Surviving Depression

By December 10, 2015Blog

“Let me tell you what I hate,” said the mysterious fedora-wearing woman making a grand entrance into the closed-door business meeting, already 30 minutes in-progress. I happened to be speaking at the time, making a presentation to a potential new client, giving them every reason they should go with my company instead of the competition. Until that moment, all had been going well. Signs of closing this deal were coming together like stars spelling Y-E-S in the sky.

In business, few emotions compare to the exhilaration of closing a new deal. It’s not the financial reward, but the burst of confidence from validation that I’m actually good at something. That is, until a total stranger, whose name I never managed to get, can suck all the energy out of a room. Within seconds she had undermined months of planning this presentation. The meeting ended abruptly — my colleague and I were quickly escorted to the elevator bank, looking at each other in disbelief.

The Fedora Lady story is one that has stuck with me for two decades. It happened early in my career, and although it makes for humorous storytelling, it serves as a stark reminder that there will always be someone or something that can knock the wind of out my sales, er, sails.

That was twenty years ago when depression was kicking my ass, lying to me, telling me that I was bad, stupid, ugly, worthless, and put on this earth for the soul purpose of suffering. It seemed like my profession provided me with daily opportunities for rejection — reinforcing my self-depreciation. Any analyst would have a field day dissecting the reasons why I chose to earn a living that fed my disease, day after day. Maybe the highs of bringing in a new account outweighed the lows of being turned down. Lately I prefer to not look back and question my decisions. What’s done is done.

Depression is a hideous illness that revels in taking down its victims. Despite my success with battling negativity, I have a vulnerability to succumb to toxic people, leaving the window open for despair. Today, after years of CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) and the help of antidepressants, I have a clear understanding of my disorder and how it affects my brain. That does not mean that I’m immune to suffering from depressive episodes. It just makes the experiences a tad easier to deal with. I now know that they will eventually subside.

For my mental and physical well-being and self-preservation, it’s my responsibility to remain vigilant. I must keep harmful influences far away by setting firm boundaries. If Ms. Fedora barged in on me now, I’d laugh it off; my skin has grown thicker over time. Nevertheless, for my own protection, I need to pick and choose who and what is allowed near me, whenever possible. It means cutting out the crap that can make me sick. The same way someone with high cholesterol must modify their diet, I’m no longer willing to risk my health for the sake of pleasing others, burying my feelings, biting my tongue, and later turning that anger inwards, leaving me with residual pain and long-term collateral damage. If I don’t put myself first, who will?

As I go about life with this strategy for staying sane, there may be people who won’t understand. They might get angry and perhaps even cut ties with me – and as much as that stings, it’s still better than becoming ill from avoidable stress. Why shouldn’t I treat depression the same way I would manage any other chronic illness? I know my road won’t be easy, but it’s up to me to set limits. I don’t want to end up with a tumor because I was too anxious to speak up for myself and do what’s best for me. Those days are over.

All you need to do is watch the news for five minutes to see how little power we have over horrific events happening around the world. These are scary, gruesome, fear-inducing times we live in, keeping even the most chemically balanced people awake at night.

If I can do my part in controlling stress and depression triggers, keeping them at a distance, or out of my life completely, by drawing a solid line between what I deem to be benign and what will definitely jeopardize my health – I’m going to do just that. It’s called survival.

 

5 Comments

  • Mary H says:

    Awesome. The only way to survive depression.

  • Holly says:

    Thanks for the great story. It really rings true for me. The only problem I seem to have is that I find so many people toxic. I’ve become such an introvert, more out of protection than the desire to always be alone.

    Have you ever felt somewhat isolated? And if yes, maybe that’s ok in order to cope with having chronic depression. It’s important to have healthy boundaries, but I tend to build a wall now.

    I worked in a very sick, cruel, and ego-concentric telecom culture and could be scared for life! However, I chose not to be.

    Now I am so non-trusting of most people in the workplace.I’m even pursuing a new career where I can hopefully work from home most of the time.

    I have done CBT and continue to see my psychiatrist. The right anti-depressant and diagnosis helps too. Good luck to you in keeping the triggers at bay. You’re right, it is being in a survival mode that I never understood throughout the many years of dealing with this disease.

  • Trudy G says:

    This really helped me alot. It is all so true, like you are writing about me . Thank you for telling your stories , they really help others 🙂

  • Nick S says:

    Great way to cope with a disease. Most people do not even realize how debilitating this sickness can be. Unfortunately, it also varies from person to person (like any other medical condition). Thanks for the article!

  • Toni V. says:

    Adrienne, I understand this story – I have experienced it – and it is a terrible feeling and can affect us so deeply — at our core. I hope that aside from your thicker skin you also now have a sense of self based on all that you have accomplished and overcome. Your blog is incredible and has helped me during bad times and good times. You have chosen to share what you’ve learned and you are brave and courageous and a hero. Thank you for all you’ve done for those who deal with depression and best wishes for a Happy, Healthy New Year!

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