ton of good. It's kept me (mostly) functional over the years.

This book is a great resource.

Good luck, and feel free to memail me.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:35 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had PTSD, severe anxiety, and ultimately a very severe depression... from about 2007-2010.

Back when I was in the thick of it- my psychiatrist said that it was PTSD/Depression- gave me some zyprexa (I had tried many antidepressants previous) and said to sit tight... given the right conditions, he said, my brain would re calibrate.

Then I sat drooling in my pajamas at my Aunt's house.... for about 7 months. I was very tempted to commit suicide, because I felt that nobody was supposed to live like that... Which I still believe is true. But before I made peace with ending my life, I felt I had to give things once last go, one big "try" to do the things I had always wanted to do, and be happy. If it didn't work out, then I would give myself permission. Plus I really didn't want to lay in a coffin looking like I did... so at the very least I needed to get active...

So I started taking a lot of long walks, and thinking of my dreams, and making plans.... and its been a long journey... but in the 4 years since I made that choice- I have done so much of what I wanted to do. I made some super amazing friends...I got to fly in a little airplane over Europe, drink wine on the med with my best friends... I fell in love a couple of times.... learned how to cook and exercise.... found a job that I enjoy... I am getting a kitten soon.

There have been times where I have hit a low point. Even a few months ago... where I felt severely anxious, depressed....

But when I look back at how low I was back then, and how much fun stuff I have been able to do in the last 4 years...the friendships forged, memories made, trips taken, how much I have loved and connected with others! I know that my life is totally worth living and no matter how dire things can be- they can look up again.

And I kind of use that to guide me, no matter how tough things get, I know FOR A FACT, that it is possible to be happy again. And now that I know that FOR A FACT... I could never now give myself permission to end my life.... so the only option is to LIVE and LIVE WELL and do the best I can. I have faith now in exciting possibilities and I get support from my people, doctor and therapist.... occasionally medication for anxiety.... and if there is even a remote chance that I will get half of the happiness I have enjoyed the last 4 years, in the future- then life is worth living. I think I will have much more happiness than that even.

I still get down, really really down... and I think I will always be prone to dark moods but I think that psychiatrist was right... my brain did re-calibrate itself in the end. But I have filled my life with a lot of support, friends, doctor, councelling... etc. so I know I would be in good hands even if it did happen again.
posted by misspony at 2:24 AM on May 30, 2014 [11 favorites]

Make space for yourself.

I've had PTSD since 2009 or so, and I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007. I hit my lowest point about a year ago when I was doing too much school and work to really do any self-care. I hated my job, and between homework, school, and work, I was sleeping 4 hours a night. I lived with my boyfriend but was only able to see him for about 20 minutes a day, and I never had time to talk to my parents or family, and family is very important to me. I thought about killing myself every day and failed several classes and just stopped functioning. All I did was work, go home, and crawl into bed and want to die.

And then I fractured a metatarsal and couldn't work. My life swung upward so fast. I wasn't able to walk much and that was frustrating, but I could go to school, do my homework, and then have time for all the things I couldn't do before--writing my friends, calling my grandmother just for a chat, drawing pictures... It sounds really minor, but all the small things were what was keeping me stable. I still had depressive and manic episodes, but they were much more manageable because I had time to manage them.

So, after that, I quit my job and found a way to make a more flexible work schedule that would give me more time to just do the sorts of things that make me feel ok.

Stop and look at what helps. I get that with mental illness, you can't magically cure it, but what pulls you out of your darkest moments? Is it just watching Netflix or taking bubble baths or going out with your friends? Whatever it is, make sure you consistently have time available for that thing on a regular basis. And medication and therapy are great, too, and you need them, but you also need time for yourself to do what you enjoy.
posted by TheHappiestSadist at 2:52 AM on May 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might find my old AskMe helpful.
posted by moira at 3:14 AM on May 30, 2014

I'm 26 now, and I think I was diagnosed for the first time with depression when I was 24. I would say my depression is "in remission" thanks to lifestyle changes, therapy, and finding the right mix of medication for me.

