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Understanding Depression & What It’s Like to Live With

by TerriAnn

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here yet but I have major clinical depression. It’s a condition I’ve been dealing with since I was eight years old and it will likely affect me for the rest of my life. After five years of sharing my life with you, it seems like a good time to open up about this.

Understanding Depression – Not Something You Can Just “Get Over”

If you’re not familiar with clinical depression, it’s not a matter of feeling a “little down” every so often or something you can just “get out of.” Though the effects may go unseen outwardly, it’s an actual medical illness that can require professional assistance in managing. Unless you have experienced it or are close to someone who deals with it on an ongoing basis, understanding depression can be very difficult. It skews one’s entire way of thinking and can be debilitating in every aspect of everyday life.

Though I experienced symptoms of depression since I was a young child, it was not until I was about 19 years old that I was actually diagnosed. I’ve been through years of counseling, herbs, medication changes, lifestyle changes, improvement in diet and exercise, etc. Yet, I continue to struggle with the mental, emotional, and physical effects every day.

Health | Understanding depression can be difficult but it's so important to your loved ones who suffer from it that you try. See how clinical depression affects me and how it can help you.

Now, it’s important to know that depression affects everyone differently. So, though I have quite a bit of knowledge regarding depression, it is based solely on my own experience. For me, my stamina is greatly affected. That is why I cannot work outside of the home. You might be surprised to hear this when my online feed is full of photos from traveling, press events, and family activities. What you don’t see is me being stuck in bed for the next 3-5 days, in and out of sleep and internalizing overwhelming stress.

Understanding Depression – Unintentional Altered Way of Thinking

I constantly deal with feelings of worthlessness. Is someone not having a good day? It must be my fault and I have to apologize. Is someone less than happy with me? I can’t focus on anything but how to make things right. Did someone do something good? They’re so much better than me. Was something great achieved? It must have been a fluke since I’m not capable enough. When I’m at a low point, there’s no reasoning with me as the self-hate is continual and nonsensical. That is, if I can even muster the strength to talk.

While you might notice a lot of “I” and “me” in those above statements, it’s not just a matter of being self-centered. When experiencing depression, it can’t be helped. Negative feelings of all things bad about yourself come to the fore and continue to haunt you. That’s just part of the condition.

Also, unlike others who can feel highs and lows, my feelings are always somewhat flat-lined – never really happy for an extended period of time and not able to feel the pain of others when I logically should. So, while I can cry at toilet paper commercials, I have a hard time relating to the death of someone. When I should bubble over with warm feelings of joy from time with loving friends and family, I just smile then go home and curl up in a ball by myself and sigh. It’s not fun. Really.

Health | Understanding depression can be difficult but it's so important to your loved ones who suffer from it that you try. This comic is perfect of what NOT to say.

Photo Credit: Robot Hugs

Understanding Depression – Positive Support is Crucial

Fortunately, Frans, Munchkin, and my mom are amazing supports and I’m so thankful that they continue to put up with my Mr. Jekyll and Dr. Hyde in public and in private. Plus, they understand when it’s just me or when “the sickness” is taking over. The worst thing about clinical depression is that, when the symptoms are not as strong or are somewhat under control, I wonder if I have it at all or if I’ve just been making it all up all this time. As the medication starts to lose it’s strength, though, the cycle begins again and inevitably the depression rears its ugly head. If only I had some physical scar or wound then I, and others, would know it was real and not just excuse. Ugh, I hate having this.

However, this is just part of my life. It doesn’t have to define me or dictate the quality of everything else. I’m trying my best to focus on the positive. So, even if things appear carefree and rosey on the outside, looks can be deceiving. If you sense that someone is dealing with some sort of depression, try to listen and be understanding as a thoughtless statement can cause a lot of pain and hurt.

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Jenn September 2, 2015 - 3:54 pm

Thanks for sharing your story! So glad you have a great support system and good self-awareness. That’s huge!
My depression comes and goes and tends to gradually sneak up on me. I did well drug-free for over a year and a half and just had to go back on an SSRI. The automatic negative thoughts, fatigue and other symptoms had been creeping up for a while, but when I lost the ability to focus enough to blog, I realized full-blown depression was back. The meds are working wonderfully right now for which I’m thankful, but the reason I went off them in the first place was the fact that they fizzled out after so many years of continuous use. I think the only reason an SSRI is working now is because I gave them a break for nearly two years. So who knows how long before they fizzle out this time? One day at a time I guess. Hugs.

