My Personal Experience: Depression
Is this what dying feels like? That thought crossed my mind the night I hit rock bottom. I lay in bed with tears rolling down my face and onto the blankets beneath me as I stared blankly at nothing in particular. My whole body ached, I was physically and mentally exhausted, and I could swear I felt myself slipping away.
My name is Kylea Copeland, and I am a victim of depression.
I am a full time student, I work two jobs, I’m engaged to be married and I have a busy schedule. There is nothing wrong with all those aspects of my life, but it doesn’t leave room or time for constant sadness, sickness, anger, excessive anxiety and an overall feeling that life is a chore. Everyone gets sad, anxious, angry or ill once in awhile, and that’s normal. After all, we’re human. The difference between my situation and a normal one though, is that I felt a combination of those emotions every single minute of every day.
My battle with depression began in high school. I can’t put my finger on any one factor that caused my illness, but between hormones, a sheltered and tense home life, a busy schedule and not-so-high self-esteem, I think there was plenty of kindling available to start a fire.
One of the first major signs of the impending battle began with a constant headache that lasted nearly two years. No over-the-counter medication would relieve the pain completely, though occasionally it would take the edge off. On some days the pain was mild once I became accustomed to it, but on other days it was so severe I would just cry or have to try to sleep to escape it.
The constant pain in my head was enough to frustrate me, but additional stressors in my life led to another ugly symptom of my illness. Certain intense emotional situations would set off anxiety attacks. If you’ve never experienced an anxiety attack, I hope you never do. When something would trigger an anxiety attack, I would lose control of my breathing and many of my muscles. This awful experience sometimes lasted ten minutes, which may not seem like a long time, but when you are shaking and can’t catch your breath it can seem like an eternity. It’s physically exhausting and emotionally draining and when it’s over, I just want to sleep. Yes, I do still have anxiety attacks, but not often.
Through the whole experience, my fiancé, Brad Amerin, has stuck by my side. He proposed to me nearly a year ago, but we’ve been together for more than five years. He is one of the strongest people I know, and I’m very thankful to have him in my life. I am almost certain I wouldn’t be alive to share this story if not for his patience and love. I still feel guilty for my attitude toward him during the course of my illness, as he often took the heat from my anger, sadness and complete despair. Depression isn’t just harmful to the individual with the condition; it affects the people around that individual.
Brad is a very important person to me, but my family plays a big role in my life as well.
Before college, my health was less than perfect. I’m not angry at my parents, but I don’t think they wanted to believe the symptoms I was experiencing were anything more than a teenage phase. Additionally, they have never been fond of the idea of treating emotional irregularities with medication. I’m a junior in college now, and I currently have a prescription for Fluoxetine, an antidepressant. My mom and dad both now support my decision to take medication for my condition because they can see that it’s truly helping me.
Chronic fatigue, muscle pain, feelings of hopelessness, mood swings and a fairly consistent feeling of sickness are all symptoms I have experienced along with the headaches and other ailments. I managed to continue most of my daily activities while experiencing those issues, at least for awhile, but eventually it was just too much.
Considering the amount of time I spent suffering while still maintaining at least some level of balance, my decline was incredibly fast. To put it simply, this summer I felt worse than normal over a period of a few weeks leading up to my total breakdown. I felt so poorly that being at work, where I happen to really enjoy my job, was excruciating. Getting out of bed was a difficult task. Every aspect of my life had become a chore. Even the activities I enjoy most, like photography, became less appealing. During this time, I could hardly even stand to pick up my camera even though taking photos is a huge part of my life. I felt like crying at any given moment even if nothing prompted it. I felt physically sick and could hardly stand to get dressed, brush my hair, or eat. I was dying.
I knew I was miserable, but until that one evening when I crawled into bed with no energy and plenty of pain, I hadn’t realized how close to death I really was.
I lay there wondering if I would wake again after I closed my eyes. In that moment, I finally began to understand that getting help was not only necessary, but it would also mean the difference between life and death. When I did wake later that evening, I cried and begged my fiancé to take me to the doctor. He was ecstatic that I was finally accepting help. He called to make me an appointment the next morning and I saw the doctor at the end of the week. I was nervous about the visit, but I knew it had to be done. I spoke with the doctor for what seemed like a very long time, and she listened. I revealed everything I could think of, trying not to cry but failing, and she made me feel safe. She prescribed an antidepressant but told me it could take several weeks for me to notice any changes, and that even then, it may not be the right one for me.
It didn’t take several weeks for me to begin noticing positive changes. As soon as I left the doctor’s office I began to feel a spark of something good within myself. Just taking that first step to recovery made a huge difference. I acknowledged that I had been incredibly ill and understood that I was making the choice to get better.
I have been taking my medication for a little over four months now, and that, along with my own positive thinking and support from the people that care about me is making me a little better every day.
I sometimes still struggle with hints of my depression, but I can honestly say I’m getting somewhere.
I hope my story will inspire someone else dealing with depression. Seek help. Everyone wants to believe they can handle their own struggles. Some people seem to make negative judgments about those who use medication or need assistance for such situations. It makes us feel weak if we can’t figure out solutions to our own problems. I couldn’t figure it out on my own, and I couldn’t handle it anymore, but I am not weak.
My name is Kylea Copeland, and I’m not dying anymore.