The first time I took antidepressants I was blown away by how different everything looked. I was at Walmart once, and I just realized everything seemed a little brighter than I was used to seeing them, just normal day-to-day things, and I couldn't believe I had led my whole life without that either. It had a huge impact on my schooling too, and I'm well past the age I thought I'd have all of that tied up and finished.

For what it's worth, none of that phases me at all any more. Life isn't perfect, but it's manageable and I feel like I'm on the right track, which after depression just seems like a huge victory that I would have taken completely for granted if I had not had to deal with depression at all. I guess I just feel content with life, so it doesn't bother me that I didn't feel content in the past.

I don't know, it was kind of a long and invisible process to get to where I am now, but things do work out in the end. My best advice would be just to endure, just keep swimming, it will get better and you'll get better and better at keeping it at bay.

Getting better is possible and it can happen. It's a distinct hallmark of depression that when I am depressed, I felt like nothing positive or remotely optimistic applied to me. So it's hard to tell yourself when you're depressed just not to be depressed any more. I'd say just be patient and do your best, even though you're worried your best will seem embarrassingly, imperceptibly small to other people.

This is just a dump of thoughts that came to mind, but if you have any other questions please feel free to message me, I'd love to talk about it as much as you'd like to hear about it. Take good care of yourself and good luck.
posted by dubadubowbow at 4:14 AM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm in a period of "digging out" of some depression, currently. My case has never been more than what you might describe as mild-to-moderate, I guess, but did underlie some self-destructive/self-defeating choices as a younger person (dead-end jobs and addiction problems in my teens and twenties), and some motivation/paralysis issues to this day. I wouldn't call myself suicidal, exactly; I've thought about it, but never explicitly tried (not counting a slow-motion version, via chemicals).

I only wanted to hear some stories of people picking themselves up and turning their lives around after living like this for a long time. I'm not sure you're going to get many accounts of "everything's fine now, forever," because this stuff is cyclical for many people. I managed to make a lot of positive changes, and feel really good about myself, after I quit drinking/got a better job/learned how to have healthier relationships/and so on. HOWEVER:

Over the past couple of years, I left a my-best-job-yet and returned to school. This was a big leap for me, and represented real momentum. But after completing my program, I found myself struggling with depression like never before; unable to take basic first-steps to start a business (the goal of school), beating myself up constantly, and generally feeling ugly and pointless. Now I'm in the position of living off dwindling savings, considering dipping into the money set aside for startup capital, and generally unsure about what the hell to do with my life (especially galling, as I've had incredible good fortune and feel guilty about "squandering" it). It's disappointing and frustrating, because I thought I'd gotten my baseline happiness up in recent years.

So, if this cycle repeats, I feel that the best we can hope for is improving our coping strategies and remembering that things get better. For me, this means consciously appreciating the people/things I have to feel grateful for (kind family, patient girlfriend, etc.), staying physically active (four-to-five gym trips a week, and long walks), and doing something -- even if it's not directly related to a main goal -- every day. (Obviously, counseling of some sort is great. If you can afford it; my insurance only covers a laughable four sessions.)

I can't get rid of the feeling how different it could have been... (for best mental health, just stop this sentence there). Yeah, I kinda hate Alternate-Timeline-Me, and the awesome life he's had, while I've struggled to find my path. If I ever meet him, it'll be hard not to punch him in his smug, oblivious face. ;-)
posted by credible hulk at 5:58 AM on May 30, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think I was 25 or 26 when I finally started medication; I'd been depressed to some degree for so long that I'd assumed it was my nature and not an illness. It took a few more years for me to put the rest of the puzzle together - developing healthier habits and healthier ways of thinking about myself and the world, finding work that better matched my interests and skills, all that sort of thing - but I got to a pretty good place, I think. We'll see where it goes from here, but I'm generally optimistic about the future.

I very clearly remember being in my early-mid twenties and believing I'd totally blown my chances. Believing that I'd had so much potential, but I'd squandered it all, and now that I was a few years out of college I'd never get back on track. Like you, I was afraid, and I recognized I was standing in my own way but couldn't quite get myself to move.

