I knew something was wrong when I was finding it harder and harder to get out of bed to take care of my 2 and 3 year old.

My family doctor had run an array of tests (ct scan, mri, tube down the stomach, ekg, bloodwork) and they  all came back normal.

She did note that I was losing too much weight.  By this point, I was not really eating much and when I was, wasn’t able to keep it down.

What’s happening to me?

On the morning that  my 2 year old came to my bed  and told me she had to go potty and I told her to “just go” …..and she did, all over my floor….. and I still couldn’t get up, I decided it was time to address this and get some answers.

Getting Help

Since I had every medical test the Doctor could think of, I decided to try a therapist.

This was back in the early 90’s.

While it may seem clear that I was dealing with depression now, it wasn’t at all then. I had very little knowledge of depression and it wasn’t discussed much in public.

I was confused by the therapists diagnosis of clinical depression and anorexia.

What?

There was nothing for me to be depressed about.  I had a loving husband, just bought a new home, had two beautiful children. When we got together with friends or family, I would wear my happy face and no one knew I was suffering on the inside.

According to my therapist, the anorexia was a result of the depression.  It was my fight to be able to control something in my life, and that was food.

My new therapist wanted to start me on medication. I fought that at first.  I had heard about suicide and prozac.  That was the extent of my understanding.

I learned it wasn’t the medication that caused people to take their lives.  It was the illness.

The therapist also thought I should join a group, so against my better judgment, and just desperate to feel better, I went.

I spent two full days with strangers that were also going through what I was going through, to a certain extent, and that was not what I needed.  Those sessions left me with a sense of hopelessness.  I quit!

There was so much complaining and darkness and despair.

Effects of Stress

Through counseling, it became apparent that I had too much stress in my life at the time.   I also know that I was not getting any self care whatsoever…that wasn’t even a “thing” back in those days.

Now we know so much more about stress and the negative impact it can have on us.  We all have our limits and I have learned it is best to accept mine.

An advocate for Mental Health

I began getting stronger and clearer in thought.  I learned about the role that Tipper Gore had in bringing mental health to the forefront of society.

In 1991 she used her position to become a mental health advocate for the millions of Americans who suffer from a mental disorder.  She said she came forward to destigmatize mental illness: “If it helps one person, then I think it would have been worthwhile.”

I am so eternally grateful for her efforts to bring mental health awareness to the forefront of society.  I learned that I wasn’t alone and there was nothing “wrong” with me.

This is not something that I have ever written about, but I have shared my story verbally with many when I thought it would be helpful. And if you are struggling, please, please know that you are not alone!

That’s why I am writing here, during mental health month.

Depression affects many

Depression does not mean you are a sad, depressing person.  You may have sad and depressing thoughts, but that’s not who you are when you are living your optimal life!

No one would have a clue what I was suffering with unless they lived in my house.  And even then, my husband thought I had the flu.  We were young, clueless and in a bit of denial.

My experience was extremely scary for my husband and I’m sure for my parents, as well.

One evening, I awoke in the middle of the night to see my Mom was kneeling beside her young, married, mother of 2 daughter praying that God would heal me.

That next morning I woke up and she had made a big sign and taped it to my wall, with what is now my favorite verse.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

 

Professional Help is Needed

But let me be very clear…..it was nearly impossible for me to focus on something that was good and positive and right.  Clinical depression robs you of that ability. It filters your thoughts and puts a negative spin on everything.

 

When someone is diagnosed with  clinical depression it is so much more then thinking positive thoughts and being grateful for what one has in life.

Professional help is needed to set up a proper medical protocol.

My therapist said to me “what would you do if you were diabetic, ignore it?”  It’s the same type of thing.

 

Why did I go through depression?

In hindsight I would say it was some situational, a lot of stress and an unhealthy diet.  But that is my personal opinion.

 

So, how did I get better?

 

  • Medication —and I would do that again!  I was so deep into this depression and so many other variables were at play, it was a necessity

 

  • Meditation—I would make myself get out of bed, grab a blanket and my Bible (which I hadn’t read in years) and head outside to be in nature, soak in some sun and spend time with God

 

  • Therapy—It was time for me to address things I had buried for years

 

  • Support — I had to let people info my life where they were able to help me with the kids, housework and just listen to me.  My husband was the biggest supporter of all.  He could have walked away from me, because I was not a pleasant person, but he fought for our family.

 

  • Exercise—I started back slowly, walking from the driveway to the road and that was seriously as far as I could go. Soon I was walking a couple of miles at a time

 

  • Journaling—getting everything out my head and being “buried” to on paper and addressing and then letting go, if needed

 

  • Self care —I remember the first thing I did when I started feeling a little better was go to a mall, stopped at the perfume counter and smell all the scents. Something that small meant so much to me.  And, yes, I bought a nice bottle too.

Know someone suffering?

If you have a loved one going through depression, be patient with them.  Give them space, encourage them to do just a little each day and seek professional help for them.  They may not have the strength to do that on their own.

Conclusion

So, I share my personal story to tell you I understand if you have feelings of hopelessness, falling into a dark abyss and are viewing the world and your life through dark glasses.  I’ve been there.

But, there is good news!!

It will pass!  There are brighter days ahead with the right treatment. It is possible to be stronger and back to your “old” self, and even better.

Everyone is different.  This is my experience with clinical depression and may not be yours, but I share because I care so passionately about those who are feeling so alone, overwhelmed and hopeless.

Had I been more familiar with the early signs of depression, maybe I wouldn’t have sunk into such a deep clinical depression.

I am so thankful we are more open and accepting of this illness.

Depression is not a sign of weakness.  It takes courage to admit.

There’s so much more to this story, but what I want to leave you with is YOU were created for a purpose and are loved by God and so many people, even if you don’t “feel” it.

My DM and email is always open if you ever need a confidential shoulder.

Love and peace my friend

Melanie Silkworth

7 Comments on My experience with Mental Health Illness

  1. Thank you for your courage in sharing this personal story. You know I have a similar journey and applaud you for using this platform to spread awareness and HOPE because there are brighter days….. and they will come! Sending love and hugs to you, Mel. xo

    • Hi Barbie: I do know we share a similar story and I suspect there are quite a few of us. We share because we care.
      Big Hugs,
      Melanie

  2. Hello Mel.
    Thank you for sharing your personal story. My dad suffered from clincal depression when I was little and my mom would see him spend days sleeping and needing help. I appreciate you telling what you did to help yourself, what worked. Mental health is so important, and support is key. Sounds like your husband was wonderfully supportive as well. I have gone through therapy with my illness, and family support is crucial. I am sorry you went through depression, but so glad you found what had helped you.
    jess xx
    http://www.elegantlydressedandstylish.com

    • Hi Jess!

      It certainly was the worst thing I’ve ever been through, but if I can help others understand that there are options and there is always hope. We are very fortunate to have the family support we both have.
      Hugs,
      Melanie

  3. Amazing story, yet very likely also common. I applaud you for writing about it because it is something that can happen to anybody. Your tips tick all the boxes. A beautiful article.

    • Hi Marijke! Thank you. So agree, if this extroverted optimist can go through it, anyone can. It’s so important to understand what is happening to you and seek professional counsel. Thank you for reading and commenting. <3
      Hugs, Melanie

  4. Such a heartfelt post, Mel. Thank you for sharing your story which, unfortunately, so many of us can relate to. You’ve come a long way, and you should be proud.

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