Depression, like many mental disorders, varies with each individual. In order to create an effective treatment plan, each person’s situation and condition must be taken into consideration. My grandmother, who wishes to remain anonymous, was formally diagnosed with depression ten years ago. In the following interview, she recounts her own struggles with the disease in the hopes of inspiring others to get help if they need it, despite their circumstances.
Describe your depression.
“It’s this heaviness in my head that never goes away… sometimes the pills help, and sometimes they just make me feel worse. It definitely varies from day to day… some days, I can get up and try and help out around the house, and on other days I just want to lie in bed. It never goes away, and I can’t control it, which makes it so much more difficult to deal with.”
When did you first realize something was wrong?
“I started really struggling when you were little, about ten years ago. I didn’t understand it — I had my own house, beautiful grandchildren, and I had just finished my second master’s degree. I was teaching, and I remember not being able to get out of bed to go to work… I was constantly worried and I didn’t want to face the day. But looking back, I think something might have been wrong long before I started getting help… Back in Guyana, I would stay in my room for hours by myself, not wanting to do anything. My mother had the same types of issues when I was little. I think it runs in the family.”
How has your journey to recovery been?
“Depression and mental health were never really discussed in my family, you know… When I got diagnosed, I wasn’t entirely sure what depression was. I thought I was just sad, and that I didn’t need medication. Even your grandfather told me that I was just acting crazy….. I thought I was crazy, myself, you know. I kept telling myself to snap out of it… I couldn’t comprehend how there could be something wrong with the chemicals in my brain. I didn’t think that was possible. Recovery was a struggle because I didn’t accept that I was sick for a while. Your mother, your father, and your grandfather all told me that I wasn’t sick… They told me to take walks, to do crosswords, to do something to ‘keep my mind active.’ When none of those things worked, I ended up hospitalized and on medication, and I felt like such a burden to the family… I only started feeling better when I accepted that I was ill and started seeking treatment instead of refusing it.”
What advice can you give to others?
“When you have depression, you can’t just snap out of it… You need people that care for you that want to help you… Make sure you surround yourself with support. You can’t go through depression alone.”
Oftentimes, people suffering from mental illnesses feel isolated. Reading other people’s stories can help to humanize the illness, and can provide a welcome counterbalance to statistics from medical journals or diagnoses from psychiatrists. Sometimes, just relating to the story of another human being creates a sense of connection and stability more profound than any medication or therapy can offer.