The thing they don't tell you about treating depression, especially when medication is involved, is that there's often a period where your mood and energy are a lot better, but the maladaptive thoughts, the fears, the perspectives that crystallized during your depression are still there. You're out of the cave, but you're still haunted by the shadows. It'll take time, self-awareness, and courage to re-learn how to view the world and your journey through it (this is where therapy comes in handy). When I first started medication, my mom told me, "antidepressants help you figure out how to live without antidepressants." For years, I didn't get what she was saying; I thought she was talking about the erroneous belief that depression must be powered through, that meds are a crutch and so on. What she actually meant was that they can give you the clarity and perspective to start untangling everything, to figure out who you really are without the depression, to develop a complete arsenal to fight it if it attempts to come back around.

And the thing they don't tell you about your twenties is that, even though everyone around you seems to have figured it all out, it's normal and common and okay to flail around and freak out for a couple years. You're not the outlier you might think you are, and your life isn't over. You may fail or get derailed, but a lot of us do, and we just have to get back up at some point.

Your situation may feel like an impossible combination of "it's too late now" and "I've got too far to go," but in fact you're at a huge advantage for starting on this so early. It will not be immediate and I think you know that, but give it a few years and be brave and kind to yourself, and you will one day be telling a younger person that you did it and they can do it too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:04 AM on May 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Thing is, I know I'm a smart guy and that I learn quickly and well when I apply myself, which is why I can't get rid of the feeling how different it could have been, and how crazy I was to put myself in this situation.

Me too. I came out of a severe depression when I was 18, and had been depressed most of my life before that. It's a very long story, but I also had those feelings of "I wish I hadn't of done that, I wish I would have applied myself more, etc" looking back on the times that I was depressed and self-medicating. The thing is, you can't dwell on it. Life goes on and you must move with it or you are just punishing yourself. It's easier said than done, I know, but you have to recognize those thoughts, feel your frustration, yet accept that there's nothing that can be done to change any of what happened in the past. I really think that there's a kind of grieving-for-what-could-have-been that you have to go through in situations like these.

I'll be 24 this Summer and want to study medicine now. In Europe, that's an age when most people finish this study, and here it's even less common to go back to school. A part of me is also kind of afraid that maybe such a radical change isn't possible, that it'll fail. It's strange, but it feels like I'm afraid to be happy.

Man, I felt like I was doing it all wrong for not doing college on the same timeline as my friends too. I thought that I screwed it all up. But, honestly, now that I am going back to school -for the second time!- and seeing how the post-college-careers of my friends are going, I am glad I am older when making this decision and have some more perspective. The first time I went to school, I felt that way too - that I would fail. And I did. I was unprepared and knew it but didn't want to believe it/felt I didn't have time to fix it. I really wasn't ready in a lot of ways.

Failing out of school caused me a short-term depression, but I eventually was able to get through it. I felt like such a failure, such a loser, a disgrace for failing the first time. But I can't tell you how valuable that experience was to me. I had never failed anything. And I didn't have a lot of empathy for people who screwed up (including for myself, how ironic). And realizing "hey, I screwed up again, in a big way" it broke me at first, but when I built myself back up again, I had so much more empathy for people having a rough time with anything, and, with the help of A Guide to Rational Living (Ellis was like the godfather of CBT and this book is something of a self-therapy session, if you think hard about the concepts and how they relate to your way of viewing the world), I was able to have much more compassion and understanding with myself. I was kind of an obnoxious little shit before that, to be honest, and the experience of "Major Failure" helped rid me of that.

In any case, I only wanted to hear some stories of people picking themselves up and turning their lives around after living like this for a long time.

I don't know if there's a "welp, now my world is all sunshine and flowers now," at least for me. It's really been a process. To have wanted to kill yourself most of your life and then decide to actually *do* something with your life is a huge change. My frame of mind is a lot different than it was then. I feel like I have more control over my life and have been able to make better decisions for myself year after year. I feel a lot of my depression up until I was 18 was situational. And the depression I experienced after failing school was too. With time and introspection, I've began to realize what things were working for me in my life and what things were not and have been lucky enough to be taking steps toward the right lifestyle for me.

