I was a happy baby. Content. Cheerful. Pleasant. As I grew older, that bright side of me remained but a darkness infiltrated my being. It was a cancer of negativity in my thoughts. It wasn’t just my brain. Depression runs in my blood. Both my father and his mother struggle with this disease. My father bravely battles while still achieving worldly success in the medical field.
I have many fond childhood memories, but I cannot recollect a time I was free from that latent sorrow of depression. I remember banging my head against the wall, calling myself stupid, ugly and fat. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about how miserable I felt about myself. I did not understand what to do to change and I felt little hope for the future.
Some time in middle or high school I was officially diagnosed with depression. I was prescribed anti-depressants but I never felt much effect. Nevertheless, I mirrored my dad and was able to be “successful” academically. I figured my depression was as “managed” as it could be. I presumed this was as good as it got and obediently took my pills.
College was better for my mental health. I found freedom and eventually a husband. However, even as my future brightened, the darkness persisted in my heart.
My transition into corporate America was tough. It brought my anxiety to the surface. Whereas I used to just feel sad, I started to feel angry as well. I cried often. On occasion I had to quarantine myself in the bathroom at work. Other times I could push it down until I got home. Sometimes my tears were so violent I started sounding like I would hyperventilate. Over and over I would tell my husband, “I can’t do this, I can’t, I can’t.”
I did not have a lot of love for myself for the longest time. What led me to seek help was my love for my husband (I hated bringing this negativity into our marriage), coupled with a real concern that I was not going to be able to continue with my well-paying secure job because of the havoc to my emotions. I owned my share of self-help books about depression, but when something is so deeply engrained in you, those are often too little too late. If anything, they overwhelmed me.
I started counseling and quickly realized its benefits. A professional who has an education in helping people process life another way makes all the difference. It has completely changed my life, but it was not an overnight process. Nor will I ever be finished with my journey. I started two years ago with, for the most part, weekly sessions. My therapist helps me recognize triggers to negative patterns and frame interactions in ways that serve me better than what I came up with when I was young.
She also led me to see God’s love and grace. I grew up as a Christian, but I always struggled to accept that God loves me, Allie Davis. We explored my discord in our counseling sessions and found that often at the root of the pressure, stress, and fear were false beliefs. For example, I had a subconscious belief that I needed to be perfect in order to be loved. I would never consciously claim that I should be perfect. In fact, I could preach all day about how we all fall short and it is only by God's grace that we are saved. However, it took the expertise of a professional to help me genuinely recognize those gifts of grace and love as applicable to me. Now I understand the joys of being surrounded by God’s blanket of grace. I no longer need to doubt my abilities. God is here. I do not need to be perfect. God loves me as I am.
Although depression and anxiety run in my DNA, I no longer feel their effects. I am off the anti-depressants and I feel pleased with the present and excited about my future. I write this not to discourage the use of medication, but rather to share th`e message that depression does not define who you are nor does it determine your future. There is hope. So many people struggle silently with this and feel hesitant to get professional help. We are human. We need each other. There is no shame in that.