When to ask for help when struggling with depression.
For years I suffered in silence, a silence that almost killed me. I was exhausted by the daily grind of trying to hide the pain and suffering that was constantly stirring within me. Lying in bed, unable to shut off the faucet of negative thoughts and traumatic images, I made the choice to hop behind the wheel of my Chevy Beretta in an attempt to put the ultimate end to this battle. I was done fighting.
NIGHTMARES AND FLASHBACKS
I was in my second year of undergraduate study and unaware I was living with severe depression and ongoing trauma symptoms which were interfering with my ability to function on a daily basis. I was very sick with an illness I knew nothing about. I felt alone and hopeless. I was determined to figure everything out on my own. In that moment driving down that dark highway, I did not want to die, I wanted my pain to end. My life had become a series of ongoing nightmares and daytime flashbacks from traumatic events. I couldn’t explain my pain; I viewed myself as a strong person and therefore, I thought I did something wrong to deserve the overwhelming darkness. I figured the only way I could end my pain was to take my own life.
Hopelessness had begun to control my life and overwhelm me at my core. Like so many others that are suffering, I was not aware I had a biological brain disorder that was treatable. I blamed myself for my life experiences and for “allowing” the hopelessness into my life.
TAKING A TURN FOR TREATMENT
My path toward mental health wellness has been long and often challenging. Looking back through my experiences I can now recognize the necessary steps I had to take in order to get where I am today. My battle with depression has left me with invisible scars that I am eager to share with others in hopes that by telling my story, others may find a voice to share the battle they are secretly fighting.
I was blessed to find therapists who helped me put what I was feeling and thinking into words. Today, I have the opportunity to return that support for others serving as a clinical counselor. I am now using my own experiences and education to walk alongside others who are trying to better understand their own illness and who are seeking clinical support.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU NEED PROFESSIONAL HELP?
When you see a drastic change in behavior, whether it is in yourself or a family member, this often signals something is out of balance. If that change in behavior is persistent and hard to control you may want to talk to a mental health professional. Seeking professional help can be overwhelming and difficult, as I can personally attest to when I was first coming to grips with my illness. Individuals lose their lives due to untreated mental illness; we need to continue the conversation regarding mental illness treatments and encourage people affected by these illnesses to ask for help.
As I reflect on my experiences, I know I have been given a purposeful understanding of how difficult the road to wellness can be when living with a serious mental illness. It was 20 years ago this December when I took off down that road to end my life; I was saved for a purpose. I will continue to share my story and use my education and experiences to assist in supporting individuals and families going through the darkness of illness.
It is my hope that if you or a loved one is struggling, you ask for help today. A great place to start is with your primary care physician; he or she can offer you helpful resources. I waited too long, and I almost lost my life. Seek treatment.
Andrea Thomas, MS, LPCC is the owner of Peaks of Hope Counseling, LLC and resides in Rochester with her husband and two daughters.