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“A lot of people don’t realize that depression is an illness. I don’t wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it.” ~ Jonathan Davis

Last time I wrote about depression on Renaissance Mom, I followed it up with a nice long walk in the woods. My mom, RM’s biggest fan, read the post, called me on my cell, learned I was in the woods and then sat around anxiously awaiting my return. Apparently the post was, well depressing, and she thought I had gone into the woods to off myself. I guess I neglected to tell her I was going with two friends and our dogs, and the post “Keeping my head above water” was merely an excerpt about how depression could and had felt at times, but wasn’t how I was feeling at the moment. Oops!

Yes, I said it. I am living with depression and have been for some time, but currently I am not depressed and never have been to the point of suicidal ideology. It’s a strange illness (if that’s the right word for it), and I have continually struggled with its day-to-day nuances, and the stigma that surrounds those who admit to living with it. Depression comes in a variety of forms — sadness, anger, lethargy, confusion, loss of memory and events, body aches, and more — with some of us never realizing the cause of this symptomatology for years often blaming it on parenting, work, relationship stress, simply getting older or any other myriad possibilities.

Depression is something most of us choose to live with in silence. It isn’t something that doesn’t normally comes up in conversation, and is definitely not one of the ways one living with it would like to be introduced. “Hi, I’m Kelly. I’m a mom, writer, wife, blogger, and by the way my neurotransmitter levels are nonexistent. In a nutshell, I’m living with severe depression, but don’t worry it usually comes out in the form of severe anger not your stereotypical cry-me-an-ocean kind of way so you won’t have to pick me up off the floor or talk me off a ledge if you decide to become my friend. Would you like a glass of wine?” But life with depression is a reality for over 15 percent of the population in most developed countries, and it is not gender specific. It affect men and women alike and it does not discriminate based on age.

It’s amazing how many people I know and who I’ve spoken to who are taking or, at some point in their lives, have taken antidepressants. Successful businessmen, moms, dads, educators, police officers, doctors, lawyers, and the list goes on, are all susceptible. I was on a walk with two friends last fall and found out two of us were on the same antidepressant (Celexa) and the other was contemplating taking it after a few anxiety meds and other antidepressants hadn’t worked. When I meet like this, those who share my secret, an instant camaraderie is formed and we realize (sometimes for the first time) we are not alone.

Depression can be debilitating and is accompanied with other conditions such as anxiety and mania. For years, I considered my depression just part of me. I was over-emotional and cried at the drop of a hat, as did the rest of my family. It was hereditary and there was nothing I could do about it. I lived with it for years, breaking down during meetings with various bosses, families I was working with, at weddings (beyond the normal tears of joy) and school concerts (before I even had little kids in them). This “condition” was becoming crippling and I never knew when a dose of “over-emotionality” was going to hit next. I even numbed myself with half a Xanax for my wedding because I feared the waterworks would become so intense that it would ruin the entire beachside ceremony, and I’ve always regretted not being completely in the moment emotionally. When my depression turned into anger, compulsive thinking, anxiety and perseverating, I finally realized it was time to get more help than the therapy I had been in for nearly three years.

I’ve been on medication now for almost two years, and it has definitely helped, but it definitely has its downfalls. Like many whom I have spoken with, you tend to live your life on medication “mono-emotional” … never too happy, too sad, too angry … just calm. Better in some ways, but like one friend said, when you start to realize you haven’t laughed out loud for years or (and I know what this is all about as does my husband) it begins to affect your relationship because it takes away any kind of sexual drive you once had, or you aren’t connecting with your kids the way you would like to because your emotions seem stilted, you begin to question whether if it’s all worth it.

Currently, I am beginning to look for other ways — diet, exercise, etc. — to increase those neurotransmitter levels so I can begin to ween myself off of some of the medication I am on. I have used natural supplements in the past, and I am looking into them again. It’s scary to think about because I don’t want to fall of that ledge, or get pulled underwater and become “Crazy Mommy” again. But it’s a risk I think I’ll take if the outcome in the long run is a better me.

If anyone out there has any thoughts, information, or knowledge of other options besides medication to helping those with depression, PLEASE send me an email in here or comment below. The millions of us living with the disease would greatly appreciate it!

Read some more depression statistics here at upliftprogram.com or if you want something a little lighter and more personal check out Adventures in Depression by Allie from Hyperbole And a Half, it’s fantastic with fun artwork to boot.