Depression: It’s Not Just Crying in a Dark Room

Megan Smiling Full Size

Depression has a stigma, I have to admit it. Especially in the African American and other minority communities. I can remember even saying myself, “I don’t have time to be depressed, I have a kid to raise and work to do.” Then I went through it. It took me a while to realize that it didn’t look like what I thought it would.

The signs for me were more subtle.

It all started with a slow progression in weight gain. In 2005 I was a tight size 8. I loved the way that I looked and enjoyed shopping, I felt like I looked good in my clothes. Then someone told me that I was too skinny and didn’t have enough hips. At the time in my head, I was thinking, “Go to hell. I look good to me.” BUT, unbeknownst to me, I heard it and I internalized it. So began the weight gain. Somehow it became my mission to look like someone else wanted me to look. At my heaviest I was 182 pounds, a size 18 and at 5’2” tall that was way too much. I began to hate how I looked.

Next was the comfort eating. Now mind you I did not have the awareness that this was going on at the time. I’ve always been a foodie who enjoyed eating and cooking. But my consumption of sweets and my favorite things that “I” cooked increased. When I felt down at night and could not sleep, I would eat some chocolate chip cookies. If I felt down during the day, I would go to my favorite restaurant because alone I didn’t have to hear about how much I was spending. Or worry about how much I was spending. Went I felt alone in between, I snacked on unhealthy things that made feel better for a short time. I stopped going to workout. I used to go a minimum of 3 times a week.

Sleep eluded me. I wasn’t sleeping. On an average night I slept about 5 hours a night. I would toss and turn, wake in the middle of the night or just not sleep at all. This had been going on for several years and was starting to have an effect on the way that I looked and my effectiveness. Many times while driving during the day I would nod off…in broad daylight! Praise GOD I am still here and I didn’t hurt anyone else doing that mess.

Lack of Confidence was consuming me. Now those who know me and see me, think I have it all together. In many ways I did but I was losing my ability to manage things as well as I used to. I had all sorts of ideas, expansion plans and other ways to help people through my business, my ministry. I just couldn’t get them off of the ground. I let fear overtake me, even though the Holy Spirit had been constantly prompting me to start a group to help other women. I was stressed out, felt like crying all the time and just could not finish anything. I believed that because I did not have my life together and was living in a façade that I had nothing to offer anyone else.

None of these events separately looked like depression to me. It seemed to me I was just having a bad day, or a bad week or a bad couple of months. Then, what I knew as specific symptoms of depression started to hit me.

I did not leave my room or and would barely get out of bed. Now do not get it twisted I was “functioning” during this time. I got up and went to work, went to church, networked, went to Bible study…you name it. BUT when I was at home and did not have any outside responsibilities, I did nothing. I stayed in my room, in my bed all day and all night. I mean I might have come out to eat but that was it. I would take a shower and get right back in the bed. I didn’t clean anything I didn’t organize anything, I did nothing else but binge watch Netflix and Hulu. Everything was on an as needed basis. I only washed when I absolutely needed clothes. I washed dishes when I needed dishes. I never cleaned the bedroom, I hardly cleaned anything. If I didn’t live with my family I shudder to think what everything would look like.

When I recognized it, I fought back. I began to change the way that I was living my life.

Faith returned to me. I got back in God’s word. I had been participating in Bible study every week, going to church every week and had all kinds of Bible studies on my nightstand. But I was not taking it to heart.  At my moment of realization I learned that I could not move forward in my life with things the way they were. I cried out to God to comfort me and looked to him for my strength. I started absorbing the word, I started believing it again. I made some changes in my life, I made some changes in my eating, I removed the idol I had placed in my life.  Idols don’t love you back, God does.  At the beginning of the year, doing the Daniel Fast with my church changed my life. This year I did it unto God. Not for something I wanted, not to change someone else, but just to show my commitment to God. I internalized the sermons I was hearing, I stopped just listening because I was supposed to. I valued the healthy changes the fast was making in my body.

Resurrection. God brought ME back, the real me. I remembered that God loved me no matter how I looked, no matter how I felt I failed, no matter how much I doubted myself. I began to care about how I looked and what I ate. Sometimes I just smile to myself, because I am feeling happy. I started yet another business that has a direct connection to the confidence in myself that was coming back to me. (I have 3!) I made the Bible a true part of my life again. My focus was back on God.

I STARTED COUNSELING. Yes I know, I’m a counselor why wasn’t I already going? Because I avoided counseling for some of the same reasons you do. I didn’t want to face the truth about myself, my life and the idol I had created in it. I went and it changed my life. I experienced the feeling that others get when they come to me. That experience lead me to praising God even more for this gift he has given me to help and encourage others.  There is no shame in counseling. Get some help, you are not alone and the things that are happening, are not just happening to you.  I am a living witness. I am here to help.

Depression can rear its ugly head in various ways. It is not of God and can be dealt with. As you can see from my story above it can show up in more than one way.  Here are some signs of depression. But this list is not all inclusive. And some people who have a more chemical depression versus a situational depression may need medication on a temporary or long-term basis.

According to the Mayo Clinic the symptoms of depression are:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

You can make it through this. I did. Get some help. I’m here. Family First Counseling is here.

Be Blessed,

Megan

Who’s Your Counselor’s Counselor?

