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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting Something Off My Chest...

You know, there was a time a couple of months ago that I believed that I had confessed everything there is to know about me, so as a result, I decided to drop the Thursday Confession section of this blog.  At the time I made this decision, I was fairly confident that I had gotten all of my sins and demons out there in the open, made peace with them, and decided to progress onto the next phase in my life.

But wouldn’t you know it?  I have one more confession to make.  Isn’t it funny how life works out sometimes?

And here’s the strange part about this confession.  I’m not entirely sure if this confession is 100% truthful! 

I see you raising an eyebrow, or rolling your eyes, or wondering to yourselves how that could be possible.  How can it be considered a confession if it’s not completely the truth?

Well, here’s the thing.  I honestly don’t know if this confession is true.  It very well could be the truth, and it very well could be false, or it could be that I might be misinterpreting the truth, or have come to a misunderstanding about what the actual conclusion is. 

So, why would I even confess to something that may not be true?  Because I’m hoping that once I get it out there, I’ll understand myself a little bit better.  And the reason why I want to share this with all of you is not to get sympathy or warm fuzzies.  The only reason why I want to share this with all of you is because I want all of you to understand what I’ve been going through the last few years, and it’s only until now that I have come up with an explanation that seemingly makes sense.

All sense beating around the bush.  I have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I’m going to come out with it. 

You know, I was watching the six o’clock news tonight and there was an interesting feature on how some people would rather wish cancer upon themselves instead of admitting to themselves that they are suffering from depression.  I found that to be a rather alarming statistic myself.  I can’t quite remember what the exact percentage is, but it’s estimated that quite a few people would have an easier time admitting to someone that they were battling cancer than they would telling someone else that they have depression.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realize that I understand why people would feel this way.  Depression is a difficult thing for anyone to have, and I think it’s even harder to try and convince others that they have it. 

I did a little bit of research on depression, and came up with some statistics.  Did you know that 1 in 20 adults in the United States have experienced at least one instance of feeling debilitating depression in their lives?  Did you know that 44% of all college students report feeling depression at some point in their lives?  I’ll readily admit that I was shocked at those numbers because I really didn’t believe that they were so high.  It blew me away.

What also blew me away were some of the symptoms of chronic depression.  Did you know that some of the signs to watch out for in terms of diagnosing depression include the following?

- being unable to sleep, or sleeping too much

- having difficulty concentrating, or finding the simplest tasks difficult to do
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- being unable to control negative thoughts
- losing your appetite, or being unable to stop eating
- being much more irritable or short-tempered than usual
- consuming more alcohol than before, or engaging in reckless behaviour
- having thoughts of suicide on a semi-regular or regular basis

Again, I will be the first one to admit that I was completely blown away by these symptoms.  I was aware of some of them, as some of them seemed quite obvious (particularly the last one), but some of them as well shocked even me.  

So, I imagine that you're all wondering why I have decided to talk about the subject of depression in this blog entry today.  Well, it's because I have something personal to share that is related to this subject.

I just want to make things crystal clear though.  I have not been officially diagnosed by a doctor or specialist.  That's what I meant about my confession not being 100% accurate, because for all I know, I could be talking out of my hat here.

However, the more that I thought about it, especially after looking at the various symptoms that can be associated with it, the more I think I should just admit to it because I think once I do, everything will make sense.

I think that I have been suffering from depression for a number of years now...and it's only now that I see that this might be the case.

Wow...that sentence that I just typed out...I never thought that I would actually admit to it because I always saw admitting to something like that as being incredibly counter-productive.  At the same time though, I realize that it's nothing that I really should be ashamed of, especially since so many have been in the same position that I have.

Again, I haven't been diagnosed as having it...and over the last couple of years, I haven't had many symptoms of depression aside from having the occasional off day, and having the occasional migraine headache.  However, in my teenage years, those symptoms were my entire life.

I can honestly say with clarity and confidence that I have hit rock bottom twice in my life.  Once when I was seventeen, and again at age twenty-two.  And in both cases, I know I had every symptom of depression.  Back in those days, it wasn't uncommon for me to sleep for fourteen hours straight.  There were some weekends in which I didn't even want to get out of bed, I felt so stiff and tired.  I had difficulty concentrating in school, and my grades in high school suffered as a result of it.  My mind was switched to all negativity, all the time, and I realize that I probably pushed a lot of people away as a result of that, but I couldn't change the record no matter how hard I tried.  