TerriAnn van Gosliga September 9, 2015 - 9:16 am

I’ve dealt with the same issues of meds losing effect and have tried several. Now I’m on Effexor (which is similar to Cymbalta but doesn’t target the joint pain) which is not an SSRI. It targets two of the main chemicals in the brain and has been helping. It’s not a cure all as a full pill knocks me out and I sleep all of the time but half a pill doesn’t fight all the effects. It’s a lesser of two evils when dealing with meds.

Becky September 2, 2015 - 8:21 pm

Thank you for sharing and being authentic. I know a lot of people don’t understand this illness. Thanks again for opening up your life and sharing with the rest of us!


TerriAnn van Gosliga September 9, 2015 - 9:12 am

Well, it’s a whole different way of thinking and to those that don’t deal with it, it can seems like nonsense. I even feel silly when trying to explain it to someone. But, the fact is that it is a medical condition and that is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Lixa September 2, 2015 - 8:29 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I can relate. I have Bipolar Depression and it is wonderful to see other bloggers talking about mental health issues!

TerriAnn van Gosliga September 9, 2015 - 9:11 am

My heart goes out to you as Bipolar is a whole other monster in itself. I think the hardest thing is that we try our best to hide it in public because we don’t want sympathy and that it’s crazy hard to explain if you’re having a “bad day.” When it comes to sharing, it can feel like we’re having a pity party or we may not be in a strong enough state to deal with any unfeeling or judgmental comments. I agree that just talking about it can open some valuable conversations, especially since many feel alone and crazy for not feeling the way others say they should.

Tamar September 2, 2015 - 11:20 pm

Thank you for sharing your experience dealing with depression. The article was heart felt and honest. I know it was not easy to share. I can relate so well to those “negative thoughts” telling me “your no good, your useless, you can’t do anything right.” Feeling tried all the time, no energy. Especially, when I have friends older then me who have such active lives going places or doing things with their friends after a long day at work or on the weekend. And I just want to go home and get in bed. But as you said it something you have to deal with on a daily bases but it does not define you or dictate the quality of everything else in your life. I think that’s something all of us with depression need to remember more often. Thanks again TerriAnn! ?

TerriAnn van Gosliga September 9, 2015 - 9:08 am

You’re welcome. Yes, those thoughts can be so pervasive and overwhelming. I remember being told all of the time when I was young that I “shouldn’t” feel that way or that just because of my age it meant I was healthy and my life was so much easier. I guess we’ve had more in common over these years and we never even knew! Always feel free to call me or message me when you need a listening ear 🙂

Tim September 3, 2015 - 5:04 am

I also struggle with depression, and have written about it on my blog. Yours is one of the best, most understandable explanations I’ve ever read. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

TerriAnn van Gosliga September 9, 2015 - 9:06 am

Wow, thank you. My husband always says that if one is currently dealing with depression they have a hard time talking about it. I’m glad that I was at a point I could express some of these things that usually feel so abstract. I’m sorry to hear you are dealing with it as well. With my husband having bouts of it, I realize that the condition is especially hard for men since society in general seems to look down on men talking or focusing on how they feel emotionally. Some can view it as a weakness or the lack of motivation as “being lazy,” contributing more to your depression. I’m always here if you need support!

Jennie September 3, 2015 - 5:22 am

Thank you! When I tell people that I started experiencing symptoms of depression when I was 8, they tell me I was too young to have that and it’s all in my head. It’s nice to know someone else started at that age. The way you describe your journey is close to some of the struggles I’ve been through. Thank you so much for putting into words the way our brains function.

TerriAnn van Gosliga September 9, 2015 - 9:02 am

Yeah, those are the comments that are NOT helpful or constructive. It was around that time that I had a lot of stomachaches and doctors didn’t know why. I also didn’t have a lot of emotional highs or crazy energy like other kids. I also have sleep apnea so the lowered immune system plus major happenings in my personal life at that time probably made me more susceptible to other issues such as clinical depression. I’m sorry to hear you have suffered with this as well. Feel free to message me anytime you need to talk 🙂

Candy O September 7, 2015 - 10:32 pm

Thank you for sharing TerriAnn. Hoping that it was as therapeutic for you to write as it was for me to read your post today. Sending hugs!

TerriAnn van Gosliga September 9, 2015 - 8:59 am

You’re welcome and I’m glad if it helped you a little. I’ve had depression for so long that it’s a part of me and it just seemed time to share that.

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