Who's Your Counselor's Counselor

As I near the end of collecting my state LPC-Intern hours, I have realized the importance of the question: Who’s your counselor’s counselor?  At first, I found it easy to compartmentalized the traumas that I was hearing on a daily basis from my clients and not allowing their stories to effect me.  However, after two plus years (not including when I was in school gaining my internship hours) of stories upon stories, I found myself becoming anxious and depressed.

Becoming a counselor is not the easiest career, since you allow yourself to absorb some one else’s traumatic events and keep their story confidential.  I am a secret of vaults that not even truth serum could penetrate.  With all of the traumatic events that I took in, I began to obtain somewhat a cynical view of the world.  I started to believe that things are horrible and would not change.  I began a routine of working long hours and coming home to “zombie out” in front of the TV.  I gave up reading an enjoyable book, walking the dogs around the neighborhood and enjoying “me time” at a local restaurant.  As days turned into weeks into months on end with this routine and lack of hobbies, I became depressed.  There were times when I would go without a shower for two days, be too tired to brush my teeth at night and oversleeping on the weekend.

As my depression grew, I realized my anxiety was increasing too.  I began to question my capabilities as a counselor, had paranoid thoughts and became more susceptible to illnesses.  Just in three months, I was sick twice!  I was living in fear and wanted to find excuses to not attend work or anything for that matter.  As a counselor, I know a multitude of coping skills, yet I chose not to participate in them.  I felt hollow and yet, somehow, I was still functioning as a counselor to my clients.  I began to notice that my clients were doing better than me!

Enough was enough – I knew something had to change: me.  How was I ever to promote self-care to my clients without taking care of myself?  I began take slow steps towards recovery… started with journaling my thoughts and emotions.  I found that I was able to sleep a little bit better after emptying my mind.  I started openly discussing my struggle with supportive colleagues, where they provided a sound board for me.  I asked for a two-week hiatus from facilitating night groups to reduce my over-worked work load – which was granted.  I began reading the book The Four Agreements that a colleague provided for me and I’m taking it to heart.  I even received some of my creativity spark back from doing all of these self-care acts.

But of course, the largest step that I took in recovery was this: contacting a counselor!  I am currently waiting for the counselor to contact me back to schedule my first session, but I am feeling a multitude of feelings – scared, nervousness, relief and excitement.  Out of all those emotions, excitement is the greatest.  I am excited to rediscover who I am.  And that in a nutshell is why even I as a counselor requires a counselor!  So, who’s your counselor’s counselor?

Drawing Your Desired Reality

Drawing Your Future RealityAre you feeling discontent with your current reality?  Don’t fret, there are ways to change it!  But of course, changing your reality will take work (A LOT of work) on your part.  I stumbled upon this TED Talk clip this morning when I was just browsing videos on YouTube.  I found this 10 minute clip to be the most inspirational and motivational clip that I have viewed in a while.  Take time and watch it to find out the three most important aspects in changing your reality via drawing it.  Afterwards, let us know what you plan on changing and how!  Family First Counseling can assist by being your cheerleader for your new change.  Enjoy!

 

Pay It Forward!!!

I’m sure many of you have heard of the “Pay it Forward” concept. Basically, it is the understanding that a person or persons have helped you to get where you are. In honor of this assistance, you in return help someone else. As Christians it is our duty to help others. What a wonderful way to express God’s love and continue the helping cycle. If someone has assisted you in getting to where you are….I encourage you to devise a plan to assist others.

Count Your Blessings

Count Your BlessingsI was really elated when I filled up earlier this week for gas.  Yay for $1.73/gallon!!  That’s right, Kroger’s card is an ultimate life saver (at least in a worldly sense).  As I was pumping my gas, which ended up totaling to less than $17.00, I began to think how grateful I was to receive such an awesome deal.  Then my mind began to wonder…

What else am I grateful for??

I started to list off how blessed I was to own my car.  My car is a 2010 Toyota Prius and it provides me a safe trip from point A to point B — it fits my needs perfectly.  I am blessed to have a job (really, two jobs) that can provide the financial income to allow me to own this car.  I am blessed that I have employers that believe in my skills and work ethics.  I am blessed to have a career path, which was allowed via my education – both bachelors and masters.  I am fortunate to grow up in a family that encouraged me to attend school, in order to better my future.  I am grateful to have grown up in a family that was nurturing to my needs.  I am blessed to be alive by my Father – the One who believed in me at the time of my conception, up until now.  I know I am truly blessed to be a child of God and He has great plans for me.

Yes, tangential thinking, but when you notice one blessing, you began to count all the other blessings that led up to the point of your current blessing.  So, have you counted your blessings today?

Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Did you recently lose a job or a loved one?  Are you experiencing difficulties along your pathway to recovery?  Whatever you are experiencing at this current moment, you are not alone.  Yes, the choices that are made, whether you invoked them or they presented themselves to you, God is with you.  There is a reason why you are experiencing this choice.  Many of us may ask God “why me”?  Instead, ask yourself what can I do for Him with what’s been presented.

To mask your emotions with distractions (alcohol, drugs, work, sex, etc) would be a disservice to Him.  We are human, we all experience a range of emotions.  Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.  What that means is simply this: Feel your feelings… allow yourself to be humble and acknowledge that you are human.  As humans, we need to break down at times to build ourselves up.  Use God to assist you during these times.  He will never leave you.

When we actually feel our emotions, we are then available to listen to our inner hearts and what God has presented to us: a gift.  He gives us strength to overcome, keep us moving forward and to follow what He truly wants us to do.

Listen.