It was an avalanche of trauma. My mom died, my husband lost his job, I quit my job, I had emergency surgery while on vacation in another state, we lost our health insurance, and we had major conflict with our closest friends which resulted in a huge loss of community.
These losses leveled me. I felt completely alone, unsure of our family’s financial state, and uncertain of our future. I was physically and emotionally exhausted; I had no energy, no hope.
I started sleeping during the day to escape the pain and fear. A friend called me during this time and told me that it was sunny and I should get out. I hadn’t even realized it was daytime. She asked if my daughter, who was 7 at the time, was being cared for. I told my friend I heard her rummaging around in the cupboards and the fridge, so I think she’s okay.
I was struggling with wanting to self-harm, and with thoughts of suicide, entertaining the fantasy brought comfort somehow, a possible way out. I was starting to scare myself. I found a website online, facingus.org, which encouraged you to create a care plan for those times when you may not be able to make decisions for yourself anymore, when you need someone to step in for your own good, your own safety. So I made a care plan and told my husband about it, so he would know who to call and what signals to look for. That was when I admitted things were getting critical and I needed more help than I was getting.
I made weekly appointments with my counselor and committed to seeing a psychiatrist once a month to manage my medication. Falling asleep at night had become increasingly difficult and frightening and it made my depression worse. I asked for something to help me sleep so I could at least regain the energy I needed to fight back.
My counselor was intuitive and wise; she saw the symptoms of PTSD before I did. The losses had triggered flashbacks, anxieties, irrational fears, hyper vigilance, and insomnia. Her observation helped me understand why my depression had become so unmanageable and dangerous, and it offered me tangible means of engaging my symptoms with more confidence and hope.
One of the most helpful processes was identifying my need for self-care and finding creative, guilt-free ways to take care of myself when I needed it. My counselor helped me believe that I was worth caring for and that encouragement gave me the foundation I needed to begin serious recovery.
I have been taking advantage of these opportunities and advantages for over four years and I can say that my depression has diminished significantly and I am currently learning to value myself, address my PTSD triggers, and develop a self-care regimen. If there is even a slight suspicion that you may be experiencing depression or anxiety, I urge you to find someone to talk to and consider seeing a regularly and explore the possibility of medication.
Submitted by - Tammy Perlmutter (firstname.lastname@example.org)