From Hopeless to Happy

Everyone gets sad

Everyone gets sad.

I have a disappointment at work, an argument with a friend or life just doesn't seem to be going the way that I want are all things that could make me sad.

In truth, smudging my nail polish after leaving the nail salon, or somebody stealing my Call of Duty care package can make me sad.

The difference between when I feel sad and when I'm feeling depressed is that the sadness can last more than a few days, gets in the way of my day-to-day activities like going to work, and I don't feel like doing things that I enjoyed before I started feeling sad.

When I'm severely depressed I begin to feel hopeless and to think there's nothing to live for. I feel like life is awful and it will never get better.

In the iconic words of Ne-Yo in Time of our Lives "Everybody going through something".

Listen to this "Clean version" upbeat reminder that you're not the only one with a challenge in life.

I know these feelings well. In fact, three out of five people with PTSD also have depression, and the symptoms of depression and PTSD overlap a lot.

When I'm depressed, simple things like getting out of the bed in the morning, bathing, or taking care of my service dog Phoebe, whom I adore, can feel too overwhelming.

So much so that even thinking about having to get out of bed, to throw on some sweats, a hoodie, and shoes and putting on Phoebe's leash can bring me to tears—just thinking about doing these things.

At its worse, my husband has to stay home from work to take care of Phoebe and me.

I have depression but depression doesn't have me

Through medication, meditation, and other lifestyle changes I found a way to achieve absolute happiness—happiness that's not dependent on my circumstances.

What that means is, even when I'm sitting in the bottom of the black hole of depression I'm able to say, "thank you for the challenge."

The challenge is to ride the wave of depression for as long as it lasts, knowing that it will eventually spit me out onto the shore where the sand is warm and the skies are blue.

I no longer fight against depression's black hole, and that empowered, optimistic, reality-based feeling is why I can feel happy and depressed at the same time.

I also worked with my health care team to create a mental health plan. Take it from me—it feels hopeless at the moment but just as winter eventually turns to spring, the depression that you feel will subside.

It does take some effort, and possibly medication and talk therapy, but you're not alone.

There are tons of professionals in the field who are just waiting for the opportunity to help you.

You only need to make the phone to schedule an appointment. You can also call a mental health crisis hotline or go to your nearest emergency room.

There is no stigma to having a mental illness

Depression can make you feel isolated and different from all of your friends at school, on Facebook and your coworkers who look like they're having these "perfect" lives.

But remember, everyone is facing some sort of challenge and you're not alone in getting through yours.

In the iconic words of Ne-Yo "Everybody going through something"...

Just by having this conversation with you, together we are removing the stigma of having a mental illness.

Mental illness is no different from having, say diabetes or asthma. It's a health condition that you need to manage—nothing more.

My experience with trauma is unique to me. Not everyone will be triggered in the same way or react as I have in similar situations, but my hope is that it will help people to understand what it is like to have a mood disorder, how my trauma occurred, and what efforts I have taken, along with my health care team, family, and a small group of friends to save my life and to create my new normal.

I want to hear from you caregivers and loved ones of a person struggling with mental illness, PTSD, or recovering from a physical or emotional trauma. I especially want to hear from anyone who has found their way to their own recovery—and new normal. This is a safe community in which to share your story so leave a comment.

Tomorrow I'll give you five mental health planning tips.

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