With severe depression and anxiety, Cara bravely shares her story of how she came to find therapy, the right medication, and the new mindset for a renewed life of self love and mindfulness.
Showing everyone that it’s okay to put your own mental health needs first, I’m proud to share this beautiful soul’s journey. Meet Cara.
Explain the origin of your mental health issues i.e., what is your mental health issue, how did you realize what was happening, how was it affecting your everyday life at the time?
My name is Cara and I have severe depression and anxiety. I honestly don’t believe there was any single factor that triggered or started my depression. I remember having strange thoughts from a very, very young age about not liking my body or myself. It’s only been the last few years that I’ve learned about certain family members that deal with similar mental health issues like myself. My downward spiral started in high school, and became much worse in college. I became obsessive over schoolwork, hoping it would keep my mind busy. If I didn’t get that high score, it was a failure. I was a failure. That’s also when the negative self-talk got worse and my mindset abut my life became bleak. I barely slept, grew an aversion to going to new places (especially by myself), and would cry a lot. (All the time.)
What was the resounding moment when you decided to get help? What made you do it?
The moment I realized I needed help took place last year. I was losing control of my job, a close friend really took advantage of me emotionally, it was scary because he took off this mask and the person beneath was dangerous. I was already depressed, but wave after wave kept coming and I just couldn’t manage it anymore. I got home from work on a Friday night and had a meltdown, which included anger towards myself and I really considered hurting myself. That idea had loomed in my mind for a long time, but at that moment it was standing in front of me, and I felt hopeless. I called my mom and I told her that, I needed to come home (to SoCal), and I finally told her a bit of what was going on in my head: how much I hated myself, which was everything about myself. It was like a dam burst and I could no longer control my emotions, like I had been doing for the past 24 years. The depression had control over me, and this time I couldn’t get loose.
I think that’s when my mom and I realized how bad my situation was, the desperation, the fear, they enveloped me, and I was no longer in control of myself. I drove through the night to get to my mom’s; it was an 8-hour drive from San Francisco to Corona. I left my house in San Francisco at 7:30 p.m. and arrived at my mom’s at 3 a.m. When I got out of my car, she was waiting for me. I lost it. Uncontrollable sobbing and shaking. And she held me and said, “We’re going to fix this. We’re going to find help together.” I believed her.
We discussed options with our insurance company, like going to an outpatient clinic for a while. But ultimately, we decided that I would see a therapist and psychiatrist immediately, and if I still wasn’t feeling better, then I would go to a clinic.
How does it affect your everyday life now? Challenges? What skills have you learned to cope?
I currently have a psychiatrist whom I meet with every six weeks, and a therapist I meet once every week. I have been on this routine since last May/June. I take medication daily, (we found the right antidepressant that doesn’t make me sleepy) and I have meds for certain instances, like when I become overwhelmed and have a panic attack.
How has living with this mental illness benefited your life? What has it given you?
My quality of life has definitely improved since I sought help, and I have a very caring mother and therapist to thank for that, as well as support from dear friends, and some family members. (I say some, because even as I continue on my journey, certain members are aggressively against “those people who take happy pills”).
First of all, if somebody is talking like that to you, and belittling your health, tell them to FUCK OFF. Seriously, do it. It will save you so much time, frustration, and tears. There is absolutely no shame at all in asking for/seeking help. There is nothing wrong with feeing the way you do. You are not broken, and you are not an object that can simply “fixed”, like a broken mug glued back together. You are human. You get wounds. Then you eventually scar, but that scar takes time to grow.
Over the past year my therapist and I have focused on mindfulness, identifying negative self-talk, working through past experiences that made me devalue myself, and really helped me understand the importance of self-care, that is, putting myself first, identifying what I need, what I want, and how I can achieve those needs. Sometimes that means stepping away from toxic people, places, or situations. And that’s entirely OK!
I’m still on my journey, and I feel myself moving forward everyday, even if it’s a baby step. It’s still a step.
What is one piece of advice you would give yourself when you were struggling the most with your mental illness?
If I could give any sort of advice to my former self, who struggled for so long, so hard, and cried so much, I would tell her:
“Do not let other peoples ideas dictate how you should live your life or how you should feel, or whether or not you want to try medication. Feelings are okay. Get the help you always wanted: talk with your doctor, call that phone line, because it will get so much better.”
It has gotten better, and it took me 25 years to realize that my needs are important. I’m currently a copywriter for a publishing company (the job I’ve always wanted!), I’m relearning Spanish for travels next year, and writing creatively again, and shooting and developing black &white photography. Life’s actually pretty okay.
Check back on the blog for more Works in Progress stories! Do you want to share your story with anxiety, depression, or another mental health issue? Leave a message in the comments of your journey!