My appetite really went out of control during my rock bottom periods.  It wasn't uncommon for me to come home from school and drink a whole bottle of Pepsi and eat an entire bag of potato chips, followed by a couple of Twinkies for "dessert".  No wonder I ended up ballooning up to 300 pounds in high school!  I got into a lot of wars of words with my family members and closest friends because I was so frustrated over how things were going.  And, yes, I even admit to planning my own suicide at the age of 17.

I used to think that it was because I was being bullied, and that's why I was feeling this way.  I convinced myself that if I could get out of that school, I would be better off.  But, it wouldn't have mattered because even if I dropped out of school, the depression would have still remained.  

I think that when I was in school, my depression was so bad that I avoided all social contact with people.  The 17-year-old me was convinced that nobody would ever have anything to do with him because he wore the wrong clothes, or had the wrong hair, or was too fat, or too tall, or too uncool.  It didn't dawn on me back then that there may have been something that was seriously wrong, and that required me to seek additional therapy.

But here's where the frustrating thing was.  At the school that I went to, there were absolutely no resources available for teenagers who were suffering with depression.  For one, I attended high school in the late 1990s, when the Internet was made up of basic HTML pages, and when Google was a newborn babe in the World Wide Web.  There weren't any online resources or discussion groups that I could join to get some comfort.  And as far as getting any help from the guidance counselors at school, forget it.  I don't think any of them were trained in trying to give students the steps needed to overcome their depression.  Besides, by the eleventh grade, I was so disenchanted with the school and how they handled my bullying that trying to talk to anyone there would be similar to talking to a pet rock.  

And, while there were options like the Kids Help Phone available for kids and teenagers to call for advice, the two times I did get the courage to dial the number, I ended up getting a busy signal both times.  Granted, the phone lines were likely jammed up with other teenagers calling about their problems, but still...for someone like me who had limited options, the fact that I couldn't get through on Kids Help Phone was almost like a sick joke.

I couldn't even talk to those who were closest to me about how I was feeling, because all I would get were messages telling me to "suck it up", or "deal with it", or "get over it".  Did they not understand that I wished that I could do all those things?  I would have given anything to have smiled a genuine smile.  The fact that I was unable to was frustrating...and the fact that I felt like I had nobody that I could talk to about it made me feel even more alone.

To be honest, I don't know how I ended up getting over the depression that I suffered from in high school.  If I had to make a guess, I would say it was around the time I graduated, knowing that I would never have to set foot inside that school ever again that perked me up.  But I will say this...I wish that I could have seen it back when I was a teenager.  If only I could have realized that I was likely suffering from depression back then and sought out help for it when it was at its worst, I likely would not have had nearly the hellish school experience that I had.

So, what happens now that I have admitted to my teenage depression?  Do I feel better?  I admit that I do now that it's out in the open.  At the same time, am I worried that I will end up hitting rock bottom once again?  I'd be lying if I said I was.  My depression in my teen years kept me prisoner inside my home for years, and I think that is the reason why I am struggling to develop my social circles.  I know that this is something that I need to work on, and I might need to get some outside help for me to expand on those social circles...but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.  Right now, I'm going with the flow, as everyone else is.

The reason why I wanted to get this issue out in the open is because I want people to understand that there are many different faces of depression out there, and I think it's important to know that if you are going through it, you know one person who has been through it and survived.

That said, I still have periods of feeling self-doubt, and I still have some minor symptoms of depression left over from my teen years...and while I am doing a good job controlling it on my own...I have to tell myself at the same time that it is perfectly okay to ask for help once in a while.  And I will continue to hold on to that if ever I start feeling low again.  That there is help out there for depression, and that it doesn't have to be the white elephant in the room any longer.

To close this blog entry off, I would like to post a couple of links that might help someone who is experiencing the symptoms of depression, and hopefully by clicking on this links, things will click for you.  I realize that most of these links are Canadian sources, but they really do apply to everyone worldwide.  I hope that these links can help you out, and know that you are not alone.

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