Two years ago, my husband Jeff and I were expecting our first baby. Everything was going great. We felt like we were on top of the world, except Jeff had started to isolate himself from me, work late nights constantly, drink a lot, and I could tell something was really off with him.
One night, he got home late at night after promising to be home earlier. I was fed up. I tearfully confronted him about it. After laying it all out, he admitted that he was struggling and needed to get help. He vowed that he was going to do it for me and the baby. Neither of us realized it at the time, but he was in a major deep dark depression. That tearful conversation, by the grace of God, was the wakeup call that he needed to get help. The next day he saw a therapist for the first time. He was immediately diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and PTSD, put on medication, and was hospitalized for the first time.
Life with Depression
This began his long battle with depression – dozens of therapists, psychiatrists, medications, and multiple hospitalizations. This, without a doubt, has brought some of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life. It’s also the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a couple. At times it has brought us both to our knees. Imagine watching your partner, your best friend, battle an invisible illness that no one can see and many people don’t even understand.
Jeff is a survivor and has been fighting hard to overcome his depression since that first day. He has come a long way since then. He has good days and bad days but overall continues to make progress. Through all of this, we have grown closer than I ever expected, and learned the true meaning of ‘in sickness and in health’. I have found my own inner strength that I never knew I had, and he has too.
Today, I’m a mental health advocate, speaker, and writer, supportive wife, working mother, and running coach. If you’re curious, I shared more about my personal story with mental health here). I love my life and I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today without the struggles that I have gone through. I believe that God had me go through my own struggles so that I could help others overcome theirs. And I’ve found a new passion and purpose in my life: to help others find their way out of the darkness through mental health advocacy.
Sharing both my story and Jeff’s story is terrifying but what is even more terrifying is the fact that someone out there may suffer in silence for far too long because they don’t know that things can get better. Staying silent only allows the stigma to continue. Mental illness does not discriminate and it can happen to anyone (even people who appear to have it all together). I’m speaking up to help you become aware of symptoms and warning signs to look for in yourself and others. If you silently battle, know that you are not alone and that recovery is possible.
So, if you are going through the same thing Jeff or I have gone through, I have something to say to you. I know things are really difficult right now. I know you are afraid and feeling hopeless, but you are going to be ok. I know you don’t know it, but you are smart, beautiful, strong, resilient, valuable, and worthy just the way you are. Reach out to someone for help. You are not alone. You will get better, and the world is a better place because you are here.
If you or someone you know needs help, you can use any of the following resources:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) – We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
NAMI Help Line (1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org) – The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with a mental health conditions, their family members and caregivers, mental health providers and the public. HelpLine staff and volunteers are experienced, well-trained and able to provide guidance. If you would like to learn more about mental illness, please visit https://www.nami.org/Home.
To learn more about how to prevent bullying, visit https://www.stopbullying.gov/