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Depression-- the journey back

Becoming strong
Becoming strong
Shelley Stutchman

It has been almost five months since a life situation sent me spiraling into a deep depression. I wrote about it in March, and had at least two hundred emails from across the nation thanking me for bringing mental and emotional health issues in the open. Since then, people across the nation, continue to ask me how I am doing. I decided it was time to write about my journey forward, where I am five months later, and the way, this experience changed me.

Depression is an illness, unlike a physical illness. If your gall bladder goes bad, you can have surgery, take it out, and in a few weeks feel much better. Anyone who has ever suffered the pain of depression would love to be able to have a surgery, and have it removed like a body part. Of course, that is impossible, thus clinical and situational depression a slow healing journey.

I was the type of person who unfailingly thought when life knocked you down; you got right back up, and moved forward. I was always able to do that before; this time it was different. Instead of getting better in a few days, or a week, I got worse. I could not lift the black cloud that consumed me, and knew I needed help.

My doctors, my friends, and my family said, “Time will heal all wounds. It will get better.”

I did not believe them. I thought the pain, and sadness would never get better. How could it? Just finding the energy to brush my teeth was a struggle. Every time someone would tell me that, I knew they were trying to give me hope, and encouragement. With the dark cloud pressing on me, hope seemed like a past memory. They were correct time has helped. I was told it would probably be a year before I would be completely free from the depression. I was grateful to the doctor who told me that. It has helped me understand the slow progress, when the world around me was saying, “Put your big girl panties on and move forward.”

A few months ago, tears would flow; I had no control over when or where that would happen. It would be embarrassing to be eating lunch with friends, and someone would say something that would trigger a memory, and I would start crying. I thought five months ago I would never again have a day without tears. Now, I can laugh again, smile again, but there are still times when the tears fall, but I have control, and don’t start crying at the drop of a hat. I am more sensitive now when others are hurting. It feels like I can sense their pain, and I want to reach out to them. I rarely cried before that life event, now when someone shows kindness towards me, or says something touching and nice, I may cry, not because of sadness, but because of a new appreciation of the compassion of people.

Another thing I was told was I would come out of this a stronger person. Five months ago, I did not believe this anymore than I believed time would heal. I was broken; I hit bottom, and how would I ever climb out of the despair, and be stronger? Once again, they were right. Today I have a new confidence in myself. My therapist has taught me to be proud of my accomplishments for me. Before the depression, I did everything to make someone else proud, so I could have their approval. Today I believe in myself, the ability to meet my goals, and surpass them. I think this comes from seeing I can bounce back, even when I thought I couldn’t. This self-reinforces that I am strong. There is a funny thing that has happened along the way, I no longer take criticism to heart when some people tell me I should not be so open about the path of depression. I know they have never been down this road, so they can’t understand, I couldn’t either before I experienced this. I brush off the harsh words, and I hope they at no time in their life have to take this journey.

There are memories and feelings that I know will always be with me. I can finally think of them, and remember all the joy and goodness, rather than the darkness that I thought was going to be with me for the rest of my life. Five months ago, I could not listen to music on my car radio, nor could I put on my iPod, and get lost in the music. Music was and is one of the great loves of my life. The words of a song might make me cry, or even make me feel as if my heart was breaking. Today, I can listen to music with joy again. There will still be a song now and then that will make me sad, so I simply turn off the radio, and focus on the moment.

The PTSD that came with the depression is still with me, but much better. I no longer suffer from it every second of every minute, of every day. There are still times I will recall things from the past, and it will trigger the PTSD. I understand when those intense moments of a memory hit me, it is ok; someday to this shall pass.

The biggest change in my personality is I no longer trust as easily as I had before. I tend to see only the good in people.I thought I had a highly tuned instinct of mankind, and I had faith in my intuition. That blind, unconditional belief was shattered, which makes me question my decisions. Today I am cautious before I sign anything. I will take my time, and if I am rushed to decide, I will walk away, rather than feel pressured to make a sudden assessment. This is a good change, which will protect me as I move forward in this journey.

Writing has always been my passion. When the depression first hit me, I became obsessed with writing. I would fill notebooks each day, mostly writing about how I was feeling, trying to figure things out, and connect the dots. I had an event happen in which I could not make the dots connect. My therapist told me, that was why I was writing so furiously; that rational and intelligent people want to understand things. When they can’t they become obsessed with the question why. Part of healing is to accept a line from the serenity prayer. That line is; God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

With proper medication, a good counselor, wonderful friends, a supportive family, and Lemonade Ladies, I am on the journey of healing completely. Lemonade Ladies has been nothing less than a miracle. I was searching for a support group for women over 40, who were dealing with all sorts of issues. I wanted a safe haven in which to talk to others that really understood the journey forward. There was none. I took that seed, and visited with some other ladies; they also said they would love to have such a group. Lemonade Ladies was formed on the deck of a very special red-headed lady. It is a confidential, safe, haven for women to talk about life issues, and feelings, which they are not comfortable sharing anywhere else. Lemonade Ladies has taken on a life of its own, and seems to be directed by something more powerful than us mere humans. It is growing like the grass does after a rain. Lemonade Ladies is too powerful, and too healing to remain only in my living room; it must spread from town to town, and city to city. As a writer for, I have been able to circulate the word about Lemonade Ladies across the nation.

One lady said to me, “Lemonade Ladies is your mission in life.” I am glad she said that, because, deep down, ever since I was a child, I just knew there was something important I was supposed to do before I died. I kept searching for what that might be; I thought I found it a few times. Those other things that I thought were my mission, never really took off, no matter how I forced them to. Lemonade Ladies, is directing itself without me forcing it to happen. I am being shown the path by a higher power. Yes, I believe this is the calling I was born to do. Let me take that back, I don’t believe it; I know it.

On this journey through depression, I know I am much better, and the journey forward from this point will be easier. There is one major thing left, and when it happens, I will know I have beaten this disease. Before the depression, I loved to buy a new dress, a new pair of shoes, and pretty underwear. I have not been in a store even looking for those things yet. The day I go shopping, and come home with those items in a bag, is the day I will know, I have completely been lifted from the darkness of depression.

I hope to go shopping soon.

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