EvI have described my own depression as a “labyrinth of my fears” or a “cell of despair”. Anyone who suffers from depression knows first-hand the daily struggle it entails. It is a battle against mind and body. There have been days when my body literally felt too heavy to get up. Days have been wasted in bed as I tried to muster the strength to put one foot in front of the other. Yet after so long I got up. In a faint voice, I told myself that I must keep going. So, I simply placed one foot in front of the other. Those first steps were shaky, but I found my way once again.
How It Started
Before both of my parents became chronically ill I remember that my personality was positive, upbeat, and hopeful. My smile and positivity were shared with everyone I came into contact with. Then my Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A few months later my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As my parent’s illnesses progressed I became their caregiver. Some of the days seemed immeasurably long. I caught myself frowning. It felt as if I was losing my sun and moon at the same time. I no longer recognized my life, then it got worse.
As I was taking care of my parents I suffered my own injury. My husband and I loved to skateboard. With a board under my feet, I felt free. I loved the feeling of the wind in my hair and the sound of gravel under the wheels. One night, right before sunset, I decided to take one last cruise down the hill near our house. I was standing on top of the hill, watching the sunset, feeling the warmth of spring in the air. My weight shifted too far back and the skateboard flew out from under me. While in the air I heard a snap and a pop. In that one moment, my life changed.
I broke a bone in the front and back of my ankle. Also, I tore three muscles and partially ruptured a tendon. I can still remember the amount of pain I felt. When my cast came off I still could not walk. In fact, I was painfully dragging my left ankle. When I still could not walk without crutches, after 12 weeks, I was sent to a specialist. The specialist was the best on the East Coast. At this point, I used a wheelchair when I had to go long distances. The specialist told me that my ankle was frozen in multiple places. I was told that my ankle would never heal.
Later, I learned that my frozen ankle will cause severe hip and knee problems in the future. Before my injury, I had a job I loved. Since my ankle did not heal, medically, I was not cleared to go back to work. I had to resign from a career I loved. On top of this, I also was a Mom, wife, and caregiver to my parents. I couldn’t even help myself, so how could I help anyone else? Depression came over me like a dark, bleak rain cloud. The storms raged in my head every day. I felt as if I had been defeated.
During this time my life became a mess. I let my house go, spent countless hours in bed, and essentially gave up. In fact, I wore depression like a coat and everywhere it went with me. Then, I stopped talking to friends and going out. I no longer found pleasure in activities that I loved. It felt as if there was nothing left to live for. One day, despite the pain, I got up. I saw the chaos around me and realized that I could no longer live like this. So, I took a shower. Then I put on fresh clothes. I started to clean the house. It took days, but I started putting our life back together.
Depression: How I fought back
I fought depression by simply getting up. I stood up and decided that no matter how hard this battle was that I was going to face it head on. Life was taken one step at a time. Instead of facing twenty-four hours in a day, I broke the day down. If I could not face one hour at a time, I went minute by minute. Even, if I was able to take a shower then, what else could I accomplish? Similarly, if I was able to clean my house, one room at a time, what else could I do? Could I rebuild my career? Could I claim my life back? Yes, I could.
Taking small steps and then larger steps I began to live again. I physically and mentally shook off the depression by fighting back. As heavy as my body felt I made sure to push myself to get up. Some days I still have to push myself to get up, but I do get up. My Mom, who suffers a daily battle with Parkinson’s disease, is my biggest inspiration. After her second brain surgery, her head was shaved, she had large staples and looked almost unrecognizable. She managed to say, “I will not sell my life short. There is more I want to do. So, I keep trying.”
When I would lay in bed, unable to move, my Mom kept asking me if I was going to let this destroy me. I thought about it. In that moment when I was in the air, falling to the ground, my life was changed. When my Mom was told that she had rapidly progressive Parkinson’s disease her life was changed. My Dad’s life was changed when he was told he had Alzheimer’s disease. Each of us faces moments that change the course of our life. Some of these moments are heartbreaking and challenging. Never let these moments stop you. You still have a life to live!
Do not let chronic illness stop you from living. We all have something amazing inside of us. Keep your light shining! Within that light are happiness, joy, and purpose. Even though I gave up my beloved career, I found one that I loved even more. While spending months in bed I studied Aromatherapy. I launched my own organic perfume and natural beauty products business. Also, I became a full-time caregiver to my Mom and Dad. The time I have shared with my parents has been one of the most valuable gifts I have ever received.
Before my injury, I loved hiking. It has taken two years, but I am able to hike again. Even if for only short distances, it still feels incredible. I fought and struggled against the pain to get here. The sun warms my face as I sit on the edge of my favorite overlook. Below me is the Susquehanna River. I literally climbed up the mountain to arrive here. The view from the top is breathtaking. Although, I could have let depression’s mighty current pull me under, but I fought holding onto mere branches at times, fighting each step of the way.
I took parts of my life back, let go of others, and made it to this new place. However, I would have never made it here if I would have let depression overtake me. Fight back by getting up, by putting one foot in front of the other. Keep on moving forward and you will make it to amazing new places. Keep trying because your own power, determination, and resilience will amaze you. Lean on others when you need to. Talk to friends or family when you are feeling down. You can join a depression forum or depression chat room to learn more about how you can cope with it. Just don’t give up, don’t stop moving. There is an incredible life, despite chronic illness, waiting to be lived.