My Depression Journey & Where I am now
My Depression Journey:
How it started
It started when I was 7. I switched schools 3 times that year because it was hard to fit in as the half Latina step-daughter of a white Savannah native. There’s something to be said for inclusivity and predominately white Savannah in the early 90s didn’t have it.
It didn’t matter that my mom was from Savannah & that my siblings and I used our dad’s last name. Our tan little bodies, dark hair, and legal last name of Santiago made us stick out from the crowd of our milky white skin and blonde haired peers.
We moved to Indiana and thankfully we got a start fresh. No one knew our backstory. No one said we looked dirty or asked why our “real” dad didn’t want us. But for me, the anxiety about being different had already started. Would I fit in? Would I be smart enough? I started getting sick before school every morning. This trend of before school sickness would follow me from 2nd grade until high school, when we had moved from Indiana back to Georgia.
My Depression Journey: The Teen Years
I was blessed to attend an all girl’s high school that challenged me and created long lasting friendships that I still cherish 15 years later. The worry that came from feeling different came back with similar comments that I dealt with as a young child- “why is your skin dirty?” “Your real dad must not have loved you and I’m sure your stepdad and his family can’t love you either.” (note, my dad adopted me at 12)
Add in normal imbalances thanks to puberty and stress from a home life that can be described as both beautiful and heartbreaking, I started to have daily panic attacks and deep bouts of depression.
I wanted to attend therapy, but it wasn’t a feasible option at that point nor was it socially acceptable in the mid2000s.
I continued to struggle with depression and anxiety through college, my early 20s, going on & off medication as my symptoms ebbed and flowed. there are times that I could be the life of the party or I could be so socially and emotionally withdrawn I was nicknamed an ice queen. Thankfully my husband, who I married at 21, has always been accepting of all of my quirks even when I have my darker bouts and struggle.
We had two children after he joined the military and it seemed for a long while I was better. I smiled more, was more active, enjoyed life, and just felt myself. We had our third child and things were still good. I had small moments of anxiety, but nothing I hadn’t figured out how to handle.
My Depression Journey: Minnesota Winters
Then we moved to Minnesota and I stopped pumping. Have you ever lived through a Minnesota winter? They’re COLD and brutal. However, it’s beautiful, in an icy and frigid way. They’re also dark, long, and hard to handle. I struggled the first winter, as I started to work from home, the government shut down and we faced money stress because of it.
I stayed positive, knowing we would be ok and winter would end… But then winter 2019 hit and it felt too fast. I’d had an amazing year of growth in my business and didn’t know how to handle it. I was faltering, working 12-14 hour days, having clients text me at 3 am, call me on weekends, email repeated requests one after the other. Not surprisingly, I started to crumble.
I couldn’t handle the pressure and just wanted to drive straight into the beauty that is Lake Superior.
We had planned on my husband leaving the military to move back home to Georgia, to escape the brutal winters of the Midwest & raise our children with their cousins.
Then covid hit.
While I thankfully didn’t drive into Lake Superior, I did break down sobbing for the first time in years about all of the careful plans we (I) had made for our future. As we worried over what was happening to our world, my husband was allowed to stay on active duty, changing our plans yet again for the future.
When covid shut the world down in March 2019, we had just listed our home for sale. Offers we had hoped and expected to come didn’t. We got one offer for our house, under asking. But we were grateful for anything at that point. Orders for a move to DC came, with us moving from one shut down part of the country to one even more closed off.
Moving is always a challenge. Moving yourself during a global pandemic with three children and a dog is even more of a challenge. We had family help us and the glorious warmth of Virginia to greet us after a long, cold winter and spring in Minnesota.
My Depression Journey: How I’m doing now
I struggle with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) more than anything. I crave sunlight and warmth like a child craves their mother. If you’ve never dealt with depression, it can be hard to understand how much it empties you out. It makes you a shell of who you really are and that’s what has happened to me every winter since 2018.
While I still struggle, I don’t daydream about driving into lakes anymore. I know my purpose here may not to be incredibly wealthy, or famous, or the most beautiful, or a million other things…. But I do know it’s to raise my soon to be 4 children. They have given me more purpose and drive since the day my oldest was born in 2010 after a fairly traumatic pre-eclampsia induced delivery than anything else has in this world.
I know, even with therapy and medication, I will most likely struggle on and off for the rest of my life with depression and anxiety. It doesn’t scare me, it doesn’t sadden me. It’s part of who I am. What I do know is I have the tools to handle it and that no matter how empty I can feel at times, this life is always worth living.
It’s not shameful to struggle with depression or anxiety. If you are struggling, please seek help. Your life is worth so much. Therapy, and medicine are amazing and finding the right plan for you is key.
Check out these sites for help or reach out to your doctor for recommendations.
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