If you are looking for advice, I guess I would say "be gentle with yourself" and don't hold yourself up to anyone else's expectations. Use your own yardstick, so to speak. And in my short experience, life is more about the attitude you apply to it then what exactly happens. Be grateful, and let yourself feel happy and relieved, for this new perspective you have and for the opportunities that you have given to yourself by getting treatment.
posted by sevenofspades at 8:32 AM on May 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'll just say that Husbunny had severe depression that kicked in right before he did his dissertation for his Ph.d in mathematics. Just creamed him.

He moved back home and lived in a trailer on his parents's property. Worked at McDonalds. Then his folks told him to go to school for a trade, so he got an RN and was a nurse for 10 years. He HATED it.

In that time he met a girl and moved to New York, it didn't work out. Then he met me, moved to Florida, we got married and it did work out.

We brainstormed about his job sitauation and worked it out so that he could return to school (at age 37) for Actuarial Science. He was offered a place in the Actuarial Science Ph.d program, but after awhile, he decided to leave academia and get a job. He is a VERY happy actuary now.

At one point, he was diagnosed with severe Sleep Apnea, and uses a CPAP. This changed his life. His depression lifted, he was happy, cheerful and enjoyed his life. He still takes an anti-depressant, but he functions so much better, he's less anxious.

So...go ahead and chase your dreams. Get a sleep assessment, and be aware that there will be times when you'll feel more depressed or anxious, look out for them, it may mean a change in your meds.

Good Luck to you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:02 AM on May 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Today is my 30th birthday; I never really thought I'd make it this far because for years I assumed I'd have killed myself well before this point. I first remember trying to commit suicide when I was in second grade and I was deeply depressed for years, then put on the wrong medicine which aggravated my bipolar and made me super manic. It was really, really terrible and thinking about that point in my life is still very painful.

As of now, I have a good doctor who understands how to help me and has enabled me to come to terms with the fact that my depression will never be "cured" but it can be managed so that I live a happy life. I have an amazing husband to whom I've been married for almost seven years who makes my life unbelievably wonderful and has been with me during some of the hardest times and still loves me. I have held down several challenging jobs, including working at some of the worst schools in Washington DC (putting them high in the running for worst schools nationwide), and on my performance review at my most recent non-teaching job I was rated very highly. I have a number of good friends with whom I enjoy spending time. I am working towards starting a new career and I'm excited about it. There are still difficulties, and it's not easy; sometimes I still wake up in the night crying or screaming, sometimes I have trouble getting out of bed or getting off the couch or managing basic tasks. My life's not perfect and it never will be, but neither will anyone's. My bipolar, and the depression that comes with it especially, will always make things harder for me but it is very possible to live a happy life and do amazing stuff.

You're twenty-four, around the age I was when I finally got really good help and treatment for the problems I'd been having since I was very young. I know it's frustrating because you feel like you've wasted your life up to this point, but you haven't. You've learned a lot and you're moving forward from a good place. Trust me, it won't be easy, but things absolutely will get better.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:01 AM on May 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

The early twenties seems to be a common age when the lifers, those of us who have been ADHD or anxious or chronically depressed or all of the above, finally look for help. Because we've hit a wall. I was 24 when I finally needed help badly enough to get some. And it took years of trying medications before finding a combination that works, but I'm still here at 38.

Not wanting to end everything is a good place to be. Hope for the future, and actually doing something about it is great. Being a few years older than your classmates can be an advantage. Between age and experience, you'll make better decisions.

And as sevenofspades said, be gentle on yourself and don't live up to anyone's expectations but your own. Take things at your own pace, one step at a time if necessary, and you can make it happen. Forgive yourself when things go wrong and find healthy coping mechaniasms. Ask for help when you need it.
posted by monopas at 2:51 PM on May 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm 39, and I am perpetually about five or so years older than my peers because I lost my mid-20s to severe depression. I screwed up a lot of stuff during that time, including careers and relationships and just my own sense of self.

Today I take medication and see a therapist. I'm also in an amazing relationship and have wonderful friends, I have a totally new career path that I enjoy and a pretty sweet apartment, and I travel regularly. It's not all easy -- some weeks are really hard -- but I am honestly not sure that I would have my life as together as it seems to be, or appreciate it as much, if I was five years younger and never knew what it was like to be lost in depression. Sometimes you just end up where you are supposed to be when you're supposed to be there.

