I knew I was in trouble when in 2013 I felt completely drained and began feeling worse each day. Although this is a typical feeling for teachers at the end of a school year, I was beyond exhausted. Additionally, I had delivered a baby eight months earlier, and I knew my body was still recovering. A few weeks into June, I began feeling worse and worse. I knew I wasn’t exerting enough energy to feel so exhausted. All I wanted to do was sleep. I believed I could just sleep off the exhaustion, yet I was only getting more tired.
Finally, one event in particular became a catalyst to confront my challenge. I was trying to get ready for an annual family reunion, but I could not motivate myself to begin the preparations. I remember sitting on the bottom step of our stairs, tears in my eyes, wondering how I was going to snap out of it. I don’t remember how we were able to get packed up–all I know is that the next day we were on our way to the cabin.
In the evening of the first day, I noticed that my baby was running a fever. I felt panicky because I had not remembered to bring Tylenol, so we did the best we could. However, in the middle of the night she woke up just miserable. My husband and I tried to comfort her, but she fussed off and on for the rest of the night. Finally, I decided to leave the cabin and drive straight to my parent’s house for help. They would know what to do. I remember pulling off the freeway exit, and my emotions overtook me. The tears poured out of my eyes. I was so thankful that I had made the trip safely, and more importantly, help was just minutes away.
When my Mom answered the door, I handed the baby to her and I cried. She helped me get the baby to the doctor, but I remember that during the drive I felt extremely foggy. Fortunately, my mom handed me her phone and urged me to call a counselor I had previously been referred to. I knew I needed help, but I had no idea what I would say. Biting my lip, I made the call. Much to my surprise, the counselor was able to see me that same day.
Going to counseling for my first time was a bit nerve-racking. Having to openly admit that I needed help was scary. I felt both hopeless and helpless. However, as soon as I met the counselor, I knew this would be a good fit. As I sat down and started talking, I was completely honest about everything that I was going through mentally and physically. Throughout the session, the counselor explained to me that it seemed like I was drowning. My head was already under the water, and my arms were trying to grasp for anything that would pull me out. Honestly, that is exactly how I felt. Toward the end of our first visit, I even filled out a suicide contract. Looking back, I feel almost ashamed and embarrassed that I had let myself get to that point.
During the next several months, I had many counseling sessions. Sometimes I would feel completely drained from them. However, I was learning tools and techniques to help me combat my depression and anxiety. Many times I felt frustrated with myself because it was extremely difficult to redirect my thoughts. For many years, I had been experiencing negative thoughts about myself, so I had to completely retrain my brain. When I learned exactly what depression felt like, I realized I had been dealing with it for years as it progressively worsened.
The longer I stayed in counseling, the easier it became for me to open up and talk about depression. I was able to deal with the emotions that I buried when I experienced infertility problems and a miscarriage. I learned to listen to myself and know my limits. I learned to set boundaries. I learned that it is okay to ask for help. Most of all, I learned how to start loving myself.
Although my experience with counseling taught me many things, I still have to work on myself every day. I have come to the realization that I may never fully be rid of depression and anxiety, but I now have the tools to bring myself out of it. Taking care of myself physically helps a lot. However, I have setbacks and times when I struggle to redirect my thoughts. During these times, I have found strength in my Father in Heaven, prayer, and in studying the gospel. I have found strength and comfort in the people that surround me. Through these wonderful people, and my Father in Heaven, I am learning my worth.
The most significant blessing I have gained from this experience is the ability to empathize with others. Even if we don’t truly know what each person is facing, I believe that we are all doing the absolute best we can. Being able to listen and learn from others’ experiences has taught me to love others and be tolerant and compassionate.