Living with Depression: This Summer

I’ve been living with depression in 1999. It was a huge relief because now I knew I wasn’t going crazy. 

Close up picture of the center of a sunflower. When I heard Chester Bennington passed away last month, I was heartbroken. Bennington shared his experience living with depression. Yet, he lost his fight. He was only 41 years old. It feels as if I keep hearing about people dying before they turn 50. Scary. I turned 49 years old this year. Anyone with depression knows it’s a daily struggle. In fact, it can be debilitating. 

Living: Sharing My Story

I’ve been living with depression in 1999. It was a huge relief when I was diagnosed because now I knew I wasn’t going crazyOne morning I just didn’t have the energy to go to work. A fellow coworker and my school nurse convinced me to get help. Since that time, I have survived with the help of medication and counseling. 

I take depression medication daily. It helps me to have clarity and to recognize what triggers my low moods. The counseling or talk therapy I’ve had over the years provides me with the tools to set boundaries and to work through those episodes. I depend on both for my survival especially this summer. I have major depression. This is a lifetime diagnosis due to relapses and family history on my mom’s side. When you live with depression, you learn to set limitations and boundaries with family members to protect your mental health. If I can have my mood and my motivation in sync, then it’s a good day. It’s when they aren’t in sync that it becomes a daily struggle. 

Living and Coping: This Summer

I’m one of two Black veteran teachers at my level. It hasn’t been easy. However, thanks to Drumpf, I experienced situations this year that my teacher colleagues with close to my credentials did not experience. 

Since June 26th, I’ve been struggling with a depressive episode. (Fortunately, I have the guidance and support of my psychiatrist.) It was triggered by an extremely stressful school year. My reality: after 24 years, I still have to fight to be treated with professional respect. I will be at my third elementary school. This isn’t due to lack of a position at my previous schools. I’ve moved because I needed to put myself in a more professionally safe environment. I’m one of two Black veteran teachers at my level. It hasn’t been easy. However, thanks to Drumpf, I experienced situations this year that my White teacher colleagues with close to my credentials did not experience. My seniority should’ve allowed me to stay. My experience teaching grades 2-5 should’ve counted. Yet, it didn’t. That sucks! 

It’s ok and it’s the summer vacation I’m supposed to have at this point.

I’m tired. I was tired in January. I was tired in May. I was beyond tired on June 26th. As of this week, I am still tired. People ask me if I’m having a good summer vacation, I tell them, “It’s ok, and it’s the summer vacation I’m supposed to have at this point.” There were no trips to New York City. I did not go jet-skiing on the Hudson River this year or drive an exotic car around a race track. I looked forward those were the activities to last summer. Not this summer…

Living and Accepting

Instead, I am dealing with my latest depressive episode. I still get out and do activities with a group of wonderful Black women. My group understands what it’s like to be the “only Black woman at work.” They know what it feels like to have your credentials dismissed, yet be expected to perform at 200%. (There’s an entire Twitter Feed devoted to this issue: BreakfastClubBoycott). 

Two weeks ago, I accepted the fact that I won’t accomplish all of the items on my goal list. Each day it’s taken all of my strength to participate in daily life. I’ve tried to keep my daily schedule and exercise occasionally. However, I realize that to move past this episode, I have to embrace it completely.

So, if you are living with depression, please understand that you are not alone. Take the time you need to heal. It will be worth it in the end. 

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2 Comments

  1. This was such a powerful read for me. I have lived with PTSD and chronic major depression for close to 20 years now, and generalized anxiety disorder for roughly 10. I would have okay days, low days, and bottom of the Pit of Despair days, but I would never have a high day ever. When a major depressive episode hit, I would cease to function for days.

    About 8.5 years ago, I began grad school to become an intervention specialist, then earned my Master’s in Special Education and taught for over 5 years. Not 6, mind you. I resigned entirely at the end of this school year. Everything about the school environment had become a huge part of keeping me in my state of depression and anxiety.

    Medicine has never been effective in my case. I have been to a few different doctors and been on so many different medications, combinations of meds, various dosages, and nothing has worked. One of my past medications even caused permanent damage to my hearing. It’s devastating to realize everything that has happened in order to try to heal my mind.

    During this school year, I had my most devastating major depressive episode yet. I could not function, and thus I could not work and had to take the rest of the year off with my sick leave and then FMLA time. Because anti-depressants and therapy had not been helping at all, my doctor decided to perform transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) therapy on me for 1.5 months and it was like awakening from a coma. It completely changed my life, and I finally started feeling like myself again for the first time in about 15 years.

    The insight I gained afterward was staggering because I was so numb to everything for so long. I decided to leave the field of education because it has become so caustic. The bureaucracy, the lack of community and parental support, the administration that clearly lies when they say they make decisions based on what’s best for kids, the constant lack of respect from the children we teach, increase in required jumping through hoops for the state, cuts to staff and increased workloads, the emotional drain of working with students with special needs, etc. I had become absolutely miserable, so I knew I had to leave.

    It is so difficult to try to make yourself the priority when life suddenly feels like a battering ram against your sanity, but it is necessary to remember that self-care is everything. You are your most important resource and you must prioritize protecting and preserving yourself. Take the time every day to do something just for yourself. Maybe also look into TMS if you haven’t before. It has given me my life back.

  2. T. Lanette

    Thank you for responding. I am glad that you could relate to my story. You are correct, self-care is important. I had to focus on me and deal with this episode. First I had to accept that I would not accomplish the goals I had and that was ok. I also had to take a break from my mom. An event with her (one I’m sure she saw as innocent) tipped me over the edge. I felt I needed to write about my episode to come to terms with it. I also wanted people to know they are not alone because living with depression can be lonely. Medication has helped for me. However, if it wasn’t for the tools/techniques I learned in therapy, I don’t know where I would be.

    Teaching is such a draining career. As you said between the expectations, administration, parents, and students our profession is very stressful. For me it was also the lack of respect from colleagues some of which was prejudice on their part. I’m entering my 25th year and preparing to retire early (within the next two years). I’m training for a new profession. That gives me the drive to continue. I’m also at a new school (my choice) with colleagues who respect me. I will look into the therapy you described. I am happy to see that it worked for you. Thank you again for responding to my post. Trista

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