23 is super young, although it may not feel like it. Get out there and do what you love.
posted by jess at 5:00 PM on May 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

How is forty years for long term?

My mother said when I was little I was extremely charming. That disappeared and I became an unhappy teenager, who became an unhappy young adult... and so on. My parents thought it was just something about me, and I bought that and it got worse and worse until there was a point I'd have been locked up for a while had I said to anyone just how bad things were. Then there was a stroke of luck and I found out not only that I'd been depressed all this time but also that it was a matter of chemistry. Which changed my life a lot. Many things became not my fault, and I did not have to be enmeshed in how the state of suck I occupied was my mirror and that it was just life and not about me.

So with a little bit of magnesium added to what I eat every day I go through life sleeping better, waking up and looking forward to petting the cat, drinking coffee and getting ready for work - all without worrying about what I was doing wrong. I enjoy things that I was -supposed- to enjoy before but since there was something wrong with me, I didn't... and so on.
posted by jet_silver at 9:51 PM on May 30, 2014

So, despite about a decade of repeated periods of depression, during which I dropped out of university, dropped out again, failed at jobs, slept 12+ hours a day, and didn't get dressed or leave the house much, I persisted in the hope that my 'Cyclical Depression' was actually partly situational.
Because, the situations never seemed healthy and so, it'd never been conclusively ruled out. Out of home, relationships, and work/study, usually at least two of them were pretty crappy when I hit a downward swing. And I really wanted to see what having all three of those foundation points, actually be ok.
I just kept struggling on, with the idea that if I could put enough of the pieces in place, my life would stop falling apart like a jigsaw puzzle.

Medication was what allowed me to keep moving even when things weren't ok, because otherwise I didn't have the energy to fix my life. Note: I still had to fix the situations, but it helped.
I had to try about 4 meds (at between 1 week to 3 months on each before stopping due to sideeffects or non-effectiveness, with gaps of sometimes years in between, because I didn't think it was worth trying), before getting to one that worked. Then one stopped working so well, and I got another that basically worked.

Puzzle pieces:
Attitude - I didn't need CBT so much, but attended some group therapy things for women with depression. It drove ME nuts how down on everything some of them were. Honestly, I didn't feel like I had the luxury of beating myself up, because I knew if I did that, I literally wouldn't be able to get out of bed. Depressing situations can depress you, and depressing thoughts can depress you. It feels the same to your brain. So things like CBT help you learn not heap shit onto yourself.

Relationships (romantic) - It's healthier for me to be single, than be in a relationship that is stressing me out.

Support vs codepedency - I slowly developed my own support network, rather than just being the primary support person for a bunch of other people (see, reasons for situational depression). When I say support network, I mean friends for whom I did just as much as they did for me, and who worked around my quirks (so maybe they picked me up, 'cause I couldn't get anywhere on time, but I'm happy to babysit, clean, massage, paint houses, or fit around other peoples schedules). I did have to drop being the support person for anyone not totally necessary (e.g. boyfriends, friends who couldn't support me), because I'd be making sure my boyfriend went to work, with food, and to the doctors, when I was doing worse myself, unmedicated, unemployed, and not being supported in the same ways. I didn't have the energy to fix other peoples problems before my own. Put my own seatbelt on first, etc.

Home - Urgh. Ok, I really need to look more into being codependent or whatever. I was head tenant in three 6-8 person flats, because I didn't want to let other people down, rather than moving to somewhere I could be happier, and not have to sort stuff out for everyone else. What would it take for you to have a home situation that didn't stress you out? Do it. Do it for your health.

ADHD - The meds were never that revolutionary for me (I feel queasy after 6 hours on long release, less on short release), but slowly reading and developing the skills and structure to work around my own deficiencies. Books aimed at ADHD people, are basically aimed at people who aren't coping. Use those techniques to help.

Notebook - I just started writing everything I had to do down. I was able to stop the washing machine cycle of worry about things I had to do, because it was all in a list, in a notebook I carried everywhere.

