Getting Through Hard Times
GETTING THROUGH HARD TIMES
Written by Chloe Nostrant
I stood in the shower earlier this spring and in between waves of dark thoughts, it occurred to me– what if this wasn’t just seasonal or it wasn’t just situational? What if this was bigger than just a bitter winter and heartbreak? What if it wouldn’t pass on its own?
I first started going to therapy when I was in high school. My parents had just divorced, and like many kids who go through that, I felt like all of my stability had been completely ripped out from under me. Combined with the usual growing pains of high school, that experience introduced me to my first diagnosis of depression. I was put on Zoloft and quickly went from feeling down and out all the time to feeling okay, not great but my mood was manageable.
Eventually, it was time for me to go off Zoloft. I started college and was feeling better overall. But there was still always this lingering depression around me. I would handle stress well until I didn’t, and then the hysterics started and I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed, let alone go to class. I was still in therapy but felt stagnant, looking back I don’t think that the therapist and I were a good match. I wasn’t happy with how college was panning out, I felt like I was spending
tons of money and not getting the experience or outcome I wanted. My grades were fine, I enjoyed some classes, but usually felt like there were a million other things I could be doing that would be more productive. So I dropped out. I dropped out with almost 130 credits that counted for nothing. I was frustrated.
I started my career in the fly fishing industry and started taking writing and photography seriously. Or at least, I thought I was. I worked in the fly shop full time, fished a lot, and loved the freedom and stability that having a full-time, year-round job gave me. I got a call from a publisher who offered me a book deal. I got writing offers from other publications, I was feeling good about myself. But I also was spending too much time out at the bars, ordering expensive glasses of bourbon and racking up quite the bar tab and alcohol tolerance. I thought I was living the life, and to anyone else, it probably seemed like I was. But the emotional crashes were taking their toll.
I would accept writing or photo gigs, only to not finish them. It was like I was paralyzed when I went to work on them. I couldn’t find anything to say, couldn’t bring myself to finish the projects I started. It was embarrassing. I couldn’t quite nail down why. I usually was a decently productive person. I noticed I was slipping backwards. I disappointed people, one of my biggest fears. My house got messy, like really messy. I stopped working out. I had skied religiously, played beer league hockey and was a competitive powerlifter but that all went out the window. I was gaining weight. I was hating myself, I couldn’t get a grip.
I kept going to therapy and started seeing my current therapist, who is amazing. We started chipping away at what was happening. By then, it was wintertime and it was dark and cold and windy every day. We thought maybe it was seasonal, and I could learn some coping mechanisms to get through the winter. I thought I was on the upside of it when I met this boy. Then I really thought things were looking up. That relationship crashed and burned and sent me into a deep dark spiral. My therapist likened it to “a piece of duct tape on a crack in a dam.” In other words, all the pressure was still building on the backside, but the duct tape provided a quick fix that looked like it could help but when that tape was ripped off, the whole thing blew out. I was going to likely have a breakdown at some point, and the breakup didn’t help. That day I mentioned earlier, when I was in the shower emotionally wrestling with myself, was the worst day of them all. I scared myself with my thoughts. I dragged myself out of the shower, got dressed and went to a play with a friend. She had little idea of how bad things had gotten. I sat through the play and sat through dinner. Her stories kept me mostly distracted, but I still was fighting the urge to burst into tears. Looking back, I did enjoy the play and did enjoy our dinner and conversation, but I really think that quirky play kind of saved my life.
I decided to ramp up the therapy and seek new medication. My therapist and I worked on new coping mechanisms, I visited with a psychiatrist and got on a new prescription. Each day felt a bit brighter. I still had hard days and still do. I think it’s unrealistic to think you never will have hard days. I was picking up the pieces– quit drinking, started working out again, made commitments to be a better writer, a better photographer, to finish that book, to follow through on projects. I realized I had the tools and support from family, friends, doctors, and therapists to overcome and manage the depression. I realized I couldn’t keep doing what I had been doing. If I hadn’t gone to therapy, gotten a new medication or made those lifestyle changes I wouldn’t be where I am now– healthier, happier, productive, alive.
As we go into the winter, a time where depression rates spike, I have some advice and words of support. If you are struggling with depression, seasonal or not, take care of yourself. See a therapist, see a doctor. It sounds expensive, but there are so many great options out there for anyone’s budget. A very wise friend once told me “If you invest money into your health, it always pays off.” Mental health is health. Just because it’s not always visible doesn’t mean it’s any less of an issue. Talk with your doctors and come up with a treatment plan that works for you.
Move your body, go for a walk, go to the gym, do something that gets you moving and do something that gets you outside. The fresh air, Vitamin D and open space gives you more peace of mind and health benefits than you could imagine. Take Vitamin D supplements, soak in as much sun as you can. Every little bit helps. Go skiing on a sunny day, bundle up and go fishing, take a hike up a snowy trail– do something to get out of the house for a few hours. Use the time in the outdoors to reset, recharge and escape whatever is going on in your head.
What you put into your body is vital to your mood–both what you physically consume and what you digitally consume. I am not saying everyone should cut the booze, but if you feel like it will make you feel better, do it. Maybe you need to cut out junk food, or caffeine, whatever it is that needs to go to save yourself, do it. It’s okay to take care of yourself. It’s okay to be selfish. If you need to say no to things, that’s okay. If you need to give up a few hours of your day off to go to
therapy, do it. If you need to cut certain people or habits out of your life, do it. Get away from the digital world for a little, Instagram, Facebook, work email are all demanding and overwhelming. Unfollow people who you find yourself comparing yourself to or use the Marie Kondo method and unfollow people who don’t “spark joy.” Set boundaries for yourself and your time. It’s hard. But with the right mechanisms, from therapy to lifestyle changes, you’ll start feeling better. Don’t expect immediate results. Antidepressants take a few weeks to fully feel the benefits. Therapy won’t uncover or heal issues in a one-hour session. Make it a habit to take care of yourself. And know that you are loved and you are worth the effort.
If you are someone who does not struggle with depression and is having a hard time with someone who does, be patient, be kind, be steadfast. People with depression need you to be just that. They need you to be fair. They don’t need more pressure or anger or frustration. It’s okay to still have expectations for them, but don’t take it personally if they don’t meet those expectations. People with depression or anxiety definitely don’t need you telling them to “just get over it” or downplaying what they are going through. They are not being lazy or rude, sometimes they physically can not get out of bed or complete a task. They are fighting with themselves in the worst way possible. They need you to be kind.
Actually, all anybody needs from you is to be kind.
We live in a beautiful place and it’s easy to feel bad if you are unhappy.
Thank you to Suffer Out Loud for compiling this list of resources! They are a great non-profit located in Bozeman, MT leading the effort to reduce suicide rates in Montana by changing the stigma associated with mental illness. Aside from the national resources listed here, they have a great list of Montana resources as well. Click here to view all the resources.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911 right now. Your life is extremely valuable and people care about you.
Hotline for LGBT Youth
The following information is from the Crisis Text Line webpage:
Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information via the medium people already use and trust: text. Here’s how it works:
Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis.
A live, trained Crisis Counselor receives the text and responds quickly. The volunteer Crisis Counselor will help you.
Struggling to pick up the phone? Chat with someone who can help at the online Crisis Network. IMALIVE.ORG
Visit this link to find help locally! https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/