The reason I write, create, and share my pain and my journey so candidly is because I am too familiar with the feeling of loneliness and believing that I am completely misunderstood. I spent so much of my life attempting to hide my pain through substances. Pain is what introduced to alcohol. That warm, burning feeling of hard liquor easing it’s way down my throat was the best solution I could find to run from my sadness, my despair and my hopelessness. The problem was that I am an alcoholic which means I have a disease of the mind and of the body. I cannot have one drink. I cannot take one hit of weed. I cannot snort one line of cocaine. And I cannot take one pill of anything. My alcoholism is like a demon that takes over my entire being when substance enters my body. I have no control of how much I am going to consume because my disease wants more and more and more until I’m dead. My attempt to block out all of my pain through substance resulted in me getting dragged into the darkest places in life and the feeling of doom doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Alcoholism is just one part of my makeup though.There are many elements that make me who I am and one of those is that I suffer from clinical depression. It’s something that I still hold a lot of shame around. I feel more comfortable identifying myself alcoholic than ever having to admit that I’ll most likely have to be on anti-depressants for the rest of my life. There truly is so much stigma around mental illness. I believe that a huge part of my substance abuse was me attempting to self-medicate. Luckily, one of the many gifts of sobriety is that now I have the ability to treat my depression with the same importance I treat my alcoholism with.
In August, a new romance began for me. This naturally brought me a lot of joy. Everything I ever wanted was present in my life. I had a new boyfriend, I was starting on my last year of college, I was continuing with the job I loved, was starting a new internship and I had amazing friends and family supporting me in every way. There was nothing to be sad about.
But one morning I felt like something was off. It was really hard to get out of bed and it wasn’t because I was tired. I first thought maybe I wasn’t doing enough for my recovery but as I increased my actions towards that portion of my life and nothing change over the next few weeks I realized what was happening. My depression had returned. I could feel it in my eyes. It’s like they become glazed over and I just simply go through the motions of life. My anxiety heightened and it felt like if I put my foot on the ground it would shatter. It’s so difficult to put depression into words because it’s not necessarily sadness. It’s depression. For me that means I feel unmotivated, constantly fatigued, removed from myself, and I don’t get excited about things I normally would be excited about. Getting through the day feels like pulling teeth. I knew what was going on because I’ve dealt with this for as long as I can remember. I knew I should probably call my doctor and get my medicine adjusted but I felt too shameful and convinced myself I could handle it all on my own. How could someone who has everything be suffering like this? I didn’t want my boyfriend to know because I didn’t want him to think I was “crazy”. And I didn’t want to bother my friends and family with it because how many times could they hear it?
So I hid and tried my hardest to pretend like everything was okay. But it wasn’t. I felt myself sinking deeper and deeper into a dark place that I had no interest in being in. I started to get scared because I really did not want this to be happening but for some reason I wasn’t asking for help. I kept hoping that it would just go away. But that’s not how clinical depression works no matter how much I would like it to.
The amazing part about having loving people in your life is that they notice when something is going on. My boyfriend asked me if I was okay and I broke down and told him the truth. I expressed I was concerned in telling him because I didn’t want him to think less of me. His responds is something I’ll never forget. He said “Thank you for telling me. I want you to know that I love this part of Carrie just as much as I love the happy part of Carrie. I love you no matter what.” His words made me realize that I don’t need to apologize for having depression–for being who I am and going through what I go through. I realized that at some point in time, a person, society; probably both, made me feel like I should hide my pain. But that right there is the problem. Pain demands to be felt no matter what. No matter what form it comes in you’re going to feel it and that’s something I learned long ago in recovery. But I guess depression felt different because just like alcoholism, it’s invisible in a lot of ways to the outside world. You can’t always see the illness so obviously therefore it isn’t taken seriously. In my experience, there is such a lack of understanding of what it really is.
Shortly after that conversation with my partner I knew I needed some help and that it was okay to admit that I couldn’t do this alone. I went to the doctor and started the process of readjusting my medication. I didn’t feel better overnight but eventually I felt that fog lift. Unlike my response to depression in the past, I kept showing up for life even on the hardest days of waking up. But I was also more gentle with myself. I started to acknowledge that it was okay to take more naps than usual. It was okay to let the people who I love and trust know that I was going through a rough patch.
I wanted so badly to write this blog post while I was going through this but I felt like I had nothing to say. I wanted to have a solution to the suffering so I could share that with you all but when you’re in it, it’s hard to see that solution. But I knew I would come out of it because I always do.
I’m still growing as a person and that’s one of the most beautiful parts of life. My life is not perfect but because of everything I’ve been through I know that I can walk through anything and I can do that sober. I’ve grown so much in sobriety and recovery. I’ve grown through my friendships and through the people who surround me on a daily basis. I’m growing with a partner and learning how incredible love really is. And lastly, I get to grow through my hardships while experiencing my depression. I’m learning how to accept that part of me and to not feel ashamed of the cards I was dealt. I don’t want to feel ashamed anymore and I don’t want people who share this illness with me to feel ashamed either. I’m writing this to tell you that you’re not alone. You’ll never be alone.