Psychotropic drugs - Yeah, sorry. This basically comes under drug induced epiphany. I didn't truly accept I was depressed, until this. While tripping, I wrote a list for myself that basically included telling my close friends, and going to the Drs, and trying medications until I hit one that worked (took 3 goes), and to just try whatever people suggested, even if it was bullshit, because hey, if I was apathetic, maybe I could stop caring that studies had shown antidepressants weren't much better than placebo, and just try it anyway. Hell, try all the placebos. Honestly, it was actually just that while it wasn't a 'normal' mental state (I was seeing fractals everywhere), I was suddenly shunted into 'Not depressed' for the first time, and actually had the perspective to see that I really, really wasn't well. I had so much compassion for my depressed self, and just wanted to fix it. But, I always want to fix things.

Scheduled Friendtime - I see most of my close friends 1-2 nights a week, each. I'm now living with one of my closest friends (and we are great about giving each other alone time, too). I go to theirs for dinner, or they come to mine. I try to help with the dishes afterwards.

Allergies - Antihistamines did almost as much for me as any other medication ever. In the last 2 years, I quit eating wheat, and most of my allergies have cleared up. I had an unknown (until a few years ago) family history of it, I was stubborn enough about not wanting to join the gluten free fad that I really screwed myself over, when I clearly have some kind of issue/food allergy with wheat. I'm enough of a geek that I wasn't willing to accept it without understanding the mechanism behind it. Actually, I still don't know if it's wheat allergy or celiac or what. It doesn't matter. I don't eat it. Doh.

Work - I'd always spazz out, feel bad about my productivity, and start trying to stay later and later, which dropped me into this negative feedback loop. Working on a helpdesk where I had a fixed shift, everything was reactive (phone rings? I answer it), and I put it down at the end of the day and didn't have to think about it at all while I was gone - no projects, no deadlines - was actually freaking fantastic. Still struggling with healthy work habits, but I now know what I need to do to feel successful, and stay productive. No overtime, and leaving it behind at work, for starters. Yeah, that's still hard for me.

Anyway, I'm now early 30s, and basically doing better than I did anytime in my 20s. I don't feel like I missed out either, because it's just been a largely upward progressing sine curve, I needed that time to build those skills. I am who I am. I'm also largely getting cooler and more attractive by the year.

It's a struggle. You'll get a puzzle piece in place, but something else is out of whack, and it all falls apart again. But once you've had one thing together (work, friends, food, cleaning), you're better at keeping it together in future, so you keep working on getting the other pieces sorted, and then you hit the point where you've got enough pieces that they are holding each other in place, and you don't get screwed up by a big jolt, and then... then you can actually understand how life can be not such a huge struggle, because your life is holding itself together, you're not trying to keep it together through pure force of will.
posted by Elysum at 1:24 AM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't had depression, but I did have a serious physical health issue (invisible, yet quite disabling) combined with anxiety related to that condition for many years. It was bad for about 7 years. It finally started to abate when I was 25.

Whenever I get upset about all the hours, days and months I wasted sitting on the couch (and in doctor's offices, etc.) feeling very sick and scared, I always remind myself of the following: I learned what it's like to be suffering. I learned what it's like to be unable to do all the normal things my peers were doing. I learned what it's like to have a body that didn't work "as advertised", even at a young age, when the rest of me was super healthy. I learned to take care of myself, day by day. I learned how to find, respect, and finally push my own limits.

It wasn't fun, getting through college while feeling sick most days. It was a SLOG and I was scared the rest of my life was going to be overshadowed by this mystery ailment that nobody could help me with. But you know what? I did important work during that time in my life, and now I can't imagine who I'd be without the understanding I gained during those years. Lots of people go through their 20s thinking they are invincible, that they'll always be healthy, and that everybody else their age cares about the same things as they do. This isn't true, and it's actually very valuable to have learned it earlier in your life.

I don't think I could bear to give up who I've become (thanks in part to my struggles) in order to re-live those years perfectly healthy. I think one day you'll feel the same. Your suffering can be made into a gift of understanding that you give to yourself and everyone in your life.
posted by Cygnet at 10:02 AM on May 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

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